Paula Martin, whose latest book Fragrance of Violets was released this month by Whiskey Creek Press. I asked her to tell us a little bit about the book.
"Fragrance of Violets is set mainly in the English Lake District, an area I know and love. It’s probably my favourite story so far, because the two main characters learn so much about themselves as they re-establish their relationship.
"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 his relationship with Abbey. Will Abbey ever forgive him when she finds out the truth?"
Paula's first stories (around the age of eight) were based on the books she read—school, pony, and theatre stories.
"Maybe that was fan-fiction before the word was invented!" she quipped.
Soon, she started to create her own characters and wrote several novel-length stories before her early teens, when she moved on to writing romances.
"Okay, those early romances were cheesy, to say the least," she admitted, "but my friends read them avidly!"
For several years, Paula didn't do anything writing apart from school essays—she was busy getting her degree, starting her teaching career, getting married, and starting a family. When her first daughter was a few months old, she started writing again as an evening escape from baby-talk, brushing off one of her old teenage stories. Originally, it was just for herself, however she was also reading all the romance novels in her small local library and decided her story was as good as those published, if not better.
"So I typed it up (yes, this was in the 1960’s pre-computer days) and sent it off to Mills and Boon, fully expecting it to come back by return of post. Six weeks later, I had a letter signed by Alan Boon himself," she told me. "He wasn’t happy about a couple of chapters, but if I was prepared to revise them, based on his suggestions, they would be interested in publishing my book. If I was prepared to revise? Of course I was! I did the revisions, typed the whole thing out again, and sent it off. A contract for the book, and for two more, arrived about three weeks later, and the book came out six months later, coinciding with the birth of my second daughter. I duly produced two more books for M&B in the next eighteen months, but when I returned to full-time teaching, I had less time for writing. About eight years later, I sent my fourth book to a different publisher as Mills and Boon had changed their ‘format’ completely during the 70’s and I knew my book wouldn’t suit their requirements."
Apart from some short storied published in various magazines, Paula took a break from writing fiction—instead focusing on her teaching career, her daughters, and her involvement with Girl Guiding and the local amateur musical theatre group. She didn't stop writing completely, however, writing several articles with ideas for leading that were published in the Girl Guide national magazine—even having a monthly feature there for several years.
"I didn’t think I would ever write fiction again but, at first to my surprise, came back to it about four years ago, firstly with fan-fiction based on my favourite TV show The West Wing and then with novels again."
I asked Paula when she first considered herself a writer.
"I’ve always been a writer! It comes as naturally to me as breathing. In my teens, as well as writing stories, I kept a diary for several years. Even a ‘page a day’ diary didn’t give me enough space to write, not just the events of the day, but my thoughts and feelings about anything and everything, so I ended up using large files. I also used to write lengthy epistles to friends and penfriends. In that sense, I’ve always considered myself to be a writer," she explained. "Thinking of myself as an ‘author’ is slightly different. Even though I had four books published when I was in my twenties, I didn’t really think of myself as an author. In my mind, I was simply a story-writer who ‘hit lucky’ in the world of publishing. Nearly forty years later, with two more books accepted, I’m finally getting around to thinking of myself as an author. But even if I never had anything else accepted, I would still be a writer."
When Paula was growing up, she always wanted to be a teacher—from the time she first went to school as a five year old.
"When I played games with my 4 year old cousin, I was the teacher and he was the pupil. I taught him to say ‘Present’ when I called out his name from my invented class register. But then he ran crying to his mom, saying ‘I said present but I didn’t get one!’," she remembered. "I eventually became a history teacher, for 25+ years, until I took early retirement. Looking back now, I enjoyed my job despite some of the frustrations. Some classes I loved, others drove me to distraction."
Paula's favorite author is historical novelist, Sharon Kay Penman.
"I’ve read almost all her books but my favourite is The Sunne in Splendor which, to me, is THE definitive novel about Richard III and the Wars of the Roses," Paula told me. "As an historian by profession, I can appreciate how detailed and meticulous Sharon’s research has been. She also brings vividly to life all the characters of that period of history. I was a history teacher for many years, and people often asked me why I don’t write historical novels. My answer is always ‘Because I know I could never do is as superbly well as Sharon Penman has done.’ I simply wouldn’t have the self-discipline (or the patience!) to do all the detailed research."
In Paula's own writing, usually her characters come to her, along with a very basic scenario and one or more potential conflicts (internal or external) between the hero and heroine.
"I tend to know the beginning and the end, but quite often the characters take over," she confessed. "Occasionally I have to haul them back but most times I’m happy to let them lead me. Some of the best scenes in my books have been those where the characters have surprised me. As a result, my planned ending often changes in order to reflect what has happened earlier in the story (which I didn’t know about when I first started writing the story!). "
She has learned in her writing that the characters have a way of surprising you. Either things will "happen" she'd not foreseen or the characters would keep something hidden from her.
"This happened to me in my very first novel," she said. "I decided that I needed a ‘happy ending’ for one of the secondary characters as well as for my hero and heroine, so I thought maybe he had met someone when he was at a conference in New York. I went back to drop a few ‘hints’ about this – but found I didn’t need to. The hints were already there, I didn’t have to change anything. An example of a character knowing something before I did. It’s happened several times since then and I love that moment when you realise your characters have taken charge and ‘done their own thing’. "
"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I asked.
"My first four published books were based on quotations. I could usually think of a couple of keywords for my books and spent a long time searching for a quotation which would give me the perfect title. For example, one of my heroines was determined to live on her memories and thought she would never love again so 'O Memory, thou fond deceiver' gave me the title Fond Deceiver. One of my heroes was fighting his attraction to the heroine (for various reasons), and my title Against the Stream came from Tennyson’s 'I fought against the stream and all in vain.' More recently, my latest book with Whiskey Creek Press (released this month) has the title Fragrance of Violets. The keyword in this case was forgiveness and this quotation from Mark Twain was perfect: 'Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.' The only exception to my use of quotations was His Leading Lady (released in June, 2011 by Whiskey Creek Press). I decided on this title during the very early days of writing it, and didn’t even try looking for a quotation as it fits the story, with the reader wondering who Kyle’s leading lady is going to be, not just in the show he’s producing but also in his life."
Paula told me that she's fortunate—she has a whole room in her house as her writing space. She lives alone and has converted one of the bedrooms into her study.
"A few years ago, I got rid of a mish-mash of cupboards, shelves and old desk, and invested in some modern office furniture so now I have cupboards and drawer unit around three walls, and two floor to ceiling bookshelves on the fourth wall. A corner desk gives me a view out of the window as I work at my computer although it’s not a very interesting view – just the backs of other houses in the neighbourhood.
"I do TRY to keep the area around my computer tidy but I’m afraid it does tend to get somewhat cluttered at times, particularly with post-it note reminders to myself which I stick to the desk. On my walls, I have various pictures and photographs – my daughters and grandsons, a calendar with photos of Ireland (one of my favourite places), and a framed photo of myself with my all-time favourite actor, Martin Sheen, when I met him last year in Los Angeles."
About the Author:
Apart from writing, she enjoys travelling and has visited many places in many parts of Britain, and also in mainland Europe, USA, Canada and the Middle East. Her favourite place is Ireland, especially the west coast.
You can find the author online at: