IMAGO FANTASY REALM – Interview with Lorna T. Suzuki

Cindy Stone  There’s a new action novel on the market and if you love fast-paced adventures with intriguing characters and fight scenes grounded in reality, then you’ll want to meet Cindy Stone, author of The Myriad Series!

Congratulations on the release of book one in your new series, Cindy, but first, I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

CS: I am a serious student of the internal martial arts; meditation, qi gong, bagua and tai chi. Most of what I do flows from that source. I love learning about Taoism, Buddhism, quantum physics and neurobiology. I am a registered psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, fascinated with the incredible power of the mind for healing, creativity, evolution and transformation.
A year ago I moved to the country into a 160 year old farmhouse, so there has been a lot of restoring and renovating, while creating the gardens that surround it. We have 22 acres of woodlands that I love hiking in with the dogs. I’m obsessed with identifying the animal tracks and catching them on my motion detecting, day/night camera.

With such a diverse background and active lifestyle, did writing fiction come to you later in life or has it been a lifelong endeavour?

CS: I absolutely loved reading as a child, and I remember vividly the day, at eight years old when I decided I wanted to move and transform others with words, as I had been so emotionally moved by ‘The Secret Garden’. My mother died when I was ten and I sealed away all of my emotions and afterwards never believed I could write. I became a psychotherapist to learn how to understand others, and discovered of course that it was me I needed to understand! That was when the magic began! I met a travelling internal martial artist that was remarkable and initiated my lifelong journey in martial arts, meditation and qi gong. My heart, mind and spirit unlocked. I wrote a non-fiction book about a dog I rescued who was unruly and aggressive, The Incidental Guru. Then, I co-wrote a screenplay with a friend, and started writing alongside my transformational psychotherapy and hypnotherapy practice where I work directly with the power of the mind to create our lives. I always wanted to write a novel, and one day the elements for the story that became Scorpion, came together.

What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Avery?

CS: There are many threads woven together that inspired Scorpion and the Myriad Series. First, I wanted to introduce to others the life-changing experience I had through internal martial arts. My teacher was truly magical. He literally glowed with Qi energy and when he moved he left a shimmering imprint of himself, as does Aiden, one of the martial artists in the story. I was tired of the dark, blood sucking heroes in current YA novels and movies that bestowed upon young women who had been bitten, physical beauty, power and immortality! The unconscious message was not one to leave undisturbed in impressionable minds. Internal martial arts offered a way for women to become their own super selves and that became vitally important to me. I had been the only woman training with men for several decades. It was also important that the story was authentic to honour my teachers and masters in the Wudang Mountains.
The second thread came when I was given a necklace—with three Carnelian stones, etched with a Scorpion, a Goddess, and a Dog and an Eagle—the stones were almost two thousand years old. The weight of history lived in those stones and their energy palpable. I knew immediately they were part of the story.
Thirdly, I was researching my great great grandfather and discovered that he had gone into the Himalayan mountains in India and Tibet to study with the Eastern Mystics of the time. One story claimed he had been given a Carnelian stone (coincidentally the same type of stone I had just been given), by the infamous cigar smoking Russian Psychic named Madame Blavatsky, to gain entrance into a secret place near Tibet to learn from the Immortal Masters. History and story were mirroring each other and I was even more determined to bring this story to life.
In my practice I hear the issues of men and women of all ages and those issues are reflected in the internal struggles of the characters.
Avery Adams, nineteen, begins as a disillusioned and depressed young woman. Her mother had died mysteriously the year before. Her father is a super wealthy New Yorker, with global influence; not unlike Trump. In a New York subway, Avery unknowingly gets in between two rival martial artists and is almost killed, but for the near super-human skills of Aiden Kane. She becomes obsessed with finding the “angel” man that saved her and when she does, the journey begins. She moves from a powerful male dominated household to a powerful male dominated internal martial arts world. As she discovers her own courage, strength and fortitude, she evolves into a very formidable woman.

Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Scorpion: The Myriad Series?

