HALLIE EPHRON: Yes, you all know her! C.L. (Cyndi) Pauwels has been a frequent contributor to comments on Jungle Red. And now her first mystery novel FORTY & OUT has just been published and we are so happy to have her here on the front page taking a bow!
Like so many of us, Cyndi got serious about writing after working and raising her kids, but all along, she was revving up to write. I'll let her tell it.
CYNDI PAUWELS: Thanks so much for inviting me, Hallie! I’m all aflutter being in the company of the Reds. You gals rock!
I don’t remember when I first tried writing a story, but I wrote a play in the third grade that was performed on stage in the auditorium for the whole school – and parents! Something about astronauts teaching Martians to speak English (due to JFK and the moon landing program – you do the math), and we had a song about vowels. Even then I was writing intrigue because I remember something about sabotage.
Other than a juvenile fascination with Nellie Bly, I couldn’t imagine anyone actually making a living as a writer, but writing has been a huge part of nearly every job I’ve held – except for that unfortunate stint as a waitress in college. I’ve written classified ads and employee manuals, designed in-house newsletters, and yes, eventually did some newspaper reporting.
It wasn’t until much later that I ventured into fiction. My first published short story was in 1989, in the NATSO Truckers News Mark Twain Essay Contest – I won the $250 third prize. The story was loosely based on my mother, who at age 40 put herself through truck driving school and hit the road to support her kids.
HALLIE: Ooooh I'd LOVE to read that story!
CYNDI: Finally in 2004, after both kids were both off to college, I was able to take my writing seriously. I started freelancing, wrote as a stringer for Cox Ohio - Dayton Daily News and The Western Star. I wrote fiction on the side.
HALLIE: Were there experiences or colleagues you had during your years a dispatcher that found their way into your writing?
CYNDI: Working as a police and fire dispatcher, and then as a federal court deputy clerk for a combined fifteen-plus years gave me such a unique insight into the criminal justice world. My time on the job brings an authenticity to my stories, and as for colleagues, well, let’s just say the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
HALLIE: You can do something I can't imagine doing: Write fast. Can you tell us about your experience with NaNoWriMo? Was it the magic bullet?
CYNDI: In 2005, I discovered National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and what at the time seemed like an impossible masochistic event (writing 50,000 words in 30 days) showed me I was capable of producing a novel-length manuscript.
That first NaNo effort – with much revision – became my creative writing master’s thesis in 2010. My second NaNo effort became my debut novel, FORTY & OUT.
It started out as a short story, “Happy Birthday to You” (so creative!), in 1990, in Toledo’s now-defunct Ohio-Michigan Line magazine. After 39 rejections from agents and publishers in the past four years (yes, I keep count!), Deadly Writes Publishing released FORTY & OUT in August 2014.
When I told the story about the rejections to some friends over dinner just before the book was released, someone noted, “Thirty-nine? If you’d have called the book Twenty & Out it could have been published two years ago!” *Sigh*.
HALLIE: Love your book title, but I've got to ask: Forty what and out??
CYNDI: Forty years old and pfft! A serial killer is targeting single women in Toledo, Ohio, as they reach that milestone, turning birthday greetings into obituaries. Renegade Detective Veronica Jadzinski (Jadz) has to figure out where the killer finds his victims and how all the deaths are staged as suicides – and why – before her drama queen sister is the next unfortunate celebrant. Toss in a by-the-book new partner, a lieutenant who thinks Jadz is out of her league, a needy widowed mother, and an almost-ex-husband who doesn’t want to let go…Jadz’s first official case in Homicide isn’t the only thing that keeps her up at night.
HALLIE: Love it! Will we see more of Jadz?
CYNDI: Absolutely! Her next case is underway with more murder (of course!), high-tech thievery, and a few more family squabbles along the way.
HALLIE: And the perennial writer’s question: plotter or pantser?
CYNDI: Pantser, all the way! I have just enough OCD in me that if I try to work off an outline, I don’t dare deviate from I, II, III. And I’ve learned my characters have a much better idea of how the story should unfold than anything I could ever come up with.
HALLIE: Cyndi is giving away a signed copy of FORTY & OUT for a randomly-selected commenter, so let us know...
This is making me remember MY first writing success, third grade, a poem that was published in our local paper. Eight lines of doggerel about my sister flying back to college with her cat. My sister didn't ahve a cat. Already I was writing fiction.
First writing efforts anyone?
FORTY & OUT is available from Deadly Writes Publishing, Barnes &
Noble, Amazon, and bookstores. Find C. L. Pauwels
the web at http://clpauwels.com, Twitter (@clpauwels), Facebook
(https://plus.google.com/+Clpauwels/posts), and Goodreads.