Interview with Cynthia Briggs

Who are your favorite authors?
Oh, there are so many I don't know where to start. Jan Karon (Father Tim series), Elizabeth George (A Great Deliverance), Judith Viorst (Murdering Mr.Monti), Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone), Chris Bohjalian (Idyll Banter), Paula McLain (The Paris Wife), Earl Hamner (The Waltons, Falcon Crest, etc.). That's just some of the fiction I can think of off the top of my head. For non-fiction reference books for writing, I buy just about everyone I find...I can always learn something!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life. I look forward to seeing what a new day will bring whether it involves my writing, family and friends, social events, projects, even cleaning house...the list goes on. The only time I've been bored was when I've been made immobile from an accident, injury or illness.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
We aren't retired so I still maintain a household, and I'll admit that I'm fussy about how my house looks. I do a lot of cooking, baking and creating new recipes. I enjoy planting vegetables in pots for around the house and porch areas. I'm still a farm girl at heart and I love preserving foods and making jams and jellies. I do, of course, spend time marketing and promoting my books and learning more about using social media because it's constantly changing..
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Many of the books, whether they're e-books or hard copy books, I hear about through my book club. I also peruse Smashwords, Amazon and BookBub.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Absolutely! The first story I wrote was about a puppy we had that fell in the outhouse when we were camping. I've rewritten it numerous times and submitted it but it's never been accepted. The second story was about my parents calling me on the phone to tell me they were seeing a flying saucer hovering over their house. It's a funny story but it's funnier to me and my parents because we were thrown into the chaos of it all. My first published work was 'Blackberries Create a Love Hate Relationship' about the perils of picking blackberries when I was a kid in the Pacific Northwest. The recipe was for homemade blackberry pie. Yum, sounds SO good right now! Send a request to books@porkchopsandapplesauce.net if you'd like copies of my past columns and/or recipes.
What is your writing process?
I don't have one. I'm very spontaneous so I hit the computer (so to speak) when I either have the time or inclination. If the inspiration bug bites me, I might sit at the computer for hours pounding out stories, submitting material and/or catching up and organizing what's already been submitted. I'm really a part-time writer because, like I said before, we're not retired so I still have a lot of mundane, daily types of things to accomplish. Someday I hope to spend more time writing and getting a process in place.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first book I read was "Charlotte's Web" when I was in the 6th grade. It was then that I realized the power behind the written word because the book/story made me cry.
How do you approach cover design?
I have learned to have my covers designed by a professional. My first book, "Pork Chops & Applesauce" was a combined cover design with the publisher...I learned my lesson. I now use Andrew Brown of Brown Media out of Ireland for book cover designs and logos. Their e-mail address is hello@designforwriters.com. They do a fabulous job and their prices are very reasonable. In fact, the cover for "Bumper Crop: Beginning with Apples," designed by Brown Media, earned an award in a TheBookDesigner.com e-book cover contest.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
"On Canaan's Side, The Book Thief" and "Cutting for Stone" are some current favorites. I loved all three because of the author's fascinating writing style, complex and intense depth of emotion and intertwined plots. A fourth was "The Husband's Secret" which was predictable but had very interesting twists and turns that were well-written and especially interesting characters (the latter is also true of the first three book mentioned)! A book that I've used beyond belief is "1001 Ways to Market Your Book" by John Kremer. It's my bible in book marketing with also hundreds of reasonable ideas for promoting books.
What do you read for pleasure?
Mostly fiction as I previously mentioned. I also enjoy biographies, autobiographers and creative memoir. Earl Hamner who wrote "The Waltons" (and other books, of course) is a favorite because they're about real people and how they react to/in everyday circumstances/situations. "The Waltons" seems hokey to many but Earl Hamner is a genius at stroking the heart strings. The heart remembers and Hamner captures it all. Ruth Reichel can also draw-in her audience with a knack for spinning a true tale. I don't read too much that's current, my focus is on what happened way back when.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
We have a KIndle but I don't use it very often. I'm a "book in my hand" kind of gal.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
One-on-one and face-to-face contact with plenty of food samples from my books is THE best marketing/promo technique. I look at the samples as my tools. If people touch the book, talk about a loved one's recipe or tell a "back when" tale, or nibble on a sample, they nearly always buy books. I think because of the intimacy of my books people need a up close and personal experience before they'll part with their money. I sell a ton more hard copy books over e-books because I can add the personal touch with my presence.
Describe your desk
It's an organized mess. I clean and organize my office every time I start a new project. I like the feeling of starting with a clean slate.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
We lived in Eastern Oregon until I was 10, at which time we moved to the Seattle area. I was always with my grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. I spent a lot of time at my paternal grandmother's farm where they raised sheep, alfalfa and melons. My grandmother kept a huge vegetable garden, and of course, she had chickens that supplied us with eggs. I adored my grandparents and loved playing with my cousins. I feel like I've gone back home whenever I drive through farm country.

