“I never thought my books would be on shelves next to Stephen King, Lee Child and James Patterson. For one thing, my books are nothing like their books and I still pinch myself that I’ve written eleven romances,” Lynnette laughed, “who knew? Let’s just say that I am so glad no one stood in the aisle when I first spotted my books on those shelves. What an incredible moment of validation and payback for the long hours spent creating. Although, I have to say that writing, in and of itself, is infinitely fulfilling, and it gives voice to all the people running around in my head, clamoring to get out. Every one of them wants his story told!”
After a very successful teaching career in Wyoming, Lynnette and David Hallberg moved to Naples in 1989 and she started teaching fifth grade at Golden Terrace Elementary. She moved to Oakridge Middle School and then to North Naples Middle School where she taught Language Arts to eighth graders for several years before retiring to write full-time. Luckily, teaching Language Arts means teaching students how to write effectively, so she was off and running, er, writing.
“I kept having ideas flow through my head and just had to put them on paper. Using the computer enabled me to get those scenes transformed into print before I forgot them,” she said.
As far back as she can remember, Lynnette loved to read and her shelves were full of books of all kinds, from Trixie Belton, Nancy Drew and the Boxcar Children to biographies of Amelia Earhart, Queen Elizabeth, Henry the VIII, Queen Nefertiti…she wanted to list more, but I’m short on space!
I wondered if good writers were always lovers of books? Lynnette said she was always surrounded by books and even pursued a job in the HS library so she could keep reading when it wasn’t busy.
Before she was a published author, Lynnette was a finalist in several romance writer competitions, including the Georgia Romance Writers’ Maggie Contest, Romance Writers of America’s national Golden Heart Contest and PASIC’s Book of Your Heart Contest and afterward wrote and published five romances including; “Enchanted Evening,” “Moonlight, Motorcycles and Bad Boys,” “Chantilly Lace and a Pretty Face” and “Night Shadows.” “Night Shadows is a romantic suspense, a little different from the others, but lots of fun to write,” she explained. I read that one. It has a sexy jazz singer in stilettoes, a hot fireman and an arsonist that turns up the heat for all of them. “Just a Little White Lie” was published by Carina Press.
Lynnette decided to write under a different name when her agent sold her three book series centered in the hill country of Texas to Grand Central Publishing, an arm of Hachette. “It intrigued me to use the name Austin, it felt more Texas and in character.” The Maverick Junction series, including “Somebody Like You,” “Nearest Thing to Heaven” and “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” were beloved hits for Austin.
Her next project was another trilogy set in fictitious Misty Bottoms, Georgia where romance sizzles in the low country, sweet tea is the beverage of choice, but it hardly cools the emotions of the sexy characters. Published by Sourcebooks, the Magnolia Bride series includes “The Best Laid Wedding
Plans,” “Every Bride Has Her Day” and “Picture Perfect Wedding.” Sparks fly in each of these books, but not to an embarrassment level for Austin.
“I knew that some of my former students would read them, so they are romantic and sexy, but not explicit, if you know what I mean.” Yes, I do.
She was emphatic about the talents of her students and is confident that many will be published someday. “Hallmark is looking into producing ‘The Best Laid Wedding Plans’ so you know it had to meet their standards,” she added with a smile, “I wonder who they’ll cast as Jenni Beth Beaumont and Cole Bryson as the lead characters?” My opinion, they’ll be fiery like the characters in the book.
Her ideas come from interesting places. “Once I was driving through Oklahoma with my son, Aaron and his friend Brandon and an idea came to me for a book about Nazi Germany called ‘The Final Solution.’ I wrote it but never sent it to a publisher.” J.K. Rowling wrote her ideas on napkins in a café and look where she ended up!
“When you start writing, the characters move in with you and become part of your life, which is amusing. You look at things from their perspective. It’s a solitary profession and there are lots of compromises. You have to be disciplined, butt in the chair, hands on keyboard for anything to happen. You’re in it for the long haul.”
Austin is writing another three-book series right now, which is hush hush as the ideas keep percolating and evolving in her creative mind. This next trilogy is also set in Misty Bottoms and follows the Magnolia Brides series. This one sounds like it’s more hunk-centered (I mean man-centered), but I’ll let you know after it’s published and after I read it.
“Tall, Dark and Cowboy” by Lynnette Austin was part of a special six-book boxed set of romances including Molly Cannon, Laura Drake, Erin Kern, Katie Lane and Ruth Ryan Langan. Personally, being part of a set with those authors, be still my heart!
I wondered if she had ever become discouraged along her writing journey and she laughed. “The truth? Every time I sit down at the computer. That blank page can be intimidating— whether it’s your first story or your twentieth, but you can’t become discouraged if writing is your passion and your stories must be shared. When I think of Kathryn Stockett’s book, “The Help,” and how she persevered, I thought, so can I. Her book was rejected about 60 times before Amy Einhorn Books grabbed it and it was a bestseller.”
Austin has met many well-known authors, whether at writing conferences, such as Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America. Do these authors ring a bell? Nora Roberts, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci, Sue Grafton, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sherrilyn Kenyon, CJ Box, Robert Crais, Karyn Slaughter, Charlaine Harris (creator of “True Blood” TV series), Dennis Lehane, Ace Atkins, David Morrell (creator of Rambo), and the late greats—Robert B. Parker and Stephen Cannell. When she met Lee Child, she asked him how he named his main character, Reacher. He told her he was in the grocery store and a petite woman asked him to reach the product she wanted from the top shelf and he thought, that’s it; Reacher. She also shares a bond with author CJ Box with their mutual love of Wyoming.
Stories and inspiration come from everywhere. If you enjoy contemporary romance with more than a pinch of Southern, you can find Lynnette Hallberg and Lynnette Austin’s books at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Happy summer reading!
Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!f