Tag Archives: Cynthia d’Entremont

Where I’ve Been Lately

This post’s title makes me smile. Mostly where I’ve been, writing-wise, is hunkered in my writing corner, finishing the first draft of No Safe Place.

My writing nook: a chair under a lamp

My writing nook, complete with stuffed “muse.”

However, this introvert has taken herself and her books into the wider world, and found it’s not as scary as she thought. So far this year I’ve spoken to  a readers’ group at one local church and a seniors’ group at another. Most people at the first event had read one or both of my books, and it was so much fun to be able to talk about my imaginary friends without worrying about spoilers. At the second event, I shared my writing journey so far and reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in a long time.

I’ve also set up book tables at a couple of craft fairs and a conference. I’ll be at a Spring Craft & Business Fair tomorrow at Cole Harbour Place (click the link for details). If you’re in the Halifax area, stop and say hi. [There’s a $2 entry fee, the proceeds of which go to charity.]

Sharing a table with another local author, Cynthia d'Entremont

Sharing a table with another local author, Cynthia d’Entremont

In all honesty, I never expected to enjoy the public side of book promotion, but I’m having fun with this.

I’ve also done some “visiting” online:

Oak Island Revenge, by Cynthia d'Entremont

Review: Oak Island Revenge, by Cynthia d’Entremont

Oak Island Revenge, by Cynthia d'EntremontOak Island Revenge, by Cynthia d’Entremont (Nimbus Publishing, 2012)

It’s 1958. Fourteen-year-old Jonah Morgan and his best friend Beaz live on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia (Canada). Nearby Oak Island is forbidden territory, so naturally it’s a rite of passage to row to the island and search for the legendary treasure.

This summer vacation, Jonah and Beaz are set to hit the island, but they’ll be even more secretive about it than most teens. Jonah’s mom is overprotective since his older brother died, and he’s pretty sure Beaz’s mom is abusive.

What they find on the island piles secrets on secrets. Jonah doesn’t want to lie, but he can’t tell the whole truth. When missing 16-year-old Charlotte Barkhouse turns up dead, surely what Jonah knows wouldn’t make a difference. Would it?

His parents and his dead older brother seem perfect, and Jonah can’t measure up no matter how good his intentions. As he wrestles with how much truth to tell and how much to hide, he begins to suspect that everyone has secrets of one sort or another and that life is more complicated than it looks.

Oak Island Revenge is a coming-of-age story that evokes the feel of 1950’s small-town Nova Scotia in a mystery for young adult readers. It’s one of those satisfying novels where all the threads weave in perfect balance to make an organic whole.

Author Cynthia d’Entremont has a fresh, vivid writing style with a satisfying splash of humour. She’s also the author of the award-winning young adult fantasy novel Unlocked.

[Review originally appeared on the Maranatha News site. Review copy provided by the author.]

Friday Friends: Cynthia d’Entremont

Cynthia d’Entremont is the author of the young adult speculative novel, Unlocked, winner of the 2009 Word Alive Writing contest for fiction. The prize was a full publishing package from Word Alive, and Unlocked was released in April, 2010.

Janet: Welcome, Cynthia, and thanks for taking time to join us. You have a family, a job, you’re working on a Masters’ degree… and it sounds like there are multiple story plots jostling in your mind. How do you do it?

Cynthia: This past year has been unusually busy for me. Generally I can juggle two major commitments such as teaching and writing, but the addition of taking another university degree has been challenging. I have a good support system and continually remind myself that the university commitment is only for two years. At the moment I am halfway through! I try to find stolen moments to work on stories but I have to admit that it’s not as much as I would like.

Janet: What got you started writing?

Cynthia: I have always loved reading. However, a passion for writing has developed over the last ten to twelve years. I began taking courses and participating in writing groups…I was hooked! I believe that it’s never too late to try something new.

Janet: Tell us a bit about Unlocked.

Cynthia: The moment I finished the first draft for Unlocked I felt as if I had experienced the birth of another child. I printed off the manuscript, tucked in a binder and carried it around in my arms—and there might have been a few tears!

