Today at Daily (w)rite, we’re getting to know author Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon, an author of short stories, articles, and the novel A Place in the World.
Q: What is the book about?
A: The novel is called A Place in the World and is set in the cloud forests of Colombia. The story is about a young biologist ex-pat who marries a Colombian and goes to live on his family’s remote coffee finca (farm). Calamities strike one after another and Alicia ends up running the finca alone.
Q: What was the inspiration behind your story?
A: I grew up in Latin America and the places and people have stayed in my heart and mind through the years. You could call it a tribute, but like most writers the story was simply in my head. It was my excuse to study and write about the rainforest as well as the culture. (When I first moved to the States for university I wanted to be a rainforest biologist.)
Q: How did you come up with the title?
A: I came up with the title fairly early in the game. A Place in the World is a double entendre as it is both about a certain place – a coffee finca surrounded by an emerald forest – but also about a young woman finding her place in the world.
Q: Tell us about your cover art .
A: A cover is an important element since it is the first thing one sees. I had a definite notion of what I wanted, but it took me a long while to find it. The art work is a painting by Martin J. Heade of a cloud forest and has been a favorite of mine for years. It captures the essence of the book and is quite beautiful.
Q: How did you develop your characters?
A : Both consciously and unconsciously. One thing I do in the beginning is draw up detailed biographies for myself of each member of the cast. Even though I don’t use all the information I want to know their backgrounds and the personality traits – but sometimes the characters surprised me. Peter for example was supposed to be a “bad boy” but he turned out to be a romantic interest and a solid man. I knew Alicia had to evolve from a naïve young woman into a capable and confident person although she just seemed to do this on her own.
Q: What would you call your genre – why did you choose it?
A : It chose me. I like to think of it as mainstream or literary – that’s what I read mostly. Is multicultural a genre? My publisher listed it also as a “romantic adventure”.
Q: Tell us about your writing process. Do you edit as your write?
A : I edited as I wrote and I don’t advise it! I would finish a chapter and compulsively rewrite instead of moving on with the story. It is better to power through a rough draft and then rewrite …and rewrite again. I began writing scenes as they came to me and then stitching them together without knowing how the story would end. I needed structure however, so I soon came up with an outline and the realization that I had to decide on the ending. Until you have your ending you cannot foreshadow and develop your plot.
Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon grew up in Latin America. Her experiences and love for the people, culture and natural setting of Colombia resulted in this novel. A writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist, she has an MS in geology and a longtime passion for botany. This background enabled her to weave in details on tropical nature and geology, as well as Colombian society, into her writing. She lives in northern California with her husband and their golden retriever.
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