Author Interview with Lucinda Gunnin

Lucinda Gunnin Mini-bio:

Lucinda Gunnin is a writer and freelance reporter who currently lives in Southern Illinois with her husband and fellow author Steven Thor Gunnin. She enjoys hot cocoa with her fellow dreamers and women writers at Longbranch Coffeehouse every other Sunday and spends as much quality time as possible each day with her cat Rain. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, photography and a good mystery novel.

As a freshman in college, Gunnin believed writing was easy, so the quote from Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” never quite worked for her until she tried her hand at fiction.

She first saw the line on a poster in the office of her journalism instructor and remembered it years later as she struggled to write her first novel. It was then her husband–author and graphic designer Steven Thor Gunnin–suggested she try writing a short story instead. Cindy took his suggestion and ran with it, discovering she loves the process of writing short stories. Still, she kept the story largely to herself until she found a home at Accentuate Writers Forum and with the love and support of her fellow forum members, she found the courage to share her writing with the rest of the world.

Since finding the Accentuate Writers, Cindy has had stories included in Elements of the Soul, Elements of Time, Best of Unsent Letters and is pending publication with Chicken Soup for the Soul in one of their themed collections. She also won third place in the Fall 2008 24-hour short story contest sponsored by Writers Weekly. She has rededicated herself to finishing that first novel and sharing it with others.

In addition to fiction, Lucinda has written for Heartland Women newspaper and several online sites. She has been published in multiple national magazines in her maiden name, Lucinda Morgan.

Author Interview with Lucinda Gunnin:

It’s rare today to find an author who does nothing but write for a living. Do you have a ‘real’ job other than writing, and if so, what is it? What are some other jobs you’ve had in your life?

Lucinda Gunnin: I’m a reporter by profession and have worked professionally in the newspaper industry for about a decade. In between reporter gigs, I worked as a purchasing agent for a manufacturing company and a billing clerk for a doctor’s office. I started reporting in college for both the newspaper and radio. Now, I am a reporter/writer for a bi-weekly newspaper called Heartland Women and my husband and I co-manage a mini-storage complex.

Tell us a little bit about your writing projects and/or book/s.

Lucinda Gunnin: I have two great novels in the works, both about a dystopian future and the role of normal people in it. This is my favorite kind of book to read and I am especially fond of the sort of survivalist mentality that it takes to write this kind of book. I’ve also discovered I really enjoy writing short stories and am planning to spend more time working on them. I think the short story genre was pushed aside for awhile and now seems to be making a resurgence with readers, at least I hope it is.

Have you ever won any writing awards? If so, what?

Lucinda Gunnin: As a reporter, the writing and reporting are sort of tied together, so the writing awards I have received were all called reporting awards. In 1988, I was named journalist of the year for the Rocky Mountain College Press Association for a combination of feature, editorial and hard news writing. The contest is conducted at the annual conference for the RMCPA. I also won various awards for my content while writing for my college newspaper.

Then, during my first stint of reporting, I was part of a group that was awarded a community service writing award from the Illinois Press Association. The series we wrote about underage drinking was reprinted by the Illinois Department of Public Health as a public service.

Finally, in November, 2008, I took third place for my fiction writing in the Fall 24-Hour Short Story Content from Writer’s Weekly. It was, to date, the largest prize I’ve received for my writing.

What did you feel the day you learned you would be published?

Lucinda Gunnin: It seemed a bit surreal. The story that was first accepted for publication came from a snippet of a conversation I had with my uncle 15 years ago and story sort of took over my life one day until I got it on paper. It was also inspired by a garbage truck and my cat’s reaction to it, so it seemed rather serendipitous. There was a period of time when it seemed so ephemeral that I really wasn’t terribly excited by it, but in January, 2009, as I introduced myself to the local writer’s guild, I said, “My short stories are being included in an anthology printing in March.” Then, it hit me and I was dumbfounded by the reality of it all.

The main characters of your stories – do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?

Lucinda Gunnin: Most of my characters have a little bit, or sometimes a lot, of real people in my life in them. In my story “Jasper”, the character of the uncle is very loosely based on my real uncle who was a sheriff’s deputy in Oakland County, Michigan, for most of his adult life who once told me he would teach me to shoot if I moved to the city..

I find it difficult sometimes to separate the character’s actions from what I would do in the situation, so it’s been kind of fun to put the characters in situations that I have never even come close to. Despite the main character’s minor resemblance to me in “Jasper”, I have never owned a retired police dog or even fired a real gun.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your own writing? Do you have a writing mentor?

Lucinda Gunnin: Recently, I discovered Laura Benedict’s writing and decided that I absolutely adore her. I met her at a book signing and found that we are both married to writers, so I hit her up for good advice when your spouse is a writer. I wouldn’t say she’s a mentor, per se, but I definitely would like to emulate her.

Michelle Devon has inspired me in ways she cannot even imagine, though less in fiction than in the other writing I do. Michy is just the type of person that you hope you can compare yourself with favorably.

And, then there are my two personal editors, Emily Henderson and Chanda Green. Without them, I would make considerably more mistakes and probably not write as much. Both push and prod when I need it and help me stay motivated to write and both are excellent writers in their own right.

When growing up, did you have a favorite author, book series, or book?