The reader first meets the protagonist, Jaron, scratching out an existence in the dystopian world of Leviathon. As I often say, “Jaron starts out living in a garbage dump and it goes downhill for him from there!”

Janet: Where did the story idea come from?

Cynthia: It literally hit in 2005 while staring at a figurine that I had bought in Old Warsaw, Poland fourteen years earlier. This father and child statue compelled me to write about characters that were homeless and desperate. I started out with the intent that the story would be a picture book. Boy, was I wrong!

Janet: How would you define the age range for readers? I suspect there may not be an upper limit, as long as the adult in question likes fantasy and speculative fiction.

Cynthia: I wrote the story with a young adult audience (15+) in mind. I kept the dialogue and action fast-paced and tried to keep the tension high throughout the story. Even so, there have been many adult reader they tell me that they can’t stop thinking about the characters once the book has been read.

Janet: And although the novel comes from a Christian publisher, the faith element is low-key and allegorical enough that readers from another faith—or from none at all—should enjoy it too, right?

Cynthia: Definitely! I think that because I am a person of faith, my storytelling reflects who I am. That said, individual readers may have their own interpretations of the story according to their world view.

Janet: Okay, I’m going to ask a question I personally hate answering. Feel free to pass. What’s the novel’s theme? Or what one key thing do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Cynthia: I don’t know if there is one thing that I would like the reader to take away, per say. However, when I look at the totality of the novel I am struck with the power of making choices even in the midst of feeling that one has no choice. Living with hope might also be another theme.

Janet: These children starting out in a garbage heap certainly don’t seem to have many choices open to them, and readers may feel that way about their own circumstances, but even small choices can make a difference. Your characters prove that. I can see how realizing we have even a bit of power to choose can give hope.

Unlocked is essentially Jaron’s story, right? I’m hoping there’ll be a sequel and perhaps more after that. Would you stick with Jaron or switch to a different character?

Cynthia: The sequel is underway. In the first novel Jaron was the main character but there were also two other characters’ points of view (Devora and Freesia). The second book is mainly Devora’s story—she also started out in the Garbage Heaps with Jaron.

Multiple viewpoints are also included and the identities of these characters might surprise you. Okay, I’ll share one secret…we finally get to know Benjamin’s thoughts.

Janet: Remembering some of the surprises from Unlocked, I suspect knowing Benjamin’s thoughts will change my opinion of him from book one.

What has reader response been like for this book?

Cynthia: The most frequent thing I hear is that once people start reading it’s hard to put the book down. I consider that high praise. The next comment is usually, “When is the sequel coming out?”

Janet: Guilty of making both comments!

You’re a new novelist, so to help people who don’t know your style, fill in the blank: If someone likes__________________, they’ll like Unlocked.

Cynthia: Okay, this is a tough one! I like to think of it as a grittier, darker version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but that might be thinking too highly of myself and may not fully convey some of the more mature issues found in the book. There is good versus evil, kindness versus deceit, life verses death, and hope versus despair.

Janet: I know you have other plot irons in the fire. Anything else you’d like to tell us about?

Cynthia: First, I have to say that my favourite thing to read is a mystery. For that reason, I never thought I would write one. When I’m working on a genre like fantasy, I often avoid reading other fantasy novels—I want to keep the world in my own story intact.

Well, in 2009, to my surprise, I wrote a mystery that I titled Oak Island Revenge. This young adult novel was recently accepted for publication and will be released next year by Nimbus Publishing. Set in 1958, this story has no shortage of small town scandal, treasure hunting, and a certain kind of justice.

Janet: Sounds intriguing! How can people find out when it releases (and about a sequel to Unlocked)? Do you have a mailing list?

Cynthia: I regularly update my website with news and events. Oak Island Revenge will likely be released late 2011 or early 2012. As well, details for the release date of the sequel to Unlocked will be posted as soon as they become available.

Janet: What do you like best about the writing life?

Cynthia: I love the creative nature of bringing a character to life—someone that has never existed before, now has a voice.

