Here’s what Lainey Cameron had to say about her debut novel, The Exit Strategy, releasing on July 8th, 2020 and to writers over 40!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your published book (s).
Hi, I’m Lainey Cameron and I’m thrilled that my debut novel, The Exit Strategy, releases on July 8th. It’s best described as a mix of Silicon Valley, sexism, and the power of female friendship. The story revolves around the story of two career women, placed in an impossible situation.
Silicon Valley investor Ryn Brennan is on the verge of achieving everything she wanted. She’s proven herself in the male-dominated venture capital world, has the support of her successful husband, and is about to close the deal of her career. Everything is going exactly as planned, until she meets Carly, her husband’s mistress, across the negotiating table.
Carly, meanwhile, is a single mom who clawed her way back from being a teenage runaway to become an accomplished scientist, and co-founder of her startup. So she’s blindsided to discover her not so perfect fiancé, is already married—to Ryn, her company’s biggest investor.
Has your writing incorporated certain aspects of your own life or others?
Absolutely! I’m a recovering tech industry executive, who worked for twenty years in Silicon Valley, and this book was inspired by my personal experience of not-so-subtle sexism and being the only woman in the board room (and often the one in charge).
Pair that with going through my own divorce and re-invention in the last decade, and you have my inspiration. I placed my characters in a scenario where the stereotypes would say they’d be their own worst enemies, fighting over the guy who dumped them there.
The question I wanted to pose is what would it take for us as women, when plunged into that type of dilemma, to rise above it and still work collaboratively?
Tell us about the genre you like to write, and how is it different from other women’s fiction genres?
When I started looking for a publisher for The Exit Strategy, several agents and one publisher told me they didn’t see a readership for a women’s fiction novel set in the workplace, which made me laugh, and then actually want to cry.
As women, most of us spend more than half our lives at work. So are we seriously saying that books about women’s lives can only be about motherhood or romance? To me that just didn’t seem right, so I was thrilled when several smaller publishers made offers for this book.
For me to see that early readers are enjoying it (so far I’ve heard the book called “timely and provocative”, a “page-turner”, and “unputdownable”), has warmed my soul. That was a lesson for me about not taking no for an answer!
What are some of the biggest challenges authors of older protagonists face today?
I think we’ve fallen into some clichés about the types of older characters that readers appreciate, and that leads to repeats of certain popular storylines. For example, a spurned woman leaves city, opens a bed-and-breakfast (or other small craft style business), often in the country, and redefines herself, her value, and love for life.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with those types of women’s fiction novels (I love them!), but there is room for more diversity in women’s stories being published; both in types of story, and in ethnicities and backgrounds of the authors.
Specific to this book, with Ryn my principal character being a ‘career woman’, I had to work hard on making her relatable. Several early beta readers found her too hardened (which you must become to survive in the testosterone-rich venture capital world I’ve placed her in). I ignored the suggestions that the only way to ‘soften her’ and make her relatable was for her to have kids.
Instead, I gave Ryn a cat called Fergus, and focused on the universality of her situation. Specially, that day when you wake up on a Tuesday morning, expecting it to be another regular day of striving, and instead your life disintegrates around you. I’m actually very much inspired by those ‘horror of a heartbeat’ situations, and quite how strong we as women can be in reinventing themselves. Often much stronger than we assumed before this type of moment hits us sideways.
Does your book carry a message?
I’d like to think so. One of my goals was to show the power of female friendship and how with collaboration, specifically teaming with other women, we can attack the harder challenges of life.
Often we feel like we have to succeed by ourselves, but most worthwhile endeavors are a team effort, and the best teams are full of amazing women. That’s what I’ve learned more than ever on my authoring journey in the last five years. Women authors are the most supportive of each other!
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve met many writers who answer this with “I’ve known since I was six years old”, and although I could point back to that award winning (and somewhat dark and scary) poem about death that I wrote in elementary school, the honest answer is only in my 40s did I realize I had something important to say and I wanted to invest the effort and work out how best to say it.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer?
