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My mother remarried and moved to Texas when I was sixteen, but I stayed in Kentucky with my grandparents to attend school. I spent my summers in Midland with her and my sister and never made the long trip without at least a dozen books. Back then, I could gobble up three to four romances a day.
Penny Jordan and Sara Craven were some of my favorite authors, but my first summer in Texas, I discovered Elizabeth Lowell and Diana Palmer. There I was, reading Fire and Rain, Granite Man and Calhoun while living in West Texas surrounded by real-life cowboys. It was the perfect catalyst for my young imagination. I began filling notebooks with ideas, character profiles, and short stories. I’d write a few paragraphs and then do a few sketches of different scenes and characters.
Fast forward ten years. I’m married, have two children, a full-time career and no time to write. My notebooks were shoved to the back of a closet and deemed unimportant. But the characters in my head were stubborn and not easily dismissed. They’d show up at the most inconvenient times, like at board meetings and during presentations, so I tried to appease them by jotting down ideas here and there. But they kept talking, loudly. It wasn’t long until those thoughts were filling notebooks again.
After spending almost two decades earning degrees, working full-time and raising children, I decided it was time to revisit my writing, so I cleaned out my utility room and set up a small writing space. There among baskets of dirty clothes and dryer lint, I began drafting my first story.
I was so excited!
But writing to complete a full-length novel for submission wasn’t anything like writing short stories for fun. I’d write a page or two – usually, things I’d scribbled down while I was at work– but then, my mind would stall. I’d spend the rest of my writing time staring at my keyboard. It was so frustrating! Soon, doubt moved in, pulled up a chair, and began whispering in my ear. Maybe writing for submission was just a childish dream. Maybe I wasn’t a writer at all.
I battled with Impostor Syndrome for months, not knowing it was a common problem among writers or how to deal with it. It took me over a year to finish the first draft and I can honestly say, it was horrible. The book didn’t get any better when a small press publisher contracted it in 2014. My second book was published the following year, but I was still struggling with the words.
My husband and I were financially stable enough that I was able to resign from my job and devote more time to my writing and work part-time in the company we owned. I finally had time to write! I moved out of that dark and dusty utility room and into the guest bedroom. Looking back, I know I resembled Andy Farmer (Chevy Chase) in Funny Farm.
In 2016, I outlined a new series called Coldiron Cowboys, wrote blurbs for the three books, and hammered out a rough draft of the first one (still stalling and struggling). But I didn’t submit it to the small press publisher. My gut told me these books were going to be different and they were.
In 2017, I regained the rights to my first two books, shelved them and enrolled in Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beat. That class transformed my writing and I was able to finally find my voice. That’s such a wonderful feeling!
I began working on a series proposal for the Coldiron Cowboys and successfully landed an agent. We submitted The Heartbreak Cowboy (book one) to the big five, went through a grueling four-month rewrite for a top ten publisher, and received wonderful feedback from an acquiring editor at Harlequin. But, in the end, I stepped away from her on good terms without contracting the series.
But it was during that rewrite that I made a giant leap forward. We had a conference call with the acquiring editor who requested the rewrite to discuss the changes she wanted. I did bullet points reflecting those changes in the appropriate chapters and had a firm grasp on what needed to be done. I had written the story, knew it and my characters inside and out, but after an hour of writing, I stalled.
I couldn’t understand why it was happening until I found some of those short stories and sketches I’d done in Texas. Suddenly, it hit me. Walkman. Sketchpad. Book. My brain was wired to multitask not to sit in front of a computer for hours trying to churn out chapters. Those first two books had been written while I was on lunch breaks, in class, and at little league games. I needed to find a rhythm so, I began experimenting by incorporating different hobbies and projects into my writing routine.
I set daily word goals, wrote in short spurts of five to eight hundred words, then switched to working on a watercolor painting, took a walk around the farm to snap a few pictures, baked a cake worked in Photoshop.
I re-branded myself, started CurtissLynn Publishing, and self-published The Heartbreak Cowboy. I’ve since published three more books and started a new series. Breaking the Cowboy, the third and final book in my Coldiron Cowboys series will be released in March and there are at least three books planned for the Rough Creek series. Hollywood Cowboy (Morgan’s story) will be hitting Amazon sometime in the late summer or early fall. I’m crossing my fingers that Montana Cold (Colton and Lauren’s story from The Heartbreak Cowboy) will make it into readers' hands by Thanksgiving.
With each book I write, I learn more about myself, my voice and my writing process.
Thank you for having me as a guest today!
To learn more about Mina, click the links under the photographs or those listed below.