Well hallo there!
Thanks for checking out this week’s interview. If you haven’t read our last interview already, you can check it out here.
Today we interviewed immersive fantasy author, C. L. Schneider, an avid reader with a keen interest in all things paranormal including urban legends and ghosts stories.
We hope you enjoy reading about her various book series, her favourite characters, and her spooky experiences with the supernatural side of life as much as we did. 👻
1 – Hi Cynthia! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us today. Could you introduce yourself and your book/s to our readers?
Hello! I’m Cynthia (C. L.) Schneider, an author of immersive, dark epic and urban fantasy. I also dabble in horror, thriller, and apocalyptic stories. My writing is generally deep POV, adult, and on the dark side. I don’t do sparkles and rainbows, or happy ever after. I write real, relatable, flawed characters who drive my story by the choices and the mistakes that they make.
I live in New York’s scenic Hudson Valley with my husband and two sons, but I was born in a tiny Kansas town on the Missouri River. I grew up in a family of avid readers with diverse interests, which made for a wonderful home library. My early love for reading fed straight into my love of writing. I started with poems and short stories, pretty much from the time I could write. Eventually, at 16, I wrote my first full length novel. A post-apocalyptic behemoth that is still sitting in a box in my closet.
Unfortunately, I had to put my writing aside many times over the years, as life happened (career, marriage, children), but I always picked it back up. Stories would build inside me, and the need to get them out was too strong to ignore. Several of them are in my closet, too. Once my sons were old enough to be in school, I was able to realize my dream of writing full time, and my debut novel (The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price) was born.
I currently have ten published titles…
The Nite Fire series is an action-packed urban fantasy/supernatural murder mystery with shapeshifters, dragons, and parallel worlds. It features urban legends, monsters, and a strong female lead. The 5th and final book released in the spring.
The Crown of Stones Trilogy is a dark sword and sorcery adventure. It’s an emotional roller coaster, full of twists and turns, with an original magic system and tons of worldbuilding. The Crown of Stones tells the story of a man born with a crippling addiction to magic, living in a world where magic is reviled, and its users are enslaved.
The Wandering Isles is the first book in the Soulbound Journeys series, which takes place after The Crown of Stones Trilogy. Soulbound Journeys is the continuing adventures of two MCs from the trilogy, but it can also be read separate from the trilogy. I’m working on the second book in the series now, Fortune’s Favorite, which will be out in 2023.
Necrosis is my latest release, a zombie horror novella that details a mother’s struggle to protect her daughter from the rotting remains of society.
Heists & Headstones is a co-written fun, short, fantasy story featuring an assassin and a thief.
I’m also drafting a dystopian supernatural thriller, Living Hell, which I’m hoping will also be late 2023.
2 – You’ve got so many books out now. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote and what it was about?
The very first complete story I remember writing was when I was a child, sometime in elementary school. It was about a squirrel and his woodland friends going to a tea party. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but my mom helped me cut out the pages and staple them into a cardboard “cover” which we then glued brown corduroy on the front and back. I vividly remember drawing pictures for the inside, and I can still see the orange squirrel I drew for the front cover and glued onto the fabric. His tail was ridiculously huge and fluffy!
3 – It seems like The Crown of Stones was your debut series. Looking back at it now, is there anything you would like to change about it?
I absolutely love revising. It’s my favorite part of the writing process. So, I’m sure I could revise sentences, here and there. Shift some paragraphs around. Modify some dialogue or descriptions. But I wouldn’t change the plot. I love all its twists and turns and epic reveals. And I definitely wouldn’t change the characters in any way. Over the three books they each go through so much, they evolve and come into their own to become integral pieces of the story. I love every book in the series as much now as I did when I wrote them.
4 – From what we can tell, you’ve written books for various genres. Which genre do you enjoy writing the most and which do you least like writing? (Bonus points if you can tell us why).
Actually, all my stories are within the fantasy genre (epic and urban), except for my horror novella, Necrosis. Though, some would argue horror is also a subgenre of fantasy, I see it as standing on its own. I had a great time writing Necrosis. I’m a big horror fan, and I’ve always loved zombies. I will definitely be writing more horror in the future. But fantasy will always have my heart. There’s nothing like creating an entire world, full of different races, creatures, history, cultures, architecture, magic systems. World building is so exciting and rewarding. Fantasy is possibility. I love that.
5 – We believe most authors of multiple stories tend to have recurring themes, both blatant and subtle, in their works. Do you think you have any of these in yours?
Some of the themes you’ll find in my books: sacrifice and redemption, overcoming tragedy or trauma, fate versus free will, searching for acceptance or a place to belong, friendship and found family, oppression and freedom, pushing beyond your limits, good vs evil. The idea of “souls” seems to work its way in a lot.
I tend to gravitate to dark, gritty stories and morally gray anti-heroes with tragic pasts. My characters have to work hard for their hero status. They need to learn the hard way, grow and evolve by making mistakes, like people do.
6 – With all those stories under your belt, we can only imagine how many characters you’ve brought to life. If you had to choose a favourite from them all, who would it be and why?
Picking one character is incredibly hard, but I’ll have to go with Ian Troy, the antihero in my Crown of Stones Trilogy. He was the first character I took great care to develop. With him there would be no Crown of Stones.
