Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Interview with Paula Shablo

     It’s difficult to pigeonhole the work of July’s Author of the Month Paula Shablo and perhaps that’s a good thing. She’s the author of the Emma/Roger paranormal series, dabbles in mystery and romance and had even written a science fiction novel entitled, S23HF50: (Subject 23, Human Female, Age 50), which sounds like a female/extraterrestrial version of Oldboy.

15) Paula, first off, how did you get into the writing game at a relatively late age?

I have actually been writing since I was a child, but never quite had the nerve to submit anything for publication. Well, that’s not entirely true--I have published poetry in several anthologies, and have written articles for newspaper stories from time to time. But until S23HF50, I didn’t give publishing much thought. When I wrote it, I had retired from the workforce on disability, and my son pushed me to look into self-publishing. I figured, why not give it a shot? I’m too old to play the waiting game, and I’ll never know unless I try. 

14) When you were growing up, who were your favorite authors and which ones do you think inspired you to write?

Oh, my gosh. I loved Mark Twain, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But I was also a huge fan of the Trixie Beldon mysteries, which were written over the years by several different authors. I got my library card--all by myself!--when I was in first grade, and I checked out everything the librarian would agree to let me read. My parents were not ones to say I was “too young” for particular books, but the librarian kept me in line. Ha ha. I didn’t read Peyton Place until I was in Junior High, but I read Lord of the Rings when I was about 10. Oddly enough, I didn’t read The Hobbit until I was an adult. Weird. 

I loved Peanuts and Spiderman. I can draw some pretty passable comics, and thought I might want to do that someday, but I really draw more for my kids and grandkids as an adult. One granddaughter insists on animals, the other on the ghost family. They can keep me pretty busy with a pencil sometimes. 

I do have a BS in Animation and Graphic Design, which has been good for nothing except being able to say that I have that degree. The only work I ever did in relation to my degree was designing the labels for Renew Lawn Care products, and that had less to do with the art-work, and more to do with my translation skills. 

I can’t say any one writer inspired my desire to write. I just always wanted to tell a story. I did have a teacher, in Junior High, who was a big influence. Every term we were given a list of vocabulary words and a genre. At the end of each term, we had to read our stories out loud to the class. Mine were almost always the longest ones, and no one ever talked while I was reading, so I guess they liked them. But some kids did call me “teacher’s pet” after class! I didn’t care. Edwin Dean Makie, you’re the best! 

13) In your fiction you seem to be drawn to the paranormal more often than any other genre. Is that attributable to actual paranormal experiences you’ve had?

If you have read “Emma: Ancestors’ Tales”, you know that the character saw her deceased great-grandmother in the bathroom when she was four years old. This actually happened to me. We visited with her shortly before her death, and after the funeral and all the family activities, we went home. I got up in the middle of the night, went to the bathroom, and there she was! She was dressed in white, she looked healthy and young, and I ran for my life! I am not brave Emma, I am chicken Paula. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wet myself, but I don’t remember. It was only later, thinking things over, that I realized she may have come to reassure me that she was much better now than she was the last time I saw her alive. 

I have a ghost. He’s been hanging out with me since I was a teenager. He’s not scary. I was a foolish kid who watched too many movies and read too many paranormal books about summoning spirits and the like, and decided to have a little seance. In retrospect, an idiotic thing to do! Do not try it! I got VERY lucky, in that “Jim” is a good guy. I could have gotten an evil entity, and then where would I be? I kind of consider him a guardian. He goes where I go. I think he teases Molly, the little dog, from time to time. 

My house in Colorado wasn’t haunted until the original owner passed and she came home. She gets a little feisty if we make changes, but nothing drastic. We leave the kitchen, come back and find all the cupboard doors standing open. We smell her perfume from time to time; it’s a lilac scent, very pleasant. She snores. That’s a very weird thing, if you ask me. While I was still working, my son would call and tell me he thought I had overslept and had checked my room, only to find it empty. I thought he was a little nuts, but after I retired, I heard it myself. Pets in the house are usually fine, but once in a while, they stare at nothing and then run away.

I have also been known to call everyone I know, checking to see who the “bad feeling” is all about, and I usually nail the subject on the first call. “How did you know I needed you?” is a question I have heard often. 

Of course, I love a good scary story anytime. Brr!

12) What gave you the idea to write S23HF50 and is that you on the cover?

Actually, S23 was written because someone asked me if I could write science fiction without describing a ship, a robot or any other science-y elements you might expect. My son is a big science buff, and it all started with a conversation he was having with some friends. I said science fiction didn’t necessarily have to be about outer-space, or any of those things, and my comment was met by that challenge. My son liked the result enough to push me to publish it. 

No! That’s not me on the cover. That is a stock photo from KDP’s many choices, and I hadn’t a clue what I was doing at the time, so I just picked it because it reminded me of Beth. The paperback has a cover that I designed myself. 

11) You’re someone who confesses to leading a “chaotic” life. So it’s too irresistible not to ask you what your typical writing day is like, if there’s any such thing. Do you use notebooks, a laptop or a combination of both? Do you have daily word goals?

I am a notebook hound. I have a ton of them, and for no particular reason, other than I might need one “someday”. There are fragments of works in progress in some of them. There are also lists of bills (like that has anything to do with writing!) family history notations and other research notes. Most of them are brand new, sitting on shelves and mocking me. 

I have a laptop, which follows me back and forth between Wyoming and Colorado, goes on vacations and also mocks me from time to time. 

