Cynthia Hamilton


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Cynthia Hamilton

The Story Behind the Story: Cynthia A. Graham’s “Beneath Still Waters”

As I’ve said before, Twitter has been a wonderful source for discovering authors I would’ve never found otherwise. Cynthia A. Graham is one of the exceptional writers I connected with there. I downloaded a free sample of her first book in the award-winning Hick Blackburn series, “Beneath Still Waters” and was instantly caught up in her writing style. She lured me in, pulling me into that murky water along with her protagonist. I remained mesmerized throughout Hick’s quest to find answers to a baffling, heart-wrenching crime, while fighting his own personal demons.

Today marks the release of the third book in the series, “Between the Lies”, which promises to be another hard-hitting mystery, full of hard choices and tense drama.

But first, here is Cynthia’s story behind “Beneath Still Waters” and the series it spawned:

Hick Blackburn pulled his hat over his eyes and squinted against the silver sun flickering and blinking on the surface of the slough’s dark water. The sentence came to me as I stared at a large lake one summer morning. I remembered watching the sunlight dance upon the water and thinking, that’s the way I want to begin my book.

For me, writing has always been the way I make sense of the world. Those things hard to verbalize find shape and meaning in the written word. Beneath Still Waters had been in the “percolating” stage for some time. I had read a newspaper article from the 1920s in which authorities were trying to identify the remains of a baby found in a slough. The story was horrific and stayed with me and, as I stared at the lake, the story of Hick Blackburn began to emerge.

I began writing Beneath Still Waters when we were, once again, at war. There were questions I wanted to explore—questions about life and death, how we determine who is worthy to live, and how soldiers cope with the long-lasting effects of decisions made in the heat of battle.

Though I had never before written one, mystery emerged as the best genre for this exploration. The great P. D. James once said, that the attraction of mystery “isn’t the horror, it’s the puzzle, the bringing order out of disorder.” There can be no more disordered place on earth than a battlefield and I knew I wanted to discuss the real cost of war on those soldiers who came home. I wondered how it would feel to return to a small town that hadn’t changed, knowing full well that you would never be the same. And I wanted to give a voice to my own family members—my uncles who came home from the war bringing ghosts and demons that haunted them for the rest of their lives. I was tired of all the hero stories, not because these boys weren’t heroes, but because those kinds of stories somehow seemed to minimize and invalidate the true pain and anguish brought about by their experiences.

Once I had created this character who had experienced real pain and anguish from the mistakes he’d made and the things he’d done, I knew this man, Hick Blackburn, would help me to understand and question the world around me—and he has. Beneath Still Waters was so well received and so many asked what happens next, I decided to write a sequel, Behind Every Door. I am currently writing my fourth Hick Blackburn mystery and the third, Between The Lies, comes out March 27. Because chaos was my initial inspiration, current headlines have insured that I am never lacking in story ideas.

The real challenge for me has been making sure my character grows. He is no longer a twenty-two-year-old man, he is now a twenty-seven-year-old father and the worst thing an author can do is create a static character. The challenge has been to understand that the hurt and pain will never leave Hick Blackburn, they have become a part of him and they have made him who he is. But he must learn to move forward and try and make sense of the past while becoming the best man and father he can be.

“Beneath Still Waters” on Amazon:

Goodreads book page:

Cynthia A. Graham’s website: