PAULLETT GOLDEN: LIVE TO WRITE
Last year, I had the absolute pleasure of reading The Earl and the Enchantress by Paullett Golden.
I've reviewed a few authors on Instagram, and I'm not usually surprised when they never notice. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Paullett liked my post and followed me on Instagram. I've considered her one of my writing friends ever since.
The Quirky Quill is a place where writers can learn from other writers.
So, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do an interview with Paullett. I'm a huge fan of historical romance, and I hope you get as much from this interview as I did!
Interview with Paullett Golden
1. Why do you write? When did you start writing?
Writing saved my life. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, that’s the truth as I know it. I’ve been writing since my youth, always with a dream of “one day” becoming a novelist, but I always assumed that mystical “one day” would be after retirement. As life does, it gives the unexpected. After a series of seemingly unrelated health complications, I was informed by an oncologist that I had advanced ovarian cancer and would not live another three months without treatment, and even with treatment, my life may only be extended for an additional six months. What does someone do with that news? I thought about all the things I still wanted to accomplish in life, some that couldn’t possibly be done in three months, especially not with failing health and potential treatments if I chose to accept them, but others I could do. One item at the top of the list was WRITE. Retirement wasn’t an option anymore. I had three months to write a book. It wasn’t about publication. It was simply about writing. It was my lifelong dream, and I wasn’t about to die without writing a book. It was through writing that I had the drive to fight and win my health battle. It was that drive to say, “No, no, just one more book now that this one is finished.” In this way, writing saved my life. I refused to let go until I had accomplished my goal, but that’s the funny thing about writing—it’s never finished! Now, I write to live.
2. What's your writing process? How do you get to know your characters?
I’m glad you’ve asked these questions together, Kylee, because they go hand in hand. My characters drive the writing process. I’ll have everything plotted out to a certain degree, but my characters determine what happens. Typically, they rewrite the story. I’ll have a script to follow, and they’ll go off script, make their own choices, and by doing so, it shifts the plot, sometimes in minor ways, but at some point, they’ll shift the plot in at least one major way that has me tossing the plot out of the window. People often distinguish themselves as a plotter or a pantser, that is someone who plots the novel or writes by the seat of their pants, so to speak. I always start with a plot, but at some point, it’ll be trashed, and I’ll have to follow the characters’ lead by going with their flow. Getting to know the characters is a similar journey where I’ll begin with an inspiration, maybe someone I met briefly or someone I know well, and I’ll craft the character bio and details, including their personality traits, hobbies, world views, values, goals, etc., but rarely do the characters follow what I’ve crafted. As they take a life of their own on paper, their personality traits, fears, desires, etc., all adjust, sometimes revealing they’re a completely different person than I designed them to be, and other times they’re who I had envisioned but with their own quirks. An example of this would be the hero in The Duke and The Enchantress. I designed the character as a Sagittarius. He was the center of attention, charismatic, a little narcissistic but loved by most everyone. As I got to know him, and as he hijacked my plot, I learned he was very much not a Sag but a Gemini, and it was his public face that I was seeing, while his private face was entirely different. Color me surprised!
3. Why did you choose historical fiction? And why do you write about the Regency era?
I live enough in reality as it is, so I’d much rather be transported to another time. That time doesn’t have to be during the Georgian reign, and the place doesn’t have to be England, but it is a time about which I’ve done considerable research. I think it’s great fun to time travel to other eras and places, but I’m not always well enough equipped with the mores, culture, idioms, etc. to go unnoticed by the natives, so I might pop by a time period briefly only to hit the time machine button to head back to the Georgian era where I’m most comfortable. I don’t plan to write exclusively in this era, but for now, it’s where I’m the most knowledgeable, so much so I have the time machine speed-travel buttons set for various points along the Georgian timeline.
