Welcome to Flashback Fridays! For the summer and beyond, I’m going to run some nostalgic posts on parenting and writing from writing wannabes, newbies, and published authors. Many of these prepublished writing interviews are now published. So I encourage you to visit their sites and see what they’re up to today.
Lynette Sowell is a Massachusetts Yankee who makes her home in the heart of Texas. Her cozy mystery movel A Suspicion of Strawberries releases in March 2007 from Heartsong Presents: Mystery. She has sold three novellas which release in 2006. Away from Deadline-Land and Writing World, Lynette works as a medical transcriptionist for a large HMO. She loves to read, travel, spend time with her family, and also tries not to kill her houseplants, although her tropical hibiscus have contemplated pressing charges after last winter.
Welcome writer or should I say published author mom, Lynette Sowell to the Portrait of a Writer…Interrupted
Tell us a little about your family and your call to write.
I’ve been married for 11 years to an awesome man, have two teenagers (I married a readymade family), and five cats. I’ve always loved to write. The writing bug bit in fifth grade, and I either got busy or managed to ignore it until 1997, when I started my first book.
Tell me a about your recent contracts and up coming releases.
In 2006, I have three novellas releasing in the Barbour anthologies Windswept Weddings (June), Bayou Brides (September), and Brothers of the Outlaw Trail (December). My first cozy mystery novel A Suspicion of Strawberries releases through Heartsong Presents Mystery in March 2007, with two more books in a series (hopefully) after that.
What do you do to encourage yourself during those stormy days every writing mom has?
I remind myself that “this too shall pass.” The storm will cease eventually and I’ll go on from there. It’s hard sometimes because storms seem neverending.
Do you think it’s possible to give yourself fully to raising children, writing and keeping in shape?
Yes, as long as I remind myself that giving fully doesn’t mean I’m perfect.
How do you balance being a mom, wife, and writer?
I try to keep my heart sensitive to what’s going on with our family relationships. I’ve been blessed with a husband who’ll gently speak up if I’m at the keyboard too much. He realizes how much I love writing and the creative process, but he also knows it’s not the most important thing to me.
The more I’ve had deadlines after receiving contracts, the more that my time at the computer isn’t an option but a must. I also keep my “mom radar” on. I can tell if the kids need me more. As they’ve gotten older, I realize they still need me, although not as much—but the need is still there. On the other hand, when I realize I’m not getting much writing done, I tug myself back to the chair to work (not e-mail, etc.).
How do you position yourself to HEAR God’s voice when all the noises of life are swirling around you?
I have to admit that sometimes I get busy and don’t pay attention or remember to listen to God’s voice. So I make myself stop, and take a spiritual time-out. Usually this is when I’m frazzled and wanting to cry and feeling generally yucky and stressed. I’ll slap myself on the forehead, realize what’s happening, and go to my room and have some quiet time. I pray, open the Bible, and remind myself of what’s really permanent.
Do you ever feel like you’re neglecting your children when you write?
Yes, I do, even now that they’re older than when I first started writing. I think that sometimes we moms heap more guilt on ourselves than we deserve. I believe we must nurture our children and meet their needs, but we do them a disservice if we allow them to think that our worlds completely revolve around them.
Our job is to teach them how to be independent and productive so that one day they can function in the world of adults, and that learning to wait is not a bad thing. (Okay, off my soapbox now. My husband runs a day care, and more and more we see children who are “at demand” children, who do not understand that their place in the home, while important, is not the sole reason for the family’s existence.)
If you do feel your priorities slipping, what do you do to get back on track?
I take a time out, and stop beating myself up. If God’s mercies are new every morning, I try to redirect myself and rearrange activities. If I have to tell the family, “sorry, I can’t watch the DVD tonight, I have to write,” I do. (We love watching movies together.)
Has there ever been a time God told you to set aside your writing to focus on other areas of your life? If so, how did you handle that?
Yes, the summer of 2004. It was hard at first. I can’t say that God “told” me to stop writing, but I spent a good part of June and July trying to refinish our kitchen cabinet doors. One night my husband and I spent the evening using furniture stripper and talking. I realized that even if I wasn’t working on The Great American Novel, my life was more than just okay. I realized I was blessed and that my worth consisted of more than my writing.
Did you ever feel like you’ve “missed” God in regards to writing, that maybe you should be doing something else?
I sure did. There was a very dry period when I felt like I was spinning my wheels, stuck on the same novel proposal for a long time. My prayer was, “God, if I’m wasting my time, please tell me. I can do other things for You if that’s what You want. You’ve given me other abilities.” (And this was months before I got the e-mail containing a contract.)
When do you find the time to write, and how do you handle interruptions in your writing life?
I write in the evenings, usually after supper for an hour or so. This is when I research, plot, try to get a couple thousand words written. Well, the word count might end up being in the hundreds, but writing something is better than nothing. I also try to sneak time in on Saturdays. On Sunday I might read, or do a little research. If I’m on deadline, I let my family know, “The next X number of nights I’m going to be working late.”
Life is full of interruptions. I try to go with the flow. And smile. The kids are pretty good about not interrupting, especially if I’m on deadline.
How do you get back into the flow of writing after you’ve been interrupted?
I start by reading the chapter I was working on, and then jump back in.
Tell me about how you got your first “writing break.”
In spring 2005, author Rachel Hauck asked me to join in a novella anthology proposal for a group of stories based on weather-related wedding day disasters. I wrote a synopsis, first chapter, and Rachel submitted the proposal in March 2005. The about six weeks later, we had a contract. My head spun with everything happening so fast. That’s the thing with fiction. You learn to wait and wait, but sometimes things happen quickly. Two more contracts followed in fall 2005, and I received my first novel contract in February 2006.
What do you write and why this genre?
Right now I’m focusing on romance novellas and cozy mysteries. I love the novellas because they’re perfect for an office lunch hour read. I also love seeing four stories from four different writers come together in a wonderful blend. Done well, anthologies are as satisfying a read as novels. As far as cozy mysteries go, I’ve always enjoyed the genre. I like the puzzle, the whodunit, and quirky fun characters. For a while, there didn’t seem to be as much of a market in the CBA. Thankfully, Barbour has started a cozy mystery line that fills a need. I’m glad to have my work included in this initial batch of novels. Another love is science fiction/fantasy. One day I’d like to explore that genre as well.
What do you hope to accomplish through your novels?
First, I want to entertain readers. As a reader, I pick up novels for a good time, an adventure, and a gripping read—not to “learn” something. However, I want my readers to identify with my characters, and hopefully they’re draw them closer to God even if, like me, they’re reading for pleasure. Something like an entertaining movie that has a heart-stirring “gotcha” at the end.
What advice would you give to writing moms?
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it all. You can’t. Remember, kids grow fast. It doesn’t seem like it when they’re in their cranky moments, or the school’s calling, or you have to drive someone to yet another practice, but it’s true. On the other hand, remember that if you want to write, you must find the time, even if it’s in short blocks. I also work a day job, so I have a boss to keep happy as well.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
If you are writing with the goal of being published, terrific! Persist, work hard, learn and study the craft. Read good books, and dissect them to see what works. No one can gauge exactly when or how “it” happens—that story idea that gets a contract.
Also, learn how to work with other writers. Learn to play nice. The CBA world is not large, and a diva mentality won’t work for long. For example, it’s fun to work on a collaborative idea in an anthology, but it’s important to remember it’s not always about you and your story.
Thank you for being open and sharing your thoughts and wisdom with me. May God bless you as you write, raise your children and pursue His calling in your life.