Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Interview with Cindy Thomson Part I
Cindy Thomson writes fulltime from her home in Ohio despite the distractions of two young adult sons and another in high school, two dogs, and countless numbers of lizards. (Fortunately her sons take care of the zoo!) A former teacher and amateur genealogy buff, Cindy has always had an active imagination and a love of history. Preserving our spiritual and genealogical histories is her passion.
Cindy and her husband Tom are active in their church and small group ministry.
Brigid of Ireland is her first novel. She is at work on another novel set in ancient Ireland. Her biography (co authored with her cousin, Scott Brown) on her relative, baseball great Mordecai Three Finger Brown, was released in October 2006 by the University of Nebraska Press.
Besides books, Cindy writes freelance articles. She has been published in Family Chronicle, History Magazine, War Cry, Christian Networks Journal, Wonderful West Virginia, Rural Missouri, and other publications.
Thank you for joining me for my interview with our very own Cindy Thomson! I should have done this sooner.
I have to tell you, Cindy, when I started researching more about you to do this interview, I discovered many interesting facts about you. And here I’ve been blogging with you for months!
First, tell us about yourself and your family, i.e. where you grew up.
This is not too interesting! I grew up in Ohio, but I was born in Ft. Riley, KS. My dad was in the Army and went to Korea for two years right after I was born. We stayed behind with family in Indiana. Then we lived in Arizona, then Alaska (we survived the strongest earthquake to hit the North American continent and I was too young to remember), then back to Arizona. When I finished First Grade we moved to Ohio, so I consider myself an Ohioan. I’ve been married to Tom for 24 years and we have three boys: Dan, 21; Jeff, 19; and Kyle, 16. I taught preschool and kindergarten for nearly 20 years and now write full-time.
What books do you feel have influenced you most in life? In history? In writing?
I’m really no good at this question. My answers keep changing. But I’ll give it a shot.
My mother read Charlotte’s Web to me at bedtime when I was kid, even after I was old enough to read myself. That’s a great memory and what characters in that story! I love it still. But unfortunately, I did not do a lot of reading from the time I was about 12 to about age 30, other than college stuff. I keep bringing up a book that I can’t remember the title of. I’m sure I had to read it in elementary school, but it was a historical fantasy and it started my curiosity with history. English and history were my favorite subjects in school—no surprise, huh? The two writing books that influenced me the most were Self Editing For Fiction Writers by Brown and King and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I went to a workshop by Maass a few years back that was truly enlightening.
You are a HUGE history buff with articles published in several historical periodicals, including History Magazine, and Internet Genealogy. Tell us how this all came about, what sparked that interest in history?
When I was 13 my mother gave me a book for recording family history. That started it all. I interviewed family members and collected what they had on the family. Then I sent for death records and the like. Mostly I collected family photographs. No one seemed to want those and when my grandmother died they were given to me. (Ha! They thought the end tables and lamps were the valuable things!) Pretty soon everyone in the family who wanted information on our roots started coming to me. I realized I really didn’t have much information. Luckily, the Internet took off about then and my husband is a computer expert. Using the Internet really launched my family history research. When I developed my writing, I started querying genealogy magazines.
On your website, you have a page devoted to genealogy. Give us some tips on research.
The best thing is to start with what you know and work backward. Interview living relatives. Their memories are the best treasures you can preserve and hand down. They also will give you clues you can then use to track down primary sources. I have tips on my site http://www.cindyswriting.com (Click on Genealogy 101.) These are notes from a talk I have given on the subject.
What is your favorite part of genealogy research?
Oh, my gosh! It’s finding that elusive relative or that elusive proof that you have been searching for for years. Genealogists often talk about “hitting a brick wall.” When you can break through it, it’s a major victory. My husband and I took a research trip once to a dusty little courthouse to look through records. There were journals stacked on shelves. The first day didn’t provide anything. The next morning I just decided to look for the oldest looking journal there and try that. I found it on a shelf behind a stool. There I found my relative, Thomas Little. It was a tax record and showed how many horses and cows he owned. But mostly it showed me when he was no longer recorded there. That was when he moved on from Virginia to Kentucky and that was the missing piece of information I was looking for. (Later I discovered that this was on microfilm, but finding a 200 year old book was more fun!) This experience actually became my first print publication!
Or perhaps my favorite part is the people you meet. There are many people out there researching the same family line you are. These are distant cousins that you never knew existed.
Tell us the path in your genealogical research that led to your finally writing Brigid of Ireland.
I was never satisfied with just names and dates. I wanted to know about these ancestors. Who were they? Why did they do the things they did? What did they believe in? The more I searched the more I learned about the Scots-Irish and the Irish. I soon learned that bloodlines were not the most important thing linking us to the past. The people who went before us left us a legacy of faith. Without their trials and the things God taught them, we would not have the beliefs we have today. I learned about Brigid while attending an Irish festival; and I was there because I wanted to learn about the Irish people.
Tell us about Brigid of Ireland.
The book is based on legends surrounding St. Brigid who lived from about 452 to 525AD. My story covers the early part of her life. Some of these legends are quite fanciful. I started to think about what an incredible woman she must have been to perform all the miracles she did and to give constantly to the poor. How does someone get to be that kind of person? They go through trials and God teaches them along the way. I knew that the legend was that she was born to a slave woman and the woman’s master. And that the master sold her mother, but not Brigid. I decided to start with Brigid being separated from her mother and tell how she grew up to be the kind of God-loving woman she was—and in the midst of a land filled with unbelievers.
Please come back tomorrow to read the second half of my interview with Cindy.
Posted by Beth Goddard at 10:52 PM