I have a PC at home and a PC at my parents’ house and these are what get used the most. My “typical’ writing day is running to the PC to slam down a few paragraphs between loads of laundry, cooking and getting the parents to appointments or otherwise seeing to their needs. Molly, that little scamp, keeps me hopping, too. She’s just over a year old, so still a puppy, and needs lots of attention. She pays me back by keeping my back warm when I’m at the desk. My own personal “bun warmer”! Some days are quiet and I get a few pages done. Some days I might only get a paragraph or two. And there are days that I’m lucky to get something jotted down in a notebook. 

10) According to your blog, when you have some free time you go to Comic Cons and Cosplay conventions, often with your grandchildren. What do you like to watch on TV and for movies and does any of it inspire you as a writer?

Right now, I am deep into the AMC series NOS4A2, based on Joe Hill’s book. I enjoy The Good Doctor, and I’m kind of freaked out by Designated Survivor in light of current events. Naturally, I have seen every episode of Stranger Things and I love Supernatural. I don’t have a particular favorite genre for television. Love Chuck, Psych and Monk for the quirky humor. Love The Walking Dead for the great makeup and gore. 

As an artist, I love animation, and my most recent movie view was Toy Story 4. 3-D animation is a fascinating process, and I’m over the moon impressed with the people who do it. I was never good at 3-D modeling, but I enjoy animating and really enjoy lip-synch once the voices are done, so I know the tremendous amount of work that goes into every movie. 

I’m a huge Stephen King fan, as a reader. I watch the television series and movies adapted from his work, sometimes just to see how badly it can be done. I’m delighted when the adaptations go well, and appalled when they fail. 

As a writer, all these things do inspire me, even the crap adaptations that happen to good books, because I can often see ways that writers could have done things differently. 

9) Late last year, you’d also made an interesting contribution to post-apocalyptic science fiction with your novella, Starting in the Middle of the End. As with all your books, it’s very family-centric. What gave you the impetus to write that?

I think there must be something very family-centric about me that just rolls its way into my work. Family dynamics fascinate me, even the negative dynamics. I have great parents. My kids had a Mom who tried to be both. 

This book actually began as a nightmare. In the dream, I was the mother who was dragged off, knowing only that my baby had been tossed headfirst into a dumpster while strapped into a highchair, and that my older two daughters were hidden. But--for how long? Would they get away, or would they be found by those awful men? I couldn’t hear the baby crying--alive or dead? I woke up from this nightmare in tears, and it just would not leave my mind. Someone had to save those kids! So there I was, in the middle of the night, pounding away at the keyboard, making Penny grow up fast and take charge. 

8) Regarding Starting in the Middle of the End, is your main character Penny based on a member of your family?

Penny is the oldest child, a reader and determined to take care of her sisters. She resembles me, in that regard. But seven-year-old me would not have been as pragmatic as Penny, and my sisters would not have been able to be quiet, so I’d say these kids are definitely fictional. I do like to think that I would have dived into a dumpster to save the baby, but I have a tendency to overthink things, so I probably wouldn’t have moved fast enough. Poor baby. 

7) Thus far in your indie publishing career, you’ve tackled: Paranormal, Romance, science fiction. Are there any other genres or subgenres you’re thinking of taking on in the future like a comedy, a straight up detective mystery?

I’d like to tackle something funny someday. I have a detective in the works, although she started life as a graphic novel character back in the day. Back story is written. But it’s less mystery and more get-that-scumbag. 

6) Plotter or pantser? 

I try to plot, and then end up flying by the seat of my pants anyway. I do a lot of research that gets lost in the translation, and end of researching things that were never in the original plan. I guess I’m a planster. 

5) You’ve been in the medical field for much of your adult life as a medical coder, an optician and Ophthalmologic-related fields. Have any of your various professions informed you in your fiction?

It all comes in handy. In Emma, there are medical issues related to having twins that I wouldn’t have been familiar with without some background. She also shares my asthma/allergy issues and wears glasses, because real people are not perfectly healthy all the time. 

The Emma sequel will hit on some medical issues as well, and it’s not going to be fun. 

4) What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about writing?

Read everything you can get your hands on, and think about how you would handle the same subject. 

3) Any plans to continue Emma’s/Roger’s stories?

There will be a third and final Roger story, and Emma’s sequel is in the works, as well. I do think Roger will continue to show up in Emma’s stories, though. He’s probably living more as a ghost than he did in life, and could be an asset to her. 

2) Is there a genre to which you don’t feel you could do justice?

I could not write erotica. My idea of a great sex scene is, “Norman swept her into his arms, carried her into the bedroom and kicked the door shut behind him.” Old fashioned? Oh, well. 

1) What’s next for Paula Shablo?

Oh, boy. I just want to finish the first drafts of the two works-in-progress. I want to change a couple of my book covers--the ones with stock photos.

I want to fix everything for my babies so they never have to have an unhappy day. (Ambitious, aren’t I?)

Oh, and I want to find a cure for dementia so I can have my Dad back to 100% Paul. I miss that guy. But I love him 100% every day, no matter what. 

Below are links to Paula’s work:
  1. S23HF50  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GZLOFLM Kindle Edition https://www.amazon.com/dp/1534864067 paperback
    2. Emma: Ancestors' Tales  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0771WTV3W Kindle Edition https://www.amazon.com/dp/1977721532paperback
    3. Roger's Revelation  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D2YXXPL Kindle Edition https://www.amazon.com/dp/1982902051paperback
    4. Roger's Dilemma  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H4G6SJ3 Kindle Edition https://www.amazon.com/dp/1720087008 paperback
    5. Starting in the Middle of the End https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L4GM4PN Kindle Edition
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1790786118 paperback
This one is a short story only available on Kindle:Valentine Knights


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