CS: Scorpion was written on many levels, but at its’ essence it’s about loyalty and betrayal, promise and redemption, and the empowerment of a young woman. It has been described as the DaVinci Codes meets Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger. You can read it for the pure enjoyment of the action story, or you can read it and allow your mind to open up to ideas beyond our everyday understanding. Each Taoist (or physics) quote at the beginning of the chapters, mirrors what the characters are facing internally while they navigate the challenges of the story. While Aiden is in the Wudang mountains with his masters he has many deep conversations and experiences. The story is laced with reality. The excercises Aiden does and the abilities he acquires are all attainable through practice, and based on ancient Taoist master internal teachings that are not well known, but are no longer strictly held secrets. I wanted to whet the appetite of those who are looking for deeper meaning and purpose in life, and plant the seeds for those who aren’t yet aware that that is what they are craving. These characters are just beginning their journeys, and I’m very excited for where they will find themselves and what they will learn along the way. I am really looking forward to how Avery will, as a woman, continue to transform herself and the male dominated Taoist world she finds herself in. Martial arts isn’t the only path to discover the self, the deeper nature of reality, and the incredible power of our minds, but it is a really great path and one that has shoulders broad enough to carry the lessons well.

The road to publication is hard at the best of times. Was it difficult for you to land an agent? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the author struggling to find representation?

CS: With my first book, The Incidental Guru, I couldn’t get an agent to acknowledge my existence, but I landed a publisher in a magical way. The Incidental Guru was in the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts when the CEO of Stewart House got snowed in. He rifled through the slush pile while waiting for the weather to change, and picked mine out to read. I got a call that night to meet the next morning. With SCORPION, an early draft of the story was given to a Hollywood producer who loved it and optioned it immediately. He sent it to a wonderful NY agent, who read the story in a weekend and signed me up on the Monday. He sent it to all the big publishers and we got turned down for a variety of reasons.
My advice is never give up. Landing a great agent doesn’t guarantee a traditional publishing deal, nor success. We have to create our own success and help each other along the way.

Can you share that exciting moment when you found out your agent sold your novel to Rebel Press?

CS: I was researching self publishing when I met Ken Dunn, through a mutual friend. Ken said he would take my book and consider it for Rebel Press, his fiction imprint. When he called to say it was accepted, I was ecstatic. I had been very disappointed to have had a top agent, and then not become a Harper Collins author, as I had dreamed of being! LOL!

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?

CS: Never give up, and keep honing your craft to get better and better.

Very good advice, Cindy! On the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser?

CS: Both. I like to plot out the basic story so I know where I’m going with it. That leaves me more space to create and allow the characters to evolve. When I know what the essential story is about, and the drive behind my characters that makes them do what they do, then I am more focused on building the layers of the story to make it richer. There are so many moving parts to fiction writing. I love the moment, when the characters take on a life of their own and move the story in surprising ways. That is when I feel I am in the zone and the pantser can take over. I love being surprised by what my characters choose to do!

Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?

CS: I do meditate, but not necessarily for writing. I like quiet to give my mind space to really listen to the characters and what they are experiencing. I prefer to have a clutter-less desk when I write, but that is more of an aspiration than a reality! Depending on what stage of writing I’m in, that dictates what I do. If I’m in the plotting stage I will go hiking in the woods with the dogs early in the morning, then I start writing. If I’m inside the story and writing, editing or refining, then I write first and walk after. Hiking in the woods releases my conscious mind from its duties, and allows my subconscious creative mind to come alive.

If you’re one of those writers to experience the dreaded writer’s block, what do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?

CS: I suppose I used to suffer from ‘writers block’ when I didn’t trust myself. There are times when I may not know how something is going to play out, or how to get from here to there in the story, but now I trust the answers will come. I listen to my characters. I dream solutions. I walk in the woods and allow ideas to arise. I make it very organic and create the contemplative space that my mind needs. If I’m really struggling, I either weed my garden and as the weeds come out, my mind becomes clear, or I’ll do some extra Bagua circle walking to get focus and flow. The important thing is, I know the answer is always within me, as it is within all of us. Its just a matter of allowing it to bubble up and become conscious.

Did you find your expertise in martial arts helped you in writing the fight scenes, and if so, how?

CS: Absolutely. I could not have even written this book without my experience in martial arts. Internal martial arts is about the whole life, not just isolated fight scenes. Alex Kozma, my Bagua teacher, who also writes and has had extensive street fighting experience helped me greatly with the fight scenes.

If you have a favourite author, how did he/she inspire you to write or influence your writing style or choice of genre?

CS: I really appreciate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Milan Kundera. Both were influenced by Rabelais, the 16th century Jesuit author. I love their use of magical realism, and social commentary embedded within the story. Compared to these grandmasters, I am merely aspiring to find some subtelty of words, ideas, and characters to paint an intriguing and magical world.

Can your fans expect book two of The Myriad Series in the near future?

CS: I hope it will be in the very near future, as I am so excited by what the next part of the story brings into focus for the reader.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share in your writing life, Cindy! I’ll catch you on Twitter!