Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! This time please welcome the marvellously versatile and prolific indie author Paula Harmon. As well as writing fantastic novels and short stories, Paula was also one of the wonderful people behind Blandford’s first ever literary festival last November. I was honoured to be asked to get involved and it was a fantastic event I hope they are all very proud of. I can’t wait for the next one! Here Paula talks about where her ideas come from, what her writing process is and more. Enjoy.
- Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?
‘The Wrong Sort To Die’ will be out as an e-book on 30th June 2020.
It’s a historical mystery set in June 1910.
Fighting her corner in a man’s world, Dr Margaret Demeray works as a pathologist in a London hospital for the poor. Suppressing her worry that she’s breaching confidentiality, Margaret gives a stranger called Fox information about a dead down-and-out, in the hope he’ll use it to raise awareness of bad working conditions.
But when a second man appears to die the same way, Margaret starts to wonder why the enigmatic Fox keeps turning up to ask ever more complex questions.
She decides to work alone, uncertain of his motives and wary of her attraction to him.
Once she starts investigating however, her home is burgled, she’s attacked in broad daylight and a close friend becomes distant.
Fox offers the chance to forge an alliance, saying he knows why the men have died but needs her to find out what is killing them and who is behind it.
Yet how come the closer she gets to him the more danger she faces? And how can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths?
Margaret must discover the truth before someone – known or unknown – silences her for good.Margaret Demeray was a minor character in the Caster and Fleet series set in the 1890s where she first appeared as feisty teenager. There was no chance she was going to let her older sister get away with all the fun. It would be suitable for anyone who enjoys writers like Ann Granger, Anne Perry, Clara Benson and like a strong-minded female lead.Tell us about your publishing journey so far.
2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.
I published two collections of short stories in 2016, followed by a memoir about my father in 2017. In 2018, I published my first novel ‘Murder Britannica’ which is a historical mystery set in Roman-Britain in AD190. The sequel ‘Murder Durnovaria’ set the following year in Roman Dorchester came out late 2019. I published a joint collection of short fantasy stories called ‘Weird and Peculiar Tales’ with Val Portelli. With Liz Hedgecock, I co-wrote the Caster and Fleet series – six historical mysteries set in 1890s London which start with ‘The Case of the Black Tulips’. They’re about two young women, frustrated with the restrictions in their lives who end up in partnership solving mysteries.
3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was very small, if I was sent to bed early as a punishment I was always quite glad as it gave me the chance to tell myself stories. (For as long as we shared a bedroom, I used to drive my younger sister up the wall by doing this under my breath when she was trying to go to sleep.) Creative writing was my favourite subject at school and I’d always meant to be a writer. Earning a living, then having a family got in the way to start but I thought I’d finally have time and space when my youngest child started school. However, a relocation and change of working pattern meant my dream was dashed. Then in 2015, someone encouraged me to enter a competition and join a writers’ group. After that I sort of thought ‘if I don’t just get on with it whether I have time and space or not, I’ll never do it’ and I did.
4.What is your typical writing day like?
I work full-time and writing tends to have to fit round work. I try to write for one day at the weekend as well as fitting in an hour a day otherwise. I’d write on train journeys as I did a lot of commuting up till March. The current Covid-19 situation makes things less easy since, although I’m still working, I spend that ‘hour after work’ catching up by video with my mother and sister. But on the other hand, I’ve had nowhere to go at weekends and been able to get on with writing instead. Although, as for many, the coronavirus situation itself has a scrambled my brain a little.
5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)
I tend to start off with a short scene in my head – a person or people in a location doing something apparently ordinary and then I have to work out who they are and what’s extraordinary about it or what’s going to happen next. I usually start with two characters and seem to end up with a million – really not sure why! Once I know who the people are, I then work out where they are, when they’re living and what time of year it is. If it’s set in another era, I’ll do a little light research to find out what was going on at the time in case I need to factor that in. Generally once I find the ‘shape’ of the story, I know how it will start and end and roughly who wants what and what is stopping them from getting it. I usually write that down and then an outline of what ought to happen roughly at each stage of the book. Then I just start and see what happens. I quite often end up completely reorganising the middle, though the beginning and end don’t usually change. I find out more and more about the characters as I go long – they become ‘real’ and that sometimes alters what the core of the story is about in terms of what they learn about themselves or their world.
6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?
Hearing that people enjoy what you’ve written – that it’s touched them or made them laugh – is wonderful. But for myself, even if I write something that not many people read, somehow tapping into the part of my brain that demands to write stories is a wonderful mental release.
7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?Marketing is very hard work. Most writers by nature are rather introverted. I’m not sure I always come across that way at work, but the minute I start talking about my books, I’m overwhelmed with shyness. It always feels like I’m exposing a part of myself, which I suppose I am – since most characters have elements of the author in them. (That’s a little alarming when I think of some of my characters.)
8. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?
