Today is a magical day in Paula Harmon’s life. Get ready to get immersed into her personal and writer’s life.
Here we go:
1. Can you please tells us about yourself?
I’m Paula Harmon. I live in the UK, south-west England in Dorset which is one of the loveliest places in the world: sea, ancient hill-forts, castles, beautiful countryside, pretty towns. I am married with two children aged 19 and 17. Although I have written stories for as long as I can remember, I only started to do it seriously from about 2015.
2. What was your favourite book from childhood?
I’m not sure I could pick one! My father read us the Narnia books and I so wanted to go there. In fact I still do really. I also loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, historical fiction by Henry Treece and Geoffrey Trease and fantasy works by Alan Garner and Ursula Le Guin. Apart from fiction, I liked reading real life animal stories by writers like Joyce Stranger. I had one about stray cats on a Greek island but can’t remember what it was called or who the author was. I also loved a fantasy book based broadly on the myth of Perseus set in modern day Greece and can’t remember what that was called either. It’s a shame as I’d love to read both again.
3. What type of books did you read as a teenager?
Pretty much more of the same thing although as I grew older, I added Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, William Golding, Charles Dickens, Paul Gallico.
4. What is the first book that made you cry?
I’m not sure what the first one was. A great many have made me angry or really upset: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘Joy Luck Club’, ‘My Turn to Make Tea’, ‘The Help’, ‘The Kite Runner’, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. I know that two books which made me cry in the last few years were ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and ‘Birds Without Wings’.
5. When was the turning point in your life when you said to yourself ‘I want to become an author’?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be one. The first thing I can remember writing was a story about The Clangers when I was about six. But before that I was telling myself stories in bed when I couldn’t sleep or had been sent to my room for being naughty.
6. Who or what inspires you to write?
I was encouraged from a very early age to be creative in any and every way possible. I suppose my first influence was my father, who was a bit eccentric. We were challenging each other to write silly things right up until he died and I wrote about him in ‘The Cluttering Discombobulator’. Other than that, just chance snippets of conversation or a view or just thinking ‘what if…’
7. Do you start writing already aware of the end of the novel or do you find out throughout your writing journey?
I usually know what the ending is when I start. The trouble is that the book often has other ideas and the end can change before I get there. I wrote a book three years ago which I’m still editing. It has an ending but I’ve never been happy with it. This morning at about 6am – I realised what it should be!
8. How did you feel when you finished writing your first book/novels?
A bit emotional. Usually sort of relieved.
9. How did you feel when you wrote the phrase ‘The End’? Do you still have the same feeling?
I’ve never actually written ‘The End’ but I was crying when I wrote the ending of something once. I’m not usually someone who cries much, so it was a bit strange. I
had tears running down my face as I was typing the last words. Usually though, I just ‘wow! I did it!’ because sometimes you think you’re never going to finish.
10. Lately, we see many authors choosing to write about violence, in its different forms. Why do you think this happens?
I think that there has always been a fair amount of violence in books from Homer or Beowulf onwards. There might have been a period when it was toned down a bit but I think there’s a place for writing to either reflect reality, help bring situations to people’s awareness or help people to cope with difficult issues. Otherwise, I think that people like to read murder-mysteries because although something awful happens, there’s often a resolution and justice, which are not always obvious in reality. Personally, I’m not a fan of graphic violence myself, but I confess I have killed off a few people. Fictional people that is! (And usually quite nicely.)
11. What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
At the moment the two things that spring to mind are people who copy ebooks and try to pass them off as their own and vanity publishers.
12. Does writing energise you or exhaust you?
A bit of both really. I feel energised by the exercise and then worn out afterwards!
13. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
To think you can’t do it. You can. To think you have to finish something straight away. You don’t. To think you don’t need someone else to give you constructive feedback. You do (even if it hurts a bit sometimes).
14. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I don’t know! I am a mass of self-doubt the minute I publish something. Some of the great writers in history appear to have had big egos but perhaps it was all an act. I think different personalities write different books. It’s the quality of the writing which makes a good book, but I think a good writer must have the ability to take a step into the shadows and look at the world from different points of view or imagine what it’s like to be different types of person.
15. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes. I probably will at some point. In my case it might be to separate say children’s fiction from adult fiction just to avoid confusion. But at the moment, it’s just a thought.
16. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
It’s difficult to answer this because while someone who’s a good observer may not be emotional, they might be quite dispassionate and that might be a good thing. I don’t know that this would make them a worse writer. If someone was too emotional, they might get too wrapped up in emotions and miss something else. And sometimes people can appear unemotional but are actually very emotional inside, they just don’t show it. People from different cultures express their feelings differently too. (There’s an old story about the Korean War where a US army person contacted a British army person whose battalion was under attack and asked how they were doing. The UK person said ‘we’re in a bit of a pickle’ which the US person took to mean ‘we’re coping’ and didn’t go to their rescue. What the UK person meant was ‘help help we’re being annihilated.’ Which they consequently were.) I think there’s room for all sorts of people to write, but it helps if you have an idea how different characters might react in the same situation.
17. What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
Several: Val Portelli and Liz Hedgecock are two whom I’ve met personally and including a certain Chrisoula Mitsaki, there is quite a number whom I’ve ‘met’ on line. On top of that, I am part of a novel critique group in my home town. I think that I’ve learnt a lot about how to edit effectively, how to take criticism and how to be objective about my own writing.
18. How did publishing your first book(s) change your writing process?
I self-published ‘Kindling’ in 2016. I had two people proof-reading/beta-reading. As it was a book of short stories, it was a bit different to a full-length book but I did learn that I could start and stop things without the world ending and that I would get there eventually. I think I pretty much started writing something almost every day from about 2015 onwards even though some days it might only be a sentence.
19. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
I had to read Jane Austen as part of my English degree and didn’t really ‘get’ her books at the age of 19 but picked them up again several years later and really enjoyed them and understood how subtle they were. I’ve yet to feel the same about Virginia Woolf.
20. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was about 4, I had an easel with a chalkboard on one side and a magnetic board on the other, with magnetic letters. I had just started to learn to read and liked moving the letters around. I discovered that DOG spelled backwards was GOD and somehow that’s always stuck in my mind as the time I realised that words matter.
21. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes I do. I have to accept that not everyone is going to like what I’ve written, any more than I like everything that other people have written.
22. Do you hide any secrets in yr books that only a few people will find?
If I have, they’re hidden from me too!
23. What was your hardest scene to write?
Oh there was one where someone died. I wasn’t sure right up to the point I wrote the scene as to whether they would survive or not. I’d become very fond of them by that point and I felt genuinely upset even though it was my choice – or rather the story’s choice. It’s very strange!
24. Does your family support your career as a writer?
Yes they’re great. The house is a complete mess because I actually have a full-time job so writing is what I do when I should probably be dusting something or tidying up! My son and daughter are both creative too so we all understand each other. My husband is just waiting for us to all become famous!
25. If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what could you do?
I think everything is copy. I started adult life thinking I’d be a writer straight away and yet it wasn’t till after my children were in their early teens themselves that I really started trying properly. I thought I’d missed the boat, but now I realise that everything I’d experienced would ultimately make me a better story-teller than I’d have been at 18. Other people might be brilliantly wise and observant at 18, but I wasn’t. Of course there are things I wish I’d done differently. I made mistakes as a child and teenager the same as anyone. If I hadn’t made those, I’d have made other mistakes I’m sure. It’s part of who I am and one of the advantages of being older is that I probably don’t take myself very seriously anymore and quite often
make a joke at my own expense with any of my characters who are really facets of myself.
You can find more information about Paula Harmon here:
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 teenage children. 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.
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.
The Advent Calendar
Christmas without the hype says it is – stories for midwinter.
The Case of the Black Tulips and The Case of the Runaway Client (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.
Weird and Peculiar Tales (with Val Portelli)
Short stories from this world and beyond.
Do you want to take a look at her herself (she’s very pretty and a kind person, I assure you! lol!!!) and her book covers? Look here:
I want to thank you my dear Paula for taking the time to tell us about yourself and your writing career. I hope your interview will be well-liked among my followers.
As for YOU, my followers, please feel free to comment if you feel you need to. Your comments are very welcome!
So long for now, and get ready for the next interview which will be posted very shortly.
Thank you everyone! Be well!