Smoky Zeidel - Love, Loss and Courage
Smoky Zeidel is an author whose deep love for nature is evident in everything she writes. Her novel, The Cabin, in which she weaves history and magic realism together to tell a gripping story, is no exception. As our author of the day, we chat with Zeidel about time travel, nature and riddles.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Cabin is about
James-Cyrus Hoffmann has just inherited his grandfather’s farm, and with it a mysterious cabin deep in the woods on Hoffmann mountain, a cabin he has dreamed about since childhood. When James-Cyrus enters the cabin, he is vaulted back through time to the Civil War era, where he meets Elizabeth, the brave young woman who lives there, and Malachi, a runaway slave.
James-Cyrus’s neighbor, Cora, knows all too well the tragic history of the cabin. When James-Cyrus tells Cora about Elizabeth, Malachi, and his fantastic vault back through time, the two devise a plan to change the past and right a wrong that has haunted the Hoffmann family for generations.
The Cabin is about love and loss, justice, and courage to do the right thing in the face of adversity.
Your main character is drawn to a cabin, a certain place with a history and the magic of time travel. Why did you pick this way of time travel?
I really can’t say much about this, because it would give away a key point of the plot that isn’t revealed until later in the book. Let’s just say it is a subject that has enamored me since a was a tiny child.
Your book contains very detailed descriptions of the plants, animals and nature. Why?
Nature is very important to me, because without nature, without plants, especially, there could be no life on earth. Nature is sacred, in other words. My characters recognize the inherent sacred nature of the plants and animals they live among. It’s only natural they would be a part of James-Cyrus, Elizabeth, and Cora’s story.
Family bonds play an important role in your book. Why did you find it important to write about families and their relationships?
Families make us who we are. For most of us, families are those people we would most fiercely defend and support them, as they would most fiercely defend and support us. But the main reason I wanted to tell this particular story is because it is very loosely based on a story from my own family history. Not the magic realism component, of course, but much of the story is my own family history.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
No secret skills, but other avocations. Besides writing novels, I am a poet. My poetry collection, Sometimes I Think I Am Like Water, received three Pushcart Prize nominations last year, of which I am very proud. When I’m not writing, my husband and I spend as much time in nature as we can, camping and hiking. I draw inspiration for my work, especially my poetry, from these forays into the wild. I also am fortunate to have learned how to garden in the harsh desert climate of the Coachella Valley. Tending the vegetables growing in my raised bed and my greenhouse, as well as encouraging bees to proliferate with my flowering plants, makes me feel I am doing something good not just for my family, but for the planet as well.
If you could change the past, would your life be very different?
I have no desire to change the past. Some people may find that surprising, since I nearly lost my life when I took a direct strike to the neck from a bolt of lightning 27 years ago (you can read the story on my website; the link is https://smokyzeidelbooks.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/in-a-flash-celebrating-26-years-of-life/ ). But being injured so badly gave me a different perspective on life, and made me who I am today. I can’t wish to go back and change that.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
Probably my favorite is the mysterious riddle posed to Cora by the grandmother tree: “What was torn asunder must be reunited; only then will this grave wrong be righted.” While it is a critical part of this particular story, I think it’s a mantra that can apply to many aspects of a person’s life. Division has caused so much adversity in the world. If we would only be kind to one another and act like we were all members of the same human race, so much that is wrong in the world would be better.
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
I didn’t find any of them particularly challenging, although I guess writing from my male characters’ perspectives is always a bit more challenging than my females’, because, not being a man, I don’t think like one. But if I’m not certain of how a man might think or react to a situation, I have no trouble at all asking the men in my life for advice.
Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What inspired your debut?
Like a lot of women writers of my generation, I was drawn to writing by a book I read as a child, the delightful Harriet the Spy. Before the lightning experience, I was in graduate school studying to be a clinical social worker, but getting gravely injured gave me the impetus to pursue writing professionally, as a freelance journalist. I was able to write when I felt well enough, but if I was in the hospital for the myriad of surgeries and heart ailments I’ve suffered as a result of my injuries, my editors were good about not assigning me stories. But I always wanted to write a novel. My first, Redeeming Grace, which is being re-released in early 2017, was the realization of a dream started by a 10-year-old fictional character named Harriet.
Tell us about your writing habits. Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?
I write better under pressure. When I was a freelance feature writer, I would do my research and interviews as soon as I got an assignment, but frequently wait until the day before my deadline to do the actual writing. I just work better that way. Now, I consider myself mostly retired. I’m writing more poetry than fiction, and poems hit me when they hit me.
What are you working right now?
I’m working on a new poetry collection. Sometimes I Think I Am Like Water is a collection of poems about nature. This new collection was going to be about other aspects of life, but it’s more and more turning into another nature collection. I guess you can take the poet out of nature, but you can’t take nature out of the poet!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
You can read about my books and watch the fabulous video trailers my publisher, Thomas-Jacob Publishing, created for each of them at my website: https://smokyzeidelbooks.wordpress.com. And please, look for me on Facebook! I have an author page at https://www.facebook.com/Smoky.Zeidel.Writes/. But I don’t post there very often; the Facebook algorithm isn’t kindly toward author pages, and posts don’t reach my readers, so I prefer to have you send me a friend request to my personal page, https://www.facebook.com/smoky.zeidel.author.