4. Which authors inspired you? What are the books that influenced your writing?
By focusing this question on the authors of the genre (rather than, say, authors of classics), I’d point a finger to Mary Balogh. I knew what I wanted to write, but I didn’t feel it had a place in this genre given the most popular types of plots and characters in hist roms. There isn’t another genre for what I wanted to write, and this genre, sadly, doesn’t have much in the way of subgenres, so I feared what I wanted to write wouldn’t find an audience. It was stifling, to say the least, and one of the many reasons I think I kept putting off writing in my early years. Then I stumbled on a Balogh book. It was quite by accident. I was standing in Barnes and Noble while waiting for a work meeting to begin within the hour. Starbucks drink in hand, I browsed. Back of the book, after back of the book, I scanned the new releases for that month. Meh, I thought. Nothing to grab my attention that I hadn’t already read in another book. Balogh’s cover caught my attention—the only book at the time that had a modest cover with a woman standing in front of a cottage rather than in some stage of undress next to a strapping and mostly naked man—so I took a peek at the back. Oooh! It sounded new and exciting! I read the first few pages to get a feel for her writing style. I couldn’t buy the book fast enough! I’ve been hooked ever since. What reading her book did for me was help me realize there is an audience for my writing. She gave me the courage I needed to publish.
5. What's the hardest thing about writing? How do you overcome writer's block?
Knock on wood, but I’ve yet to have writer’s block. What I encounter, instead, is uncooperative characters who don’t want to work from the script. I hand them all a carefully crafted script to read, and one will say his own lines, while the other heads off to his trailer in a huff, and still another demands to see his agent. Is it so difficult to read from the script? When the scene and dialogue feel stiff, I recognize right away this isn’t the right direction. I need to explore another avenue, give the character more freedom, try a different angle, anything that will reset the scene. Sometimes, no matter how beautifully plotted a scene, I might delete the whole of it to go at it from a different angle because I realize the writing of it so far is too stiff, too stuttering, too jolting. If my fingers aren’t flying, then something is wrong. I believe that if I kept trying to force the scene, then I’d hit writer’s block, but rather than going that route, I just scrap the direction and reroute, thus bypassing any potential blocks. The hardest aspect about writing, then, comes in not knowing what the characters will do and how that’ll change the plot. It does build anticipation for me as the writer since I have no idea what is coming next! If the reader thinks it’s predictable, that makes one of us! Haha.
6. How did you get published? What's something you wish you knew before you were published?
When I wrote my debut novel, I never thought I would see it published. I wrote it for myself, assuming I would die before I finished it or certainly before I could ever submit it for publication. Morbid thought, but it was the truth at the time given the “death date” set by the oncologist. When I beat the battle, I leapt feet first into publication without doing much research. When one of the romance-only publishers wanted to work with me on the book, I was assigned an editor. This was pre-contract, thankfully, a preliminary, “Let’s see if we can get this book up to our standards before we agree to anything.” Working with the editor was a nightmare; I won’t lie. I didn’t know what else to do other than accept everything she said for fear the publishing house wouldn’t accept my work if I didn’t. Substantial changes were made, all of which were against what I wanted to do, but wasn’t this person the expert? At some point in this process, I decided there must be other avenues because if this is what it’s like to work with a traditional house, then I would rather not be published, especially when they sent over an early version of the contract. Between that contract and the editor, I had just about decided publication wasn’t for me. I spent quite a bit of time studying the different avenues of publication from traditional to independent small press to self-published and beyond. I realized traditional was not the only avenue, rather just one of the many, and it has a few perks with a hefty share of drawbacks—which could be said about any of the avenues, so what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. It all depends on what sort of “perks” a writer wants and what they might consider to be drawbacks. Perhaps one person’s perk is another person’s drawback, eh? Some people prefer traditional, but I realized after my research combined with my experience that I did not. Interestingly, I published my debut novel with all the edits the editor had given, and to this day those edits are the only complaints and negative reviews I’ve received on the book, which solidifies for me that I made the right decision to step away from traditional publishing. Since going indie, I absolutely couldn’t be happier. To answer your second question, Kylee, what I wish I had known beforehand was to go indie from the start. I wasted a year working with that publishing house and editor, a year in which I could have been writing and publishing. But then, without that experience, perhaps I wouldn’t know that indie is the best choice for me.
7. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? What's something you wished you knew when you first started writing?
