Recently I read and subsequently fell in love with Leah Cypess’ debut novel MISTWOOD. Part mystery/part fantasy, Mistwood is the story of Isabel, also known as the Shifter who must navigate the intrigue of the royal court of Samorna and decide where her loyalty and heart should reside. Leah took a pause from her crazy schedule and chatted with me about her writing, the balance (or not) of work and family and MISTWOOD.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?
I grew up in Brooklyn, NY – in fact, I lived there my entire life (except for one year at an overseas program in Israel) until I got married and lived in Boston. More importantly, my house in Brooklyn, and stored in that garage were boxes of pulp science fiction books and comics from the 1960s – my father’s collection. I grew up reading those books, which is probably a large part of the reason I’ve always wanted to write science fiction and fantasy.
What was your earliest "book" memory?
My absolute earliest is probably from first grade, when we were reading those first-reader books with simple sentences. At some point my best friend picked up one of those books and read a sentence, and I was flabbergasted. I remember saying in astonishment, “You can read sentences already?” I couldn’t, and I was worried that I was very behind and would never catch up! (But not to worry. I did.)
Please describe a normal work day.
There is no such thing, so I’ll just describe today, which was a Sunday (and therefore particularly atypical). In the morning, I took my 3-year-old to the playground while my husband stayed home with our 15 month old. She found a friend at the playground and they had no need of any adults to keep them occupied, so I pulled out a manuscript I’m revising and spent an hour and a half working on it. Eventually we went home for lunch. After lunch, my husband watched both kids for an hour while I took a nap (we had been up since 6 a.m.); then my husband took a nap while I brought both kids to the playground again. My older daughter once again discovered some friends, so I tried to work while following my younger daughter around the playground. As you can imagine, my success was somewhat limited, but I did get through one tough scene and figure out what it needed! We went home for dinner, playtime, and bedtime; now that they’re both in bed, I’m doing laundry and taking care of online stuff (like this interview!)
You’ve had quite a few short stories published as well novels. When writing do you approach the two formats differently?
Sometimes when I begin writing, I don’t even know whether I’m writing a novel or a short story; so in both cases, I discover the story as I’m telling it. With short stories, though, I’ll often write an entire story from beginning to end in one sitting – obviously, that never happens with novels! – and they tend not to get revised quite as often.
MISTWOOD can be read as a fantastical mystery with clues sprinkled though-out the chapters. Did you outline before you write or let the story reveal itself through subsequent drafts?
Thank you! I love that description.
I never outline, because the one time I tried, I had no interest in writing the story once I knew everything that was going to happen. I let the story reveal itself in a very messy first draft, which then resolves itself into a coherent book through the revision process.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
There are too many to list. Two of my all-time favorites are Megan Whalen Turner and Diana Wynne Jones – I mention them specifically because they both also publish with Greenwillow, which was one reason I was so ecstatic when Greenwillow made an offer for Mistwood. Other all-time favorite writers include Connie Willis, who writes mostly adult science fiction, and Juliet Marillier, who writes adult and YA fantasy.
What’s next for Leah Cypess?
I have a companion novel to Mistwood (new story, same world, one crossover character) scheduled for publication in 2011. I’m very excited about it!
You can learn more about Leah Cypress and her work at her web site http://www.leahcypess.com/