Cyn Balog is the author of the Starstruck, Touched and Sleepless among other popular titles in the YA genre. She answered some questions for OBS about her books and her writing.
One of our staff members has relatives from Bucks County, PA and wondered if you have ever that area as the backdrop to any of your books? What places have inspired you to use them as locations in your books and why?
I think I allude to Sleepless taking place in Bucks County, but most of the locations there are fictional. However, most of my books do take place in real locations in either New Jersey (I’m a Jersey Girl), or Pennsylvania. It was just easier, as a new writer, to write about a place you’re very comfortable with. I’ve been getting more adventurous, though. My fifth book is set in Maine! (ok, full disclaimer: I lived there, once, too).
Your books cover a varied selection of supernatural beings like the Sandman, Illuminatio, Faeries – how do you research these beings, and do you have a favourite? Can you give a little hint as to who else we might expect to see in your next novel?
Fairy Tale started out as a spoof of the “fairy” book, so I confess the only thing that I used was the stereotypical fairy lore that almost everyone knows. Some of it, I made up. I made up a lot of the Sandman lore, and the Luminati I completely made up, but it is funny how many people think that it’s real (probably because they confuse it with the Illuminati). That’s the great thing about using fantastical characters– you can add your own spin on things. My fourth novel, TOUCHED, deals with psychic abilities. And in my fifth book, I tackle ghosts. I can’t say I have a favorite of any of these, or else I probably would find myself writing a sequel!
Another staff member recently read “Starstruck” and loved it! She was moved by “Dough’s” weight struggles and insecurities and loved that Wish had the same issues. Weight is a difficult struggle for people of all ages – what made you decide to tackle this issue? What did you want your fans to see in Starstruck and take away from it in regards to that?
Honestly, I started writing Starstruck as a contemporary romance, sans anything supernatural. I’d had a lot of body image issues, including Body Dysmorphic Disorder, most of my teen years, and I wanted to get across that often, we’re WAY more critical of ourselves and our flaws than other people are. We can be our worst critics. Unfortunately, the editorial team I was working with wanted to keep me doing paranormals. I loved Dough so much and wanted her to be a part of one of my books, so I added in the paranormal element. SO I guess that’s why so many people think Starstruck is a different kind of book– it’s not just a straight paranormal… it has a big dose of realism, in there, too.
You are listed as a contributer to “Dear Bully” – were you bullied? What advice would you give to someone experiencing bullying?
I think everyone has been bullied at one time or another! I definitely was, because I was the shiest girl in my class and an easy target. The reason I contributed to the book was because I think the best message for anyone to hear is that we ALL go through it at one time or another. And you will move on, move past it, and end up in a better place.
Going from the above question, how has your youth shaped your work as an author?
I was always a writer– I used to write all the time, everywhere, and finished my first novel when I was 13 or 14. It came very naturally to me. No, I’m not saying it’s easy at all…. it’s just that if you do it long enough, the passion takes over your life. Everything you look at has a potential for a book idea, everything you see you fiddle with, trying to incorporate it into your work…. you even sometimes narrate the boring details of your day in your head, in book format, “She went to the store, all the while noting how the shards of glass from the broken Mountain Dew bottle in the parking lot glinted a warm hello to her . . .” I think that while a lot of people thinking how impossible it is to write a novel, I am constantly thinking how amazing it is that more people haven’t. You get “Writer’s Mind” and then you really aren’t able to see what you do as anything THAT mystifying or awe-inspiring. It’s work that consumes your life. Often very fun, exciting work, but it IS work.
How did “Getting Caught” your novel with Mandy Hubbard come about? What is the best and worst thing about writing with a co-author?
Mandy Hubbard is my critique partner and probably the reason I’m published right now. When we were first getting started she offered to have her agent read my book, who loved it and signed me, and later sold Fairy Tale. During that time, Mandy and I emailed each other many times a day. After a few months of correspondence (she lives on the West coast and I’m on the East), Mandy came to me with the idea for Getting Caught and thought it would be a fun experiment if we just alternated chapters. Well, we banged the thing out in record time. It was probably the easiest book I’ve ever written, not only because I wrote only half of it, but because I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter. The plot was very loose so sometimes I couldn’t believe what she came up with– we cracked each other up! It was so much fun… the only bad thing about it was that I didn’t want the book to end.
Who is the author, alive or not, that you most would like to co-author a book with?
Stephen King. I know he’d probably jump at that chance. But I have loved his books since I was a kid and there was no YA section in the library.
In your presentations and interactions with fans, what question/impression of your work surprises you the most from them?
This must be a carryover from my overly-critical Body Dysmorphic days, but I’m constantly surprised whenever someone says they love my books. I am totally shocked, too, at how many hundreds of people have told me, over the years, that Fairy Tale made them cry. I keep thinking, Really? Something I WROTE made you that emotional?? And while I guess that’s good, I was raised to be nice to everyone and to apologize if I hurt people’s feelings…. so I always want to say SORRY!
What is it about your books that makes them stand out in the YA paranormal romance genre?
They are short, sweet, and don’t follow any formulas. I write the type of book I would have wanted to read as a teen. And they’re stand-alones. I have trouble getting into series.
What is the greatest misconception about your work?
Because of the covers, people have thought my books are very dark, and while they do have dark moments, there are a lot of humorous moments as well. Fairy Tale is very silly, as is Starstruck. My other books may be darker, but I always like to sprinkle humor throughout.
Who has been your greatest influence as an author?
As mentioned before, Stephen King, and Judy Blume. I grew up with both of them, and it’s funny how your first influences are often the strongest.
Thank you Cyn, for a wonderful interview!