Author Spotlight: Andi Cumbo-Floyd

Today I welcome author Andi Cumbo-Floyd to Reade and Write. Andi’s books are not like the ones I typically have on my blog, but I have a feeling you’re going to find her work really compelling. She is the author of the new release, The Boy Who Could See Stars, and I’ll let her tell you a little more about it and her other books.

Congratulations on your latest release! Tell us a little about the book, The Boy Who Could See Secrets.

The book tells the story of 12-year-old Jedidiah Wilson and his imaginary friend Mavis, who is 63.  Jed has always been able to see things people wanted to keep hidden, and one day, he sees a figure in the woods and follows her. He then takes his first journey through time. When he returns, he fills Mavis in, and they begin a great adventure to save their new friends.

This is my first middle grade book, and I find that very exciting. I have a son who is a toddler, so I enjoyed imagining him as a 12-year-old – who is much like his dad – and thinking about reading this book with him when’s he’s older. Plus, Mavis is modeled after my mother, Ruth, who died when she was 63. I love to have the opportunity to imagine how she might be with her grandson.

Who is the audience for the book?

Anyone over the age of 8 or 9 or enjoys a story with a little history, a fair bit of magic, and a lot of adventure.

Tell me about the setting of The Boy Who Could See Secrets—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

Oh, that’s a great question. The book takes place on a fictional farm that is based on the farm my husband and I recently sold here in Central Virginia.  I got the idea for the book one evening while I was watching the treeline beyond our pasture, and so it seemed fitting to use the landscape of that place for this story. Thus, research was pretty minimal. 😉

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Because this was my first middle grade book, the hardest thing was making sure I kept the story appropriate for that age of reader – mostly in terms of style but also in terms of some content – while also not dumbing down the book. I was an avid reader as a child, and I hated when writers assumed I was dumb just because I was young.  I wanted to avoid that mistake if at all possible.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

OOH, another great question.  For Mavis, I’d love to see Kathy Bates. I love her ability to be down-to-earth with characters, and she’s wickedly funny, just like my mom.  For Jedidiah, Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things would be a great choice.  He needs to be someone who can make us believe in magic.

Tell us about your other books.

I’ve written a YA magical realism series entitled Steele Secrets, which deals with history through the lens of magic, as well. Mary Steele can see ghosts, but only the ghosts of African American people who were killed in racially-motivated violence.  As she meets these long-dead people, she comes to understand that her small Virginia town’s history is complicated and that a lot of secrets need to be told in order for healing to take place.

I’ve also written a work of nonfiction about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I grew up. The Slaves Have Names tells the story of 22 of those incredible people and my journey to get to know them.

Finally, I’ve written several books for writers, including Love Letters To Writers, which is a collection of 52 notes to give writers encouragement and accountability in their writing lives.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

You know, I’m not. But I am friends with a lot of writers, and I have great teams of beta readers who read all my work before it comes out to be sure its solid.

Do you write every day?

I don’t. I have a one-year-old, work full-time as an editor, and enjoy TV. But I do write five days a week whenever possible.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I love Margaret Atwood, Chaim Potok, Toni Morrison, Jesmyn Ward, A. S. Byatt, Marilyn Robinson, and Anne Lamott best of all.  In terms of genres, I read a lot of magical realism and fantasy since that’s what I write, and I’m going to be writing some cozy mysteries under a pen name starting later this year, so I’m reading a ton of those.  I do love literary fiction, though, too.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

South Africa. Hands down.  Second up would be Moscow.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Only you can give yourself the time, space, and motivation to write. So do that. Don’t wait for it to happen for you. Make the time, create the space, encourage yourself. We need your stories.

What is your favorite movie and why?

Dead Poets’ Society. Robin Williams was a genius in that film, but I also loved the message about originality, about speaking truth, about the value of community, about grief and mental illness. And since I once was a teacher, I loved Mr. Keating as inspiration.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Forget what you’re supposed to do or supposed to be. Follow your heart. Let it guide you.

Describe yourself in three words.

Introverted, Passionate, Wild.

I know you recently sold your farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains and have moved to another home. I followed your posts on Instagram and other social media outlets as the move happened and I can’t think of a more beautiful setting to write books. 

We recently sold off the farm that had been my dream for many years in order to make our life as a family a bit more manageable and to give me more space to write.  We loved that little 15 acres and our animals, but now we live deeper into the Blue Ridge Mountains with our three cats and three dogs in a log house on a ridgeline. It’s a lovely space, much quieter and simpler than our farm life. It’s good for us, and it’s especially good for my creativity and writing energy.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

I’d love to tell folks about the free, online writing community I coordinate. It’s a casual group full of writers to talk about all aspects of the writing life.  We’d love to have folks join us.  Details are at my website.

Where can readers connect with you?

I’m over at Andilit.com writing about writing, and you can find out about all of my books there.  I’m also on Facebook at facebook.com/andilitwriter, Twitter at twitter.com/Andilit, and Instagram at Instagram.com/andicumbofloyd.

Where can readers find your books?

My books are available wherever books are sold including indie bookstores, Kobo, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Plus, they’re readily orderable (is that a word?) by your local bookshop.

Thanks, Andi! 

Until next time,

Amy

 

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Today on Reade and Write I welcome Carolyn Ridder Aspenson to the hot seat. She’s here to talk about her newest release, Get Up and Ghost. Welcome, Carolyn!

Tell me about your new book.

I just published the first book in a new paranormal cozy mystery series. Get Up and Ghost is a psychic medium mystery about a woman who works for the historical society in a small North Georgia town called Castleberry. She falls down the last part of the stairs at work, bumps her head and suddenly starts seeing ghosts. She doesn’t realize it at first, but it becomes fairly obvious quickly. When a local resident is murdered, and she’s the last one to see him alive, she’s determined to prove her innocence, with the help of a long-dead woman from the town, who’s also in need of her help.

 

Who is the audience for the book?

This is a cozy, so it’s clean — no sex, no swearing, no death on the page. The main character is a mother in her mid-forties and recently divorced, with two senior aged friends and a younger coworker, so I feel like I’ve hit a lot of the variants for different types of women.

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

I live in the southern part of North Georgia, and I know this area well. The town is fictional, but I modeled it after a few local towns nearby to give it a traditional small town, North Georgia appeal. Since I’ve lived here for 23 years, I have a fairly decent handle on the area, and have incorporated some of the local flare and stories into this first book, and the second one I’m working on for the series. Each of the ‘haunting’ type stories (the ghosts of time past) will have a bit of truth to them for the area. Well, truth in the sense that it’s a story from here, though I’m not sure the ghosts are actually real. I’ve yet to see any, though I’ve certainly looked!

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Two things tie as the hardest part. First and foremost, I have another mystery series (it’s NOT a cozy by definition at all) with a psychic medium. I needed to make the character unique, and the storyline different. That character does make an appearance though, because she’s from an area close by. I also have another cozy series in a similar area, so I had to keep them different also. They are similar in some ways because there are two older women characters, but they are different types of older characters, and the main character is different. I’m hoping they will all be unique in their own ways.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

Oh gosh. That’s a tough one. I’m still getting to know them all. I do feel like one of the older women is a bit similar to Betty White’s character on “Golden Girls,” but I think Betty’s retired by now! I’d definitely go with a Hallmark actress, because this series has that appeal, other than the paranormal element. I could see Erin Krakow as the lead. I think the two older women would be well played by someone like Sissy Spacek. Wouldn’t that be great to have someone of that caliber in a movie about my book? Gosh, I’d be so excited!

Have you written any other books?

I have, I think, 21 books out now. Some are novellas, but I’ve got about that many published. I’ve got my Angela Panther Mystery series, which is not the cozy mysteries, and then the Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy series. I also have a few romances, but those weren’t my thing. I guess I’m not very romantic! I’ve also done a great deal of ghost writing, but those books are all business and nonfiction.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I have a partner that I swap books with and we help each other, but other than that, no. I’ve found everyone has their own unique writing style, and I don’t like to infringe on that.

Do you write every day?

Since I’m now completely self-published (I was traditional for a while, but no longer) I consider this a business and treat it as such. I write for about 5 hours a day at this point and handle other business related things for an hour or so also.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I’m such a book snob! It’s a horrible thing. I grew up reading mysteries from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to more intense thrillers by Jonathan Kellerman and the like. Hands down, my favorite writer is Robert B. Parker. The Spenser series is my favorite series. When Mr. Parker died, I cried. I am also a big fan of Robert Crais, and I love the Elvis Cole books so much.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

Back in time. I’d like to go back fifteen years to when my parents were both here and healthy and spend more time with them.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think the same thing most people would. Write every single day. Learn the craft and do what you can to improve. Hire an editor. Writing a novel isn’t easy and there is a lot to learn to make it something others want to read. Learn that ever-changing element.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I have two. I love “Shawshank Redemption” because the friendship theme is astounding. I recently found out that Mr. King wrote that, (Yes, I live under a rock) and I was shocked! It’s not his typical book at all, but it was so good.

My second favorite is “When Harry Met Sally.” I just loved the concept of that and Billy Crystal? He was the perfect pick for that lead. I loved that story.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Care less about what other people think sooner.

Describe yourself in three words.

Wife. Mother. Friend.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

Nope!

Where can readers connect with you?

I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolynridderaspensonauthor

My website is carolynridderaspenson.com where you can access my newsletter. I send it out once a week.

And I am also on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carolynridderaspenson/.

I’m not a Twitter gal. I’m Italian. I need more than a few characters to say my thoughts.

Where can readers find your books?

Right now I’m primarily on Amazon, but Get Up and Ghost is on Kobo, iTunes and Barnes & Noble for a limited time. It just released there today!

The Lily Sprayberry Cozy Mystery Boxed Set (books 1-3) are at books2read.com/u/49oGEX.

Congratulations on your new release! Thanks for visiting. 

Until next time,

Amy