Reyna Marder Gentin served as a Criminal Defense Attorney in New York for 18 years before stepping back to reassess her life. It was then that Reyna discovered her passion for writing. She is now the author of three published novels and shares how she transitioned from a corporate career in law to writing fiction from the comfort of home on this episode of the Second Act Success Podcast.
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Second Act Success Podcast
Season 1 - How a Criminal Defense Attorney Left Law to Write Fiction | Ep #39
Guest: Reyna Marder Gentin
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)
[00:00:00] Shannon: Hey friend, think you're ready to start a second act. I created a freebie that will help. It's my Second Act Blueprint with five questions that you should ask yourself before you make this massive decision. To check it out, go to secondactsuccess.co and download the Second Act Blueprint today. Now it's onto the episode.
[00:00:18] Reyna Gentin: It was hard for me. And I'm sure this is true of many people. I really had built my identity around. What I did for a living. I was a criminal defense attorney. That's who I was and all of a sudden I wasn't anymore. So I found it actually. Difficult. I really didn't have a sense of what was next for me.
[00:00:36] Shannon: Are you at a crossroads in your career or in life? Well, don't worry because life's next chapter is waiting. This is the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host Shannon Russell.
I'm a television producer, turned boy mom, turned business owner, podcaster, and career coach. If you are [00:01:00] looking to start a new career or begin a fresh chapter in life, then get ready to be inspired with stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and offer steps you can take to help figure out what your true calling in life really is.
It is time to shine. So let's turn the page and get started.
Welcome to Second Act Success.
[00:01:25] Shannon Russell: Before I introduce my guest on today's episode, I want to shine a light on a listener who left me a review on Apple Podcasts. Nicole B wrote, Love the Idea behind the show. I think Shannon does a fantastic job bringing out the stories of so many different people who have taken a leap in life and started anew. I wish I had heard these stories when I was debating leaving a long career for my second act. Thank you so much for sharing, Nicole. This is exactly my intent for the podcast, to inspire with stories and advice from people who have been there.[00:02:00] If you are enjoying the show and finding value, I would love it if you would take a minute to leave me a review on Apple, or simply take a screenshot of the podcast that you're listening to right now and text it to a. Or share it on Instagram. You never know when one of your friends might need a little bit of inspiration. Don't forget to tag me. I'm @secondactsuccess. And I thank you in advance.
my guest today is criminal defense attorney Reyna Marder Gentin, Reyna. Studied at Yale and practiced law at a non-profit public defender's office in New York for nearly 18 years. Working on such challenging cases, led her to want to take a step back and reassess what she wanted to do in life. After her children were grown, Reyna reluctantly went to a writing class with a friend and fell in love with Fiction. She is now the author of three published novels. Unreasonable Doubts. My Name Is Layla and Both Are True. Let's take a listen to my chat with Reyna and learn more about her journey to [00:03:00] find Second Act Success.
Hello, Reyna. Welcome to Second Act Success. How are you?
[00:03:05] Reyna Gentin: Great. Thanks so much for having me.
[00:03:07] Shannon Russell: So I'd love to just start with you talking to us about your journey. Where did your journey begin? Where did your story begin?
[00:03:13] Reyna Gentin: I would just say When I went to college, I didn't really have any sense of what I wanted to study. I toyed around with being pre-med, but I found out pretty quickly that wasn't for me. So I dropped down to kind of more of a humanities Study. And when I finished up college, I decided to apply to law school mostly because that seemed like something I could do with the degree that I had. When I was there, I. I started to do a lot of clinical coursework, which is where you represent people in the community with legal problems that they have I found that I liked being on the ground with people trying to help with, you know, there could be big issues or small issues, but they were real life issues that they were facing. .
When I graduated trying to figure out what I wanted to do [00:04:00] next. I remember talking to my dad about it and he was like, you know, you could get a really high paying corporate job and try that to see whether maybe that makes you happy and, you know, I was pretty sure that wouldn't make me happy, but from his perspective, I could see it. You know, there were debts to be paid. And it became clear to me pretty fast that that just, wasn't what I liked and it wasn't what called to me.
[00:04:21] Shannon Russell: So you were doing law for big corporations.
[00:04:24] Reyna Gentin: A big commercial firm. Um, and it was, it was a great firm but I, I, you know, I would have stomach aches at night and I would say this is. This is my life here. you can't go around like this and so, I left there and I, I ended up going to Legal Aid, where I worked for the next 20 years. I did a lot of good work and it was very rewarding and very satisfying. So that's kind of how the journey started.
[00:04:50] Shannon Russell: So tell me about that. Tell me about what your role was at Legal Aid?
[00:04:54] Reyna Gentin: Legal aid, in the generic term is basically an organization that provides legal [00:05:00] services at either no or very low cost to people who can't afford otherwise to hire an attorney. So. When I first started working there, I worked in what they called the juvenile rights division as a law guardian to children who, were the subject of different kinds of legal proceedings, usually having to do with their parents, either abusing or neglecting them. Or there were other things too. there were juvenile delinquency proceedings. There were kids getting adopted. And I would be assigned to. Play the part in the court of representing their interest because they oftentimes would not themselves actually be in the courtroom. Um, but I would have to interview them and go through their paperwork and meet with their social workers and try to figure out what was in their best interests and, and represent what they, what they wanted. And often they wanted things that were not in their best interests. Often, most often they wanted to go home. Even if going home from a foster care situation was not in their best interest, but. That was the judge's role to [00:06:00] decide what, what actually to do. It was my role to give them a voice. I did that for three years and then I switched to representing adults and I represented them in criminal court on cases that were coming up on appeal cases, where they had lost their case at trial and these were felony cases.
[00:06:18] Shannon Russell: Wow.
[00:06:19] Reyna Gentin: you can imagine, you know, robbery, burglary, rape, murder, drugs, guns, everything across the board. They had already lost at trial and I was representing them on their appeals. In New York you have a right to one appeal. I was there for eight, 17 then plus years. It was, you know, it was draining work. It was extremely interesting., and very rewarding. I didn't have to really interact that much with the clientele. I know people are wondering, like, is she sitting in the room with a murderer? And the answer is no. Because their appeals had to be based on what had. In the trial level. So everything was basically done on their [00:07:00] papers. I didn't have to actually meet with them. I would talk to them on the phone or by letter, but they were in the position where nothing, they couldn't tell me anything new because I couldn't use anything new. Like they couldn't come in and say, By the way it was you know, my cousin, George, who actually robbed the person and not me, if that hadn't come out at trial, I couldn't use that information. So, we didn't take the time and the expense to meet with the clients in person. Also, they were often, very far upstate , um, doing their jail time. But even, so it was, it was a draining, emotional kind of position.
[00:07:32] Shannon Russell: How was working with adults different than working with the juvenile?
[00:07:36] Reyna Gentin: It was very different. I mean the juveniles I had them in my office. I was with them. And I also, I had a different way of approaching it because although I was there to be their voice, there was a lot of counseling involved. Right. Because, they don't know and they don't get it and, and nor should they right. Their, their kids, they shouldn't really understand a lot of what was going [00:08:00] on around them. , but it was part of my job to kind of gently explain why it wasn't the best idea to go home until their mom took an anger management class or explain that, you know, somebody had to be in drug treatment before they could go home. That was draining in a different way. The adults was different. It was a lot more legal, like there were just a lot more straightforward. Questions that I had to research and argue. I don't wanna say it wasn't about the individuals of course, it's always still about the individuals, but, but in a lot of ways, it wasn't. It was about what went on in that courtroom. And how does that comport with the constitution and how is that gonna affect this person?
[00:08:42] Shannon Russell: maybe it was a little bit less emotional because you weren't sitting here looking at this child who was begging you to go home, but you couldn't send her
[00:08:49] Reyna Gentin: Right. I mean, it was definitely less emotional in that way. On the other hand, you know, the stakes were very high. I mean, these guys are doing long prison terms and, you know, they, they [00:09:00] wanted a chance to either get out or make those shorter and that's a tough position to be in too. I mean, they put themselves in that position. Don't get me wrong. Most of them, except for the innocent ones, but but the ones who were guilty, you know?
[00:09:12] Shannon Russell: Yep, but you're giving them a voice. So I think that work, whether it's juveniles or adults, you were doing such amazing work on behalf of these people who really needed you encountered on you.
[00:09:23] Reyna Gentin: Yeah. It was really, I mean, it was really a privilege but it, it was also hard. It really was hard.
[00:09:28] Shannon Russell: I'm sure a lot of that. You brought home with you at the end of the night
[00:09:30] Reyna Gentin: You can't, you can't help, but you can't help. I always say like it was especially working with the kids at the time I was, I was newly married, but we didn't have children yet. And I think it would've been a very hard job for somebody with children. And of course there were people that did have children there colleagues, but you know, but it's hard, you know, it's hard. I mean, when you see what you see, go on there. And you actually understand what it would mean, you know, to have your children removed from you to ha you know, I didn't really [00:10:00] get it. Like, I, I didn't get it that much more than the kids got it. Honestly. so,
[00:10:04] Shannon Russell: right. You probably had maybe a clearer mind than an actual mother in that role because you're, you're looking at the legal ramifications of what went on and what you can actually do. So yeah, that would be very hard. I'm sure it would be hard to walk the straight line and know the proper way to do it when your emotions are getting involved.
[00:10:24] Reyna Gentin: I think so.
[00:10:25] Shannon Russell: So you have this amazing career helping and serving as a lawyer. And then what made you think about possibly leaving and trying something new?
[00:10:36] Reyna Gentin: I think like anybody else, there's a certain amount of burnout that goes on after time. And mine was kind of very specific in that, you know, I felt like when I was doing the work for the adults, I, I had to come up with. A story in my head for each one of them when I was representing them. And of course it was a legal story. There was a tremendous amount of legal work, but there [00:11:00] was also like you had to frame it in a certain way to try to convince the judges, to give this person a second chance. And, and it was really like telling a story, but it, but it's hard when you're doing that, when you don't have all the information and. And I was always very conscious of the fact that I didn't know. Like hardly anybody goes out and commits a terrible crime just on the spur of the moment. There's backstory. There's, there's something that went on in their own family and their upbringing in some circumstance they're going through. and, and we didn't ever really know any of that because that wasn't part of our job and there wasn't anything we could do about it. So, you know, if this guy went out and, you know, just like we're seeing all these horrible school shootings, whatever, like something is going on with those people doing that. Right. And they, you know, as much as their parents look lovely on the TV the next day and say, you know, I can't imagine what happened. [00:12:00] Something was going on there and. Red flags. Right. And, and I didn't know any of that stuff. And at some point that is really what contributed to the burnout. I was feeling like I couldn't tell the stories I needed to tell because I, I just didn't have the right information and.
So I, it, it, wasn't an easy decision to leave the job. , I had been there almost 18 years. it was a very good job as a mom. It was very flexible. I worked at home quite a bit without a problem. And they were very understanding about other obligations. So leaving the job was not an easy decision, but I just felt like. In that state of mind, eventually I was gonna, I was gonna mess up on something like I was gonna miss something or feel like I hadn't done as good a job as I wanted to do. And I didn't wanna get to that point. So I thought it was better off leaving before I got to a point where I felt like I had to leave.
[00:12:59] Shannon Russell: That's [00:13:00] smart. That's a big decision and really a lot of self-awareness on your part to, to realize
[00:13:05] Reyna Gentin: probably a lot clearer now. It's like seven years later. Like at the time, I'm not sure I was that clear, but, you know, but I definitely knew it was time to go. And I left again without really much of a sense of what I was gonna do, so I it was scary.
[00:13:19] Shannon Russell: Was your family supportive of you at that time? Cause that's a big decision and a big impact on your family.
[00:13:24] Reyna Gentin: They were very supportive. I mean, I've talked about this with a lot of women's groups and certainly if you're not in a position financially to take that plunge, then then maybe you can't and maybe your decisions are different or maybe you have to make sure you have something lined up before you leave. But luckily, you know, we were in a position where we could do that for time and they had seen me being unhappy for a number of years it had changed for me and nobody wants to see their family member unhappy if you can help it. So, you know, I think that they were actually cheering me on when I left.[00:14:00]
[00:14:00] Shannon Russell: What was that journey like, trying to figure it out. So now the next Monday comes around and you don't go into the office or you don't get on your computer. So what do you do?
[00:14:09] Reyna Gentin: You know what? It was, it was hard for me. And I'm sure this is true of many people. I, I really had built my identity around. What I did for a living. I was a criminal defense attorney. That's who I was and all of a sudden I wasn't anymore. And not only that, I had worked pretty part-time for a while. So I had been home also, but I wasn't part of the home network of women, even of my friends in that way that they were with each other, I didn't have things set up. Whatever they were doing with each other exercise or lunching or whatever it was that they were doing with each other I wasn't really a part of it. And it wasn't that they didn't welcome me, but it's hard to slot yourself in to something that you haven't been in for a long time. So I found it actually. Difficult. And also, as I said, I really, I [00:15:00] really didn't have a sense of what was next for me.
you know, My husband encouraged me also like sign up for some things, take some different classes, see what, you know, gives you some satisfaction. You don't have to make it like this is your new career. You know, it could be. Whatever. So like, I, I signed up for all sorts of things and they got me over the hump of all of a sudden being home. I signed up for piano lessons. I signed up for yoga classes. But like, none of them were like, this is what it's gonna be. Like, I'm gonna become a yoga. Expert or something like, it just wasn't, you know, they were great. They were fun. They got me outta the house.
[00:15:37] Shannon Russell: It helped you clear your head and kind of regroup and find yourself.
[00:15:40] Reyna Gentin: Right. Totally. But then actually what happened, which was still amazing to me is that I have a friend who, um, we were friends from my synagogue. We didn't, we hadn't ever worked together or anything like that. Um, and she said to me, I'm taking a writing class. At this local university and why don't you come with me? And I [00:16:00] said, you know, I don't really need to take writing class. I've been writing professionally for years and years now. She was like, no, you'll see, it's gonna be fun. And she said, it's a memoir class. And I was like, uh, no, yeah, definitely not going to the memoir class because in my head like memoirs, like. I don't know Hillary Clinton or I don't know whoever you like to read about, like, who's had a remarkable, expansive life traveling the world and doing huge things and she said, no, just, just come with me. And I ended up going with her and it totally changed my life. I'm not writing a memoir. I will probably never write a memoir. But I, I found that the class was not really like that. It was really about isolating moments in your life and relationships in your life and figuring out why they were important to you and how you could write about them. That would make them relatable to other people, I wrote quite a bit about my mother. She had passed away, not too long [00:17:00] before I was taking the class. And I really feel like I learned how to present my stories and memories in a way that, you know, she wasn't your mother, it's not gonna be the same, but you're gonna recognize it. You're gonna recognize the emotions and you're gonna recognize. The importance I stayed in the class for a whole year. That was 2014. So it's been whatever, eight years, I never stopped taking classes there. I try to take something every year and I never stopped writing after that. And, and it really changed my whole life.
[00:17:37] Shannon Russell: Had you ever written aside from your work as an attorney, did you ever write for fun or write poems with your kids or anything like that?
[00:17:46] Reyna Gentin: No, I really hadn't. I ended up, I took a lot of those small pieces and characters that I had written about and I, I thought, you know, I wonder if I could turn this into something longer and something different. [00:18:00] And that was actually the basis of my first novel. They tell you, you should write what you know. So I set it basically in the office that I had worked at , the protagonist, was a criminal defense attorney going through some stuff and it wasn't autobiographical, but it definitely, you know, that was the world that I could write about because it was the world. I. See with my eyes closed. Right., I understood everything about it and I understood how it all worked. And I created the story. In the story, the young woman falls in love with one of her clients. Okay. That never happened, but , but you know, it gave me a basis and it gave me a way to, to get into that world and to try to, you know, give it a shot and,
[00:18:43] Shannon Russell: So you wrote your first novel. How long did that it take you? From idea to, okay, this is done. I'm ready to put this out into the world.
[00:18:51] Reyna Gentin: It was about two years in the writing. But there's just a tremendous amount of other work that goes into it when you're trying to get something published [00:19:00] and. Trying to get an agent and trying to get a publisher and all these things and even once you have the publisher, there's another year of just copy editing and proofread and getting it all together. So I would say I started in 2015 and the first book came out in 2018.
[00:19:19] Shannon Russell: So tell us about that book. What is the title of that?
[00:19:21] Reyna Gentin: It's called Unreasonable Doubts. It's about a, a young prosecutor named Liana Cohen who has gone into This job for all the right idealistic reasons of saving the world and representing her clients and holding up the constitution and starts to get very burnt out. Then she gets assigned to a client who's been accused of a sexual assault and she thinks he's innocent and in the course of representing him, she starts to cross the boundaries between her professional and her personal interest in him.
[00:19:55] Shannon Russell: It sounds so good. Very juicy and how was that for you? Was [00:20:00] it just the process? Was it cathartic for you to kind of know you didn't have to go in the office every day. You didn't have to. Follow anyone else's timeline every day, you got to sit and be creative and create something tangible that other people can enjoy.
[00:20:15] Reyna Gentin: The whole process was amazing to me. It was cathartic first and foremost because I really was. Kind of channeling some of the issues I had had at work
[00:20:24] Shannon Russell: Mm-hmm
[00:20:24] Reyna Gentin: and even with some of the people I had had at work. So, you know, obviously all the incriminating, uh, identifying information has been changed,
[00:20:32] Shannon Russell: right.
[00:20:32] Reyna Gentin: you know, people that read it from my office you know, knew who was, who,
[00:20:36] Shannon Russell: must have been so fun for them to read it. Oh my gosh.
[00:20:40] Reyna Gentin: for them it was fun for me.
[00:20:41] Shannon Russell: Yeah.
[00:20:42] Reyna Gentin: So that was great. And then just getting it out into the world is like a crazy experience. Although I had never really done any writing like that before I always kind of had harbored this fantasy of writing a novel, like the kind of fantasy you have when you, you wake up and you realize you had a dream about it or something, but it's not like a conscious thing. [00:21:00] Like if you had told me I was gonna go to the moon, I would've said it was just as likely as me writing a novel. So when it actually came out, it was really exciting.
You know, You could go on Amazon, I mean, there are zillions of books, you didn't see my book on the best seller list. It wasn't like that. But you know what? I got my book out there and it was great. And I went on from there. I've had two more, since then, and it's been an amazing change for me. Not that practicing law wasn't great. But this is, it is like a second, a second chance.
[00:21:26] Shannon Russell: Tell us about your writing journey as you went on from there. So you have two other books that are.
[00:21:31] Reyna Gentin: I do. So, the second book, My Name is Layla, actually , is a book for middle grade,. For like eight to 12 year olds. and that also came out of a class that I took called, writing for youth. And I went in there. Without an idea for the book. And that actually made me very nervous because I thought, you know, I've, I've paid this money for the class. , I'm gonna go in there. I'm not gonna be productive but I'm a kind of person that really responds well to deadlines. If you tell me that I have something due, then I, I wanna get it done.
[00:21:59] Shannon Russell: [00:22:00] mm-hmm
[00:22:01] Reyna Gentin: Especially if I've paid for something,
[00:22:03] Shannon Russell: of course I hold you accountable. I'm like that.
[00:22:05] Reyna Gentin: I went in and I got this idea for this book. I can't even tell you exactly where it came from, but it's about a girl with undiagnosed dyslexia who, has a tremendous amount of stuff on her plate. She's being raised by a single mom. She has an older brother, but the dad has basically abandoned the family and she's falling through the cracks. She's, she's a great kid. She's a smart kid, but nobody is really focused on why she isn't doing well in school and then she gets assigned to an English teacher in the eighth grade and she impresses him and he realizes that there's, a lot of potential there and maybe there's something else going on. It was a fun book to write. It had a whole juvenile delinquency, element where she takes out her frustration in a really bad way, which had come from the work that I had done in, in family court. So that book came out in January of 2021.
[00:22:57] Shannon Russell: That's a really interesting motivating [00:23:00] factor to write for that character. And so your next book, is it coming out this year or is it already out.
[00:23:05] Reyna Gentin: No, it came out already, actually also in 2021. It just happened to be that they both came out the same year with different publishers and different timelines. The first book, unfortunately, My Name is Layla came out right in the middle of the pandemic and it's really a book that I would like to get into schools and into libraries. And it's been very, very difficult because the schools are hardly letting anybody from the outside.
[00:23:28] Shannon Russell: Oh, that's a shame. Hopefully you'll be able to get in there soon. Let's talk about your latest book.
[00:23:35] Reyna Gentin: The new book is called Both Are True and it actually, relates back a lot to my work in family court. The protagonist is a family court judge, a woman newly appointed. She doesn't really know that much about what goes on in family court. She's never been married. She doesn't have kids. She's kind of in that zone of. Understanding the law, but not really understanding how to approach these families. So that's kind [00:24:00] of that part of the story. And she falls for a guy who is a little less uptight, more spontaneous. But he has a habit of leaving. He has a habit of leaving when the going gets tough. So he leaves her actually right in the beginning of the book and we kinda watch watch their interactions over the course of a year and see where they end up. you know, it brought back a lot of great memories and stories about practicing and family court and, you know, what kind of cases would be there. So I had a lot. Input into his journey in the book as well.
[00:24:31] Shannon Russell: It's so interesting to me that you're really taking a lot from your first act and bringing it into your second act in a whole different way. Completely different.
[00:24:39] Reyna Gentin: right. It's been great. I have to admit, I'm working on something new that I'm hoping I can get away from that a little bit. The first act was great and you're right. It did, it did supply a lot of material for these books. But the new book I'm working on is, is hopefully not gonna have any law in it at all.
[00:24:56] Shannon Russell: You need a little break from the law, a real break. So tell me [00:25:00] about the book that you're currently working on.
[00:25:02] Reyna Gentin: I haven't gotten that far and I'm working on it very slowly. It's more of a mother daughter story. It's about a. Woman. Who's kind of been in the shadow of her, more well known mother, she's now 35 and she really has kind of had a little bit of a failure to launch. She feels like it's attributable to her mother. The idea came to me from that notion that, you know, people always make jokes about it, that like, all your problems stem from your relationship with your mother. And I had a wonderful relationship with my mother, but, I wondered whether, like, what would that be like to look at if that was actually the case? Like, what if, what if her problems really are due to her mother and you know, and not in some kind of abusive. Crazy way, just in a regular way, but a little more than regular. So that's kind of what it's about,
[00:25:48] Shannon Russell: I'm sure you're so excited to be able to really start concentrating on it.
[00:25:53] Reyna Gentin: I am.
[00:25:54] Shannon Russell: So if someone was thinking about going into writing, maybe trying to kind of follow what you did follow in your [00:26:00] footsteps, how hard is. To get a book published these days. Did you independently publish, did you go through a book agent?
[00:26:09] Reyna Gentin: I can only tell you what my experience was. And I. I do think it's hard. I've seen people, other people I know, do it with , I'll be honest, even much greater success. I've studied with people and then I see them all of a sudden, writing a book that really seems to take off and it's fantastic. And you know, I, I, myself wonder, like, how did they do that? Is, is their book much better than my book? I think one factor, which I probably downplayed when. Trying to do it myself is how much the social media platform can play a role. A Lot of these agents and publishers want to know that you have many, many people who will buy your book because they know you for other reasons , you have 10,000 followers and maybe they're actually [00:27:00] gonna buy your book when your book comes out. I just didn't have the patience or the or really the knowledge to know how to build up that kind of platform. I can definitely see where that makes a huge difference. , some of it is. Being who, you know, being introduced to somebody and not, and I don't mean that in any kind of bad way. It's, it's great. Like if you happen to know another author, who's willing to have you introduced to her agent. That's fantastic. I didn't really come from that world. If you told me I needed, you needed a lawyer, I could get you a lawyer, but, um, you know, but an agent not so much. So that's definitely like one factor. On the other hand, as I like to tell people, if you are determined to do this, there are so many ways to get your work out there. and I've done, I've done several different ways. Part, one of that answer is to get shorter things out there, right? I'm not talking about your novel. I'm talking about you wrote a short story or you wrote a personal essay. The internet is full. [00:28:00] Options of literary magazines of newspapers. There's just a zillion ways to get your work out there and to start building some kind of a brand for yourself. Once you get to the point of having a more finished work, there are again, many ways.
The first book I did. I ended up going with a hybrid publisher and a hybrid publisher is somebody who,, acts like a regular publisher. They vet the work, they do the cover, they do your layout. They, they do everything that you need done, but you do contribute to the expenses for it. And that's something that you have to get your head around for me, it took me a little while. But then I realized, you know, if I were starting a small business on my own and put in whatever it was $5,000, $7,000, no one would think twice. Right. They would say, wow, she's starting a small business. Good for her. But when people hear that you're doing a book and you're actually putting some money in it's [00:29:00] oh, no. Paid to publish da, da, da. It's just ridiculous. Honestly, it is just ridiculous. But you know, you have to be there in your own head. So I did that for the first book and then the other two books, I did get small publishers to pick up the books and you know, that was really nice for me. I didn't have to put in any money. I didn't have to think that I was putting in any money. On the other hand, they don't have the level of distribution that my first publisher did. My first publisher has a sales force. They were going out into bookstores. They were getting the book out there in a way that these small publishers, it was all up to me to promote. So, you know, it's just different ways of going about it. But I guess my biggest message would just be don't don't feel like there's only one way people will tell you the only way is to get an agent and have them sell your book to a major publisher. And yes. Is that wonderful? Of course I would give my it teeth for that, of course. But you know what? I'm 56 when I gonna wait around until I'm 70 to get my first book [00:30:00] out because I haven't gotten an agent yet. To me, it's silly.
[00:30:03] Shannon Russell: And you did it, you did it on your own, and that has to make you feel so proud. You didn't wait, you got it out there and you're learning the different ways. And who knows, somebody could come knocking on your door for this next one. It's, it's the experience.
[00:30:16] Reyna Gentin: and it's a huge learning experience, you know? You make all sorts of mistakes, but , I've learned a whole different world and I've met all sorts of people and, you know, it's, it's really different.
[00:30:27] Shannon Russell: so you were 50 when you left law to go into being a writer, some people want to make a change and they're so afraid. They think that they've passed the time where they can do that. What would you say to those people who are hesitant? Maybe in their late forties, early fifties or older?
[00:30:44] Reyna Gentin: you have to evaluate your own state of mind. Right? You don't wanna do anything. That's gonna throw you over an edge because you've made some huge change, but on the other hand, it can be incredibly liberating and., there's all sorts of moments where I still say to myself, like, oh, not, not did I do [00:31:00] the right thing? Cuz I definitely feel like I did the right thing for me. But there'll be times where there's gaps in what I'm working on or I'm not so enthusiastic about something I'm writing. And then I say, oh, , maybe I should go get a legal job again. No decision is forever. You know, you have to judge each day as it comes. To me, I'm, I'm very glad I made the move because it wasn't, it just wasn't working for me anymore. And how, how long are you gonna stay in something that's not working for you? You never know what's around the corner in your life and what could go on and you better get out there. And live it.
[00:31:33] Shannon Russell: And you don't know how long you have it's one life to make yourself happy. I know you had said that your mother had passed away. Was it shortly before your first book?
[00:31:41] Reyna Gentin: Yeah. She passed away in 2010.
[00:31:44] Shannon Russell: so what would she have said to know that you were making this change and becoming a writer?
[00:31:50] Reyna Gentin: I think she would've been amazed. I mean, honestly a lot of the promotion and things like that is hard for me. I'm the kind of person you imagine writes novels, right? Like I like [00:32:00] to sit at my computer in the quiet and and not have anyone bother me. Getting a book out there, you have to be out there. So I think that was really one of the biggest changes was me realizing that like, I have to meet people. If I wanna do this, I have to make a writing community. You know, for me, it's hard. And. I think that's maybe the aspect of it. My mother would've been most surprised at not, not the part that I could write or that I could think of a story. I think she would've thought, okay, that's within my capabilities, but you know, the getting out there and trying to sell things, I think she would've been like, wow, that's, that's crazy.
[00:32:34] Shannon Russell: Yeah, she'd be proud of you.
[00:32:35] Reyna Gentin: I hope so.
[00:32:36] Shannon Russell: In your first job in law, you felt just unhappy and just wanting a change and it wasn't filling you up anymore. And now you might be a little uncomfortable in the things that you have to do to promote your work, but you're doing work that you love. You'd rather feel the uncomfortableness of having to be a little bit more social and promote than, than kind of feeling a little blah and stuck in the mundane [00:33:00] of law
[00:33:00] Reyna Gentin: Everything has pros and cons. There's no, , there's no way around that, but for me, it's a creative outlet that I, I didn't realize I was missing until I started doing it. I think that's true of a lot of people there are people obviously that were always creative and were always doing things like that, but I wasn't like that. And until I tried it, I didn't, I didn't know what I was missing, so
[00:33:21] Shannon Russell: Aw. When you were thinking about making the change to something new, were people saying, why would you leave this amazing law career to just find yourself?
[00:33:31] Reyna Gentin: I wouldn't say they were loud naysayers. I have two older sisters who are doctors and they have had, very important careers and, and more regimented careers. They were both kind of impressed and excited about my first career and, and they have been supportive now of this, but I think when I was leaving. They were worried. I think they were worried out of love. I don't think that they were like, you can't do something different or [00:34:00] you have to be a lawyer cuz you chose being a lawyer. I think that they were what they were thinking was like, what,, what are you doing? Like you've, , you've put in a lot of time and effort into this. And not be able to land somewhere. And I think, I think it's worth listening to the naysayers just to understand where they're coming from. And, and maybe there are adjustments you can make to what you're doing that will address some of, if they have valid concerns. If there are people that are close to you, I think it's worth listening, but you can't base your decisions on somebody else.
[00:34:33] Shannon Russell: No. If, if what they're saying to you is enough to sway you, then that's legit. That's something. But if not, now you can say, look, I've got three books under my belt and I'm working on my fourth and I'm sure they are just so in love with the fact that you followed your path.
[00:34:49] Reyna Gentin: I think they're excited about.
[00:34:50] Shannon Russell: What is the common thread between your first act and your second act? You know, like you're taking some of your experience in law and putting it into your writing, but are there [00:35:00] any other, skills that kind of overlap.
[00:35:02] Reyna Gentin: I actually think there were a lot of skills that overlap that I, I wasn't really expecting. one thing was that being a lawyer, it takes a lot of discipline. It's not like a job that you do kind of on the fly . And I, I think that has translated well into my writing. , I don't sit here and make a word count and say, I have to be at this place at this time of the day, but I do try to sit down every day and, really try to be disciplined about doing that. And the other thing is that my job representing the adults taught me that you have to look at things from all different angles and, and that's been really important with my writing. You know, you can write a story about a character, but if you don't try to see the character from the points of view of the other characters, you're not gonna get it right. They're just gonna be very flat. So I think that skill of trying to look at things from different angles is really important. The last one would be that and the law, like language is really, really important. Like if you change one word [00:36:00] in a contract or in the constitution or in an oath that you take or whatever it is like that one word can make. Amazing amount of difference, um, into how something is interpreted and that's definitely true with the writing as well. Sometimes I write something and I don't even realize that I've used a word that's. Conjuring up something that I don't mean. And then somebody else will read it and they'll be like, did you mean to use that word? Cuz that's making me feel X and I'll be like, oh God, I didn't want you to feel X. Language matters. You can't be casual about it because it makes a difference to how somebody reads what you've.
[00:36:36] Shannon Russell: Those are really interesting overlaps, I guess, between the two. I love that. And what does the next act look like for you?
[00:36:43] Reyna Gentin: Part of the next act I hope is that to spend some more time with my husband traveling and doing things that we can do now that our kids are grown. our daughter lives abroad, and we hope to spend more time where she is and, just kind of trying to loosen up a little and not feel so tied to my house.
[00:36:59] Shannon Russell: [00:37:00] And you know what your job now allows you the freedom to do that.
[00:37:03] Reyna Gentin: Yeah, it does.
[00:37:05] Shannon Russell: Wouldn't have been able to do that in, in law. So I that's another huge plus to being a writer, being an author
[00:37:12] Reyna Gentin: it's transportable.
[00:37:14] Shannon Russell: so where can our audience connect with you? Where can our audience find these books and, and read them?
[00:37:20] Reyna Gentin: I would love if you visited my website it's , Reynamardergentin.com. On there you have all information about all my books. Also there's other stuff there's, short stories I've written and published there's essays that I've had published. There's just a lot of material on there and email, if you want to be in contact,
[00:37:39] Shannon Russell: Well, I wish you the best of luck on this next novel and on your traveling and everything that you're pursuing in your second act Reyna. It's been so wonderful to chat with you.
[00:37:49] Reyna Gentin: Thank you so much. Been lovely to be.
[00:37:51] Shannon Russell: Reyna has had so much success in her law career. It's no wonder she has found success in her writing as well. People always say, Write what you [00:38:00] know, and it seems like this is a great piece of advice in this situation.
When Reyna began writing, she drew on her personal experience from her law office and her coworkers. Then as she worked on her next novels, she had the confidence to branch out into other topics. That's a great takeaway for any aspiring authors listening right now. Start by writing what you know. Even if it's a short story or a published blog, it will give you the experience putting pen to paper and the confidence to keep being creative with your writing. To follow Reyna journey some more, go to reynamardergentin.com and I will list all of the links in the show notes as well. Thank you for hanging out with me today and I look forward to chatting with you again next time.
Thank you for joining us. I hope you found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to Second Act Success. To view show notes from this episode, visit secondactsuccess.co. Before you go, don't [00:39:00] forget to subscribe to the podcast. So you don't miss a single episode. Reviews only take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listening. I am Shannon Russell, and this is Second Act Success.