BookLife Talks with Cynthia Haggard
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Farewell My Life'Historical fiction author Haggard uses unusual perspectives, her MFA, and cognitive psychology to uniquely position her books in a crowded market.
What inspired you to write Farewell My Life?
My violin professor’s stories about her time in Berlin in the 1920s. To my knowledge, there has never been a novel about a violinist, so that gave it a new angle. And then the early 1920s are so fascinating; Victorian mores still hold sway, but young women are beginning to break out.
You’ve had a number of very different careers. How have they helped inform your writing?
I often put research from cognitive psychology into my novels. In my first novel, Thwarted Queen, I explore the effect of different people’s natural tempos. Some people, like Cecylee, are fast. Others, like her husband, Richard, are not. Slowness does not equal stupidity, but the fact that their natural speed settings are so different is a problem in their marriage. In Farewell My Life, I explore the effect of men’s greater emotional neediness relative to women. Many studies have shown that while marriage is definitely a benefit for men, it is not so for women. There are many reasons for this of course, but scientists seem to think that women are more resilient and more capable of looking after themselves when they live alone.
Why, after publishing your first novel, Thwarted Queen, did you choose to go back to school and get your MFA in creative writing?The experience of publishing my first novel taught me that it is very difficult to get airtime if you are an indie writer, as most don’t take you seriously. Getting an MFA from a top-notch place like Lesley University opens a lot of doors. So I took two years off to get this degree and was delighted by how much better my writing became.
What is the one thing you most want to tell readers, booksellers, publishers, or agents about your book?
The theme of Farewell My Life is the crumbling, dissolving, and vanishing of comfortable lives, assumptions, and civilizations. Things can unravel uch more rapidly than we care to admit.
Do you think you’ll continue to write historical fiction or have you considered branching out?
I think I will always be writing historical fiction, but it is such a large field that I have plenty of room to branch out. My first novel was a fictionalized autobiography. My second novel blends YA with romance and family dynamics while providing a social critique of the lives of the women who had to inhabit the early 20th century. My third novel will probably have more fantastical and magical realism elements to it. It is set in Sicily in the 800s.