Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hello and a big Welcome, Paula Martin.

Paula Martin had early success with 4 books published by Mills and Boon/Harlequin and Robert Hale in the 1960’s and 70’s. Then real life got in the way. Bringing up two young daughters on her own at the same time as working as a high school history teacher filled all her time and energy.
Now retired from teaching, she returned to writing about 3 years ago when she started to write fan-fiction stories based on ‘The West Wing’. A chance meeting with a Harlequin writer in 2008 encouraged her to start writing novels again. With two romance novels completed and one ‘work in progress’, she is now looking for renewed success in the publishing world.

Visit Paula at her website

And at her group blog (with 2 other aspiring writers):


l) When you received your first acceptance how did you feel?
Actually the most exciting moment wasn’t the acceptance, but the first letter I got from Mills and Boon (signed by Alan Boon himself). I’d sent my novel to them about six weeks earlier and when the letter arrived, I expected it to be a rejection. Instead I think I gasped in shock. He wrote that he liked my writing and my story, but there were a couple of things he wanted changing. If I was prepared to revise along the lines he suggested, they would be prepared to consider my novel. If I was prepared?? I sat down there and then to start the revision! I had to type the whole MS out again and then submitted it. The acceptance came within a week and I think my main feeling was one of relief that my revision had met with their approval!

2) Do you notice any change in the type of novels that Harlequin publish to those original Mills and Boon romances?
A lot! In the 60’s, the Mills and Boon strap line was ‘Pleasant Books’. They were sweet romances (definitely NO sex or any suggestion of it – a chaste kiss was all that was allowed) and they were also about ‘ordinary’ people. My first hero and heroine were both teachers. All this changed in the 70’s when Harlequin took over. Sheiks, Greek millionaires and Latin Lotharios abounded. All arrogant, brooding, domineering males and wimpy females who finally (and happily! – what?) ‘submitted’ to them. Explicit sex became the order of the day too, almost rape in many cases. By the 90’s the heroines were allowed to become more independent and less wimpy, but most of the heroes are still larger-than-life alpha-males.

3) How do you go about plotting your novels? Some writers work on a long synopsis, or make copious notes, what do you do?I start with a basic idea and see where the two main characters take me! I don’t plot in advance. I know they’re going to be together at the end, despite the conflicts I throw at them, and I enjoy the journey with them. Part of the joy of writing is the realization that suddenly your characters are doing something or going somewhere (together or apart) that you haven’t really thought about in advance. And then you find yourself thinking, almost in surprise, ‘Yes that works.’

4) What is essential to a romantic novel?A rollercoaster of emotions and a happy ending. A hero you can fall in love with, strong – yes, but ultimately loving and supportive. A heroine you can empathize with, a friend with whom you can laugh or cry.

5) I know you were an historian, have you ever thought of writing an historical novel, and if not why not?
My favourite historical novelist is Sharon Penman and I’m in awe of the amount of research she does for her novels. I fear my own efforts would fall very far short of that. I started a story about a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Bohemia, the wife of Richard II but it came to a grinding halt when I wanted French ships to appear in Calais harbour. Nowhere could I find what flag the French would have been flying in the 14th century (that would probably be easy now but this was in pre-internet days). I’m a stickler for getting facts right, and getting all the facts right for an historical novel would be a daunting task. But – never say never!

6) What type of novel would you not consider writing?Paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi – I have no interest in these whatsoever. I’ve never read any and don’t really want to. I think I’d also draw the line at erotica. I can write sex scenes, but want them to be part of a loving relationship, not graphic sex simply to titillate the reader.

