What are you currently working on?
At the moment I have two projects in the pipeline. A follow-on novel to my novella, The Funeral Birds, a tale about a failing detective agency run by Dave Cavendish and his side kick, a sixteenth century witch called Granny Wenlock who’s his ancestor.
The follow –on novel, As the Crow Flies I’ll be exploring more of Granny’s background as well as giving the characters a new case to solve. The novel allows me to bring together two interesting timelines. My problem at the moment is how to make the flow of the plot work as the timelines shift.
My second project is a 7k short story for Black Hare Press Alice 13. It is thirteen different stories, in thirteen different genres all featuring Alice from Wonderland. I’ve written the plot idea, a synopsis and the first four pages. The deadline is allowing me plenty of time to think about it.
As my new novel is flowing nicely I want to focus on that for a little while before finishing my Alice story.
That sounds fascinating! Your work crosses different genres. Which came first?
I’ve always loved a good mystery. I think my love of mysteries comes from my love of history. At school I loved learning about ancient history. We can only imagine how different the world must have been to our ancient ancestors. We know how most things work as science has shown us the key to all life, but to the people in the past it was a real mystery.
A mystery in fiction can cover a wide range of genre from romance to crime novels. I don’t write romance, but I do enjoy writing a wide range of genre from gothic ghost stories to Sci-fi tales.
Do you switch from one project to another to stay fresh?
All the time. When one deadline appears on the horizon I will stop and focus on that one and complete it. It gives you the break you need to see any typos, plot failures or weaknesses as well as sparking fresh ideas. When I return to a project I re-read the whole of it before writing more.
Do you plan out a story first with a detailed synopsis or work organically, allowing the plot to develop on the page.
A bit of both really. I normally have an idea of the beginning and the ending, so it’s a case of getting from A to B in the most interesting way. With books, I tend to create a paragraph of the overall plot and work out who is the best person to tell the story. My synopsis is written once I’m half way through writing the first draft. You can’t know your full plot until you’ve written the first draft because everything is very fluid when you initially start.
Do you begin with an idea of the plot, a character, a setting or does it vary depending upon genre?
I normally write a rough plot idea down, and then work out who my main character will be, along with the setting, timeline whether it is a short story or novel. Once I have the opening paragraph then I’m up and running. As the plot line develops so I add new characters and write up their background. I keep adding important information to a file like the type of car my main character is driving, hair and eye colour etc. I don’t spend time writing a detailed background sheet before starting because none of it may be of relevance to my storyline. Do I really need to know what school my serial killer went to in my 5k word short story before writing it unless it is relevant to the plot?
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
My best time for writing is just after I’ve woken up. My mind is fresh and sharp and I can get quite a bit written. New ideas flow easier and I can pick up typos too. My husband is normally up early for work, so I’m at my keyboard at 4.00 in the morning.
That is really impressive! Do you ever write real life experiences into your work?
All writers do through their emotions. No experience whether good or bad is wasted as it all feeds into our writing whether we like it or not. For our characters to be three dimensional we need to use all of our life experiences, which have made us rounded people to create them.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I wrote a short story called The Meetings which tells of two people meeting in a park. The narrator is the park keeper. Through him we learn about the couple, but there’s a twist. It touched a real nerve with me as I wrote it not long after my father passed away.
The story was rejected by People’s Friend Magazine but went on to become an overall winner in a writing competition.
How long on average does it take you to write a book or novella?
Oh goodness, how long is a piece of string? Too long in some cases, right? I have eight novels sitting on my computer in various stages of completion. Since I have been writing over 18 years and have only had three books published I’m not 100% sure how long each novel has taken to write. Stone Angels took me six years in total and then another eight months of editing. In those six years, I lost my mum and life got a little crappy too. My novella took a week to write but sat on my computer for a long time until the right submission call out came along.
How have you coped with life in the pandemic?
Quite well. I was already in self-isolation as I was busy editing. So I’ve just continued doing what I was doing. My husband and I are missing travelling to Whitby for the Goth Festivals and I didn’t get my book launch I always dreamt of doing. Unfortunately, I lost two dear friends last year which dampened my excitement at seeing my work published.
I so miss travelling in North Yorkshire and Whitby in particular. I wish you every success, Paula, with all of your projects and look forward to learning of your next publishing deal.