Gwyn Interviews Cidney

Gwyn: I’m here today with Cidney Swanson in the Las Abuelitas Bakery Café. Ms. Swanson is drinking a delightful blend of green and black tea prepared by urs truly.

Cidney: It is delightful.

Gwyn: Good. Good. Okay, so now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start with some basics. Where are you from?

Cidney: I live in Oregon. And Florida, as much as possible. But I actually grew up in Merced, California.

Gwyn: Oh. Wow. Merced’s like forty minutes from here. So … local girl! And what brings you to Las Abs?

Cidney: Work, actually.

Gwyn: Okay, so what do you do?

Cidney: I’m a writer.

Gwyn: So, like, a journalist? Like me? Because I totally am. A journalist. Taking a real journalism class.

Cidney: No, I’m more of a fiction writer.

Gwyn: Like … books? Novels?

Cidney nods and sips her tea.

Gwyn: So … what are your books about? Book, singular, or books plural?

Cidney: Plural.

Gwyn: Like, how many books have you written?

Cidney: Um … maybe thirty?

Gwyn: Dude. Dude. That’s a lot. Is that a lot? It seems like a lot.

Cidney: I haven’t run out of ideas yet.

Gwyn: What are your books about? No. Sorry. Vague question. Hmm. What kind of books do you write?

Cidney: (laughs) I write young adult novels. They are speculative fiction. You know, with imaginative elements.

Gwyn: Imaginative like … Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood?

Cidney: More like, they ask questions. What if people could fly? Or if only some people could fly? What if humans lived on Mars? What would growing up be like on another planet from your grandparents and all your ancestors? I like to write books that have a “what if?” element. That’s what I mean by speculative.

Gwyn: Name a book I’ve heard of.

Cidney: Um … you realize there’s no way I could know what you’ve heard of, right?

Gwyn: Oh. Right. Duh. Okay. So, how about this: name your favorite book you’ve written?

Cidney: Oh, gosh. That is the equivalent of asking your mom to name her favorite cat—

Gwyn: Rufus Sewell.

Cidney: Sorry?

Gwyn: My mom’s favorite cat. Is Rufus. Sewell. She names the cats after actors.

Cidney: Oh. Okay.

Gwyn: So which one is your favorite?

Cidney: I’ve got a soft spot for Saving Mars.

Gwyn: What’s it about?

Cidney: A girl who’s a pilot and lives on Mars—.

Gwyn: No one lives on Mars.

Cidney: That’s the, um, “what if” part?

Gwyn: Right. Continue. This girl lives on Mars …

Cidney: And Earth and Mars broke off diplomatic relations a hundred-plus years earlier, but the Martians—Marsians, actually, they call themselves—engage in stealth runs for goods every forty-ish Earth years. And this girl wants, more than anything, to become one of those raiders who get to fly to Earth and see an ocean firsthand.

Gwyn: Hang on. Back up. Are Earth years distinct from Mars years?

Cidney: It takes Mars almost twice as many days to make a full revolution around the Sun.

Gwyn: Right. I knew that. Totally kidding. I did not know that. So this girl pilot. She wants to make the Kessel Run or whatever?

Cidney: (laughs) Good one. And, yes, that is her heart’s ambition, but there are a ton of extenuating circumstances that make it almost impossible, until this disaster destroys most of Mars’s food supply.

Gwyn: Wow. Can this girl not catch a break or what.

Cidney: It’s rough being a character in a Cidney novel. Things tend to go from bad to worse to truly dismal with seemingly not a shred of hope.

Gwyn: That sounds … cheerful.

Cidney: Actually, if I had to describe the book—or all my books, really—I would call what I write “Hopeful Adventure Fiction.”

Gwyn: So … adventures and mishaps but … things turn out okay in the end?

Cidney: (Leans in) Spoiler alert: yes.

Gwyn: Hence the “hopeful”?

Cidney: Yup.

Gwyn: How about kissing and cursing? Are these, like, books I’m gonna have to hide from Ma?

Cidney: There’s kissing for sure. But my readers prefer fade-to-black, so I don’t write on-page sex scenes, if that’s what you mean.

Gwyn: That’s what I meant. So, with fade-to-black, is that a euphemism for sex?

Cidney: No. It just means readers are free to decide for themselves what choices they think the characters would make, given the nature of the relationship.