Janet: What do you like least?

Cynthia: Waiting to hear from publishers. Rejection. Self-doubt. Sitting while typing.

Janet: What do your family think of your writing?

Cynthia: They are supportive. I’m sure at times they would like me to pry myself away from the computer and I try to keep that in mind and book regular family time with my children and husband. Sometimes I feel like a hermit, especially with a deadline looming.

Janet: Writers are told to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?

Cynthia: I wish I had something brilliant to say—like I just finished War and Peace. Instead, I’ve been reading a lot of manuscripts from writers in my writing group. Other than that, the last year has mostly been reading textbooks, editing my own work, and reading picture books—I teach grade primary (kindergarten).

Janet: What are you listening to?

Cynthia: I love the song from the Prince Caspian soundtrack “This is Home” by Switchfoot. I’m a little disappointed it was already used in a movie—it would be perfect for Unlocked, the motion picture (a girl can dream, right?)

Janet: Dream big! I can see Unlocked working as a movie. Dark, impossible odds, and a journey with lots of action. Definitely movie material. And in the mean time, I’ve heard of authors recommending selected songs as a soundtrack to their novel. “This is Home” could be Unlocked’s unofficial theme song.

Is there a particular Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Cynthia: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” Isaiah 54:9 (NIV)

Being a wife, a mother, a writer, a teacher, and a student gives ample opportunity to feel “shaken”. I am blessed and thankful to have a full life but often need to remember God’s unfailing love and covenant of peace when I face challenging days.

Janet: That verse means a lot to me these days, because it’s part of one of my favourite songs on the newsboys’ Born Again CD: “Build Us Back.” There’s a whole lot of shakin’ going on these days!

Cynthia, thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit. May the LORD continue to strengthen and bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.

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Visit Cynthia d’Entremont’s website to learn more about the author and her books. Or follow this link to read my review of Unlocked.

Review: Unlocked, a novel by Cynthia d’Entremont

Unlocked, by Cynthia d’Entremont (Word Alive Press, 2010)

“What if you lived in a world where killing was a rite of passage?”

Jaron, Devora and Benjamin have survived in Leviathon’s crowded Garbage Heaps for ten years, longing for the day they could leave. But the world outside the cinderblock wall is more dangerous than they know.

Abandoned in the Heaps as five-years, by the time they leave at 15 their innocence and hope are gone. Jaron still clings to memory fragments and his one possession: a key he must keep hidden.

Unlocked follows Jaron and Devora in their separate experiences outside the wall. Leviathon’s secrets run deeper and darker than its citizens know, and what the two teens discover puts them in mortal danger.

This is action-fantasy, as opposed to a slower-paced and longer epic fantasy. It’s a fast read, dark but not overwhelming. I appreciated the author’s light touch with heavy issues; readers know what happens, but the graphic parts occur “off-screen.”

It’s a novel that will appeal to adults as well as to the age 15+ readers at which it’s aimed. There’s Christian allegory for those who want to find it, but the faith element is subtle enough to make the book suitable for Christians and those of other or no faith.

The characters are believable: wounded by their environment but courageous enough to fight for what’s right. The setting, while not our own, has a city and countryside we can relate to. And the societal issues, while overtly different, include some that are very familiar: homelessness, violence and injustice.

Since I finished the novel I’ve been puzzling over the how and why of Devora’s encounter with her enemy. I think I have the “how” settled, and I have some ideas about the “why” but I’m still curious. To say more would be to spoil a key plot point, but it’s something I hope will be explained in the sequel.

Unlocked is the 2009 Word Alive free publishing contest winner in the fiction category and is now available online or through your local bookseller. You can learn more about the novel and about Canadian author Cynthia d’Entremont at her website.

Note: Cynthia is a personal friend. While that predisposed me to see the good things in the novel, it doesn’t account for how strongly the story and characters drew me in or how long I thought about them afterward. I’m now in danger of putting our friendship at risk by repeatedly asking how the sequel is coming along.

[Book source: I bought my own copy of Unlocked at the novel’s launch party.]