Setting and Atmosphere in The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn

Cynthia Kuhn is here to share crafty tidbits about setting and atmosphere. Enjoy!

Great to see you here! I brewed coffee and tea. I wasn’t sure which you preferred. Cream and sugar?

Cynthia: Thank you for having me! Coffee with just a splash of cream would be lovely.

Is that a gift you brought for me? You are so sweet!

Cynthia: Yes, it’s a necklace strung with beautiful vintage typewriter keys. I hope you like it.

It’s fantastic. Thank you so much, Cynthia. I actually had a typewriter way way back. Or maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that. It fits perfectly!

I’m delighted you took the time to visit and tell us about your newest release The Art of Vanishing. Tell us how you craft the setting: the academic atmosphere, the visuals of your scenes, textures, smells, etc.

Cynthia: This happens in a gradual manner–no matter how much I describe initially, there is always more layering that happens during the (many, many) revisions. The longer I work on a scene, the clearer it becomes, so the details increase.

What is your favorite aspect of your main character – her strongest trait, quirky habit, etc.

Cynthia: It’s a tie between her determination and her tendency to blurt things out at inopportune times.

How do you separate/distinguish/refine the voices of your professor and academic characters so they sound different from each other? Do you plan it out on paper first? Use a tape recorder?

Cynthia: It’s something that happens during the writing. The characters come with their own voices. For example, Judith calls people “dear,” and Tad is prone to elegant flourishes (like “alas” and “milady”); that’s how I “hear” them express themselves when I’m typing, anyway.

Who is your favorite playwright and why? What aspect of that writer do you try to incorporate into your own craft?

Cynthia: Susan Glaspell’s Trifles is one of my favorites—it’s smart, symbolically rich, and ironic. I don’t think I tried to incorporate anything of Glaspell into my work, but, like her, I have focused on issues related to women’s voices.

If Lila were dropped off at the cinema, what movie would she choose?

Cynthia: 20th Century Women (if I am choosing from films that are out now).

What is one odd or unusual item on your writing desk?

Cynthia: A rock from Lake Ontario with flowers painted by my son and his grandmother (from when my son was little).

What advice would you give to other authors as they settle in for that first draft.

Cynthia: Fly! Be free! (By which I mean, don’t stop until you’ve gotten the story down. Don’t judge as you go—just write. Plenty of time to revise later.)

And a last bit of wisdom for us?

Cynthia: Please don’t chew gum while you’re playing sports. (Sorry, slipped into mom mode for a second there.)

Wise advice. For the player as well as the track or field. I miss the academic life and really appreciate the detail of your mystery’s setting. Come back anytime and share your latest book news!

Cynthia: That’s very kind—and thank you for having me!



The Art of Vanishing


The Art of Vanishing (A Lila Maclean Academic Mystery)
Publisher: Henery Press (February 28, 2017)


When Professor Lila Maclean is sent to interview celebrated author and notorious cad Damon Von Tussel, he disappears before her very eyes. Word that he’s quit his book tour throws the English department into chaos, as Damon was scheduled to headline Stonedale University’s upcoming Arts Week.

The chancellor makes it clear he expects Lila to locate the missing writer and get events back on track immediately. But someone appears to have a different plan: strange warnings are received, valuable items go missing, and a series of dangerous “accidents” threaten the lives of Stonedale’s guests. And after her beloved mother, who happens to be Damon’s ex, rushes onto campus and into harm’s way, Lila has even more reason to bring the culprit to light before anything—or anyone—else vanishes.


Cynthia Kuhn teaches and writes in Colorado. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Literary Mama, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD and other publications. She is the current president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado.

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Twitter: @cynthiakuhn