Morning my lovelies! I can’t believe it’s Wednesday again already….my weeks seem to be flying by!! Today, on Meet the Author I’m chatting with the lovely Paula Martin about writing success, researching her family history, kissing Hugh Jackman (yes really!), why she loves Ireland, her most recent novel, Irish Echoes and much, much more!
Contemporary novels, usually with a mixture of intrigue and romance
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Hello, Chelle, and many thanks for having me as your guest today.
I live near Manchester in North West England and have two daughters and two grandsons.
I had some early publishing success in my twenties with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while I brought up a young family and also pursued my career as a high school history teacher for twenty-five years. After retiring from teaching, I returned to writing fiction and have had 11 novels published since 2011.
What inspired you to start writing and where do you get your ideas?
I’ve been writing stories since I was about 8 or 9, so it’s always been a part of me. Originally I simply wrote for myself, using the characters in Enid Blyton’s school stories (an early form of ‘fan-fiction’, I realise now) and then inventing my own characters. In my early teens I enjoyed writing romances for my friends to read. One of those stories eventually became the basis for a full-length novel which was published about ten years later when I was in my twenties.
As for ideas, they jump out and grab me from many different sources: sometimes a news item or article, sometimes a place I’m visiting (e.g. Egypt which was the location for ‘Her Only Option), sometimes, as in the case of my ‘Mist Na Mara’ novels, an interest in an aspect of Irish history, and my current ‘work in progress’ is based on something from my own family history.
How many books have you written and published?
In total, 15. Four were published by Mills and Boon and Robert Hale back in the late 60s/early 70s, now all out of print , of course, but at least I can say some of my novels used to be available as hardbacks! Then I had a long break from writing apart from some short stories and articles for magazines. I came back to writing novels about twelve years ago, and since then have had eleven more books published. Nine of these were originally available as both ebooks and paperbacks, but when my publisher closed, I had to find a new publisher. Six of the nine have now been republished as ebooks, but my latest two books are only available as ebooks, much to the chagrin of a lot of my readers who want signed paperback copies of my novels! I’m now looking for another publisher which will bring out digital and print versions at the same time. It’s over 50 years since I first opened a box containing print copies of my own novel, but that thrill never wears off. Even in these days of digital books, I still maintain there is still no greater satisfaction than holding a printed copy of your own novel in your hands.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
That’s very difficult to choose (because, like my heroines, I fall in love with all my heroes!) but I think ‘Her Only Option’ might be my favourite. The original idea came to me when I was sitting on the sundeck of a Nile cruise ship at Aswan about ten years ago: a story about a cruise ship tour guide and an archaeologist working in the famous Valley of the Kings. I started writing it the following week when we were staying at a hotel on the banks of the Nile at Luxor. As I continued to write it once I was home again, it helped me to relive my visit to Egypt which had been on my bucket list for many years (and exceeded all my expectations). To begin with, the novel was a fairly straightforward romance, but somehow it developed into an intrigue/suspense story, a new venture for me. It wasn’t the easiest book to write – I think I changed my mind half a dozen times about who would be the villain in the story. But eventually I sorted it all out, mainly thanks to a Nile boatman who serenaded his passengers with Elvis songs. He popped up out of nowhere when I was writing the early part of the story – and then demanded a bigger role. Since then, most of my novels have some aspect of intrigue/suspense which has affected the developing relationship between the two main characters in some way.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go and why? (Backwards or forwards!)
Definitely back to 15th century England because I love that period of history, especially the much maligned Richard III and his family and contemporaries. I’ve been a ‘Ricardian’ ever since I read Josephine Tey’s ‘Daughter of Time’ when I was in my teens, and have visited all the battlefields of the Wars of the Roses, as well as countless medieval castles, churches, and abbeys in various parts of the UK. Needless to say, I was totally amazed and thrilled when Richard’s body was finally found (in the infamous car park in Leicester).
