Confession time dear friends: I never hoped that one day I would interview C.C. Hunter.
Because when I bought her books for the first time many years ago I was not on Goodreads and even less blogging. I was a reader visiting the only Enlgish bookstore in my small country: Watersone. Authors were unatainable creatures.
Second because C.C. Hunter is a traditionally published author and it’s extremely difficult to interview them outside of a blog tour organized by the publishing house. Maybe if you have ten thousand followers but certainly not a small fish like me.
Her books are highly praised in my family by me and my kids! We’ve talked about hours of her books and laughed together because C.C. has the most incredible sense of humor.
When I got my ARC of This Heart of Mine on Netgalley thanks to Wednesday Book the crossover imprint of St Martin’s Press I was over the moon. You can find my review HERE. My first contemporary book by C.C. Hunter. Let’s just say that she moved me so deeply that I could not help reach for her telling her how I’d loved her book and daring ask for an interview.
She said yes!!!!!
So here below you will discover not only a fantastic writer but a woman who has faced rejection countless times. A woman incredibly courageous, with an iron will and a heart of gold. I hope you’ll love reading this interview as much as I did.
C.C. you are incredible.
- First question about your childhood. Where were you born? Did you move a lot as a child with your family? Do you have brothers and sisters, etc. How was it in your family and what was little CC like? A wild child running in the fields and climbing trees? A dreamer? A book nerd?
Thank you, Sophie for helping me spread the word about my books. I was born in Alabama, a Southern gal through and through. We only moved once and it was across town. I have two brothers, who fought all the time and made farting noises with their armpits. I was the middle child. To know me now is not to know me when I was little CC. Today, I start up deep heartfelt conversations with people in grocery stores. Then, I was quiet, insecure, and a dreamer. I’m dyslexic, so I wasn’t a book worm. But I was writing books in my head by the time I was nine. I really didn’t learn to read until I was in third grade, and I didn’t read for pleasure until I was an adult.
- Did you always know you would write books one day or was it something “out of the blue” a “spurt of the moment” decision?Or maybe something you loved in high school already?
I never dreamed I’d be a writer. I hated English. Hated spelling. Hated grammar. I wasn’t diagnosed as dyslexic as a child, I was diagnosed as “Learning Impaired.” So, I followed in my mother’s footsteps. She got married at thirteen. Only I was an “old maid,” I married at sixteen. I divorced at 22 and at 23, I married my husband of 31 years. We’d been married about three months when he asked me. “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” I looked him right in the eye and answered, “I’ve done it. I married well.” He wouldn’t accept that, and he asked me again. Then, I admitted something I’d never said aloud. I told him I would like to be a writer. He challenged me to do it. A short ten years later, I sold my first book.
- What were your favorite books as a kid?
There are two books I remember reading. I think I was in the fourth grade. One was Charlotte’s Web. And the other was about a boy running away and living in a tree in the forest. I don’t recall the name of it. Seriously, I think those were the only books I read because of my difficulties reading.
- Now could you share some interesting tidbits about who the woman is? What would the persons close to you say about CC?
Yikes. I hope they say I’m kind. I always try to be. I hope they say I’m down to earth. Because that’s how I see myself. I love to laugh, so they may say I’m always cracking jokes. Other writers say I’m a fast writer. I feel I waste too much time with Spider Solitaire. I can tell you that I’m passionate about my writing. I love what I do. I work hard and maybe too many hours. When I’m not writing, I love enjoying wine with friends. I walk almost every day for exercise. And I love my dog, Lady, who we rescued from a junkyard.
- What are your guilty pleasures? Chocolate? Ice cream? Chick flit? Shopping? Just tell us what’s lifting your mood or what you need to survive as a happy woman. Now on the contrary what can’t you stand or has your panties in a twist?
My guilty pleasures are wine and massages. But I love chocolate and ice cream, too. I also love getting together with friends. I love talking about writing. Which is why I spend so much time traveling and teaching workshops. What gets my panties in a wad are bullies. I do not like judgmental people. I do not like people who think they are better than others. I do not like green eggs and ham. LOL.
- I’ve read in your bio that you are a writing coach (what can be expected from someone who has written so many wonderful books) but you also are a motivational speaker. What experiences do you share to motivate people? Is it about the grueling task to write and being published or rather about what you and your husband went through and how it influenced your perspective on life?
I’d like to think I inspire people to follow their dreams no matter what they are. I teach craft, but as far as inspiring . . . I share my story of being dyslexic, or getting married too young. After I give a workshop on craft, I usually do what I call my “rejection dump.” I have kept all my rejections. And I have thousands. These are not all book rejections, but short story and article rejections, too. I bring a small suitcase, and at the end of a talk, I tell people about all I have accomplished in spite of my struggles. Then I slowly drop all the rejections in the suitcase from big envelopes and tell them it wasn’t easy, but if I could overcome my struggles and face that much rejection and still make it, why can’t they?
- Let’s get into your books now. What was the first book that you wrote and was it published?Do you recall how you felt when you published your first book? What are the “lessons learned” or the “mistakes” you would not do again?
