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JJ Barnes The Table Read

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed author Cecy Robson about her life, her career, and what inspires her book series and work with the Chapters App stories.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

. I’m a first-generation immigrant from El Salvador.  We lived in New Jersey, one place in particular, Plainfield, New Jersey. It was a dramatic transition for our family, the area we lived in was depressing and dangerous; later this area would inspire my writing, but I certainly didn’t know that at the time.  

We moved to the U.S. to pursue the American dream – my father was resourceful and hardworking. He was a welder by trade, but if he didn’t know something, he would learn it. He had a gas station with a mechanic shop, he flipped houses, my dad did whatever it took to do what he came to do: give us the opportunity to do what we wanted to do. We learned: work, work, work – success to the next level comes from hard work, just keep moving.  My Dad was finally able to move us to a middle-class neighborhood. But the understanding of work never went away – you work hard, you get a good degree, you keep going or else we all die, and it’s all been useless.

Cecy Robson, author interview on The Table Read
Cecy Robson

When I graduated college with a degree in Criminal Justice, I worked in the Morris County Prosecutor’s office, and then I was a legal advocate for domestic violence victims. I was working extremely hard, but the work was emotionally exhausting, and it was hard to make ends meet on the salary. So, I thought, “I like helping people, let’s try nursing school.”

When did you first WANT to write a book?

As a nurse, I worked the night shift and there were times that were a little quieter, and that is when I became a fantasy and paranormal storyteller. I would entertain the nurses with stories. It never really occurred to me to write my stories down until I read Patty Briggs’ Cry Wolf.

That year I read absolutely everything paranormal and at the end of the year, I thought, “you know what? I would like to try to write a book.” Just like my dad who just kept going, and learned something he had to do, without any training whatsoever, I just started writing.  That was May 1st 2009.

I decided to author a novel about four sisters who are different from any race of human, were, or vampire on earth—just to see if I could author a novel. That’s how my international and highly acclaimed Weird Girls urban fantasy romance was born!

After my first draft, my husband read it, and he said, “you know, I think you have something here,” and I that was all I needed to keep going. I read my first draft now, and I’m embarrassed – it didn’t even really have a plot, it was every idea I ever had all in one book.

But I started improving my craft and getting feedback. I started submitting my book – I got 75 rejections. The first 40 were the hardest – after that, I just kept going. Not long after that, I met my agent, Nicole Resciniti at a book fair. I pitched Nicole my book idea, and she said “you know what? That’s funny!” I sent her my manuscript and three days later, she signed me.

Through Nicole, I met my editor at Penguin who thought I should actually cut up the novel into a series.

By December 31, 2012, Sealed with a Curse was released through Penguin in mass market paperback. USA Today and Publishers Weekly loved it! I was officially a published author, and the rest of the book became books two and three, A Curse Embraced and Cursed by Destiny. And that’s how The Weird Girl series was born!

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write your book? What were your biggest challenges with writing it?

I still work as a nurse on the weekends. The pandemic has made everything harder. The pandemic rocked my world. The demands and stress that came with caring for patients with COVID-19 hurt my heart. I lost people I loved to the infection. It was very challenging to write when I was just so sad. 

I’m also emotionally wiped out. Normally I write most of the week, but these days it’s just taking me so much longer to emotionally recover from my weekends at the hospital, so my next book took several months to write.

Thank goodness my agent is always looking out for me. Even though there’s a decline in books published, Nicole has been able to get my work into Crazy Maple Studio apps like Chapters where there is an interactive element. My book Crave has been successful on Chapters. Those readers can really get into the story – I love that they can be so invested. And I love that I can share work to new audiences in a new way.

But of course, I still want to write new material. I have so many Weird Girls stories to tell. An author buddy of mine asked me to be a part of the anthology

A Cursed Noel in the anthology Shifters and Mistletoe released December 7th, 2021.

Cecy Robson, author interview on The Table Read

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

I like to write female characters who are strong, but also imperfect-like humans. Celia Weird is a petite, beautiful shapeshifter. She can turn into a golden tigress, she’s strong and protective of her family, she’s got a dangerous side to her, but she’s got a good heart.

She’s also cripplingly shy around men; some of that is because she didn’t date, she’s intimidatingly beautiful and the tiger in her, made people wary, as Celia’s best friend said “you need to find someone who is a match for your beast,” Celia needs someone who is strong.

Good thing she has a sexy master vampire and a hottie of an alpha werewolf looking out for her.  Celia is also vulnerable, she gets scared when she fights, but she still does it, she just keeps moving.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

No villain should be completely evil. I like antagonists who have depth, and where you can really see that they think they’re doing the right thing.

What is the inciting incident of your book?

I suppose when Celia realizes she can no longer fly under the supernatural radar and decides to step into the limelight.

What is the main conflict of your book?

Saving the Lake Tahoe region from a frightening virus infecting vampire in the Lake Tahoe region.

Did you plot your book in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I wrote my first draft by the seat of my pants, and it was disastrous. Now, I plot in advance.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did your book need?

I always get support with editing. I think every writer should. Sometimes, writers are so invested in the story it’s hard to see what doesn’t work. My books originally needed a lot of editing when I was learning the craft. Now, it’s not as intense.

Having help with editing also allows me to focus on the storytelling. I want to be able to look into the future and see how stories are being told. Writing fantasy for apps like Chapters doesn’t change my process, per se, but I do think about how it will play out and how readers can immerse themselves more fully.

The #1 Writing Tool

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

To write it. And then write the next. And the next one after that. Just keep going.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Yes. I have a few that my agent is shopping. One is very cathartic and based on my childhood.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I’m also proud that my books do as well in paperback as they do in different formats like Chapters app. I really think story telling will eventually we’ll get to where it’s like Obi Wan Kenobi, where the images will play out in front of us. I think it’s important that authors stay engaged with the future of storytelling because there will be so many opportunities. So yes, I’m extremely proud that I just kept going, and going. It was worth every tear I shed and tissues I went through.

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