Inside the minds of author C. A. James

Walk into the cozy, cottage-style home of C. A. James, and it’s a good bet the author will be at the computer, immersed in a world where blank pages beckon for words. It’s also possible the author will be in the sewing room, happily surrounded by bits of brightly-hued cloth and an assortment of thread. But rest assured: The author will likely be in one of those places—often, at the same time.

C. A. James is the pen name for James and Cynthia Ignizio, a retired couple who’ve taken their individual strengths and passions and infused their nom de plume with the whimsy and wisdom that comes with fifty-two years of marriage. They began their literary partnership in 2012. But for James, the idea of spending hours at the computer was nothing new.

Even before he retired, James had made a name for himself in the writing world, publishing hundreds of articles and nearly a dozen books. As a former project manager for the Apollo space missions and later a professor of systems engineering and artificial intelligence, James’s extensive writing life usually revolved around the concrete realities of the scientific world. But that changed last year when his beautiful bride, Cynthia, asked him to take a walk on the fictional side. “She insisted I stop writing technical books for a while and start writing something else,” says James.

That something else was inspired by four little something elses, each a precious resident of Cynthia’s sewing room. Three stuffed bunnies and a Cynthia-made patchwork teddy bear snuggle together in the armchair across from her work table. As she fashioned her creations, Cynthia’s gaze would occasionally wander over to the quartet. “I would think about what this little group of stuffed animals could be other than static things just sitting on the chair,” says Cynthia.

Her musings led her down various rabbit trails to “What if?” What if they were alive? What if they were characters in a story with personalities and dispositions unique to each of them?

What if they could talk?

Cynthia brought her ideas to James. Could these four animals be woven into a story that they could write together? Cynthia wanted to tell a sweet story, one free from the crudeness prevalent in modern fiction. She had the characters, but she needed a wordsmith to make them come alive.

James saw the sparkle in his wife’s eyes. Cynthia poured her vivacious energy into every aspect of life—from moving the family numerous times during his career in the space program, to fueling her years playing competitive tennis. Also, Cynthia’s love of animals—stuffed toys or real—as well as her energy and creativity needed a path to travel. Thoughts began to swirl in James’s mind as he felt the edges of a story start to unfurl. The challenge in writing this book would be twofold: probing the fantasy borders of fiction writing and separating this writing from his professional work.

“One of the reasons we picked ‘C. A. James’ is because it stands for ‘Cynthia’ and ‘James.’ The other reason is that I really didn’t want my clients, people I work with, or my students knowing I was writing a book about talking bunnies,” says James.

“I, however, had no problem with it!” Cynthia replies.

And just like that, C. A. James became another thread stitched into the fabric of their marriage. Part of each day began to revolve around their writing: what the characters were going to do next or how a conflict in the story would resolve. “It was fun to talk about [the book], to have that element in our world different from what we normally talk about,” says Cynthia.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever been able to talk about anything I’ve written. You really don’t want to talk to your wife about artificial intelligence,” replies James.

While James focused on writing their story, Cynthia spent her time doing the other half of writing—copyediting, developing the other characters in the story, and gathering the elements that turned their story into a published book.

Sweetie’s Song: Of Angels and Innocents tells the story of Fred and Sarah Davis, a couple torn by tragedy, whose lives are forever changed when they encounter three precious bunnies and one silent but meaningful teddy bear. The novel speaks to the rich blessings of life and fulfills James’s and Cynthia’s mutual desire to captivate readers with an innocent and engaging story.

“I really didn’t want to have the coarseness and violence that you see and read so much of. I wanted our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren not to be embarrassed by what we wrote,” says Cynthia.

James and Cynthia readily agree that Sweetie’s Song is not easily assigned to a category on the bookshelves. Where fiction touches fantasy, the story is bound together with a heart of inspiration that welcomes readers into a world not so different from their own.

But Cynthia offers a bit of advice for readers encountering talking bunnies: “Park incredulity at the door, and come in and have a good time and read the book.”

Sweetie’s Song: Of Angels and Innocents is available at Hummingbird Hollow located at 824 S. Austin Avenue and online at Amazon.

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