When I created Ian, I wanted him to be a deeply flawed, complex and compelling character. The more flawed a character is, the more tension you can create, the more emotions you can incite in the reader. Ian was also crafted as a homage to some of my favorite characters I read growing up, making him a bit of a cowboy and an outlaw, a dogged detective when he needs to be, a monster when it can’t help it, and a hero even when he tries not to be.
I wanted Ian to be vulnerable enough to suffer, yet resilient and courageous enough to fight the odds. Willing to go to dark places but still able to pull himself back from the edge (sometimes with help). A true tortured soul. I wanted him to be an anti-hero with a terrible weakness, and a magic user with incredible strength. Which brought me to make his greatest strength also his greatest weakness: magic.
Once Ian was created (my magic-addicted, anti-hero, ex-soldier with a tragic past) the plot weaved itself around him. He became the inspiration for his own story.
7 – Speaking of characters, are you familiar with the twelve common character archetypes? If so, which archetype do you think you’d fit into if you were in a story?
That’s a fun question! I would probably have to say “the creator”. I have a fair amount of tunnel vision when it comes to writing. My friends and family joke about having to pull me away from the laptop, but it’s true. Without them I’d probably grow roots in my chair. If you dramatize that, turning me into a character who obsesses over perfecting her creation, forsaking everyone and everything else, day after day, until she loses touch with reality and literally becomes rooted to the chair… Yeah, definitely the creator!
8 – Your book covers look amazing! Did you make them yourself or is there someone else we can pass our compliments onto?
I wish I was capable of making my covers myself! Unfortunately, that’s a gift I wasn’t born with. Visualizing them, however, is another matter. I almost always have a strong idea in my head of what I’m looking for. Usually, it’s a recreation of a pivotal scene in the book or a compilation of scenes that’s more symbolic of the story as a whole. Occasionally I have two ideas and can’t decide. To prepare for working with an artist, I write down what I see in my head in detail, listing the “must haves” and what can go if need be. I send it to them along with images I’ve researched for clarification and inspiration.
Many times, they’ve done an outstanding job recreating what I was picturing (only better!). Other times, we decide what I had in mind won’t work, and we work together to discuss a new idea. I always welcome their creative input. It’s their job to know the trends, as well as design elements.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with several incredibly talented artists including Alan Dingman, and Anna Spies of Astra Luna Designs.
Alan created all 3 Crown of Stones covers, but he went out of his way to create the first one, as the MCs pose for Magic-Price was very important to me. He needed to give off a clear air of defeat. To get it right, Alan struck the pose himself with props for a crown and sword and had his wife take pictures of him in slightly different positions. 42 pictures, to be exact! I still remember scrolling through them and seeing “the one”. He drew the cover from that pose.
Anna created a phenomenal cover for the final book in my Nite Fire Series. It’s one of my favorites, and I couldn’t love it more. She also did the cover of my new horror story, Necrosis, which is absolutely perfect for the story.
I’m currently working with a new (to me) artist, Logan Keys, to develop the cover for the dystopian novel I’m drafting. I’m excited to see how it turns out!
9 – Aside from writing-related stuff, what one thing you can tell us about yourself that your readers don’t already know?
I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal, urban legends, ghosts, etc. I’ve seen a few things I can’t explain, including an almost transparent old man sweeping with a large broom on the side of the road. My husband and I were coming home from Connecticut late one night. It was a local road, empty, with no houses or businesses, and no reason for anyone to be sweeping in the dark (who sweeps a road anyway, especially at night??). But there he was. Then he wasn’t. He was gone when I looked back. And it was only seconds, by the way. We drove by, and I turned in my seat to confirm what I saw, and he was gone.
In high school I had several experiences with a shadow man in my bedroom. It was terrifying. I physically couldn’t move as his form grew out of the corner and stood at the end of my bed. I had no idea what it was back then, but after the third night I managed to make myself move and ran from the room. I didn’t sleep in my own bedroom for two months after that. When I moved back in, it didn’t happen again. In more recent years, I decided to research it, and it seems like what I saw is a disturbingly common phenomenon known as The Hat Man. If you haven’t heard of it, you should definitely look it up!
I actually met Ed and Lorraine Warren back in the 90’s. Most people might have heard of them because of The Conjuring movies, but they also did some investigating early on in the Amityville case (and thousands of others). They were giving a lecture near me, talking about some of their investigations. It was very intriguing stuff, and they were such nice people. Knowledgeable, with an intensity that drew you in as they spoke.
What do I believe? I’m not entirely sure. But I know there are things in this world we can’t explain. And I’m okay with not having an explanation. Maybe it’s for the best! As long as I can keep writing about them. 😊
10 – And finally, you seem to be very involved with the writing community on Twitter. Is there anyone you think we should check out there? (Feel free to include links to their account)
Sure. These first two are for weekly writing games. I use to play them fairly consistently, but my schedule hasn’t allowed it lately. I still think they are a great way to get little snippets of your work out there and make some good connections.
Morgan Wright offers a wonderful cover animation service.
Becca Puglisi is affiliated with Writers Helping Writers, which is one of my favorite writing related websites. She wrote The Emotion Thesaurus, and other helpful tools for writers.
This last one is a link to a sci-fi / fantasy podcast. It covers tops on writing, art, comics, and anything sci-fi and fantasy related.
Thank you once again for agreeing to take part in this interview, Cynthia. We wish you all the best with future writing endeavours!
As previously mentioned, Cynthia is the author of The Nite Fire series, The Crown of Stones Trilogy, and several other books/series which you can find here on Amazon.
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