We love brand new authors here at The Book Pushers! Fresh new voices in our favorite genres gives us another person to cyber-stalk and glom onto! We figured since there are always new authors getting published through both the big New York publishers, as well as the smaller digital first publishers, we should take the time and hunt them down and introduce them to you!
Today we’ve got Cynthia Justlin to talk about what it’s like being a brand new author!
Explain to us your journey to publication:
I’ve always loved the written word and wrote short stories from a very young age. As early as junior high, I dreamed of what it would be like to publish a book someday. It wasn’t until my children were born, though, that I really started pursuing that goal. I wrote a couple of contemporary romances aimed at Harlequin that will probably never see the light of day. And then I got an idea for a romantic suspense book, a genre that I’d never considered attempting to write—and found my voice.
I shopped that first book around and received great feedback, but ultimately, the romantic suspense market was too tight and I couldn’t find an agent or editor interested in taking a chance on it. So, I wrote another. This one finaled in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart, which got my foot in the door, but still led me to the same dead end. So I wrote one more, a book so dark and different that I actually wondered if I was crazy for writing it. But I felt compelled in a way I’d never felt compelled before, so I finished it. That book was Edge of Light.
I was diagnosed with cancer just as I finished the book. I started shopping it around to agents while I was going through chemo and was almost universally told that the writing was great but they didn’t know how to sell it—it was too much of a thriller to be a romance and too much of a romance to be a thriller. But, if cancer had taught me anything, it was that life is too short to wait on your dreams. So I took my first two romantic suspense books and self-published them and then pitched Edge of Light to Carina Press, the only publisher I thought might take a chance on something outside of the box. And I’m thrilled to say, they did!
What’s your first published book about (start of a series, a stand alone, we want details!):
Edge of Light is the story of Oliver Shaw, a CIA agent who has been held captive in Cambodia for over two years. After witnessing the slow execution of all his team mates, he’s the only one left. He’s broken. Defeated. He’s lost the will to fight and is just going through the motions of each day.
In comes Jocelyn Hewitt, a forensic anthropologist with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command on a mission to find the truth about her dad’s disappearance. Armed with his letters and vague clues to his whereabouts, she heads into the Cambodian jungle with her team. But a ruthless group of anarchists believe her dad’s letters hold the key to an ancient red diamond mine and she is taken captive, placed in a cell next to Oliver.
Through the metal wall that separates them, her strength and hope breathes new life into Oliver. Together, they fight to escape and take down their captors.
Do you have anything in the works? (contracted or not?)
I’m currently working on another romantic suspense for Carina Press (not contracted, as of yet!). This one takes place on a pirated merchant vessel and features an undercover NCIS heroine with eidetic memory and an Army hero who is fighting to regain huge gaps in his memory. If any of you have read Edge of Light, you may be able to guess who the hero is going to be! I’m excited about this book. It’s going to be another gritty, emotional read.
What are your overall dreams, goals and expectations for your future as an author? (want to stick with specific genre, try multiples, different pen names, etc.)
My main goal as an author is just to write compelling stories. I like intense, emotional books, and that’s what I want to bring to readers. I love exploring theme and symbolism and giving readers something to think about when they reach ‘The End’. If I can accomplish all that, I’ll consider myself a success! Eventually, though, I’d love to write in more than one genre as well, but for now, I’m concentrating my efforts on building a career as a romantic suspense writer.
What’s your writing process like? Has it changed from when you first started writing?
My writing process changes from book to book and, unfortunately, I have yet to find a foolproof method that works every time. But I do start every book with a firm foundation, which begins with getting to know my characters. What values do they have? What baggage do they have? What are they afraid of and how is that keeping them from getting what they want? From there, I tend to go with the “write a little, plot a little, write a little, plot a little” strategy.
I’m a very linear writer, so I have to start at the beginning and work my way towards the end. When I get stuck on a scene, it’s usually because I haven’t solidified what comes before it. And then I backtrack in the hopes of getting it right. I am NOT a vomit the first draft and clean it up later kind of writer, although I wish I was! I’m too much of a perfectionist to let go of a chapter before it’s perfect.
When did you start writing? What was your very first story about?
I won’t go back to my junior high days! 😉 My very first book was a contemporary romance about a woman who travels to Colorado for her best friend’s wedding. She no longer believes in love and marriage, but as the maid of honor, she tries to put on a happy face for her friend. She’s horrified to find herself paired up with the best man—an equine doctor with a passion for healing—especially when she realizes he’s got his sights set on her.
I love the characters in this story, but it’s one of those ‘better-off-under-the-bed’ books!
Who were some of your inspirations for becoming an author?
I got my love of reading from my dad. He was never more content than when he was reading, and that was a trait that was definitely passed on to me. Now, writing, he avoided like the plague, so I didn’t get that talent from him, but, he gave me my love of books, and I truly believe that cultivated my writing.
Give us the story about when you got “The Call.”
Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a move when “The Call” came. I remember stopping at home to pick up more boxes and seeing that there was a message on the phone. I checked the caller ID. It was an unfamiliar number and area code. And then I listened to the message from Angela James telling me that Carina loved my book and wanted to contract it. She followed up with an email, and I danced around the house and then crashed back to reality when I realized how much more work still needed to be done. I held off on celebrating until we’d moved and I signed the contract. Hopefully next time I get the call, I’ll be home!
Who is the author you would most like to meet living or deceased and why?
Beverly Cleary. Because her Ramona books shaped my childhood and I’d love to tell her thank you for that. I am in awe that her books are still popular and relevant and finding new readers who love Ramona and Beezus every bit as much as I do.
Ms Justlin, thank you for joining us today. Ms Justlin is also sponsoring a giveaway of one digital copy of Edge of Light. Open internationally and ends May 24th. To enter leave a comment talking about the author you would most like to meet living or deceased and why. Good luck!