A short ten years after I told my husband I wanted to write, I sold my first book. It was a sweet Silhouette Romance. I thought I had made it. I had done something amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t sell another book for thirteen years. This is when I started writing for magazines. Mistakes? Lessons? I’m a firm believer that mistakes are just stepping stones. We need to make them so we can learn. But I think one thing I would have changed was to have found my inner voice as a writer and stayed true to it. There was a time I thought I had to write like others. I finally let my own voice loose when I wrote my other novels. As a result, I sold four books in one day in 2006. Since then, I have never had a year that I didn’t have two or more books out.
- You write fantasy Young Adult novels as the Shadow Falls series (I’m a huge fan as well as my daughter and my son) or your new one that I still have to read The Mortician’s Daughter. You write contemporary Young Adult with This Heart of Mine that we’ll speak of here below but you also write humorous romantic suspense novels. With that being said: what is your writing process? Are you a “moody” writer and need to switch between adult and young adult? Or are you inspired by something you witnessed? Or are you influenced by something happening in your life? To sum it up: where do you get your ideas and your inspiration? Do you have a muse? (I can guess who would be your muse for This Heart of Mine).
Let’s start with the writing process. I’m not a plotter. I get a small kernel of an idea, and I start building a characters and writing. My inspiration comes from life. When people ask where I get my ideas, I usually tell them at Wal-Mart on the clearance rack. Yes, my husband’s transplant was the inspiration behind This Heart of Mine. When I started writing it, the emotions poured out of me. I cried 50 percent of the time writing that book.
- Is it easier to write Young Adult or Adult? Is the writing process different like some ritual you have to follow to write YA (immerse yourself in schools or visit nieces and nephews or watch teenage shows or…)? How does someone “speak” like a teen again? How do you recall so easily what you felt, experienced etc. as a teenager?
I never set out to write YA. An editor had read my adult books and thought my voice would be successful in YA. When first approached, I took a trip down memory lane to recall what being a teen was like. I realized I hated it. Really, really hated it. I also realized that if I was going to write YA, I was going to have to plagiarize from my own life. Then I had to figure out if I could write a story that teens could relate to today. I realized all the things that I dealt with are the same thing teens deal with now. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. Peer pressure and their parents. I don’t set out sound like a teen. I think it’s the teen emotions that I connect with that makes me sound like a teen. Does that make sense?
- How do you choose and build your characters? Do they come first and your build the plot around them as they become “alive” in your head? Or does the plot come first and you build characters fitting the plot? How do you make them “flesh and bones”? Who inspired Kylie, Miranda, Derek, Luca, Della… and now Matt and Leah?
I consider myself a character driven writer. My story stems from my characters, not the plot. I may have thought, okay, I’m going to write about a paranormal camp, but until I figured out who Kylie was, the story was nothing. Also, this might sound odd, but I build characters by figuring out the worst thing that happened to them. Pain often molds us to become who we are. Pain teaches us lessons, good and bad. There is some of me, of my personal pain, in all my characters. I will say Kylie is more like me than most. My parents got a divorce when I was sixteen. I had a family member die. I never fit in at school. I gave Miranda my dyslexia. Della got the voice in my head. The things I wanted to say, but wouldn’t because I was too insecure.
Now let’s speak about This Heart of Mine.
- Was the writing of this very special book different as it’s featuring a topic so close to home? Did you need breather when you wrote some pretty emotional scene? Did you speak about it with your husband? Was this book something you NEEDED to write?
If you read the letter in the back of the book, you learned that when my husband woke up from the surgery, he started having reoccurring dreams and in it, he would wake up and find an old man staring him right in the face. And it happened for several days. When we found out it was an older gentleman who gave him the kidney, it gave us chills. I mentioned to my daughter that it would make a good book. But I didn’t foresee writing it until my editor at St. Martin’s asked if I would consider writing a contemporary YA about someone dealing with illness. My first thought was . . . nah, I write stories with mysteries laced with humor, but to be polite, I told her I’d think about it. Several hours later, the story started forming. I told my husband my plan and he said I should go for it. I didn’t think it would be that emotional to write, but seriously, I cried so much while writing this book. It had been over a year since his transplant, but the book brought back all the emotions we went through. And I was able to weave in the suspense and the humor.
- What I love above all else in this book is the complexity and conflicting feelings Leah went through. In the beginning she get used to the idea of death. She wants to protect her loved ones and presents a brave front. Then she must get used to live again. How do you really live and just not barely survive? With life comes the guilt and the questions about why me? Why does someone have to die for me to live. How is it fair? Then she has to discover who new Leah is. Did you and your husband experience these emotions before and after the surgery? And how does he feel now? Could you maybe share some simple things many people do every day but that were not easy for both of you due to his “condition.”
