Cynthia Swanson’s latest book, The Glass Forest, is a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s.
Cynthia Swanson recently visited Reading Group Choices to read and discuss her work with an audience. She also took the time to answer our questions and shared influential books, meaningful places, and living in Wisconsin.
Reading Group Choices: What book changed your life?
Cynthia Swanson: The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen. It taught me (and my husband, who also read it) how to make more mindful choices about what we eat and feed our family. Bonus: we’ve become expert heirloom tomato growers.
RGC: What book(s) are coming out this year that you’re looking forward to reading?
CS: So many – but two that stand out are An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah. Both of those books, serendipitously, share a “book birthday” (02/06/18) with The Glass Forest. I think it’s a sign that I need to read them both ASAP!
RGC: What books are currently stacked next to your bed/on your desk/in your pile-to-read?
CS: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (whom I know was at 702WI last year), The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld, and Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan.
RGC: What book did you most recently recommend to someone else?
CS: Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee. I’ve been recommending it to everyone; it’s the most gorgeous debut I’ve read in a long time.
RGC: What was your favorite book when you were a child.
CS: Anything by Judy Blume. Her characters made me feel like I wasn’t the only weirdo out there.
RGC: Who are your favorite writers?
CS: This is a difficult question to answer, because I’m always discovering new writers. A few standby favorites are Liane Moritary, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, and Curtis Sittenfeld.
RGC: Do you commonly use a word or phrase that is specific to a place you lived/from childhood/from family that you don’t hear often in day-to-day conversation?
CS: Well, there’s always “bubbler.” I don’t say it often anymore, but if you’re from Wisconsin, you certainly know what it is. People from anywhere else always look at you funny when you say it.
RGC: What book/s could you never part with? Think “stranded-on-a-desert-island” books.
CS: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
RGC: Were you ever embarrassed about a book you loved?
CS: Never! If I love a book, I have a good reason for my love and I stand by it.
RGC: Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
CS: My parents. They’ve both been deceased for a number of years, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them both.
RGC: What is your most meaningful place?
CS: Family friends have a cottage on North Bay in Door County; it was the influence for Angie’s home in The Glass Forest. We usually get up there once a summer – traveling from Colorado, it’s hard to make it happen more frequently than that, though I wish we could.
RGC: What’s your favorite bookstore?
CS: It’s a tie between The Tattered Cover, the largest and oldest indie in Denver, and BookBar, which opened a few years ago and is what it sounds like—a bookstore/wine bar. You can also get hot drinks and small bites. Books, coffee, wine, and good food, all in one spot…really, what more do you need in life?
RGC: What do you enjoy most about doing a reading or talking about your book?
CS: The Q&A portion. I love hearing reader questions. At a recent event for The Glass Forest, a 13-year-old boy raised his hand about five times. And he had excellent questions! He wanted to know about the writing process and what inspires my work. Our exchanges were the highlight of my evening.
RGC: What is something you know about or have heard about Madison or Wisconsin?
CS: I’m from Milwaukee originally and I graduated from UW-Madison. I’m excited to visit Madison; it’s been several years since I’ve been there. The last time my family was there, we had a lot of fun hanging out on the Union Terrace. It brought back memories for me – and seeing my kids having so much fun there truly warmed my heart.