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One Crazy Writing Journey: Sulari Gentill, from welder to writer

March 20, 2018

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill set out to study astrophysics, ended up graduating in law, and later abandoned her legal studies to write books instead of contracts. Sulari is the author of the award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, a series of historical crime novels set in the 1930s about Rowland Sinclair, the gentlemen artist-cum-amateur detective.

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Words || Sulari Gentill 

I began writing on a whim, with no idea what I was doing, just with the feeling that I should be doing something more.

My background is in the legal profession. I worked in the corporate sector for large public utilities and, to be honest, I thought I quite liked being a lawyer. Still, I was haunted by the feeling that there was something else I needed to do. The law does seem to be one of those vocations that attracts natural wordsmiths, then sends them slowly and quietly insane.

I fought the call to madness by becoming a serial hobbyist. I’d take on a new hobby, practise it obsessively for a while, then become interested in something else and move on. I’ve quilted and cross-stitched, painted, sculpted, made porcelain dolls and gardened on a grand scale. I can weld, make stained-glass windows and decorate cakes. I can even pregnancy test your cows. And all the while, I negotiated and wrote contracts, analysed legislation, and ran cases.

Writing started out in much the same way. I’d finished the welding course and I was looking for something else to make the intricacies of corporations law bearable. I’d always had a particular penchant for scenario and contingency planning, and an uncanny ability to predict how the criminally inclined might exploit corporate policies and procedures. I suppose that should have been a clue as to where I’d end up. But at the time it didn’t occur to me that the elaborate plots I was pre-empting were anything more than good proactive corporate lawyering. And so, I thought I’d write a novel.

Of course, I hadn’t written anything apart from contracts for years, and I really had no idea how to write a novel. But it seemed the law was at least a good apprenticeship for writing fiction, because soon this hobby, unlike any other, felt as natural as breathing, the thought of stopping just as dire.

How I became a published writer was probably the result of naivety, persistence and good luck. I’d read somewhere that the first step to publication was to secure an agent, and consequently, over the course of about six months, I submitted to every literary agent in Australia and New Zealand, and one or two in the US, and was politely rejected by them all. So I started submitting directly to publishers. The response was much more enthusiastic. It seemed the stars had aligned for me and I had written the kind of book that publishers wanted at that time. I chose Pantera Press for many reasons, not the least of which because they had the same vision for the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries as I did.

How I’ve remained a writer is probably the simplest part of this question to answer: I don’t think I can stop. So that’s how I became a writer. I can still weld, but I don’t feel the need to do so anymore.

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  1. Shelley Hansen

    I simply love the Rowland Sinclair series and am currently reading them through from the start for the second time, noticing more detail without having the need to hurry to the next event. As a writer of poetry myself, I really admire the literary craftsmanship of these novels. At times the writing appears deceptively simple, but in reality it is simply uncluttered. Looking forward to the next episode … and if any books are going to inspire me on my own writing journey, these will!

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