Write, write, and write. Never be stuck in the “this is terrible writing!” rut, as everything can and will be revised. Write until you’ve finished the story, and then you can go back and revise. You’ll probably start off with flat dialogue, a whole lot of “he said” and “she said,” a lack of tension, or conversely with overly flowered prose and over the top descriptors, you name it. Just write! Everything can be revised afterwards. Writers tend to spend too much time staring at blank pages, feeling frustrated that the one sentence written is poorly worded, or comparing themselves to someone else’s polished prose. Just write! Everything can and will be polished later. That other person’s polished prose started out with he said and she said or with fifty adverbs per page, as well. Rather than doubting yourself, just write. As for your second question, Kylee, it’s not so much something I wish I knew before I started writing rather something of which I must constantly remind myself. I’m not writing for anyone except me. My audience is me. I’m writing because I want to live another life for a time, be it the circumstances, the character, the place, etc. The writing itself is what’s important, not the end product. In this way, I’m not worried about the polish, just the process, the actual crafting of the scenes. I want to be sitting in the drawing room (or wherever) and experiencing that moment as that person, and so I immerse myself. Once I’ve lived through it, I can then polish it, and read it as a reader, experiencing it all over again in a completely different way. I write a book I want to live just as much as I write a book I want to read. If anyone else enjoys the book, as well, that’s superb, but ultimately, the book is written for entirely selfish reasons. With that said, it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game, those feelings of inadequacies or failure writers will internalize after a negative review. This is the risk of publication in that you’ve released into the world something personal, something that was not written for others yet is now being read by others, those with vastly differing tastes. Reminders of why write are important for every writer, I think, and should happen frequently. Unless you are writing for the public, you must remind yourself that you’re writing for you, and as long as you enjoy the writing of it, that’s what matters.
8. Would you ever write a story set in a different era? What are your favorite time periods?
I definitely would write in other eras and plan to do so! Three time periods I’m eyeing are the 11th century (era of Vikings & Norman Conquest), the late 17th century (era of the Restoration & Baroque), and the mid to late 19th century (Victorian era). My favorite is the Enlightenment through the Regency, with the end of the 18th century, before the turn, being my top favorite.
9. What's your favorite book you've written? How do you decide what you're writing next?
The characters decide what’ll be written next. I never planned on The Enchantresses being a series, for instance. I had my eye on writing the first book, and then I planned to move on to something different, but as I got to know the characters, some were begging for me to write their story. How was I to resist? As for which book is my favorite, it’s as difficult to choose a favorite book as it is to choose a favorite child. You love them all; each drives you batty for a different reason; they’re unique in their own ways. A Dash of Romance is my favorite for the comedy and writing style. A Touch of Romance is my favorite for the cultural representations and hero’s perspective. The Baron and The Enchantress is my favorite for the refreshing honesty of the hero and the slow burn. The Colonel and The Enchantress is my favorite for its representation of mental and physical trauma. The Heir and The Enchantress is my favorite for the (controversial) portrayal of the time period. The Earl and The Enchantress is my favorite for its Gothic nods and literary touches. The Duke and The Enchantress is my favorite for the depth of characters. All my books include character growth and internal conflict, always having the characters resolve their own conflicts before the relationship can work, but each accomplishing these uniquely. Which one I recommend to someone will differ on what the person enjoys reading most. If they’re looking for sweet romantic comedy, definitely go with A Dash of Romance—not to be missed! If they’re looking for intellectual and sweet with touches of comedy, go for A Touch of Romance. If they love a tortured hero, aim for The Colonel and The Earl. If they want steamy, go for The Duke. If they like a slow burn, go for The Baron. If they like the marriage of convenience trope with a whimsical heroine who must unlace the hero’s tight corset, go for The Heir. The Enchantresses is the steamy series, ranging from super steamy to slightly steamy, while the Romantic Encounters series is sweet. My future series will be similar in that some will be steamy and others sweet—something for everyone! I do have steam levels marked on my website not only on the general list of books but also on the individual book pages, so if in doubt, check it out.
I hope you got as much from this interview as I did! I definitely needed to be reminded to write for myself!
If you love historical romance as much as I do, check out Paullett's novels!
I definitely recommend The Earl and the Enchantress.
I'd be remiss if I did not thank Paullett Golden one more time. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share your experiences and advice with our fellow writers.
What an exciting new year for the Quirky Quill!
My Witcher series is finished until I finish reading the books.
My next series will be about The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. I'm so excited to explore this series with you!