A women’s Brokeback Mountain. The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; Richard Olney, United States Secretary of State, expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine in settling a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.
“Paulette Mahurin’s first novel is surefooted and unflinching in its portrayal of a singular and unique character and her compelling struggles. Compassionate and confident, Mahurin allows Mildred’s story to burn through onto the page with all its inherent outrage and tenacious, abiding love. Here is a character we can champion—flawed, striving, surviving— and fully embrace in her awkward, beautiful navigation of a world that resists her in every way.” Deb Norton, Playwrite/screenwriter of The Whole Banana
“If you need to question your values, read this book! The author captures the intolerance and hypocrisy of a 1895 Nevada town, and its transcendence in time through tolerance and understanding. The angst and pain that two women feel daily, living the ‘lie’ of their lesbian relationship, and the prejudice they must endure, is unconscionable. I was moved to tears by their struggle in the face of the conflicted values that continue to dominate our ‘modern’ society.” William K. Fox, PhD, Professor of Zoology
Tell us about your current release?
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, touted as a women’s Brokeback Mountain, takes place in 1895, after Oscar Wilde is imprisoned for “indecency”. Britian had just changed its laws to make it a criminal offense for a man to have sex with a man with a sentence of two years in a hard labor prison. When the news of Wilde’s imprisonment travels out over telegraphs and lands in a small Nevada ranching town, the impact it has on its citizens, and a lesbian couple in particular, is devastating. The story line draws on other significant news that occurs in 1895, to bring tension to the hatred developing over homosexuality into the dialogue, such as the Dryefus Affair that divided France’s position on anti-sematism, Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta address and racism, along with expansion of the Monroe Doctrine and international hostile aggression. It is chronicle of hatred and prejudice, with all its unintended and horrific consequences, and how love and friendship heal.
How do you describe your writing style?
I try to get out of my own way. When I feel my “ego” rearing its head, wanting to show off how much I’ve researched, how well I can describe a scene, add more to show I’ve really put in the time, when it becomes about me and not the story, I cut it
out. If it doesn’t further the story as something that will carry the reader along, hold the reader’s interest, then it’s out. That can be a challenge, for instance spent months doing research on one part about describing Walker Lake and reduced pages down to a paragraph because adding in too much takes attention off the action of the story and is boring. The characters have to be happy to be in the story and feel they are getting their due and not being overshadowed by me. It’s been an interesting zen way of writing.
What is the hardest part of writing your book?
Knowing when it’s finished. Not stopping because I’m tired and continuing to put in the time when it’s needed, for corrections, for clarity, to tighten it up. After the story has taken shape and is virtually completed and it’s into the editing rewrites that can get tedious and the urge to want to just call it over rises from the murky dust of tedium but to cut it short out of selfishness risks ruining the story just as much as adding too much unnecessary stuff. It’s a balance, a flow, and it takes time—a lot of time, but when it becomes laborious and there’s still editing that needs to be done, rewrites for the sake of the work, then staying the course is the only right way to go to avoid compromising quality, and integrity.
What are you passionate about these days?
Rescuing dogs. Dogs are my passion. The profits to the book are going to SPARC, the first no kill animal shelter in Ventura County, California, where I live. Just last week we lost a dog, Eli, a ten year old chocolate lab who we rescued from a kill shelter last September, 2011. He was an incredible dog, dropped off from a family he’d be with for nine and a half years, and suffering from severe grief and separation anxiety, when we took him on, took him to his new home, ours. It was just a few days till he was wagging and normal, an incredible reminder of the power of love. He gave back in spades, up to the day he died and the gratitude of being around that kind of love…there’s nothing like it. We still have two rescue puppies here with us, our family, Max and Bella, so the heartache we feel for Eli is lessened by their constant antics.
Morning person or night person, how do you know?
Definitely morning. The sun rises, the chemicals in my brain—the endorphins—release and I feel good to be alive, with more energy than as the day progresses.
Night time, I turn into a wind down doll, out of commission till the next morning when it starts all over again. I remember working a night shift in the second busiest emergency room in Los Angeles County (I’m a nurse practitioner by profession and writer for love) and it felt like slugging through molasses the later it got then it completely threw off my circadian rhythm and I had trouble getting it back for a few days. Yes, definitely a morning person.
What makes you happy?
I am generally a pretty content person. I was blessed with a father with a very positive attitude, that life is precious and you always have the choice of what you make your attitude (not unlike Viktor Frankl’s message in Man’s Search for Meaning) so I would have to say that on a regular basis what really makes me happy is how I allow myself to think, or not think. I see the chemistry of thoughts, how negative thinking releases cortisone and adrenaline and suppresses the immune system and mood. I see how changing one thought to something gentler, kinder, less negative, I feel better, it’s an actual chemical response. Then there’s the fact that I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Ojai, CA. have a great husband who’s very supportive and my best friends, and I get to rescue and bring home dogs. I look out my window to the oaks and sycamore trees surrounding the creek running through our property, take in a breathe, and feel good to be alive, knowing that it could end at any moment, gratitude keeps me grounded and happy.
Paulette Mahurin is a Nurse Practitioner, who specializes in Women’s Health in a rural clinic, in Ojai, CA, where she lives with her husand, Terry, and their two dogs, Max & Bella. She has taught nursing in community colleges and UCLA. Although this is Mahurin’s first novel, she has written two award winning non-fiction short stories while in college.
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