Today we’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Tolbert.
Cynthia, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In 2014, I retired after thirty years of practicing law. I also have a Master’s of Special Education and taught learning disabled students for ten years prior to entering law school. But, I have always wanted to write, and, during my earlier school years, even won a few writing contests.
In 2005, while I will still practicing law, I was forced to convalesce following cancer surgery and began writing again. My first attempts were timid stabs at a memoir, but they were important exercises, and my confidence began to grow. Initially, my formulaic, fact-based style learned from years of legal writing dominated, but gradually the flow of my earlier writing came back to me, and it all became more fun – at least until the re-writes.
In 2010, I entered the Georgia State Bar Association’s Fiction Contest, and, to my surprise, won. I decided to augment the story and turn it into a full-scale novel. That same year, I attended a writing workshop in Italy and was on my way. In December of 2019, OUT FROM SILENCE, the first mystery in the Thornton Mystery Series was published by Level Best Books. The second book in the series, THE REDEMPTION, will be published in December of 2020, again by Level Best Books. A third will follow in 2021. I am excited and proud to have this mystery series published, and hope to continue the series into the future.
My life experiences in and out of court, including those in the classroom, have informed my stories. Emma Thornton, the protagonist, is, in OUT FROM SILENCE, a third year law student, asked to help prepare the defense of a young deaf man accused of killing his girlfriend. In THE REDEMPTION, she teaches at a law school in New Orleans and is asked to take on the defense of a young man accused of murdering two men in what appeared to be a local drug deal. Both stories are replete with “complex characters… sympathetic but profoundly troubled suspect(s), (and) an attorney determined to find the truth.” (See, testimonial from SHOUT-OUT MY BOOK.)
I live in Atlanta with my husband and my schnauzer, Yoda.
Has it been a smooth road?
Being a lawyer for so many years taught me many things. Discipline was the primary lesson, and that is taught, and taught well, in law school. You only get better at it as the years go by. But, you also learn tenacity. In law, everything hinges on a good argument. In writing, everything depends on whether you have a good story and if you do, you have to learn to do your story justice. You’re constantly learning, and it’s a non-ending chore. This is the work of writing.
Once my story was written, I was lucky to find my publisher, Level Best Books (LBB), a women owned, and women run publishing house. It publishes mysteries, primarily. The three women owners are brilliant and talented. Plus, I like them. Prior to signing with LBB, I had substantial interest in my manuscript from multiple other publishing houses, including some from the top five. They all rejected my manuscript for one reason or another, but I didn’t give up. I was thrilled with Level Best Book’s interest.
The problem is, once a book is written and accepted for publication, the most difficult work is only just beginning. Marketing the book is the most difficult challenge I’ve faced so far. I struggle with this aspect of the business. I would much rather write. I am not a public relations person, and am embarrassed when promoting my book, even though it is necessary. I realize most writers are introverts and I am no exception. So, this is my challenge, my bumpy road, my nightmare. How to get my name and my book out there and into the hands to others?
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Retired attorney, educator, and former law school teacher, I write mysteries inspired by life’s trials in the courtroom and beyond. I am proud of learning a new discipline following retirement. Writing is a daily endeavor and I’m constantly learning something new which is why I find it exciting. I love the practice and enjoy the process. The proudest moment is when there’s a finished product. The publication of my first book, OUT FROM SILENCE, will stand out always as my proudest moment.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I am a native of the Gulf Coast and love the unbroken horizon of the water’s edge. But I’ve come to love Atlanta for its lush greens, the evergreens, oak trees, crepe myrtles, dogwoods, redbud trees, blossoming daffodils, iris, roses, and azalea… Atlanta in the springtime. I love my home, my backyard and the tiny garden in front. I love my neighborhood, the green rolling hills, the shops, the neighbors, the trees. It’s a wonderful area, especially in the spring.
Traffic is the bane of our existence. My husband works in Alpharetta. His current commute is two hours daily. So, he bought a home in downtown Roswell, close to Canton Street, and we will move there soon. Moving from our current location will be difficult and sad for me, even though I hear Roswell is quite nice. I will miss our neighborhood.
- OUT FROM SILENCE, paperback $15.95
- OUT FROM SILENCE, Kindle $5.99
- Website: www.cltolbert.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Richie Arpino (author photo 1) ; Charlene Gregory (author photo 2 and book photo)