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Lynn Garthwaite: The Life-Long Writer, by Grace Olson

Mom, Grandma, and author Lynn Garthwaite has been a writer her entire life. When she was a child, her answer to the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question, was that she wanted to be a writer. “I couldn’t think of a better job for me than writing stories,” said Ms. Garthwaite during my interview with her. She was also an avid reader as a child, which helped cultivate her love of writing and storytelling. Her favorite childhood book was A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. She said that it influenced her writing because of what she discovered from the book. She learned about the intrigue of faraway places, time travel, and secret passageways. This book, A Wrinkle in Time, continues to inspire her writing endeavors today.

In college, she found herself interested in screenwriting. She said, “I found it amazing that I might be able to write my own stories and see them on the big screen with red carpets and all that kind of stuff.” She read books about screenplay techniques, went to seminars, and learned everything she could about screenwriting. Unfortunately, despite writing multiple screenplays, she never sold one. Later, while working at an elementary school library, Ms. Garthwaite found joy in children’s literature, which is where she started writing stories again after a burnout period.

Her Kirk House publication, a mystery thriller titled Starless Midnight, was inspired by racial injustice and white supremacist events going on in the world right now. She also took some elements from her past screenwriting attempts and incorporated those elements into this novel. Since Ms. Garthwaite loved reading mysteries as a child and throughout her young life, she always had the ambition to write a mystery novel. The story follows a young, bi-racial girl named Jadey Evans who returns to her hometown to discover that neighbors of color have disappeared. When Jadey discovers a murder victim, she wonders if she may be next. The event motivates Jadey to uncover a white supremacist terror plot while also saving her own life.

Since Ms. Garthwaite loves writing so much, I inquired about her favorite moment in the writing process. “Oddly enough, I like the rewrite,” she answered. “It’s satisfying.” I found this odd because, from what I’ve read and seen, the rewrite is usually the least favorite part of the writing process for authors. Of course, I don’t particularly love the rewrite process either, but since talking to Ms. Garthwaite, I’ve acquired a different perspective on this part. She works on her rewrites in stages, meaning on one rewrite, she’ll look at word choice, and then on the next one, she’ll look exclusively at grammar problems. “I don’t edit as I write,” she said. “I just get on my computer and go.” I found this interesting because it’s the exact opposite of how I write, and I wondered if I should take this advice and put it into practice.

As for a favorite line from one of her books, Ms. Garthwaite selected one from Starless Midnight. The scene in the nail salon with the main character, Jadey’s, old friend. The friend offers to give Jadey a manicure. Ms. Garthwaite’s favorite line reads, “If I ever get to the point where I can’t polish my own nails, just shoot me.” Ms. Garthwaite loves this line because of the way she was raised. She was a tomboy, much like her main character Jadey, and she also grew up in a household where paying for nail care was considered frivolous. “I’ve said that line in my lifetime, so I gave it to one of my characters,” Ms. Garthwaite said. She and I laughed quite a lot during this section of the interview.

When I asked her what she wanted her readers’ takeaway from her book, she responded with something that I found very profound and true to the modern world. She said, “Because the book has this element of white supremacy, which is very timely right now, the message in Starless Midnight is that white supremacy is cruel, inhumane, and unAmerican. We can’t tolerate that kind of thing in our society.” Above all, Ms. Garthwaite wants her readers to be inspired to believe this message as well. Spoiler alert, the bad guys don’t win.

When I asked Ms. Garthwaite my favorite question to ask all the authors I interviewed, I loved her response. She said, “Just keep at it.” Keep writing, keep learning, and keep working through those rejections. Writing isn’t something you excel at right away,” she explained. “It’s something you keep working on and don’t let those rejections beat you down.” She has a large stack of papers in her office full of projects that publishers have rejected. “I consider it my badge of honor,” she said.

I thoroughly enjoyed my talk with Ms. Garthwaite. She was curious about my novel, so we did speak about that as well. It was so much fun to discuss our work. And she was wonderful. Her passion for books and writing showed through our conversation. I’ll take some inspiration from her, and I hope you do, too.

Happy reading!

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