Lucinda Gunnin: I have an aunt who loved to read and when I turned 9, she gave me the entire series of Nancy Drew books. They inspired me to read and I read them all dozens of times as a child. I also fell in love with “My Side of the Mountain” which Mrs. Rhodes, my fifth-grade teacher read to us. Once I got older, I read Tom Clancy because someone told me girls didn’t read that kind of thing and he’s probably my favorite author since then, though I also adore Stephen King, Dean Koontz and some of the people who write James Patterson’s books, like Maxine Paetro, who co-authored several of the Women’s Murder Club books.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now.

Lucinda Gunnin: I was born in Michigan and moved to Colorado when I was 8, so I lived in the mountains near Buena Vista until I graduated from high school. The community I lived in before we left Michigan was the neighborhood my mother grew up in and my grandparents lived two blocks away, so during those early years, the neighborhood was like an extended family.

In Buena Vista, we were part of a very small, mostly mining and tourism community. I had 59 people in my graduating class from high school, many of whom I recently reconnected with on Facebook. It definitely impacted the way I look at hunting and environmentalism. I think once you live where people build habitat so they can preserve the animals and then hunt them for food, you have a different attitude toward hunting than you might if you lived elsewhere.

I went to college in Alamosa, often the coldest spot in the continental United States and then went to graduate school in Springfield, Illinois. After I got my M.A., I lived briefly in Michigan in Oakland County which is very much more city than anywhere else I have lived. Finally, I moved to southern Illinois where I have lived for the past 18 years. This is pretty rural with small cities at best, but Carbondale is a university community, so I had access to great speakers, entertainment and a constant flow of intellectual stimulation. St. Louis is just two hours away, so we have the best of all worlds, living where there are trees and plants and open space, but with ballgames, museums and more easily accessible.

We are hoping to move to the one of the coasts in the near future, either Pacific Northwest or New England because we want to get closer to the ocean and because the southern Illinois summers can be painfully long and hot. Once we’re there, we’ll be in our dream location, close to ocean, with the city lights not too far away.

Do you have any pets? What are they? Tell us about them.

Lucinda Gunnin: My cat Rain is my supervisor and inspiration (sometimes). She is a stray we adopted and quickly wrapped the entire family around her dew claws. She has inspired me to take a more active interest in the fate of feral or wild cats and to promote the cause of spaying your pets every chance I get. I adore her, but far too many kittens like her are born each year without loving homes.

Do you watch television? If so, what are your favorite shows? Does television influence of inspire your writing?

Lucinda Gunnin: I don’t watch a lot of network television. I have three or four shows that I enjoy and then buy them on DVD so we can watch them at our convenience. I love Heroes, but don’t talk to me about the current season. I’ll watch it when it’s out in a boxed set. I watch Psych, Bones, House and Eureka this way. We just finished Season 2 of Eureka and we’re watching Season 2 of Psych. I don’t think television influences my writing at all, usually, though I will apply some of the ideas from Jericho into my dystopian novel.

What about movies?

Lucinda Gunnin: We watch about 30 movies a month, maybe more, from old favorite to new releases. I watch a lot of horror and a lot big budget blockbusters. The biggest impact they have on my writing is that I look for things that make me go “huh?” and then make a mental note to avoid them. Recently, we saw the Spike Lee film “Miracle at St. Anna” and while I liked some parts of it, the dialogue seemed completely wrong for the era. So, I try to use movies as a gauge for language and making sure I use terms when they were in use. I don’t want my characters to all sound like they grew up when I did.

Is there anyone you’d like to specifically acknowledge who has inspired, motivated, encouraged or supported your writing?

Lucinda Gunnin: My husband is the one who first challenged me to write a short story, before jumping headlong into a novel. That first effort needs a lot of polishing still , but I am very attached to the story because it was the first complete fiction story I told. He is my harshest critic and most fervent supporter.

I also owe a lot of thanks to the women in my family who have always supported my love of reading and then of writing, my grandmother Wilva Morgan, my aunt Alice Morgan and my mother Sandra Smith.

Thinking about your writing career, is there anything you’d go back and do differently now that you have been published?

Lucinda Gunnin: I had a publisher tell me years ago that he’d like to see more of my work and I took it as rejection and stopped writing fiction for a lot of years. My only regret is that I didn’t just write earlier. I’ve found that if I’m writing, the motivation to eek out publication follows.

Many authors have said that naming their characters is a difficult process, almost like choosing a name for their own child. How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your book/s?

Lucinda Gunnin: Jasper, the police dog in the story of the same name, came from the first working police dog I ever met. I suspect he has retired by now, but when I chose the name, I based it on a real dog. A lot of my other characters are named because I want the name to not be someone I know. I’m always afraid that if the character’s first name is the name of someone I know, I might unwittingly slip some of that person into the character, so generally I choose names I like, but that are not real people. The exception is last names. I am horrible about choosing last names for my characters, so I usually choose a name from my past.

Now, anything else you want your readers to know?

I’ve started a couple blogs, but always get distracted from them fairly quickly. I find Facebook and Twitter to be very great ways to keep in touch and make new friends and use my MySpace page largely for keeping up with friends and family. Anyone who doesn’t already know too much about me can find me on Facebook where I’m sure my closest friends will reveal all my secrets.

The Accentuate Anthology is available through retailers both in person and online, or you can order with discounts directly from the publisher, Twin Trinity Media.