Gwyn: Sounds fair.

Cidney: They’re books you could read with your mom.

Gwyn: Please. I do not want my mom reading my books.

Cidney: Okay, maybe … books you could read to any ten-and-up’s you might babysit?

Gwyn: How adorable that you think my ma would let me babysit and, you know, make my own money, when I could volunteer here!

Cidney: (laughs) Sorry. I have noticed what a hard worker you are.

Gwyn: This interview is so not about moi, as fascinating as I am. Ahem. Let’s circle back to the cursing. F-bombs? Lots of swearing? Or no?

Cidney: My readers don’t like strong language, so that would be no. Actually, my Mars books have an invented kind of expletive, but no other swears. You really could read them to a ten-year-old who can handle the violence level of, say, most Star Wars movies.

Gwyn: Oh, violence, right. I forgot to ask about that. So, the books aren’t like, full of gore or whatever? No one dies?

Cidney: People die. Sometimes really good people. But no gore. My Ripple series has some descriptions of bad things done by bad people, on the level of, say, The Book Thief, but not on the level of The Hunger Games, if that helps.

Gwyn: Totally helps! So you mentioned another series. Is that your second favorite … ‘book baby’ or whatever?

Cidney: I’m kind of keeping a lid on that series, at the moment. My second fave book would probably be … hmm … Okay. A tie between A Sword in Time and Siren Spell. Sword is part of a time travel series, and it’s set in ancient Rome. The hero is basically ‘Beast’ from Beauty and the Beast, except gorgeous, and the heroine is … well, actually, she’s sort of like an older version of you. Except with five siblings and a paintbrush.

Gwyn: (sighing) I would love to have five siblings. Or even three. Or one. Any siblings would be, like, amazing.

Cidney: I’m so sorry you don’t have any.

Gwyn: How is that your fault? Anyway, so, Beast, but in ancient Rome? That would not be my top ten places to visit if I had a time machine. Lions. The Coliseum. Nope.

Cidney: The couple travels there accidentally, and they have to learn to trust and help one another if they want to get out of it alive.

Gwyn: Oh, so it is like Beauty and the Beast!

Cidney: (laughs) A little. Sort of. Mostly just in the way they relate to one another. It makes for some pretty funny scenes.

Gwyn: Is there kissing? Do they kiss? Please tell me they kiss.

Cidney: I don’t want to ruin it for you.

Gwyn: Fine. Whatevs. What was the other book? Something about witches?

Cidney: Sirens. They descend on a town on the outskirts of Portland—

Gwyn: I’ve always wanted to go there!

Cidney: Well, now you can, sort of!

Gwyn: And what makes this book tie for second place?

Cidney: Right. The ‘book of my heart’ thing. Well, my family are Ukrainian and Russian on my mom’s side, so this book is full of homage to all kinds of family lore and traditions and food. And ballet. So. Much. Ballet. The family of the main character runs a ballet studio.

Gwyn: Is Russian-slash-Ukrainian food good?

Cidney: Read the book and decide for yourself!

Gwyn: Okay, your book-baby faves are either a multi-generational ballet saga with a side of samovar and blintz or ancient Rome meets Beauty and the Beast.

Cidney: Pretty much.

Gwyn: Is the ballet book part of a series too?

Cidney: No. Weirdly it is my only standalone.

Gwyn: But everything else is a series?

Cidney: Yup. I love to let my readers really get to know the characters. So they feel like family, you know? ‘Unforgettable characters’ is the highest praise I can hear.

Gwyn: Do you get that a lot?

Cidney: (Looks embarrassed.)

Gwyn: Oh my gosh. Sorry. So not a fair question. Although I’m betting the answer is yes. Okay, well, listen. I’m gonna be honest here, I was worried you were some kind of spy or something, sitting here all quietly sipping tea with your laptop out for hours.

Cidney: No, not remotely. Although I do tend to be a little socially awkward. So that can make people wonder what I’m up to even when all I’m trying to do is my best to fit in and not be awkward.

Gwyn: That sounds … not like anything I can relate to, but now I want to give you a hug. Can I give you a hug?

Cidney: I’m not really a hugs person, but for you? Yes. Absolutely yes. I would love a hug.

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To learn more about the books referred to above, check out this list!