Yes, all the emotions came right from my own experience. When my husband read this book he cried, too. For four and half years my husband was on dialysis. The dialysis started killing his heart. We all went through the issues of why him, why us? He’d lost like 40 pounds and he wasn’t’ a big man. He’s the kind of guy who always did everything right, he took such good care of himself, so it hurt that none of that mattered. It’s hard to even admit this, but I had tried to prepare myself for his passing. When he got offered the kidney, it was nothing less than a miracle. Within a few months, his heart started improving. As a transplant patient, he takes immune suppressant drugs. This makes him susceptible to colds, viruses, and infections. So he’s sick a lot. He also has to be very careful what he eats. After a while, some transplant patients eat raw vegetables, but because bacteria can be grown in the plants, he doesn’t eat anything that’s not cooked. He can’t eat lunch meats because they can have bacteria that may not hurt a normal person, but can make him very sick. The drugs also just make him feel yucky sometimes. But he’s such a trooper. He’s not like a normal person, but this is so much better than dialysis. He’s gained his weight back, and we are celebrating every day.
- How do you manage to write an emotional thoughtful book and yet keep it light and fun at the same time? The banter was really good (as it was with your other books, I would say humor and sweetness are your trademark) and it allowed the reader to breathe through your serious topic. What’s the secret to get the right balance between sass and gravity, light and suspense?
My grandmother had a saying, “If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.” It’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart. It’s a lesson I give all my characters. We laughed our way through some very difficult times. I don’t enjoy reading books where people never laugh or celebrate the little things. So I wouldn’t want to write one. Yes, there is pain in This Heart of Mine, but finding things to laugh about softens those blows.
- In This Heart of Mine Leah you have many layers to the story: first love (you are spot on about all the cuteness and shyness, I’m impressed!), death then life, surgery and its permanent side effects, fitting in high school again, coming to terms with your guilt and living your live but that’s not all! The book is also a suspense! Where did the idea come from? Was it something you felt was needed to write such a book?
You’ll find suspense in every book I write. I guess I’m just wired wrong. The number one thing you do when you write a book is add the conflict. To me suspense adds that extra punch in a novel.
- Was it any different to submit your book to a beta reader, editor and readers than it was for your other creations? More personal?
Yes, a little bit. Writers have to have thick skins. Books are like ice cream and if someone doesn’t like the flavor you write, they won’t like it. But books are like our babies, and we want everyone to think they are beautiful. I’ve gotten tons of criticism of my books and while it still stings, I’ve learn to let it roll off of me. But because this book is so personal, I’m sure it’s going to sting a little more. But that’s okay. I can take it.
- You are a writing coach so you are used to giving advices but are aspiring writers good at following them? Could you share with us the best advice that you got? And the one advice that you never followed?
The number one piece of advice I give writers is to not listen to writing advice if it doesn’t resonate with you or your story. I do workshops about fleshing out characters and how to make them jump off the page and into the hearts of the readers. So I tell them to make sure the characters are worthy enough to be cared about. Give them a history, a reason they fear what they fear, and reasons why they care about certain things. Don’t write a character who is fearless. Write one who is afraid and yet faces those fears. The best piece of advice I got was to be mean to your characters. Chase them up trees and then throw rocks at them. Readers want to read about a character overcoming obstacles, not living the perfect life. The piece of advice I did not listen to was to make the humor come from your secondary characters. Because all my best lines were humorous, I didn’t want them to always go to my secondary characters. Another thing was that I should stick to one type of writing. I enjoy writing in different genres.
- What is your next writing project? And this one comes from my daughter Julie who is sixteen: when will Miranda’s story, The Mortician’s Daughter and This Heart of Mine be translated in French as she NEEDS to read them?
I just finished another YA proposal. It’s about a young girl who learns she was kidnapped as a child. I’m about to start the second in The Mortician’s Daughter series, and then I have to write another book in my Texas Justice series that are romantic suspense books with damaged heroes. I wish I could tell you when the other books would be out in French. All the foreign sales are dealt with by the publisher, and I seldom find out anything about them until I get a copy of the book. I might suggest you contact the publisher who put out Shadow Falls and ask if they will be releasing Midnight Hour in French. At the moment, I think my is agent trying to sell foreign rights to the The Mortician’s Daughter series.
Now some light and fun questions to end this interview:
- What would be your dream cast for your books?
I don’t keep up with different stars, so I really don’t know. What I do know is that if it went to film, I’m sure they wouldn’t fit the role. I’ve even had readers see images that I posted of people I think fit the description of my characters and they tell me… That’s not what Kylie, or Lucas, or Della look like?
- Choose 5 fictional characters to help you rule the world. Who would they be?
Charlotte from Charlottes’ Web. Super Woman. Kylie. Burnett. Della.
- Who are your auto buy authors?
I read across the board. I enjoy Lori Wilde, Susan E. Phillips, and Mary Lindsey.
- Favorite quotes?
“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford. “If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.” My grandmother.
Now just a personal note: a huge thank you for your time and consideration. I fell in love with your writing, your humor and sensitivity. I hope that your husband is now “in the clear” and that you are both able to “live large and take chances” 😉.I promise to read The Mortician’s Daughter.
Thank you so much for helping me share my stories. Here’s wishing you joy, laughter, and friends.
Some of C.C’s books
Have you read any of C.C.’s books? Do you want to now?
Thanks for reading and happy Saturday!