That’s really hard to answer and tends to depend on what I’m working on at the moment! Margaret Demeray’s outgoing and determined nature leads her to want to make the world a fairer place, but it hides a vulnerability. She’s drawn in part from some of the rather feisty women in my family, none of whom let anyone tell them what they could or couldn’t do. But I confess her tendency to lose her temper and say the wrong thing when she does is definitely me.
But I can’t help loving Lucretia – one of the main (and from her perspective) most misunderstood characters in the Murder Britannica series. It never ceases to astound her that people don’t realise just how important she is, but she remains full of hope that not only will she become even richer very soon but that she’ll find if not love then passion – it’s just annoying that people around her keep dying in suspicious circumstances.
9. Where do your ideas come from?
I really don’t know! They just turn up. I’ve always had very vivid dreams and quite often that’s where they come from, and I’m also a terrible day-dreamer. I love places of transit like stations where you can think ‘what if I got on a different train and went somewhere else entirely? or what if the train went back in time? or what if an old friend/enemy sat down next to me? or…’ I sort of apply that in other contexts and see what unfolds. ‘Murder Britannica’ started as a paragraph where Lucretia is having a snide and critical conversation with her daughter-in-law. It just came to me one lunch-time and I wrote it down. It was years before the rest fell into place. With ‘The Wrong Sort To Die’, I started knowing that Margaret had qualified as a doctor in about 1898 and wondered what she’d done after that. I knew she’d have a thirst for justice and equality but also suspected she wouldn’t be much good at bedside manner, so wondered what she’d do and decided she’d probably work in a charitable hospital in the pathology department. I decided what year the story would take place in and by chance, saw something on TV about that era which gave me a germ of a background for the plot – most of the general public thinks they’re living in a golden age of peace with new inventions and social change but meanwhile, the government is preparing for war. What might that mean for the people Margaret wants to help?
10. What can we expect from you next?
Next on the list will be the third in the ‘Murder Britannica’ series. While ‘Murder Durnovaria’ was set in Roman Dorchester, the third book is set in a small town near a river which is roughly located where modern day Blandford is. It’s midwinter and Lucretia’s nephew Fabio will do anything to avoid being forced into an arranged marriage, even look into strange goings on in a small town where it’s hard to know who’s on whose side.
11. Tell us three fun facts about youI can make something out of next to nothing whether it’s a meal or a costume; I don’t take myself remotely seriously; according to family legend I have a medieval ancestor who caught a ‘whale’ off London bridge.
12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. Keep writing things even if you don’t finish them, they may come into their own one day and if not then they’re worth it just for the practice. Maybe today is the right day and maybe it’s not. One day you’ll just get on with it, regardless of whether you really have the space or time. Everything you experience, witness and live through can inform your writing whether it’s serious or funny or thought-provoking. Within legal limits – be a people watcher!
Thank you so much to Paula for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog! |If you would like to find out more about Pauls and her books, her bio and links are below!
Paula Harmon was born in North London to parents of English, Scottish and Irish descent. Perhaps feeling the need to add a Welsh connection, her father relocated the family every two years from country town to country town moving slowly westwards until they settled in South Wales when Paula was eight. She later graduated from Chichester University before making her home in Gloucestershire and then Dorset where she has lived since 2005.
She is a civil servant, married with two children at university. Paula has several writing projects underway and wonders where the housework fairies are, because the house is a mess and she can’t think why.
It’s AD 190 in Southern Britain. Lucretia won’t let her get-rich-quick scheme be undermined by minor things like her husband’s death. But a gruesome discovery leads wise-woman Tryssa to start asking awkward questions.
It’s AD 191. Lucretia last saw Durnovaria as a teenager. Now she’s back to claim an inheritance. Who could imagine an old ring bought in the forum could bring lead to Tryssa having to help local magistrate Amicus discover who would rather kill than reveal long-buried truths.
London 1910. Dr Margaret Demeray is approached by a stranger called Fox to help find out what’s killed two impoverished men. How can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths? And how come the closer she gets to Fox the more danger she faces herself?
The Cluttering Discombobulator
Can everything be fixed with duct tape? Dad thinks so. The story of one man’s battle against common sense and the family caught up in the chaos around him.
Secrets and mysteries, strangers and friends. Stories as varied and changing as British skies.
Christmas without the hype says it is – stories for midwinter.
In a parallel universe, Dorissa and Menilly, descendants of the distrusted dragon people, are desperate to find their runaway brother in a fog-bound city, which simmers with unrest and deceit.
For 7-11 year olds. When Laura and Jane go on holiday to a remote cottage, the worst they expect is no wifi. The last thing they expect is to be battling strange creatures with an ancient grudge.
The Case of the Black Tulips (with Liz Hedgecock)
When Katherine Demeray opens a letter addressed to her missing father, little does she imagine that she will find herself in partnership with socialite Connie Swift, racing against time to solve mysteries and right wrongs. (This is the first of six Caster & Fleet Mysteries)
Weird and Peculiar Tales (with Val Portelli)
Short stories from this world and beyond.