Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed Paula J Longhurst, about her writing and recently released, Rollover: A Nikki Doyle Novel, a taut and suspenseful page-turner (Read the reveiw here).
Paula Longhurst is an English transplant to Salt Lake City, Utah. She has had many jobs, including civil servant and IT office manager but her twin passions are reading and writing. Since 2006 she has combined these two in her work as a bookseller at The King’s English Bookshop (where she’ll be happy to sell you a good twisty mystery or two). She has also independently published four novels and one novella through Open Flame Press (in conjunction with Ingram Spark) they are: Case of Espionage (2017), Shot of Treason (2018), Robust Revenge (2019) Rollover (2020) and Thunderball (2021)
When not working as a bookseller she pays it forward helping up-and-coming writers however she can. Her YouTube channel (englishrosesloverain) is a plethora of book reviews along with some Ingram Spark tutorials and how-tos for independent authors and in 2019 she taught a class on ‘Generating the Perfect Murder Mystery’ at the local First Pages Writer’s Conference in Salt Lake City. She is also a member of the League of Utah Writers’ Usual Suspects Chapter.
Paula currently lives in Salt Lake City, with husband Chris and Daisy the cat.
Cool Books (Blog)
English Roses Love Rain (YouTube)
Q How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
A The first book (in fact the first series) I published wasn’t the first one I wrote. Publishing isn’t always linear and in my case self-publishing was an experiment. I wanted to see if I could do it.
Successfully publishing one book and getting good sales/feedback from readers brings writing from a hobby to more of a discipline. I had a reader come into the bookstore during my shift and enquire with a bang on the desk as emphasis ‘when’s the sequel coming out?’ now that makes you a lot more focused!
I try and write for a couple of hours a day now, usually in the morning before work. I don’t keep track of word counts but I do set deadlines. Six months to a rough first draft seems to work for me.
Q How did you decide which form or genre was right for you?
A I’ve been reading mysteries and thrillers since I was ten years old. Everything from Famous Five, Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie to my dad’s collection of Raymond Chandler, Earl Stanley Gardner and then came the spy contingent Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, Eric Ambler. Thrillers are in my blood.
Q What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
A I research a lot whilst I’m writing the draft, but I can visit most locations in the book using Google Earth (and local webcams) and YouTube videos are a useful tool along with technical manuals. If I’m really stuck I’ll put out a question on FaceBook or tap my writers’ network.
Q What’s more important: characters or plot?
A I would say characters because characters and their conflicts move the plot forward.
Q Do you find writing therapeutic?
A Yes! If a scene is unfolding I can get into that flow state where several hours can fly by. It’s better than meditation. It also helps to get ideas out of my head and onto the page.
Q What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?
A The three most difficult things are getting the timeline right, knowing when to stop tinkering with the draft and recognizing that a great scene you are really proud of is not going to fit or will over complicate the plot.
Q How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A Six months to get to a rough draft, about another 3-4 months refining that to a draft I can send to my editor – who is worth his weight in gold because I couldn’t self-edit if my life depended on it – I often joke that being edited is like defending your thesis. I have to make a really good case for the plot point/story line/character or they get cut. We email back and forth, I keep dated copies of the edits in case I need to revisit any changes so the edit can take anything up to six months. Once we’re both happy I’ll reread the final edit, three times and then once more to catch typos and a year and a half later I’ve got a completed manuscript.
Q Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else.
A Rollover was inspired by a challenge and a question. The challenge was NanWrimo – on of my writing group suggested that all five of us take part. Nano’s challenge is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.
The question? Why do lottery winners never seem to be able to hold onto their money? The papers were full of U.K. lottery winners who had won – and lost – a fortune, it was one of those ‘where are they now’ features and it seemed that the more publicity they craved, the quicker the money vanished. I found myself wondering if Camelot – the lottery company – offered some kind of counseling on how to deal with having so much money and if they did, what that kind of an organization would look like. I came up with a small group that was a cross between witness protection and the genie of the lamp, your wish is their command; and what would happen if some dodgy characters won millions on the lottery and needed protection from their equally dodgy associates.
Q How often do you read?
A Every day! Working as a bookseller it’s a huge part of my job to read as much as possible. I never go anywhere without a book, my car is a mobile library and my tbr pile looks like the leaning tower of Pisa.
Q Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
A Mystery/thriller is a hard genre to stand out in, if you gave 10 authors the same premise they’d all take it somewhere different depending on the voices of their characters and if you try to be too original, they could come across as cliché. Like any industry, writers see trends and some try and follow them with varying degrees of success. I’m of the opinion that readers don’t always know what they want (which is a good thing) and I try to deliver, a good story, characters that grow and a satisfying although not always happy ending.
Q What’s next for you?
A Nikki’s second adventure, Thunderball, published in June so right now I’m working on getting book three ready for publication in 2022. Its working title is ‘Miss Scarlet (in the library with the lead piping) I’m also working on a couple of short stories, writing blurbs, working on the blog and reading, reading, reading.
Categories: Suspense and Thriller