From the Historical Mind of Cindy Amrhein


I RECENTLY TAGGED Cindy Amrhein write a “Paying it Forward” post, describing her approach to the writing game. In the post, she was asked to answer four questions: What am I working on? How does my work differ from others of its genre? Why do I write what I write? How does my writing process work?

Here are her thoughts:

For people who are used to using our words in a thousand different descriptive ways, I think we sometimes have trouble talking about ourselves. It’s a great exercise in looking at ourselves and why we do what we do despite the never ending challenge of it. So here we go ……

Cindy Amrhein
Cindy Amrhein

1. What am I working on? 

 I’m doing three different things at once, all in different stages of production. I think a lot of writers do that. The first full length piece I ever wrote was a book with my friend Ellen Bachorski called Bread & Butter the Murders of Polly Frisch. That was back in 2000, when self-publishing was nothing like it is today. We’ve sold the 1st edition right along. Recently we brought Polly into the new world of self-publishing. It is a fascinating story about a woman in the 1850s who poisoned her husband and two of her children with arsenic, and the five trials it took to convict her. It was a challenge to teach myself how to make ebooks.

 The second thing is a book on Indian land title in New York State. This at the moment is with an editor of a commercial publisher. I wrote for 2 1/2 years for a Native American newspaper called the Akwesasne Phoenix Sundays. My column was on history and land rights issues. I expanded upon it and put it in book form.

The third, a mystery. I love murder mysteries so I thought I’d try it. I write historical true crime often so I thought, how much fun it would be to do my own murder? I find it a breath of fresh air from doing non-fiction. This one is called The Milk Carton Murders, set in a rural area like my own. It is in the editing phase. I’m also writing a NA adventure with elements of history in it now that Polly is out of the creation phase.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

My work is probably different because the subjects are. All do stem from history in one form or another even the non-fiction.  I have no problem hoping from Native American history, which in my case involves a lot of research in the clerks office looking at deeds; then picking up true crime from a hundred years ago, or setting that down to play in the fiction world of my characters in The Milk Carton Murders.

3. Why do I write what I write? 

Being a historian, I can’t help it. We do a quarterly at the county historian’s office where I work. I love researching and writing about true crimes more than any other topic. It’s not the crime itself but the mindset of the killer that fascinates me. I try to incorporate that in my mysteries as well. As for the Native American land issues? Having researched deeds, treaties, etc for so long it disturbs me that the Nations were so cheated out of their land in half ass deals they had no way of fairly defending themselves over. I have discovered new information and ways to look at it through my research and I look forward to sharing that.

4. How does my writing process work?

Even in fiction, a lot of research first. I like things to be accurate and believable—historians like facts. In non-fiction, after I have collected enough information where I feel I have enough I start writing. I’m a pantster, so for fiction, no outline. For true crime, or other history, I then usually put all the events in chronological order, right down to the hour and minute sometimes, especially with crimes. With a real crime there is usually pieces I’m missing that I need to look for to fill in the holes, so then I go through again and fill in the blanks during re-write. Lots of edits and beta readers too of course. Sometimes, especially with non-fiction, it’s hard to say, “It’s done.” New records are uncovered all the time. At some point you have to write -The End-. – See more at:

Please click the book cover image to read more about Cindy Amrhein and her books.

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