Monday, November 14, 2016

Interview with Cynthia A. Graham on Writing Behind Every Door and A Book Giveaway

During a conversation at the Ozarks Creative Writing Conference with an editor from Amphorae Publishing Group, "a small press with big books," the editor commented that she enjoys my reading blog and asked if I would be willing to interview a couple of their authors.

Before agreeing, I asked for some information about the authors and their books to make sure they would be a good fit for my blog visitors. And I believe they are. 

I am not being compensated for interviewing the authors, although I was given a copy of their books to help me formulate my questions.

Cynthia A. Graham
My first interview is with multi-genre author Cynthia A.Graham. The photo on the left is courtesy of Amphorae Publishing Group.

According to the Amphorae website, Cynthia was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but spent a lot of time in the cotton belt of Missouri, "where she grew to love the mystery and beauty of the stark, Delta Plain." Cynthia's short stories have won several awards, and her work has been published in various anthologies. 

I am giving away my copy of Cynthia A. Graham's Behind Every Door, published by Blank Slate Press (an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group), to one of my blog visitors who leaves a comment on this post.

Here are my interview questions (in black) and Cynthia's answers (in red).

The primary setting for Behind Every Door is Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas. Is Cherokee Crossing an actual location or a fictional town?

Cherokee Crossing is a fictional town located in the northeast corner of Arkansas. It would most likely be in the real county of Lawrence. I wanted to create a town so that I could do with it whatever I wanted, geographically, racially, and politically.

Behind Every Door is your second novel, following Beneath Still Waters. What was the inspiration for Behind Every Door, and how does it connect with Beneath Still Waters?

Behind Every Door takes place two years after Beneath Still Waters and continues the life of Andrew “Hick” Blackburn as he becomes a husband and father. At the time I was (and still am) frustrated with how quickly we jump to conclusions – how easily we judge based on preconceived ideas and how these prejudices can make justice, for some, very hard to find.

Your novel takes place in the Deep South shortly after World War II, a time of great change and upheaval in the United States, not just because of the war, but also because of social norms and racial tensions. Why did you pick this time period for your mystery?

Hick Blackburn was largely born from various family stories of uncles who had gone to fight the war. These young men were not well-traveled; they perhaps had never been further from home than the mid-south fair in Memphis and were thrust into battle in a strange, faraway place. The inevitable disorientation this caused helped define Hick, it made him the perfect vehicle for questioning injustice as he had witnessed atrocity. He is no longer capable of blind acceptance or complacency because his world has been irrevocably changed.

Sheriff Andrew Jackson “Hick” Blackburn, the main character, is a well drawn and realistic character. He is a man of integrity and purpose, yet he has flaws and a wartime-past he would like to forget. How did you come up with him as a character?

I really wanted Hick to be a perfect storm of vulnerability – someone who would really think and process his experiences. I created for him a past of relative ease, but I gave him the sort of character that really questions things – from the abuse of a cat as a child to the horrific experience he had in the war. I did not want him to be just another John Wayne “hero” type character, but rather I wanted him to be a vehicle for questioning our own motives and actions, our assignations of who is worthy of life and who is not.

How difficult was it to write from the point of view of a man, especially one who has come home from a terrible wartime experience?

The greatest compliment I ever received was from a mentor who told me I “think like a man.” I honestly think there are fewer differences between the sexes than we perceive. Virginia Woolf and Samuel Coleridge both refer to the importance of an androgynous mind. The challenge was not so much in Hick’s masculinity as in his impotence to express himself – in his “mind forged manacles.” The wartime experience (which I have not had) exasperated this problem and was a challenge, but anyone can understand the frustration in wanting to express yourself on some deep level and being unable to.

I love the cover of your book and am curious about the title, both of which tie in to my question about your writing and publishing process. What can you tell us about how long it took and other aspects of the writing, editing, and publishing process for Behind Every Door?

I thought the title Behind Every Door tied in nicely with Beneath Still Waters and my publisher designed both covers and I think they perfectly complement one another. I was inspired when I wrote it and since Beneath Still Waters had been favorably received, I wanted to get it completed quickly. The whole process took about a year and a half which is amazingly rapid.

Other than being an entertaining mystery, what do you hope your readers will take away after reading Behind Every Door?

I hope that it will caution them to not jump to conclusions. Not only about crime, but about the people you meet on a daily basis. We have no way of knowing what kind of personal agony is dealt with behind every door. Perhaps I just hope it will inspire people to be careful with one another – to treat each other with kindness and respect.

In your bio, you mention that you belong to several writing groups, among them is the Historical Novel Society. What can you tell us about that group?

The Historical Novel Society is a group that has a quarterly issue of book reviews. They also sponsor a large conference every year. Last year it was in Oxford, England, and this year it will be in Portland, Oregon.

What are you working on now?

I have completed the third draft of Between the Lies, another Hick Blackburn mystery. As time marches on, Hick will find himself embroiled in more social issues, such as desegregation.

What is the best way for readers to contact you?

They can reach me by e-mail at

Visitors (from USA only) who leave a comment will be entered in a drawing to win my copy of Behind Every Door. The name of the winner will be announced on Monday, November 21.


  1. Great interview, Donna. Cynthia's book sounds compelling. A well rounded character keeps me reading. A series is also appealing.

    1. Thanks, Linda. I'm with you; well rounded characters keep me reading.

  2. Donna--Thanks for doing this interview. Cynthia--This sounds like a wonderful book. I loved your phrase: "a perfect storm of vulnerability." Congratulations. I hope this book does as well as the first one.

    1. Hi Sioux,
      I hope this one does well too. Your name is entered in the contest.

    2. Thank you Sioux. I hope it does well also :)

  3. It's not the kind of thing I usually read, but the interview makes me want to read it!

  4. Congratulations to Cynthia and best wishes to her for continued success with her series. I love that she drew on family stories to create Hick Blackburn--what a great name!

    My stack of books to read is pretty large right now, Donna, so please don't include me for the drawing.

    1. Hi Clara,
      Thanks for dropping by. I know what you mean about having a large stack of books to read. So, I'll omit your name from the drawing.

  5. Wonderful interview, Donna! As you know, I enjoy historical fiction, and this sounds like a thought-provoking read.


    1. Thanks for dropping by, Pat.
      I'm becoming a fan of historical fiction too!

  6. And that proves the value of networking, Donna. You've met some new interesting writers and can pass on the names to the rest of us. Excellent interview.

    1. Thanks, Patricia. I enjoy the interviews and guest bloggers you feature on your blog as well.

  7. Great interview, and now I have a new book to add to my TBR list. :)

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for stopping by. Your name is in for the drawing.

  8. Thank you Donna! I really enjoyed this interview.


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