From Writing Code to Writing Books

For Rene Natan, the one that got away wasn’t a lost love. It was writing

Natan made her career in computer science back in the days when computers could fill a table and a notebook was still a ring-bound leaf of paper. Coming of age in Italy just after World War II, Natan bucked the trend. Instead of getting a job after high school or just trying to find a man to marry, her parents suggested she find a career in science or technology. She wound up going to college and emerged as one of the first crop of computer programmers. She worked on one of the very first computers, and wound up working for IBM. After a few years, she was headhunted by a Canadian university where she helped establish that country’s first undergraduate program in computer science. That’s where she spent the next 32 years until her retirement in 2000. Soon after, her husband passed away, leaving her to grieve and eventually ponder the question, “Now what?”

To answer that question, all she had to do was look within herself to see what other passions in her life were lurking beneath the surface. It’s different for everyone, but when she looked, she found writing.

“When we’re young, we think we have a plan for our lives, and we pursue that plan, but we forget to think about what happens after we’re finished,” said Natan, author of eight books, including her recent thriller The Blackbox Threat ( “I found myself alone with quite a bit of time on my hands and I felt a pull toward my other passion: writing. So I took six online courses and then decided to venture into the field on my own. It’s not that I threw my hands in the air and said, ‘Why not?’ It’s that I knew there was more left inside me and I was determined to find an outlet that was driven by passion, and not just boredom.”

Passion is the key to reinventing yourself, according to Natan.

“So many people find themselves at the crossroads in their lives and they set their sights too low,” she said. “It may be after retirement, or even decades before, but whenever it happens, we should reach for the stars. Instead of just trying to stave off boredom, we should be aiming for finding something that fulfills us, that gets us up in the morning and keeps us up late at night. If we’re not living every minute that we’re breathing, we’re just wasting time and air.”

While many people may think of writing as a solitary pursuit, Natan uses it as a way to reach out to friends she never knew she had.

“What really gratifies me is when I hear from my readers,” she said. “When they are moved to write to me because of something I wrote, it’s like I’ve found a remote friend, somebody who vibrates at the same wavelength. With the Internet as pervasive as it is today, it’s so much easier for writers and readers to connect and share their mutual literary passions. Coming from my life in the computer sciences, this whole phenomenon is something I could never have dreamed of without actually living it.”

Rene Natan is a retired computer scientist and college professor of 32 years who is now the author of 8 books and a variety of short stories. Her message is that people should always live their lives through their passions, and never stop reinventing themselves.