I’ve written before about the years of junior high being as dystopian as they come. Like most transition periods in life, junior high is a time when we part ways with friends and make new ones (almost like the way a snake sheds its skin). Anytime a relationship is severed, be it friendship or romantic, it produces some turmoil. If one of the parties is unwilling or unable to move on, then it creates DRAMA. And that’s one of the things that makes the novel Bird Face so special. Outgrowing your friends is one of a host of other important topics that Bird Face explores in a realistic yet entertaining way. So strap on your jellies (or whatever embarrassing thing you wore in junior high), and meet my friend and writing partner, Cynthia T. Toney!
Me: Cynthia, do you consider yourself a Christian author or author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is?
Cynthia: I’m an author who is Christian. I think when non-Christians hear “Christian author,” it may mean the same to them as “author of Christian fiction.” My writing reflects the fact that I believe anyone can become a better person, and I personally feel that way because of Jesus, but I try to be subtle about it.
Me: Where did you get the idea for your book? Who did you have in mind when you were writing it?
Cynthia: I witnessed and experienced a great deal of family suffering, kids growing up without knowing how precious and powerful they are, shy kids needing to be taught social skills, girls thinking their looks define who they are. It tore my heart when young acquaintances committed suicide. Somehow a story began to form from it all. But I knew it had to incorporate humor and a positive outlook in order to entertain and reach kids.
Me: I loved Bird Face because it reminded me so much of my own junior high experience, which I shared on our group blog, The Scriblerians. How were you able to write early teens so realistically?
Cynthia: I’d like to say it was because of my keen memory, but no. As an adult, I’d observed kids’ reactions to events, situations, and others’ comments—sometimes up close and personal, sometimes not. I’d read the emotions on their faces and in their body language, before they grow up enough to become guarded. And I put myself in the place of a middle-school kid, who usually reacts without thinking and blurts the first thing that comes to mind.
Me: I think I still blurt out the first thing that comes to my mind.
We’re friends on Facebook and most of your posts involve dog rescues. Tell us about your dog rescue efforts. How many dogs do you have?
Cynthia: I own three but often have one that I am fostering until it goes to a rescue organization that has “pulled” it to safety from a shelter. I’ve been involved with rescue in a number of different ways for dogs in shelters all over the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. When I move across the river, I will work the west side! Anyone interested in helping shelter animals (dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, rabbits, pet pigs, and all sorts of domesticated animals) can find rescue groups and organizations in every state. Search Facebook and the Internet for dog or animal rescues. You can name a particular breed in your search.
Me: I don’t know how you have the time to rescue so many dogs while trying to write. You’re amazing!
Tell us, what are you working on now?
Cynthia: A manuscript near and dear to my heart about a boy who is the son of Italian immigrants and becomes involved in a crime against his will in the 1920s. The working title is The Other Side of Freedom.
Me: I love the 1920’s as a time period. Gangsters, prohibition, and flapper dresses. It was such a unique period in our nation’s history. I’m sure that book will be fantastic as well. Can’t wait to see the finished product!
Before you go, what is one thing you’d like your readers to know?
Cynthia: That I am grateful for their interest in Bird Face, and I hope they enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
EXCERPT FROM BIRD FACE
“Bird. Face.” A whisper, but the voice rang deep. He stood against the wall just inside the door.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. With animal instinct, I turned only my eyes toward the sound. Time slowed while I walked past him, so close the breath from his sneering mouth rustled my hair.
Bird Face. Those two simple little words came from John Wilson, the tallest boy in eighth grade. A Brainiac, he reminded me of Frankenstein’s monster. Not that he was hideous or scarred or anything. Other than his block-shaped head, he looked about as ordinary as any boy could—brown hair, brown eyes, glasses. He had bony arms and wimpy shoulders. Nothing scary about that.
But he had a way of creeping up on a person. I could be in the library or the bus line, and all of a sudden, there he’d be, looming in my personal space. He acted like the monster in an old black-and-white movie. I had gotten somewhat used to that, but it was weird he decided to speak. And what the heck was a “bird face,” anyway?
I kept walking. If John-Monster expected some kind of reaction from me, he wasn’t going to get one.
I didn’t stop until I got to my desk. That’s when I noticed a swatch of yellow on the seat. Another sticky-note message. Still printed, but this time signed too.
And a bad speller, apparently. I examined the little square of paper for a few seconds. The writing still didn’t seem familiar at all. An eerie sensation like someone was watching me made me turn. But when I glanced around the room, I got nothing.
A yellow note pad would be a clue, if only I could find one. Tookie wore a yellow shirt —designer, of course. Gayle wrote in a yellow notebook. Frank grinned at me with yellow teeth. But no yellow sticky notes anywhere in sight.
I slipped this one into my purse. At least someone was paying attention.
Excerpt used by permission.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing Bird Face with us, Cynthia!
We’re giving away an e-copy of Bird Face to one lucky commentor. Drawing will be held April 13th, so get those comments in!
Congratulations to Declaretothenextgeneration who won a copy of Rajdeep Paulus’s Swimming Through the Clouds.
And now, dear readers…
What unflattering nicknames were you called in school? Tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine. 😉