As a new feature on this site, I am conducting interviews with various local authors I have worked with and/or have inspired me. Today we begin with one of my mentors, C.L. Pauwels.
What was the first creative piece you wrote?
The first time I remember writing anything creatively was in third grade. For Parent’s Day, somehow my teacher staged all of us in a play I wrote about astronauts landing on the moon (yes, this was in the Neil Armstrong days – I’m old!) and teaching aliens English (!) vowels “A-E-I-O-U!” (I think that was the point of an assignment?). I’m sure I must have had help, and I wish I had a copy of that script today!
More personally, when my grandfather died in 1998, Nana gave me small notebook in which he’d collected all sorts of little poems and stories I’d written for him over the years. I don’t remember most of them, but I’m so happy he saved them for me.
What initially inspired you to write the Jadz series?
First in that series, Forty & Out (2014) is based on the first mystery I published – a short story in 1989. At that time, I’d worked in the criminal justice field for almost ten years, and since I’d grown up reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Agatha Christie, et al, it seemed a natural progression to write my own crime fiction.
And while readers often ask, no, the book is not based on a real crime – that I know of!
Is there any particular message you’d like your novels to convey?
Many authors use their novels to beat readers over the head with some greater message, and while my values and beliefs come through in my work, that’s not my goal. I write fiction to entertain, to provide an escape, and if along the way I can open a reader’s eyes to new ways of thinking, all the better. My written worlds are diverse and socially aware, and peopled with all races, cultures, and lifestyles.
That’s also where I differ with those who say an author’s persona should be apolitical. If you don’t like my life philosophy – whether through politics, religion, or whatever – you won’t like my books anyway. Why hide who I am?
What inspires you most when you are feeling discouraged?
Connecting with fellow writers like you!
Creatively speaking, what are you working on currently?
I’m neck-deep in revisions/rewrites for #3 in the Jadz serious, working title Unwelcome Ties. It’s actually a reworking of my 2010 master’s thesis, which was an expansion/revision of my first NaNoWriMo win from 2005. How’s that for coming full circle? But I love the main storyline too much to let it go, so it’s getting an update that will include the early days of Jadz, and how she came to be the kick-ass detective we meet in Forty & Out.
I also have a nonfiction project simmering that really is based on a criminal case I worked when I was deputy clerk at the federal court in Toledo.
What authors are speaking to you most of late?
I’ve been rereading the entire Sue Grafton Alphabet Series, in homage to her after her untimely death in 2017. I had literally just finished Y is for Yesterday two days before her daughter announced, “The alphabet now ends with ‘Y’.” Yes, I cried!
I’m also working my way through fellow Yellow Springer M. Ruth Myers’ Maggie Sullivan series. It’s set in 1930s Dayton, and her characters are such fun to follow.
How do you feel about the state of the book industry? What would you change about it if you could?
I know this is heresy, but I wish Amazon were not so powerful! So many wonderful independent bookstores have been driven out of business by that behemoth. Plus the discount-driven mentality has seriously hurt the income potential for authors as a whole by devaluing the books we strive so hard to create.
And while it’s nice that now anyone can write a book and publish it online – traditional publishing gatekeepers be damned, now anyone can write a book and publish it online. “Fake news” is enough of a problem in the mainstream media, and now it’s a serious issue in the book industry as well. I spend so much time teaching my students how to separate fact from fiction, and the self-publishing world doesn’t help.
Obviously that’s a complex topic I can only rant on briefly here. All my opinion, of course, but you did ask!
Bonus question: In tribute to a site I used to write for, The Uncommon Geek, I am going to ask THE question. Do you prefer Star Trek, Star Wars, or both, and why?
Star Trek, definitely. Hubby and I are halfway through season three of Enterprise, having started (how long ago now?) with episode one of the original series and working our way through Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Yay, Netflix!
The Federation universe is a hopeful version of a future I doubt we’ll ever attain – peaceful co-existence, exploration of new worlds without conquering them, eliminating racism/sexism/poverty/disease (mostly) – that’s a dream worth having.
And no, we don’t watch Discovery. It’s fine as a new science fiction saga, I suppose (two episodes were more than enough for me), but it’s not Star Trek. I’m cautiously optimistic for Star Trek: Picard, however. We’ll see!
As for Star Wars, the original trilogy are favorites, not a fan of Anakin Skywalker’s character at all (what a whiner!). The next trilogy, and the more recent films are hit and miss.
Dare I mention Firefly? 😉
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Firefly indeed! I love it to death, and anyone who has read even a handful of chapters in the After Terra saga can attest to its influence on my work. I’d like to thank Cyndi for her time and graciousness in participating in this interview, as well as all the good work she has done for me and fellow writers as part of the Antioch Writer’s Workshop. She has also been a counsel to me as both a human being and a writer in some dark times. She has my gratitude for this.
Pauwels’ first and second novels, Forty & Out and Burned Bridges, are both available through select bookstores as well as on the aforementioned Amazon juggernaut. I am providing links below, as well as to her official social media and blog site.
Until next time. Stay classy, internet.