Cindy Thomson is the author of seven books, including her newest novel, Sofia’s Tune, the third book in her Ellis Island series. She also writes genealogy articles for Internet Genealogy and Your Genealogy Today magazines, and short stories for Clubhouse Magazine. Visit her at her web site, on Facebook and on Twitter.
Cindy, I’m so glad to have the chance to interview you, especially since you’re the one who had the vision for Novel PASTimes and have made it possible for us to share the stories of so many authors and their books.
Please tell us about your latest book, Sofia’s Tune.
Thanks so much for the interview, Kathy. Historical fiction has always been my favorite genre. I love connecting with other authors and readers here!
Sofia’s Tune is the third and final book in the Ellis Island series, although I’m considering writing a novella that would be a prequel. If you’ve read the books you know the characters all live in a boarding house that is the ministry outreach of a woman named Mrs. Hawkins. In Annie’s Stories we learn a little of Mrs. Hawkins’s past, but the novella would take us back to that time.
In Sofia’s Tune, we meet Sofia Falcone, a young woman who has been living in New York only a short time when she is stunned to discover a family secret, one that soon sends her beloved mother into a mental institution. Scrambling to keep her job and care for her mother, Sofia is convinced confronting the past will heal all wounds, but her old world Italian family wants to keep the past in the past.
During this time, she encounters Antonio, a Vaudeville pianist with a street-smart dog, seeking to discover why his father was mysteriously killed. Their crossed paths uncover a frightening underworld in Little Italy. Bringing the truth to light may cost Sofia’s mother’s sanity, Antonio’s career, and the livelihoods of countless immigrants. Change is on the horizon, but it may not bring what they expect.
What led you to write this story?
I wanted to write about Italian immigrants this time, since they were the largest immigrant group by this time. Everyone knows how important family is to Italians. The Irish were fine with allowing their daughters to live in boarding houses or to stay with families that they worked for, but not so much for the Italians. I began to think of reasons that Sofia might come to live at Hawkins House. Somewhere along the way I learned about a support group called twin-less twins and spoke to someone who had found out for herself that she’d had a twin that died that her family never spoke of. Sofia’s story was inspired by that story. Can a family secret break the close binds of a tightknit Italian family at the turn of the twentieth century?
My male protagonist, Antonio, is a Vaudeville pianist and I really enjoyed exploring the musical history of this time period. What if someone really wanted to be a concert musician but circumstances limited him to Vaudeville? I also enjoyed giving him a companion named Luigi. I hope dog lovers will see their own pets in this story.
Would you care to share about your road to self-publishing? What are some of the challenges you faced vs. traditional publishing?
Tons of challenges. Since I’ve had six traditionally published books, including three novels, I was on a steep learning curve to figure out how to do it myself. But I wanted to do it because readers asked for the third book and my publisher had declined to publish it. Having learned so much with my publishers, I decided to do all I could to replicate what they had done. I hired a professional editor (with the financial help of some of my readers who pledged funds) and a professional designer who was committed to making the cover fit the feel of the series. We decided to do a photo shoot (as was done with the other covers) and I found a local place to rent a costume. My daughter-in-law Kelsey was my photographer and her friend Kaitlan was the model. There was plenty of back and forth trying to get everything just right, but I think it was worth the effort. I also hired someone to do the interior formatting because I was afraid I’d mess it up.
Along the way I’ve asked questions and gotten lots of advice. Self-publishing is beginning to lose its bad reputation in the industry, partly due to the fact that so many previously published authors are doing it today. One of my favorite book festivals that I’ve attended with my books in the past had a policy of only admitting traditionally published books. I asked if they might consider changing their policy for those of us who are publishing some of our work on our own, and they did! So one thing I’ve learned is to ask questions, try new things, and above all, keep your promise to your readers.
You and Kelsey certainly did a beautiful job on your new cover!
How do you schedule or find time for your writing? What does your average day look like?
Oh dear. I’m always beating myself up about my schedule, or my lack of one. I try to write every day, but some days get filled with marketing or with family things. However, that’s the beauty of freelancing. You can make it up at night or on the weekends. So, my schedule is very fluid. I have no average day, and I think I really like it that way!
As a Christian author, what do you feel is the best way to weave God’s truth into your story?
Cindy will be back tomorrow to share more with us. Please answer Cindy's question in the
Rafflecopter drawing below for a chance to win your choice of a Kindle or print copy
of Sofia's Tune.