Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Author Lynne Cantwell Chats about 'What It's All Been For.'

Age has its advantages.

I mean, it has its disadvantages, too. The other day, I made what I considered to be a hip cultural reference by quoting Darth Vader’s revelation about Luke Skywalker’s parentage in “The Empire Strikes Back.” “Star Wars” is hip, right? With Disney planning to make Episode 7? Yeah, well, then I did the math. “The Empire Strikes Back” was first released in 1980. That was thirty-three years ago. And I was already out of college then (although not by much!).

Since then, I got married and divorced, raised two kids, spent many years working in radio news and a few more in TV news, worked briefly as a paralegal and longer as a legal secretary. I also earned a masters’ degree in fiction writing – which together with three bucks will get me a tall latte, as long as I don’t want syrup.

There were certainly times, when my life and/or my career went sideways, that I wondered what it all was for. I had to learn video editing in college for my degree, but then I never had to use it professionally. What was it for? And why did I bother to get a paralegal certificate, only to move into a legal secretary’s chair less than a year later? And I’d thought the M.A. would put me on a fast track to getting published; if that wasn’t true, and it didn’t appear to be, then why did I blow several thousand dollars on the degree?

But then a group of people I knew from an Internet discussion board decided to put together an anthology of our fiction and poetry. I wrote my first short story in years, and it was accepted (not everybody’s was). Then we did another anthology, and the story I wrote for that one was accepted, too. We made three anthologies in all, and I had stories in each one. When our editor, Joy Calderwood, opened her own e-book publishing venture and asked if I’d be interested in having her publish two of those stories, I said, “Why not?”

And people actually bought them. Not many people, but a few. So I wrote a novel – The Maidens’ War, and Joy published it, too. Then I wrote another novel. By then, Amazon had started Kindle Direct Publishing, so I self-published SwanSong in order to get it up on Amazon. And then I started working on my first urban fantasy, Seized: Book One of the Pipe Woman Chronicles.

I was having a great time as an indie author. But more than that, I began to realize that I was using all those weird, disparate skills I’d picked up over a lifetime. Video editing? I make my own book trailers. The paralegal certificate? It helped me make the main character of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, who’s a lawyer, sound believable. The years in journalism? I “write tight.” The degree in fiction writing? I learned both how to patch holes in my own work, and how to read novels not as an academic exercise, but as a way to figure out how other writers do what they do. And my interest in mythology keeps showing up in my books, too.

Now I’m releasing the fourth Pipe Woman Chronicles book, Gravid, and beginning the fifth and final book. And the biggest advantage of age, to me, is being able to see all the bits of my life coming together. I really did go through all of it for a reason: it has helped me become an author.

~ * ~

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. In addition to writing fantasy, Lynne is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited and writes a monthly post for The Indie Exchange. She currently lives near Washington, DC.



Lynne Cantwell said...

Thanks for hosting me today!

Marian Allen said...

I loved reading your journey from college to present. It's always amazing what will turn out to be useful. One of the many reasons why I'm a pack rat! ;)

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes