New Voice: Cindy Callaghan on Just Add Magic

Cindy Callaghan is the first-time author of Just Add Magic (Aladdin, 2010)(discussion guide). From the promotional copy:

When Kelly Quinn and her two BFFs discover a dusty old cookbook while cleaning out her attic, the girls decide to try a few of the mysterious recipes inside.

But the ancient book bears an eerie warning, and it doesn’t take long for the girls to realize that their dishes are linked to strange occurrences.

The Keep ‘Em Quiet Cobbler actually silences Kelly’s pesky little brother and the Hexberry Tarta brings an annoying curse to mean girl Charlotte Barney. And there’s the Love Bug Juice, which seems to have quite the effect on those cute Rusamano boys…

Could these recipes really be magical? Who wrote them, and where did they come from? And most importantly, what kind of trouble are the girls stirring up for themselves? Things are about to get just a little too hot in Kelly Quinn’s kitchen.

What is it like, to be a debut author? What do you love about it? What are the challenges? What came as the biggest surprise? In each case, why?

The debut of my work meant a transition from Writer to Promoter. I put writing on hold temporarily because time constraints wouldn’t allow me to do both. I really missed writing which, for me, is quiet and solitary.

Promotion is just the opposite, and as a modest person, I found it challenging talking about myself and my work. One of the things that surprised me was how amazingly excited people were for me. And they were so supportive. Especially the schools I visited, they were so kind to me, and the kids thought I was a celebrity, seriously. I always wanted to be a celebrity.

One time I was picking up my kids from after-school care and a very quiet, shy little girl that I didn’t know came up to me. I imagined it was hard for her to approach me like that.

She said, quite assertively, “Hey, Mrs. Callaghan.”

“Yes?” I asked.

And she pointed at me with both hands and said, surprisingly assertively, “Loved the book!” And she dashed off.

I laughed all afternoon.

You know another thing that surprises me? The emails I get from kids.

I got one the other day that really wanted an autographed picture of me. I thought, “I’ve arrived.” Of course I don’t have any autographed pictures of myself, but how could I let down this fan? What was I going to do? What any girl would do…called Dad. Presto, I’ve got a photograph that only needed to be signed and mailed.

I was in Manhattan recently, and we had a really long wait at this popular restaurant. I confidently approached the maître d’ to explain that I was famous and we should get a good seat….yadda yadda…okay, it didn’t work.

As someone with a full-time day job, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

I like to write in the morning. I wake up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. most days. When I am involved in a project, I will write before work for about an hour.

But I really prefer to write in big time chunks. That way I don’t have to stop when I am on a roll.

As you can imagine with a family and job, large blocks of time are difficult to find. If my creative juices are really flowing, like with a first draft, I can get up really early and write for hours. It feels like minutes.

On a weekend morning I’ll leave the house at 5:30 a.m. I can get four hours of writing in before most people are awake!

If I can, I block a whole day, sometimes two. I go away if I can. It is very hard for me to find a quiet place at home, so getting away to our mountain house alone or with a few writing friends works very well.

Other times I can catch a half hour in the car, or in the waiting room at the doctor. A plan to maximize these little bits of time helps. I take about 10 minutes each Sunday to look at my calendar to make my plan. Something like:

Monday: 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. – Draft Chili Cook-off Scene

Tuesday: Doctor Appointment – Review Chili Cook-off Scene

Wednesday night: 30 minutes – Draft Blog entry

Thursday: get to gymnastics pick-up early and review blog entry in the car

Friday: too busy

Saturday: 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. – Draft Chapter 11

Sunday: Read Chris’ pages for critique group next week

I think a schedule would help anyone stay on track. But don’t be too hard on yourself. You can always reschedule the Chili Cook-off Scene for next week, and that’s okay.

Lastly, I would advise anyone who wants to be published to join a critique group. My critique group is invaluable. We’ve been meeting for six years. They’ve become very close friends and are a critical piece of my writing process. We really keep each other going.

Cynsational Notes

See a Sneak Peek at Recipes in Just Add Magic from Cindy Callaghan.

One thought on “New Voice: Cindy Callaghan on Just Add Magic

  1. I absolutely loved this interview. How awesome when that shy girl got up the nerve to approach you.

    I have wondered about the transition from writer to promoter, and how in so many ways we must shed our solitary writer's skin to embrace a strong, extroverted presence. It sounds like you're doing a great job, and managing to juggle all your 'hats.'

    The book sounds so unique–can't wait to read it. Thanks for the interview, Cynthia!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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