7) You had a long break from writing, how easy do you find it getting back into the swing? Do you find the new technology a help or a hindrance. What method did you use previously?Computers are wonderful! How much easier now to write, to change things as you go along and to edit. Originally I wrote everything in longhand. Masses of crossing out, insertions, extra paragraphs stapled to a page – however did we manage? Then came the laborious job of typing out the MS on an old upright Remington. One mistype and, if the correction paper wouldn’t hide it, the paper was ripped from the typewriter and you had to start the page all over again. When I first started using a word-processor, I still wrote in longhand, but very soon learned to ‘think’ into the keyboard. Now I couldn’t do it any other way.

8) If you could set a novel anywhere in the world – and could go and visit the actual country – where would that be? Money would be no object.
Ooh, interesting question! I love America and have been several times. But if money was no object, I think maybe a world cruise would fit the bill, and then I could take my pick of many different locations. Having said that, an extended stay in my beloved Ireland would make me just as happy.

9) I love the West Wing and you have been involved very much with a website where you can write about the West Wing – so really you had not given up writing altogether. How different is it writing about established characters from writing about your own?With fan fiction writing, the main characters are already there for you. You can see their faces and expressions in your mind’s eye, you can hear their voices in your head – and when it’s Martin Sheen’s voice in my head, I have no complaints! But you’re also very aware that you have to keep them ‘in character’ otherwise the fans who read your story will soon complain! This is one of the challenges of fanfic writing. Several of my stories were based around West Wing episodes where I ‘filled in the gaps’ and provided the scenes that we didn’t see on the screen. That was fun to do, but another of my stories took place after the end of the show itself. I still had to keep Jed and Abbey in character, but I also brought my own characters into this story. Those characters became as ‘real’ to me as the screen characters.

Paula - Thank you so much for visiting with us and for giving us such indepth answers. I am sure we all wish you the very best of luck with your new projects.


Kathleen said...

Hi Paula and Margaret,

Great interview!

Kathleen said...

Paula, Can;t wait to read one of your novels. Really like what you said about a hero you can fall in love with.

Paula Martin said...

Many thanks for your comments, Kathy. And yes, I think all romance writers have to be 'in love' with their hero, so that this comes over and the reader feels the same too. I always fall in love with mine when I'm actually writing the story. But (fickle person that I am LOL) I then fall in love with my next hero!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Paula,
Wonderful interview. I very nearly got a couple of acceptances from M&B in the 1970s but they didn't like that I used the heroe's POV in some scenes. Now I think it is expected that you do, but I have turned my hand to writing historicals now.

margaret blake said...

Ah love and the hero, yes you have to do it and we can't be expected to be faithful can we girls? However, having said that I am still in love with Jesse Crane from A Poisoned Legacy.

Gabby said...

Can't wait to read your next novel, Paula. I'm a huge fan of your writing and your fan fiction!

Paula Martin said...

Hi Margaret - when I was writing romances in the 60's and 70's, it was a complete no-no to use any POV except the heroine's. Now it seems to be the norm to use at least 2 POVs, if not more. But I don't actually find it easy to do in my novels, maybe because it was so ingrained in it me in the 60's!

Paula Martin said...

Thanks, Gabby - it was due to your encouragment that I posted my first West Wing story on the list! And look where that's led me now

Amber said...

Loved the interview and am anxiously awaiting the release of your novel. I've always enjoyed the depth you give your characters in fan fiction.

Michelle Daly said...

Hi Paula and Margaret! I enjoyed the interview. Reading about fellow authors is so interesting because although we arrive at more or less the same place our journeys are very different.
Paula, I've been scouting around trying to get hold of your books. Maybe they'll be re-issued one day and I'm also looking forward to reading your latest book.

Toni Lynn said...

Hey, Paula,

Good luck with publishing a new book after so many years away.

I read your stuff and I'm sure it's just a matter of time. You just need to find that one person who enjoys your work as much as I do!

Paula Martin said...

Thanks, Amber and Toni, for your 'vote of confidence' in me!

Michelle, the only place have ever seen my 'old' books was on a 'used book' site in the States. But I would hate for them to be reissued - they are so dated now! I also like to think (hope!) that my writing has improved considerably since then!