Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Welcome Wednesday - Cinthia Ritchie

Today I'm welcoming author Cinthia Ritchie to the blog.

Cinthia Ritchie is a former journalist and Pushcart Prize nominee who lives and runs mountains in Alaska.

She’s a recipient of two Rasmuson Individual Artist Awards, a Connie Boocheever Fellowship, residencies at Hedgebrook, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and Hidden River Arts, the Brenda Ueland Prose Award, Memoir Prose Award, Sport Literate Essay Award, Northwest PEN Women Creative Nonfiction Award, Drexel Magazine Creative Nonfiction Award and Once Written Grand Prize Award.

Her work can be found in New York Times Magazine, Sport Literate, Water-Stone Review, Memoir, Under the Sun, Literary Mama, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Breadcrumbs and Scabs, Third Wednesday, Writer’s Digest, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Cactus Heart Press and over 30 other literary magazines and small presses.

Her debut novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, released Feb. 5 from Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group.

1.       Have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you get started writing romance?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, always, from the day I first learned to read at age four.  I don’t typically write romance yet “Dolls Behaving Badly” naturally navigated that way. I fought against it, too. I had initially envisioned a serious literary work, but my book had other ideas and finally I gave up and followed.

The funny thing is that as soon as I “listened” to what my book was trying to say, the story flowed. It was like water, in places. I still wonder where the story came from. Was it something inside of me? A memory passed down through the genes of my ancestors? Or is it possible as writers we are able to pick up on other’s memories and desires? I still don’t know.
2.       Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline, or are you more of a seat of your pants type of a writer?
I never, ever outline. I always write by the seat of my pants. I love the unknowingness of sitting down to write each night without any idea of what my characters might do. It’s tremendously exciting, and also a bit scary, because who knows where my story may lead, what it might teach me, what it might force me to confront?

3.      Are there any romance novel cliché that make you cringe when you read them?
I cringe when I read any cliché, though of course they’re unavoidable at times. What I hate the most, and it isn’t exactly a cliché, but I hate coming across the phrase: “Her/his eyes twinkled.” It always reminds me of Santa Claus, and I don’t want to think of Santa when I’m reading a romance novel. I also hate the word “throbbing” when used in sex/love scenes. It’s so overused that it’s practically meaningless.

What makes me cringe the most aren’t clichés but awkward scenes that fall flat, and when you read them you can imagine the writer struggling unsuccessfully to get it right. I almost blush, at such times; I’m so embarrassed for the writer.

I also cringe over too many spelling and grammatical errors. Having a few is unavoidable but too many points to sloppiness and a lack of care over one’s writing.
4.       What is the hardest scene you’ve had to write, and what made it so difficult?
There’s a scene toward the end of “Dolls Behaving Badly” when the ghost of my protagonist’s great-aunt returns and tells her the story of what happened to her during Nazi occupied Germany in WWII. She was working for the Jewish resistance and was shot as she ran through the snow. I cried while writing that, cried so hard I scared myself. For weeks I dreamed that scene, too, and the dream was so real it was as if it had really happened. I still can see the threads of the soldier’s jacket as he aimed his gun. It was that close, that real.

Oddly enough, my book is a mixture of humor and romance yet there are also deep and emotional scenes from the past, and I suppose one of the themes is how the past is never really over, how it influences those that come after us, even without their awareness.

5.      Which of your heroines would you say is most like you, and why?
It would have to be the protagonist, Carla Richards. She shares my initials, though I didn’t realize this until I finished the first draft. I was that unaware. So obviously she’s meant to be me, or at least facets of me, thought the more I wrote, the more she became uniquely herself. The similarities are striking, though: She is also a single mother living in Anchorage, has a gifted son and a Polish grandmother and is stubbornly, and against all odds, pursuing her creative dream.

The odd thing is that parts of my book ended up coming true: I did meet a man and I did resist romance and I did end up making it in the creative world, and I did and still do bake my grandmother’s Polish recipes. I suppose in that sense real life and art blended so snuggly that it’s difficult to say which one influenced the other.
6.       What are you working on now?
I’m working on my second novel, also under contract with Grand Central Publishing. It’s very different from “Dolls.” It’s more serious, more literary. It has to do with death and how we deal with life after someone close to us dies, and how we keep going. There are ghosts in this book, too. I can’t seem to write a book without including ghosts. I suppose in that sense I live a haunted life.

Carla Richards is a lot of things. She's a waitress at Anchorage's premier dining establishment, Mexico in an Igloo; an artist who secretly makes erotic dolls for extra income; a divorcée who can't quite detach from her ex-husband; and a single mom trying to support her gifted eight-year-old son, her pregnant sister, and her babysitter-turned-resident-teenager.

She's one overdue bill away from completely losing control-when inspiration strikes in the form of a TV personality. Now she's scribbling away in a diary, flirting with an anthropologist, and making appointments with a credit counselor.

Still, getting her life and dreams back on track is difficult. Is perfection really within reach? Or will she wind up with something even better?

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