Interview with Chynna T. Laird

Jen: This week we kick off our YA series by welcome Chynna T. Laird to Romancing the Book. Chynna, will you please share a short bio with us?

Chynna: I’m a psychology student, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with my partner, Steve, and our three daughters [Jaimie (eight), Jordhan (six), and baby Sophie (two)] and our beautiful baby boy, Xander (four). My passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs. I guess you could say I like talking about the issues that others are either too uncomfortable or embarrassed to. I don’t always like being in the spotlight but I do like getting people talking about what matters. That’s how we become more knowledgeable, more tolerant and both of these things lead to understanding.

Jen: Tell us about Blackbird Flies and where is can be purchased.

Chynna: Blackbird Flies is a story for young adults. It’s a story that helps young people realize that no matter how high the odds are stacked against you, a positive creative distraction and that one person who believes in you can be enough to carry you through. Here’s a blurb:

“Fifteen year-old Payton MacGregor is a musical prodigy. To him, though, his music is merely a way for him to escape from the chaos that surrounds him. All of his life, he’s had to care for his mother, who copes with her bipolar disorder with booze instead of turning to her own musical talents. He refuses to become a statistic. Then he’s thrown a curve ball.

His mother suddenly dies, leaving him to be cared for by his aging grandparents. As much as they love him, they decide to send him halfway across Canada to live with his father, Liam—the man Payton always believed abandoned him and his mother. Payton isn’t making the relocation easy on anyone until he finds out he’s going to attend the prestigious School of the Arts for musically gifted youth. Any second thoughts he has about his new life are erased when he meets Lily Joplin. Their connection is instantaneous.

Lily is a talented singer, but her struggles with drugs and bipolar disorder hit too close to home for Payton’s comfort. And when her issues become all-consuming, he wonders if his music will be enough to carry him through.”

The book can be purchased on the Astraea Press Website.It’s also available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing? When where you first published? Tell us your call story.

Chynna: I love answering this question. I started reading when I was very young—I think I was about two-years old when I started reading on my own. I read everything I could get my hands on and thought it was so cool to have an Uncle who worked as a distributor for Golden Books! My brother and I got shelves and shelves of books for free. Then in elementary school, a publisher from a traditional publishing company visited our school. We learned the ins and outs of writing, editing and putting books together for kids like us to read! At the end of her chat, we got make our very own books! We wrote the story, drew illustrations, had our stories bound and ‘published’. My book was called, ‘Super Bug: Tales of A Tiny Superhero’. His only fear was a size 13 running shoe, which became his untimely demise.

The pages of our books were printer paper, the covers were colored laminated cardstock paper and were ‘bound’ with staples but still! I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. And what a feeling to have our books ‘published’ in our school library so other kids could take them out! I remember whenever it was our class’s assigned library day, the first thing I’d do was run over to where my book was to see how many people borrowed it. It was inspiring to see the list of names growing. We were supposed to have taken our books home at the end of the school year but, unfortunately, I’d forgotten poor Super Bug on the library shelf. A few years later, my younger sister came home from school waving a cool book she’d taken out of the library. I almost fell over when I saw her holding up Super Bug!

I took that as a sign for me to keep following the writing path. I kept journaling, writing short stories and articles but never put my work out there too much. Finally, I entered one of my favorite short stories, “The Gray Felt Hat”. in a writing contest and wouldn’t you know it won first prize! The judge of that contest sent me a hand-written note reading, “Excellent story! Now go out and get it published!” I sent that story in to Angels On Earth and they accepted it for publication and, well, the rest is history.

Really, it was a series of many baby steps. And I took each experience as a learning curve to help guide me to the next place I had to be.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.

Chynna: Emotional, spiritual, inspiring.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?

Chynna: I’m one of those writers who may not write for while then is hit with an idea and writes obsessively until the story is done. I guess you could say I can see the story from beginning to end in my head and write it all out as the story unfolds for me.

Jen: Do you have a theme, object or person that appears in all of your stories?

Chynna: Great question! Actually, yes. I grew up surrounded by dysfunction and chaos. I also have four children with varying special needs. So, each book I write works something from one of those areas in the storyline. Also, I deeply loved my grandparents so many of my stories have grandparents or elderly characters who inspire the other characters. It’s sort of my tribute to my grandparents.

Jen: What is it about the YA genre that appeals to you?

Chynna: This will probably make me sound prudish but…what I like the most about YA books is that the same story can be told as what’s in a similar adult book but without all the explicit bedroom scenes or negativity that aren’t the most important part of the story being told. It’s not to say that I always write ‘sweet’ because I do have an adult suspense/thriller coming out later this year that wouldn’t be for younger readers (mostly due to language and some scary scenes) but YA gives us the option of being entertained without the R rating.

Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from? Why?

Chynna: I’m not really into the vampire, warewolf, kind of stuff. For me I think the market is saturated with these types of stories and those who are writing them are doing it the best. It’s just not my thing. I love horror too (John Saul, Stephen King) but I know I’d find it difficult to leave the story behind once it’s written. Stuff like that would haunt me, no pun intended! I would love to come up with a series for kids teaching them about history and important social issues. Sort of like the Magic Treehouse books but with a fresh theme. I’d also like to do more psychological thrillers for teens and young adults. Those are my favorites.

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?

Chynna: Payton, the young man in Blackbird Flies, is basically a part of me. I took a few of my own experiences and got him to go through them so I could ‘talk about’ them. He’s stronger than I was and made much better decisions than I had.

Jen: What five authors or people, past or present, have been important to your writing? What question or comment have you always wanted to say to them?

Chynna: I am most inspired by real-life people out there making a true difference in the world. Whether it’s someone who cares enough to make a difference in the life of someone else who needs that inspiration or a person who has faced tremendous adversity and finds a positive source of strength to carry her through or the person who isn’t afraid to talk about the social issues that others need to understand, these are the people who inspire me the most.

Bearing that in mind, the ‘real life’ people who have made the greatest impact in my life and in my writing are:
Mozart – his music is what I turned to in my times of distress;
The Beatles – I realize that’s technically four individuals but I’ll count them as one (LOL!). Their music has also carried me through some very tough times in my youth and adult life.
My grandparents – they were my primary source of consistency, love and sanity in my otherwise chaotic life.
My Uncle Craig – he’s been my greatest supporter throughout my life.
Maya Angelou – I think every woman out there should read her work. She has gone through some incredible experiences and teaches us through those experiences.

You’ll find each of these people – either alone or combinations of them – in almost all of my work.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?

Chynna: HA! I don’t have a lot of free time but I like to spend quality time with my kids. With school (theirs and mine), writing, promoting and other stuff, I find I don’t get to do as much with them. “Mommy Time” is something that every kid needs, whether with your birth mom or your mother in lieu.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Chynna: I have several projects in the works. I think after my adult thriller comes out, I’m going to go back to focusing more on the YA genre that I love. That’s where all my ideas are!

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Chynna: My writing website (www.lilywolfwords.ca) has all my books, articles and information on one issue close to my heart, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). I have two children with this confusing disorder so I try doing what I can to educate others about it. My main blog (www.the-gift-blog.com) is a place for writers, Beatles/music fans, book lovers and ‘sensational’ families. Life is a gift and so are all the things that surround us. My blog is a reminder of this. I also have a blog I’ve started up recently (www.seethewhiteelephants.com) that talks about issues like bipolar, eating disorders, suicide, abuse and other ‘white elephants’ that many of us see but don’t always deal with. You can also find me on Facebook (check out my Author page!), Twitter (@lilywolf), MySpace, LinkedIn and I have author pages on Goodreads, Author’s Den, Shelfari and She Writes.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Chynna: I would love to know what inspires your readers? What, or whom, gives you that strength to keep going even on those toughest days? Why?

Jen: Do you have a contest for our readers?
Chynna: I’d love to give one of your readers a download of Blackbird Flies! All they’d have to do is answer the above question! The only restriction I can see is that the winner should be over 13 simply because some of the subject matter may be a little difficult for younger readers.

Jen:  Readers, to enter the contest you first need to leave a question or comment for Chynna.  Then to finish your entry, you must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to admin.bookblog@gmail.com.  The winner will be chosen on Sunday, May 15.

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