Other than writing, I don’t have a full time day job right now. I had such a high intensity career in tech (think 80-hour weeks and two million airline miles – no joke!), that I knew if I didn’t pause and let myself write this novel, it would never be completed.
Saying that, I have an incredibly full life. I help other authors with their marketing, I’m an active volunteer and past VP of Programs for Women’s Fiction Writers Association (which I couldn’t recommend more if you are considering writing in this genre). And besides writing and helping other authors, I produce a weekly TV show for Instagram called The Best of Women’s Fiction, where I interview some of the best and most interesting authors in the genre.
One impact of not holding another job is that my new hubby and I can no longer afford to live full time in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a result, until the pandemic hit, we had adopted a joyful life of being digital nomads, picking locations around the world to work and write. This novel was written in France, Mexico, the UK, Cartagena in Colombia, and in an RV in multiple states across the Western USA!
Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
You’ll likely not be surprised to hear that I love women’s fiction. Among the best-sellers, I’m a huge Camille Pagán and Kerry Londsale fan. Camille takes deeper topics and through her loveable heroines helps us see how even the worst situations can be survived with the addition of a little humor. Kerry writes page turners and her storytelling gets you completely absorbed.
But I’d love to highlight a few new authors this year. Alison Hammer is one of the most skilled writers of the upcoming generation of women’s fiction writers. Her novel, You and Me and Us is one of my favorite books in years. Samantha Verant is based in France and her novel, The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is magical. Who wouldn’t want to be whisked away to a chateau, surrounded by dragonflies and amazing French food? AnitaKushwaha’s novel, Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters, is a poignant and captivating family saga, set within multiple generations of an Indian-Canadian family.
I’m especially impressed with authors who are widening the lens on what can fall within the category. New authors like CatherineAdel West with her novel Saving Ruby King, Ava Homa, author of Daughters of Smoke and Fire, the first Kurdish female novelist writing in English and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai whose novel The Mountains Sing, is a poetic multi-generational story of women, from the Vietnamese perspective.
Any advice you’d like to give for aspiring writers over 40?
Oh my, so much! Let’s start with the term aspiring. I wrote a whole blog post about this, but imposter syndrome is real, especially among successful women, and I’m a believer that we should strike the term aspiring from our vocabulary. We don’t use ‘aspiring’ to describe other professions, just because we are in learning mode. As far as I’m concerned if you write, you’re a writer.
Relative to age barriers, it sounds like such a cliché to say age is irrelevant, especially when I’ve read tweets from writers on the cusp of thirty, asking if they’re too old for a writing career (huge eye roll!). I will first be published at 47-years-old, and for context, since I turned forty I’ve divorced, quit my tech career, left home, become a digital nomad and traveled the world, met my new husband, and spent four full years learning the craft of writing and finishing my first novel. All just to say that thirty-something me would have imagined none of that!
In my early forties I also tried sprint distance triathlons and guess what I observed? Setting aside the Iron Man type competitions (which are their own beast), for women, the best times in local triathlons were consistently achieved by competitors in their forties and beyond, because the single most important element in training isn’t youth, but persistence and resilience. We often hear the word stamina used to summarize the net result.
Writing a book is exactly the same. The single most important attribute in becoming and staying a published author is stamina. If you can source that inner strength, then you can take the time needed to learn the craft skills, and you’ll stick with it through the inevitable learning curve and rejections (I was told no by 135+ agents before I received several direct publisher offers for this novel, which is now getting rave reviews!).
And doesn’t persistence come easier with a little more age and maturity? If you’ve got a story in you, it is NEVER too late to tell it.
Last question, any advice you’d like to give to your younger self?
You’re stronger than you think you are.
Connect with Lainey Cameron here:
Follow Lainey on BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lainey-cameron
The Exit Strategy on Amazon, Barnes& Noble, Indiebound
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