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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Author Interview: Pauline Trent

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Pauline Trent, whose debut novel Falling in Love was released in February by Kensington Press.

Pauline has always loved words and claimed that it was practically a prerequisite to being included in her family. "My father taught public speaking and communication," she explained. "My mother did theatre. Words have always been a part of my life. So that has always been with me. My 6th and 8th grade English teacher, Betty Witt, though, is the first person I remember making me want to write better. Writing had always come easily and earlier teachers had been impressed enough to take what I wrote at face value. She took what I could do and asked me to do more. Her classes are the first time I remember falling in love with the act of writing."

She didn't want to be an author, however. Her plan for her life was to be a theatre director on Broadway. "My hero was Joseph Papp, the director at the time of NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park and the premiere American Shakespearean director of our time. I was going to be the first woman to win a Tony award for Best Director of a Musical," she said. "Julie Taymor finally did for The Lion King, so she’s one of my heroes to this day."

By the time she was 21, though, she realized she needed to get out of theatre and she ended up in pre-law with a concentration in international law.

"I wanted to be a Constitutional lawyer or an attorney for an international human rights organization," she explained. "Now I write romance novels, which has absolutely nothing to do with Shakespeare or human rights law. It’s amazing the way life works out, isn’t it?"

Pauline is very much a night person, to the extent that she claims that for her there's only one 8:30 in the day. "I don’t think until I’ve gotten my coffee," she told me. "Pre-coffee, we’re lucky I get toothpaste on my toothbrush, let alone think anything."

She also most productive in the evenings and nights. Since she writes almost everything in long hand first (in composition books and with Pilot G-2 pens), her mornings are spent re-reading and/or transcribing what she wrote the day before. She starts her actual writing about 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

"I’ll take a bit of a break, have dinner, actually talk to my husband and then go back to work about 9 and work until I hit a stopping point. Sometimes that’s an hour or so, sometimes, it’s until 1 or 2 in the morning. When I’m in what I call 'crunch time', which is the last 2-3 weeks before a deadline, though, it’s different. During crunch time, I work from about 10 or 11 in the morning until 1 or 2 the following morning. Fourteen to sixteen hour days during crunch time aren’t uncommon."

I asked Pauline to tell us about her writing space.

"I tried to have a writing space," she said. "I really did. It was a great office. It was off away from the rest of the house so that I wasn’t disturbed by the goings on in the main part of our home. It had a lovely combination of professional and personal things around so that I had what I needed close by. When I realized I wasn’t ever going into it but was writing on the couch in front of the television or at my local coffee shop, I finally had to admit that I don’t write well at a desk or in an office. Which means my writing space is anywhere I am, so long as I’ve got a notebook and a pen with me."

It bothered her at first, because she felt as if she was doing something wrong by not having a dedicated space to write. She and her husband have decided to travel and live on the road, so it's a good thing she's flexible.

Pauline admitted she doesn't do a lot of developing when it comes to her plot and characters, as they come to her almost full-blown.

"It's not uncommon for me to write my opening scenes and my ending scenes the first day or two. After that, I'm really just along for the ride."

So, for Pauline, the first fifty or so pages and the last twenty or so pages are immediately accessible. "Those seventy pages come easily and quickly. Since I don't write chronologically, after those seventy pages, I can get the scenes I know about out relatively easily. That’s when it gets hard though. Figuring out what happens between all of those scenes to tie them together, to get the characters from one known place to the next known place can really stop me cold. If I’m going to hit writer’s block, it’s going to be here."

She runs into a lot of surprises that way. She shared an example from Falling in Love.

"My four characters had just enjoyed a lovely meal together. After the break, though, Angie was in her bedroom, throwing her shoe against the wall angrily. I was shocked and couldn't wait to find out what had happened between the end of the meal when I left them and now."

She has a couple of things she does when she does hit writer's block.

"First, I try to just sit and write," she said. "I will intentionally write badly. Anything to get some words on paper. It tends to be along the lines of 'She said this then he said that then she did this and he responded with that.' Really bad. But the point is to get a basic plot out on the paper. After an hour or two of that, I tend to get back into the flow. Sometimes, I have to start several days in a row that way. It lends itself to a lot of editing. The second solution is to get out of the house, away from my office. It doesn’t really matter where – a coffee shop, the park, anywhere really. Just get a change of scenery and write somewhere else. Again, it may take a day or two but it will get me writing again."

On more of a personal note, I asked Pauline about her heritage.

"I am entirely British. My understanding of it is that I am ¼ Irish, ¼ Welsh, ¼ Scottish and ¼ English. If I’m wrong, I’m sure my mother will let me know as soon as she reads this – but that is my understanding of it. First and foremost, though, I am my father’s daughter and my grandfather’s granddaughter. That blood line heritage means more to me than my ethnic heritage."

Finally, I asked, "Who is your favorite author and why?"

"This is the most difficult question of the whole interview," she told me. "The honest answer would be Dr. Seuss. The man was brilliant in the way he put together words and created images. The ability to take complex issues and break them down for kids while keeping them complex is amazingly difficult. However, when it comes to adult authors…that’s when it gets all but impossible. I have so many authors I really truly love. If I absolutely have to choose, I think I would choose Andrew Greeley. There’s something about his Father Blackie Ryan novels. I can read and re-read those over and over again. He’s one of the few authors I keep an eye out for his next title. I love his characters and the way he tells a story. My favorite book wasn’t written by Greeley, though. Again, if I have to choose, my favorite book is The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. That time period and those people were so fascinating anyway. Several authors can make those situations come alive but there is something really special about the way George does it. Again, though, this is such a tough question because I love so many authors."

You can keep up with Pauline on her website, http://paulinetrent.com

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