Thursday, January 10, 2019

Susan Cunningham Interview - Crow Flight

Photo Credit: Kel Elwood Photography

Susan Cunningham lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys science nearly as much as writing: she’s traveled to the bottom of the ocean via submarine to observe life at hydrothermal vents, camped out on an island of birds to study tern behavior, and now spends time in an office analyzing data on wool apparel. She blogs about writing and science at


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was actually born in Belgium (my parents were there for my dad’s work), but we moved back to Northern Virginia when I was two years old. After college, I wanted to be closer to the mountains, so moved from Virginia to a little ski town in the Rocky Mountains. Everyone says you come for the winters and stay for the summers, and it’s true – summers here are so fun.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
Stick with it. There will be many, many things along the way that will make you consider giving up. But don’t. Even if you have to slip your writing into the early morning hours or over a lunch break, do little bits here and there, when you can. Those little efforts can add up into big accomplishments. And I feel that the fact that you have the desire to write means you have the gifts to do so – it can just take time. I wrote five books before Crow Flight – but I don’t regret a single one.

What were your inspirations for the character development? 
I grew up outside of Washington, D.C., where students were pretty motivated and focused. That probably inspired some of Gin’s own drive. And Felix was just fun – I love that he doesn’t care about things society tells us to care about, like money and power, because he’s seen what those things can sometimes do to people.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing CROW FLIGHT? 
My favorite moment was when I wrote the scene where Gin sees Felix standing on a field with his trained crows for the first time. That scene surfaced after I had been researching crows, and I just felt it so intensely, I knew an entire story was there. I brainstormed the book a bit, then dove into writing – and started with that scene first.

What part of Gin did you enjoy writing the most? 
I loved writing her interactions with Felix. It was fun to watch how he brought out her more playful side, and helped her make the shift from relying on logic to depending on her gut. It’s important to be able to listen to your instincts, but isn’t always easy to do.

In your new book; CROW FLIGHT, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Crow Flight is about a girl who codes, a boy who trains crows, and the mystery – and romance – that ensues after they’re paired up for a class assignment. It’s a story of learning to trust your gut and falling in love. And it involves the ever-intriguing, intelligent crow.

What book would you recommend for others to read? 
There are so many! One is “The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman, because birds are all around us and so often, we are unaware of just how intelligent they are.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
I’d love to introduce Felix to Zooey Glass from Franny and Zooey, just so they could hash out some of the deeper meanings of life and love.

  • 1. Maybe he was smart enough to be the sort of guy who actually appreciated smart girls.
  • 2. That's when she noticed the flash of feathers. Black. Soft in the sky. Catching the afternoon light. Pushing back the air, like smoothing a child's hair. A crow.
  • 3. There were plenty of things Gin couldn't do: play sports, ease her way around a party, talk without oversharing extraneous information. But she could work with computers.
  • 4. Before she knew it, she was riding towards him. As though everything in the universe had set itself up to create this moment: her flying downhill, bumping over the wintry dirt, bike jolting beneath her, and him standing there, a crow on each shoulder.
  • 5. A plane flew across the sky and for a second, she imagined the rows of people tucked neatly inside, watching movies and sipping sodas. No idea that they were flying over a boy training crows.
  • 6. Maybe in some alternate universe it could work. One where she wasn't so smart and quirky and he wasn't so cool and easygoing.
  • 7. All she wanted was to lean into him, to kiss him, to touch her lips to his. But instead, she looked up to the sky, where the crows floated, effortless and smooth.
  • 8. There was no time to think, to analyze, because they were still kissing. And so for that moment, she turned her brain off and did the only thing she could do: kiss him back.
  • 9. And she knew then, with 100 percent certainty… that she would choose this, choose now.
  • 10. “Funny how a few numbers can lead us to truths we never imagined.”
If your life was a song, what would the title be? 
Sunset swimming

What is the most important object you own? 
A box of my old writing. I love the reminder of the importance of the process… and of how small steps over lots of years can help dreams come true.

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be? 
Emily Dickinson. I’d love to see how she created her poems – what her daily life was like, what she thought and felt.

If you were a geometric shape what would you like to be? 
A triangle. Simple yet unique. With options of being perfectly even or having several strange angles.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep? 
If I’m working on a book, I love thinking about the characters and storyline – I feel like it helps my subconscious do some creative work as I sleep. Otherwise, I like to read Sherlock Holmes stories – those dreary, cool England days and odd but solvable mysteries are just so fun, they help me relax.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today? 
After writing my first few books and getting a handful of rejections from agents, I nearly gave up. Then two things happened. First, I took a class about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and learned about the importance of leading a creative life, regardless of ‘results,’ along with techniques for fostering creativity. And second, I read about this idea of making a goal of getting a certain number of rejections through the querying process. I didn’t know whether I could find an agent, but I knew I could get 40 rejections, and making rejection the goal flipped everything on its head. As the rejections came in, it was actually a positive thing since I was getting closer to my goal. And amazingly, as I approached that goal of 40, I got the call from an agent in New York who wanted to represent me!

The curious flight patterns of crows lead a teen computer programmer down a path of mystery and romance.

Gin trusts logic a little too much. She even designs programs to decide what to eat and how to spend her time. All that changes when she’s paired with a new transfer student, Felix, on a computer modeling assignment to explain certain anomalies in the behavior of crows.

As she enters Felix’s world and digs further into the data behind crow behavior, Gin uncovers a terrible secret. And the wrong decision could equal disaster squared . . .

Praise for CROW FLIGHT

"You'll adore Gin, who's determined to apply her brilliant computer skills to the mysteries of love... and in doing so, finds herself caught up in high-stakes intrigue. We cheer her on as she learns to trust her gut and heart along with her tech-savvy mind. CROW FLIGHT is a soaring debut from an author to watch." Laura Resau, author of RED GLASS

"A timely, fun story that flies across the pages and into your heart. A romantic tale with intriguing content, Cunningham delivers a compelling read about the predictability of life and love. Donna Cooner, author of SKINNY and SCREENSHOT

"Crow Flight is a delicious novel. Gin has decided what her life should look like - and it involves logic, equations, computer models, coding, ambition, and over-achieving. An unexpected twist forces her to reconsider, and rather suddenly she finds herself in new territory - a path that calls forth the heart, the willingness to adventure, and most importantly, an effort at finding and honoring the immaterial truth. When an English teacher asks her to consider Victor Hugo's contention that 'One must have bread, but before bread, one must have the ideal,' she boldly launches forth into a world of discovery, romance, and danger. This book, like Gin's adventure, is a beauty." Laura Pritchett, winner of the PEN USA Award in Fiction

You can purchase Crow Flight at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SUSAN CUNNINGHAM for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Crow Flight by Susan Cunningham. 


  1. "What's the loveliest thing you have ever seen?" The mountains surrounding the Wye valley.

  2. That's a hard question. I love nature so I think it is one of several vistas I have viewed over my years.

  3. A cemetery in Savanah Georgia. This old cemetery with its statues and tomb stones overlooked the gulf and was so hauntingly beautiful that it literally took my breath away.

  4. The loveliest thing I've ever seen are migrating monarchs resting by the thousands in a forest near my house.

  5. The loveliest thing that I have ever seen is my first born son coming into the world. Nothing can beat that for me.