Reyna’s Blog Posts & Interviews

How I Became  Novelist

Reyna Gentin | December 5, 2018 Columnists

If you’ve ever entertained the notion of pursuing something creative — singing, acting, painting — you’ve likely heard this well-intentioned advice: “Don’t quit your day job.”

Despite appearances to the contrary, I didn’t quit my day job as an attorney to write a novel. Quite the opposite. Years of working as a public defender, representing men and women in their lowest moments, their freedom on the line, built up a wealth of material in me that could no longer be confined to a legal brief. I became a novelist not to escape being a lawyer but because being a lawyer demanded that I become a novelist.

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Unreasonable Doubts: An Interview With Reyna Marder Gentin, Appellate Attorney Turned Novelist.  This debut novel is a great read that also touches upon important themes. 
By David Lat 

. . . I have a recommendation that can help on both fronts: Unreasonable Doubts, the wonderful debut novel of Reyna Marder Gentin, my fellow Yale Law School graduate turned lawyer turned author. It’s a legal thriller with substance, a page-turner that will trigger introspection and reflection — and that also makes a great Hanukkah or Christmas or holiday gift for the lawyer, law student, or lover of good books in your life.

I recently interviewed Reyna about Unreasonable Doubts and her legal and literary careers. Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) account of our conversation.

To Read Full Interview, click here.


November 17, 2018 Book Launch • Scarsdale, New York

Happy ♥ Ever ♥ After
November 13, 2018

Joyce: Welcome to HEA, Reyna! Please tell us about your new release, Unreasonable Doubts.

Reyna: Unreasonable Doubts, my debut novel, is equal parts legal thriller and love story. Liana Cohen is an Ivy League-trained attorney handling felony appeals in the New York City public defender’s office. Her devoted boyfriend, Jakob Weiss, is a rising star at a corporate law firm and ready for marriage. It all seems perfect, but something isn’t right. Liana’s knowledge that most of her clients have committed violent crimes increasingly weighs on her. And despite their love, Liana questions her future with Jakob.

To read full interview, click on logo below.

Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb
November 13, 2018

How did you come up with the idea for Unreasonable Doubts, and for your character Liana?

When the novel opens, Liana is a young attorney working in a public defender’s office struggling to balance her idealism with the realities of the hardened criminals she represents. 

I worked as a criminal defense attorney in New York City for almost 20 years, and the legal aspects of the novel were inspired by cases that I handled. Liana’s commitment to the work coupled with her profound questioning of her role was emblematic of many of my colleagues and myself at some point in our careers. 

To read full interview, click here.

Telling a story
November 6, 2018

Criminal defense attorneys get a bad rap from their colleagues within the legal profession and from the general public. The perception is that they represent the lowest of the low and are continually on the lookout for that “technicality” that will allow their clients to walk free even when guilty of the most heinous crimes.

There is certainly some validity to this very oversimplified view. Any practitioner worth her salt is searching for an effective way to benefit her client’s interest, even down to the tiniest violation of his rights. But there is another aspect of being a criminal defense attorney that intrigues me, as a former defense attorney turned writer, that is often overlooked.

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Linda’s Book Bag
November 13, 2018

What can we expect from an evening in with Unreasonable Doubts?

When the story opens, Liana is a talented young attorney working in the appeals bureau of the Public Defender’s Office in New York City representing defendants who don’t have the money for private counsel. Although she has taken the job out of a deep sense of idealism, Liana’s experience representing those convicted of the most ghastly crimes has taken a toll on her, and she is having doubts about her career choice. Her uncertainties have spilled over to her personal life, where she has become distanced from her corporate lawyer boyfriend Jakob. Liana finds herself questioning whether she can commit to Jakob, who is ready to get married and looking for an equal partner in the relationship.

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Reyna’s Operation Awesome
Debut Author Spotlight & Emerging First Book
October 31, 2018

1- How’s next season looking for the New York Mets, in your opinion?
As a true Mets fan, I will tell you that the Mets will undoubtedly win the World Series in 2019. But more honestly, they have a lot of talent and you never know how far it will take them if their players can stay off the disabled list.

2- How often have people said you look like actress Justine Bateman?

Gotta find more fans of Family Ties or Men Behaving Badly.

3- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip? 
Never let anyone tell you that you need to learn how before you write. Get feedback and take it to heart, especially about voice and tone and pacing, but be your own final judge and best advocate.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?
I have always loved to write, from my high school days on the newspaper to philosophy essays in college to my appellate briefs. But what really got my pulse racing was the first time a creative piece – a non-fiction personal essay about my mom – got published on the Internet. Being able to share with readers and interact made all the difference.

To read the full interview, click logo below.

Book Club Babble Interview
October 30, 2018

Liana Cohen seems to have it all: a meaningful job as a public defender, great friends, and a loving boyfriend—but as she approaches her thirtieth birthday, she feels lost. Once an idealistic lawyer, she’s become jaded, having lost faith in herself and the system.

When Liana’s assigned to represent the charismatic Danny Shea, she may have found the client she can truly believe in—someone who can reinvigorate her passion for her work. As Liana gets to know Danny, their unique attorney-client relationship forces her to confront fundamental questions about truth, faith, and love.

To read full interview, click on logo below.

When Writing Fiction Can Help Us Understand Reality
October 19, 2018

It’s an oft-quoted adage: “Write what you know.” So it comes as no surprise that first novels are often largely autobiographical. What do writers know better than our loved ones, our neighborhoods, our careers? I don’t flinch when people ask me whether Liana, the protagonist in my debut novel, Unreasonable Doubts, is really “me.” Of course, in many ways, she is. We’re both women who grew up on Long Island with a reverence for Jewish tradition and a love of the New York Mets. We’re both lawyers. And Liana and I are attracted to many of the same qualities in a partner—intelligence, loyalty, and a devotion to music of the 1960’s and ‘70s—although Liana’s life veers off in a way mine, thankfully, never did!


To listen to full podcast from October 18, 2018
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Reyna interviewed by Sandra Fluck
August 24, 2018

Sandra: A legal theme runs through your debut novel Unreasonable Doubts. What is it about?

Reyna: Unreasonable Doubts is the story of Liana Cohen, a young attorney who after several years working as an appellate public defender has lost the ability to find that thread of redemptive humanity in her clients that she needs to represent them with the passion she once had. Her doubts about her career choices have spilled over into her personal life, contributing to a strain in her relationship with her longtime boyfriend. Everything changes when Liana is assigned to represent Danny Shea, a man convicted of a terrible crime who she believes is innocent. Danny gives Liana a renewed sense of hope, but he also turns her world upside down!

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August 10, 2018:
From Elizabeth Spann Craig’s A Community of Writers

A Community of Writers

November 29, 2017:
“Why I Write” : From Patricia Dunn’s Writer’s Blog

On the Difference Between Remembering and Creating originally published online at Mothers Always Write

It may be stating the obvious, but when you write memoir, you become a slave to your recollections. The story you’re telling isn’t necessarily “true” in any empirical sense. It’s true only in that it’s how you remember what you and others did or said at some specific moment in time. And it’s likely only part of a larger narrative – the part with which you happen to be familiar.   Although you are free to interpret the actions or the emotions of the players, you don’t, when writing memoir, fundamentally change their behavior or how they expressed themselves. When you inevitably ask yourself — “wouldn’t it be so much more dramatic if, instead of opening the letter at that moment, alone in the room, he hesitated and opened it in front of his wife?“ — the answer may be an emphatic “yes, it would be more exciting or consequential.” But that isn’t the way it happened, and you can’t write it that way.

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