I love featuring authors on my web site, especially when they are known to me and I have been honored to be a reader for early versions of their work. This month my friend and fellow mystery writer C. L. Pauwels joins us for the featured interview.
C.L. (Cyndi) Pauwels holds an MA in creative writing from Antioch University McGregor in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her debut novel Forty & Out (Deadly Writes Publishing, 2014) and the second in the series, the 2017 Burned Bridges (Crossroad Press), are set in the Toledo (Ohio)-area communities she called home until 2004. Her short fiction has appeared in Mock Turtle ‘zine, Over My Dead Body!, The View from Here (UK), and other journals. In 2009, she published the award-winning non-fiction Historic Warren County: An Illustrated History. Sugati Publications has selected two of her essays for their Reflections from Women anthology series, and Sinclair Community College’s literary journal Flights has published several of her pieces over the past few years. In addition to writing, Cyndi’s portfolio career includes book editing (The Enduring Legacy of Kahlil Gibran and The Essential Rihani), teaching as an adjunct at Clark State Community College and at Yavapai (AZ) College, listing and cataloguing for Blue Jacket Books in Xenia, Ohio, and serving as assistant director for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Yellow Springs with her husband of forty years, two spoiled dogs, and eight chickens.
Cyndi, can you share with us why you write mystery/thrillers?
For the longest time, I assumed I wrote mysteries because I enjoy reading them. My earliest favorites are Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden…then on to Agatha Christie, PD James – mysteries (not quite cozies, but not graphic!) are my go-to books. I never looked at the trend any further than that. I’ve written a few more literary short stories, some light humor, and I do enjoy creative nonfiction essays (also considering a nonfiction book these days…in my spare time), but all of the novels I’ve written are crime fiction of some sort.
A few years ago, I realized why I like reading and writing mysteries: because it gives me a sense of control in an out-of-control world. I can make sure that justice is served…maybe not in the ideal way – or even in the way I expected when I started writing the story (pantser, not plotter here!) – but ultimately, there is a satisfying closure as I turn the world right-side-up again.
What is the most challenging aspect of your writing life?
Time! Juggling so many part-time jobs (five, at last count, although I do have the summer off from adjunct classes at two different colleges) makes it hard to find make time for things I want to do…like writing. I’d expected to have most of my summer free to finish Jadz #3, but in early February, I agreed to run for county office, so now I have to add a political campaign to my overloaded schedule.
What piece of writing advice has had the most influence on you?
Do you mean Truly had influence, or just continues to nag at me because I won’t/can’t accept it in my own life?
For the former, I’d go with “write what you know,” but in the sense it was explained by Zakes Mda at the first Antioch Writers’ Workshop I attended: write what you want to know, so you learn something new as you go. Don’t fake your way through a story, whether it’s medical procedures, computer security, or crime and the courts. As they say, “you may fool some of the people”…but you’ll lose those readers who know better, and they likely won’t come back.
As for the latter, I still struggle with believing my words matter in the greater scheme of things. A Facebook post caught my eye this morning (I spend way too much time on social media – come say hello, then remind me I should be writing!). Author Barlow Adams (https://bamsmackpow.com/author/badams/ ) said, “You don’t have to be a ‘serious’ writer to be a great one. Some writers want to change the world. That’s terrific. We need those. But we also need silly authors, goofy ones, the kind that tell stories that make the world bearable until those serious authors can make it better.”
I’ve been pondering those words ever since, hoping they sink in and allow me to give myself permission to keep writing when there’s so much in the world to despair of.
Just for Fun:
Name a favorite food you use to reward yourself.
Chocolate, of course! Usually Dove Signatures Dark Chocolate– that way I don’t overindulge. And depending on the time of day, a glass of wine is nice.
If you could be any fictional character, who would you be? Why?
Kinsey Millhone has long been a (dream) role model in life, and in my writing. Since Sue Grafton died in December, I’ve been rereading her Alphabet Series (I finished Y two days before her death, and now, as her daughter posted, “The alphabet ends with ‘y’.” <sob>). My Jadz character is a lot like Kinsey, because all writers “borrow,” right?
You can contact Cyndi at C.L. (Cyndi) Pauwels@clpauwels
Her books are published by Crossroad Press:
Forty & Out