CU Boulder staffer and alum embraces avocation as a writer in later life.
Cynthia Clark’s first novel circled endlessly in her head for a couple of decades before she finally decided it was time to set it free.
“When I got the guts to sit down and write it, I discovered that I was visualizing it like a movie. While typing I could see characters blink their eyes, turn their heads or reach down,” says Clark, education program assistant in the Department of Linguistics at her alma mater, the University of Colorado Boulder.
Clark (Econ’82; Law’85) self-published that long-pent-up romantic-suspense novel, Boulder Girl, Remember Me When the Moon Hangs Low, with Parker-based Outskirts Press in December 2019. Set in the shadow of Boulder’s iconic Flatirons, it tells the story of recently divorced Lana Ross, who hires an old high-school acquaintance, Leon, to help her change the locks and set up a security system, only to discover that he has long had an unhealthy, dangerous obsession with her. When Lana begins traveling around Colorado with her new, Harley-Davidson riding companion, Vincent “Roadking” Romano, Leon’s jealousy pushes him toward violence.
A year later, Clark published her second novel, Dirt Road Main Street, which turns on a road romance between rock musician Tano and a hitchhiker named Holly.
“I’m really a music fan, especially of classic rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Clark says, citing the Eagles, former Coloradan Joe Walsh and Barnstorm and Firefall, the most successful band to emerge from the Boulder music scene.
“So, a music thread runs through both my novels. At the end of the first novel, the main character says—much like me—that her life has been accompanied by a soundtrack, and all the way through the book, songs pop up.”
And in July, she published her first children’s book, Max Goes to Town, with help from the online company Blueberry Illustrations. A true story, the book tells the story of a cat who decided to hitch a ride with the Clark family from their rural property in Hygiene to town one day. When they emerged from a restaurant, they were surprised to see him twitching his tail while patiently awaiting their return on the hood of their pickup truck.
“The story really happened. Max had tried to go into town with us way more than twice,” she says. “People say that cats hate going in the car; well, this one didn’t!”
In contrast to the long-gestating first novel—which took three years to write—and second—one and a half years—Clark wrote Max’s, in verse, in just a half an hour.
“Max was kind of a fill-in after I wrote the second novel and started the sequel to the first, which I’ve just finished,” she says. “But I decided I really love doing children’s books, too.”
She is now preparing her second kids’ book, Wilbur and the Watering Can, another true story, this time with a toad in the starring role. In addition, the sequel to her first novel is in the editing process, she’s begun writing a sequel to the second, and ideas for kids’ books are constantly percolating in her mind.
“While I’m driving, I’m always thinking, ‘What if this happened, or that happened,’” she says. “I love, love writing and can’t seem to quit. I never have writer’s block. I only regret not taking a chance on it 10 or 15 years earlier.”
Clark made a conscious decision to pursue self-publishing rather than go through the long and sometimes arduous process of trying to find a traditional publisher. She relies on Amber Byers of Lafayette-based Tadpole Press for copy editing, to ensure that her books reach the reading audience in the best possible shape.
“I just wanted the story to be told. I didn’t want to mess around, waiting for six months to hear ‘yes,’ ‘no’ or nothing at all,” she says. “Publishers are really taking a chance on novice authors, and reluctant to risk the cost of a print book. If I’d gone that way, I could still be waiting on that first novel, and I wouldn’t have written the second, or Max.”
Clark is a life-long resident of Boulder County and fourth-generation Coloradan. She graduated from Longmont High School and later earned a BA in economics and JD degree from CU Boulder. She practiced law before retiring to raise a family in Hygiene—where her husband grew up.
She returned to work on campus in 2007, after attending a talk at Wolf Law by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer a few months before.
“I remembered how much I like (campus) and realized that I wanted to come back,” she says.
Now, being on campus continually inspires her writing.
“I love being back at CU and seeing the Flatirons through the window every single day. It felt like home to come back here,” she says. “And I feed off the energy of students. I think my novels have a youthful bent to them; (students) inspire and influence my writing.”