Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Cynthia Leitich Smith
Get to know Cynthia…
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author the Feral series, which includes Feral Nights and Feral Curse, as well as the Tantalize series, which includes Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, Diabolical. Two graphic novels, Tantalize: Kieren’s Story and Eternal: Zachary’s Story, complete the Tantalize series.
These adventure-fantasies are published by Candlewick Press in the U.S., Walker Books in the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand, and additional publishers around the globe.
Cynthia’s website was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.
Would you rather endure a zombie apocalypse or World War III?
Zombie apocalypse, providing that I remain human and uneaten. I’m already up on the mythology, halfway to a cure, and have a bow ready to go.
Would you rather be able to speak with all animals or all foreign languages?
All animals because, for humans, I could always find a translator.
Would you rather be the richest person alive or immortal?
Immortal, but only if I were reasonably healthy. Infinity would give me plenty of time to save money.
Would you rather live in a retirement home or a mental institution?
Retirement home. I have a great respect for elders and adored my grandparents and great aunties.
Would you rather always be underdressed or overdressed?
I am always at least slightly overdressed. That woman in kitten heels at the grocery store? That’s me. But I would’ve answered differently two years ago.
Would you rather have a rewind button for your life or a pause button?
Rewind. I have a few regrets that haunt, especially from my teens and twenties. Then again, that may be the whole point of one’s tweens and twenties. Besides, I actually do get to unwind…through fiction…from a certain point of view.
Would you rather have the ability to read minds or teleport?
Teleport. I like a little mystery in my life and hate to fly commercial.
Would you rather have unicorns be real or mermaids?
Unicorns! I recently rediscovered a scrimshaw ring of a unicorn in my jewelry box. I bought it in Colorado when I was a tween and am delighted that it fits.
What made you decide to follow a creative career choice (though possibly risky) rather than something more stable?
I quit my day job after the Oklahoma City Bombing. I was working in a federal office in Chicago that day. I have close ties to OKC, and it was my life-is-short wake-up call. Better to live and fail big than spend your life dreaming of a “someday” that never comes.
In terms of your writing, how would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as the author of my first book, Jingle Dancer. It was published fourteen years ago, which frankly, takes a lot of pressure off. Legacy? Check!
Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work?
Sometimes I’ll nod to a previous story. In the Tantalize-Feral universe, I incorporated a fictional costume shop called “All the World’s a Stage,” which was previously the setting for a realistic YA short story, “A Real Live Blond Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate.”
What else? I hosted an informal private workshop at my home for fellow Austin writers back in 2005. The word “kumquat” kept coming up in the manuscripts, and ever since, you can occasionally spot “kumquat” in an Austinite’s book that might not have appeared there otherwise.
Do you pay attention to strong reactions to your work? Does that affect your creativity?
I’m especially open to YA reader suggestions and sometimes apply them to future books. The Feral series grew in part out of fan mail about a quirky secondary character named Clyde.
What kind of jobs did you have before your career took off?
I’ve had tons of jobs—popcorn popper at a movie theater, waitress, switchboard operator, receptionist, newspaper reporter, PR coordinator, law clerk.
If you could interview any author (past or present), who would you choose?
If you could choose a theme song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
“Xanadu” by Olivia Newton John.
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