Other than writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I’ve been researching my family history (on and off) for the last 20+ years, which has been an amazing voyage of discovery. When I was first started, there weren’t many family history websites (unlike now), so I travelled to various local record offices in places as far afield as London, Winchester and the Isle of Man in search of my ancestors. I’ve also explored cemeteries and graveyards (including one in Brooklyn in New York), visited churches where my ancestors and their families were baptised or married, and in some cases found their 19th century homes in old Lancashire mill towns. I’ve also met various living relatives and been in email contact with others. It’s a fascinating hobby, and as more and more old records have been digitised since I first started, I’ve been able to break through quite a lot of ‘brick walls’ in my family history.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
That has to be getting a kiss from Hugh Jackman! I still can hardly believe it actually happened. My daughter and I got tickets for his ‘The Man, the Music, the Show’ at the Manchester Arena in May 2019. Having been a Hugh Jackman fan for many years, I was thrilled to see him live on stage. Then, in the second half of the show, he came down off the stage to talk to people in the audience, and my daughter managed to attract his attention by telling him she was about to emigrate to Australia. He brought her out to the front of the stage and she then told him I was his biggest fan, so the next I knew I was standing next to him, with his arm around me, in front of about 18 thousand people in the arena. He then sang a George Michael song (still with his arms around me) and at the end of it he kissed me – and everyone in the arena cheered and clapped! I went home in a total daze that night.
What’s your favourite film of all time and why?
If you’re only allowing me one, then I think it would have to be a little known film entitled ‘Da’, made in the 1980s and starring Barnard Hughes and Martin Sheen. It’s a real emotional gem of a film, with a son returning to Ireland after his father’s death and reliving the past in his sometimes difficult relationship with his father. Beautifully done, and with both humour and pathos. Most of it was filmed in the east coast Irish towns of Bray and Dalkey, and I once spent an interesting few days searching out various filming locations there.
If you could travel anywhere (world/universe etc!) where would you go and why?
Definitely Ireland. I fell in love with the west of Ireland (Galway, Clare and Mayo counties) on my first visit there about 13 years ago, and have been back a dozen times since then. I love the wonderful scenery – the Atlantic waves crashing against the cliffs of the west coast; the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and lakes of Connemara in County Galway; the sense of history wherever you go, from prehistoric remains to medieval churches and castles, the heartrending reminders of the ‘Great Famine’ in the 19th century, and the more modern reminders of Ireland’s struggle for independence. The friendliness of the Irish people, too, and of course all the Irish pubs with their traditional music. Hardly surprising, therefore, that I set my series of six ‘Mist Na Mara’ novels in and around the small town of Clifden, in the far west of County Galway.
You win a million pounds – you give half to charity. Which charity do you pick and why? What would you do with the rest of the money?
Half would go to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute as their volunteers do such an amazing job around Britain’s coasts and they receive no government funding at all. An extra and personal reason for supporting them is that they rescued my grandson a couple of years ago when his yacht lost power when the propeller broke, and the tide and wind resulted in the yacht crashing against a pier.
The rest of the money would go to my daughters and grandsons, either to pay their mortgages or start them on the property ladder or buy a luxury yacht for one of them, and (family joke here) I might buy myself a pair of slippers! Or perhaps a cottage in Ireland.
What are you working on now?
My current ‘work in progress’ is totally different from all my previous novels, which have been contemporary. This one is set in the 19th century and is based (loosely) on my great-great-grandparents, who were both born in Liverpool. My g-g-grandfather was a captain with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company between 1840 and 1860 and had quite an interesting career, which I’m trying to weave into an imaginary story about him and his wife and their life in the Isle of Man. I’m already planning (in my head anyway) follow-up novels about their daughter (born in 1856) and their granddaughter (my grandmother) born in 1884.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
Irish Echoes, my most recent book, was published last year and was the 6th in my Mist Na Mara series, which are all stand-alone novels, linked by their setting in the west of Ireland. This one was inspired by the reminders you can see all over Ireland of the Potato Famine in the 1840s – mass graveyards, some amazing and heartrending memorials, and also the ruined cottages in villages which were abandoned during the Famine.
Rachel Pearse and Elliot Quinn had been deeply in love—until Rachel made a huge error of judgement which deprived Elliot of the acclaim for discovering a long-lost famine village in Ireland. Elliot denounced this as a deliberate attempt to betray him and ended their relationship.
Seven years later, they meet unexpectedly when Elliot turns up at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre in the west of Ireland for a week-long conference which Rachel has agreed to manage as a favour to a friend. New tensions mount when it becomes apparent Elliot isn’t prepared to forgive and forget, even though they are both aware of the revival of their feelings for each other.
Surrounded by the echoes of their own past as well as those of Ireland’s Great Hunger, can Rachel and Elliot resolve their problems and find their way back together?
Irish Echoes (and all my other books)are available from Amazon: http://amzn.to/KtlU6Y
Links to other ebook distributors (Apple, Kobo and Nook) can be found on my author page at Tirgearr Publishing: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Martin_Paula/
thank you so much Paula for coming over and chatting to us. What a wonderful and insightful interview – thank you!
If you have any questions or comments for Paula, make sure you get in touch.
Have a lovely day everyone