We are delighted to welcome Paula Martin to the blog today. She lives in the North West and enjoyed some early publishing success with short stories and four novels, but then had a break from fiction writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after taking early retirement. So do tell us, Paula, what made you want to write and how you got your first break.
I’ve always written stories, from being about 7 or 8. By the time I was in my teens, I was writing romances, usually in instalments, for my friends to read. I wrote my first full-length novel when I was in my early 20’s (it was actually an amalgam of several stories I’d written in my teens). At the time I was hooked on reading romance novels, and decided my story was as good as (if not better!) than some I read. So I typed out the manuscript (this was in the 1960’s) and sent it off to Mills and Boon, the only romance publisher I knew of. I fully expected it to come winging back by return of post, but six weeks later I had a letter (signed by Alan Boon himself) accepting the novel and with a contract for two more. So – first novel accepted by first publisher – how lucky was that? I had two more novels published by M&B, and another one about ten years later by Robert Hale. Then my teaching career and family took precedence and I didn’t return to fiction writing until about 5 years ago. Since then, I’ve had three romances accepted by Whiskey Creek Press.
A tantalising start, but I know from my own experience that life can get in the way at times. So what do you enjoy most about being a writer? And which is the hardest part of the job for you?
I love the times when the characters come alive and start to run with their story. Often they tell me something that’s very different from what I’d originally had in mind, and usually it’s much better! It’s a real ‘Yess!’ moment when you realise they’ve become real people in your head. At the same time, the first draft is very much the hardest to do and takes me the longest time, as I do tend to agonise over sentences and words.
However, while taking part in the National Novel Writing Month last November (with the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month), I realised I could actually turn off the ‘inner editor’ while I wrote the first draft. I was basically ‘sprint-writing’ and my mantra became ‘I’ll fix that later’. So I’m thinking maybe that’s what I should do with my future novels – get the whole story down first, then agonise over everything else later!
You say you love it when characters come alive. How do you set about creating them?
In a sense, the characters create themselves as I write the first draft. Although I give them names and jobs and put them into a setting, they’re rather like cardboard cut-outs when I first start writing. I can usually see them and I can hear their voices, and I gradually get to know them, just as you get to know people in real life. They reveal different aspects of their characters, sometimes surprising me. By the end of the first draft, they’ve become real people, and then I can add more depth to them as I revise and edit the story.
That’s interesting, I like the idea of your characters slowly coming to life. Have you ever redeemed and published a piece of work you thought might never see the light of day?
My first novel, with Whiskey Creek Press, HIS LEADING LADY, was exactly that. When I decided to try my hand at romance novels again, I dug out the box in which I’d dumped several unfinished stories. When I found the first half-dozen chapters of this particular story, I remembered vaguely how I’d intended to continue it and decided it was worth re-vamping. In the process, the story changed considerably from the original, but the early chapters still remained as the starting point for it.
Tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it.
My latest book is FRAGRANCE OF VIOLETS. The title comes from a quote by Mark Twain – “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” It’s a story of two people who have to learn how to forgive both themselves and each other. It’s set in the English Lake District which I know and love, and this setting inspired a lot of the story. I’m sure the village, which I’ve called Rusthwaite, will be immediately recognisable by anyone who knows the Lake District!
Abbey Seton distrusts men, especially Jack Tremayne who destroyed their friendship when they were teenagers. Ten years later, they meet again. Can they put the past behind them? Abbey has to forgive not only Jack, but also her father who deserted his family when she was young. Jack holds himself responsible for his fiancée’s death. He’s also hiding another secret which threatens the fragile resumption of their relationship. Will Abbey ever forgive him when she finds out the truth?
I love the Lake District too, having lived there for a number of years in my younger days, and Esthwaite Water is beautiful and a wonderful setting for a romance. I and shall look out for that. But on a lighter note can you multi-task?
I do it all the time, and often tell myself I’d be far more efficient if I concentrated on one thing at a time – but I don’t listen to my own advice, I’m too busy thinking about or doing something else.
What would you most like to find in your Christmas stocking?A ticket for a round-the-world cruise so that I could visit all the places I’d love to see, and then use them in future novels. If you could know into the future, what would you wish for? For my two grandsons, now aged 17 and 23, to find satisfying jobs in today’s (and tomorrow’s) world – and also give me lots of great-grandchildren to spoil!
Are you into family history? Have you discovered any villains among your ancestors?
Not exactly a villain, but one of my 3xgreat-grandfathers, a captain for many years with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, was eventually fired for being drunk in charge of his ship.
Oh dear, so who is your favourite hero?
It has to be Mr. Darcy (the Colin Firth version - oh, those eyes!) but I also loved Hugh Jackman as Drover in ‘Australia’ and can’t wait to see him as Valjean in the film version of Les Miserables.
That was wonderful fun, Paula, and I should think will inspire many people who may feel it’s too late to take up an earlier hobby.
His Leading Lady published by Whiskey Creek Press in June 2011
Fragrance of Violets released February 2012.
Her Only Option will be published later in 2012.
If you wish to find out more about Paula’s book you’ll find her here: http://paulamartinromances.webs.com