I've written a considerable number of stories about my years growing-up and those happy, carefree days are where I frequently go in my writing whether I'm writing something serious or humorous. My tag line is, "I write books, stories and recipes that come from the heart." I really think I write what the heart remembers because I often find myself in Eastern Oregon with sand between my toes, eating cucumbers right off the vine and eating only the heart from those monster Hermiston watermelons.
When did you first start writing?
When I was nine I started a newspaper with "human interest" stories by interviewing the neighbors and then promising them a copy of the newspaper in which their story appeared. It probably only lasted a few weeks but that was my intention. I also got my first (toy) typewriter (printing press for my newspaper) for my ninth birthday. Even at nine, I liked listening to the stories people had to tell. I didn't seriously start putting pen to paper for another 30+ years when I wrote about our pup who fell in the outhouse.

Life happened, and I was 53 when I started writing a nostalgic cooking column for a newspaper in Federal Way, Washington, which began my part-time writing career.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I wrote "The Adventures of Lily and Leon: A Soppy Fish Tale" in an effort to encourage parents to teach their children that the color of our skin is unimportant. Whether we're white, black, yellow or red, we all experience the same emotions. Love, fear, passion, hurt, happiness, anger, elation and pain are not exclusive to the color of our skin. We all fiercely protect our young, we all bleed the same red blood and we cry when we lose our elders. These are intense emotions shared by all races.
By reading "The Adventures of Lily and Leon," to their children, parents teach that friends come in all colors. With "The Adventures of Lily and Leon," I hope to make the world a much kinder, gentler place for us all.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I chose to be an Indie author so I can write what's on my heart. Writing to the demands of a publisher who must sell books makes my creative juices go south.

I'm realistic, so from the beginning, I knew that if I wasn't famous or very close to a celebrity, a publisher probably wouldn't be interested in my work. I've had a great life with many varied experiences so I write mostly in the (creative) memoir genre. My work is not flashy or salacious, which is so often what draws an audience that publishers want/need to sell books, I write about the meaningful things that happen to ordinary people, or what I like to call, writing about the things people might miss if they're not paying attention. I describe my work as "writing between the lines."
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is terrific; they want their authors to succeed. Without their comprehensive Style Guide I never would have been able to get "Bumper Crop: Beginning with Apples" up and running. Initially my husband designed the cover and I managed through the formatting...not an easy task for someone who uses Word almost exclusively. Smashwords was there every step of the way. With questions, they're "Johnny on the spot" especially compared to other sites' help departments.

I was proud of my accomplishment but I eventually revamped "Bumper Crop" with professional formatting and a new cover design. Then I went through the same process for "The Adventures of Lily and Leon".
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Being able to revisit the people, places and stages of my life and then see others be able to relate. One example, I noted in a story that my grandfather didn't have any teeth and his toothless smile was "baby-like." That short term moved one woman to tears because her uncle, who also didn't have any teeth, had raised her and he brandished the same baby-like smile. It's great when I strike a cord in others...I call it a heart point, which is when I touch someone's heart because 1) they've experience something similar and 2) they're moved to recall a person or place they haven't thought about for a very long time.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are sweethearts! They send me e-mails and charming hand-written notes telling me how much they've enjoyed either a story or a recipe. The most asked question is, "When are you going to write a novel?" because most of them know I have a few mysteries floating around in my head. My fans mean a great deal to me because writing is a solitary line of work...they add spark and vitality to my writing and my life.
What are you working on next?
I'm looking into another book filled with recipes that people have requested, recipes I've updated or revamped and recipes I've made more simple for today's fast-paced lifestyles. It will move away from the traditional comfort food recipes that are my signature style of cooking. The working titles are (CB's) Recipes by Request or (CB's) Recipes with a (New) Twist.
Published 2014-05-26.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Sweet Apple Temptations
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 37,300. Language: American English. Published: August 3, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Baking
Sweet Apple Temptations opens the gate to dessert heaven by offering 200+ apple dessert recipes. Biting into a crisp, juicy apple is a satisfying pleasure, and this book combines the queen-of-the-orchard with sweetness and baking spices to create apple desserts that taste as though they’ve been kissed by angels. Recipes are taste-test approved by apple lovers of all ages and backgrounds.
The Adventures of Lily and Leon: A Soppy Fish Tale
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,410. Language: English. Published: December 15, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Friendship
"The Adventures of Lily and Leon" was written to encourage parents to teach their children that the color of our skin is unimportant. Lily, a white fish, and Leon a black fish, become friends when they meet in the deep, dark waters of the Green Gulf. Though fishfriends warn they shouldn't swim together, they're soon able to learn, and then teach their friends, that friends come in many colors.
Bumper Crop: Beginning with Apples
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 7,740. Language: English. Published: September 27, 2010. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » Baking
Bumper Crop is a cookbook that brings the comfort of apples back to the dinner table by using your favorite apples in every recipe. Sweet memories will abound when you share with your family and friends these unique and flavor-filled apple starters, soups, salads, entrees, side dishes and desserts.