Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Wednesday Writers: Paulette Mahurin
As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.
This week we meet author of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, Paulette Mahurin, who explores tragedy, loss, history, and the lessons we learn from it all.
Name: Paulette Mahurin
Location and one thing you love about living there: Ojai, CA is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I look out the windows or my home and see a park-like setting, replete with trees, growth, squirrels, birds, flowers…nature at its best. I live a vacation life.
Author of: The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
Tell us a bit about yourself: I’m a nurse practitioner, specializing in women’s health in a clinic in Ojai, CA. Prior to that I worked in the busiest ER in LA County with the highest census of child abuse. You name it, I’ve seen it. I live with my husband, Terry (a retired NASA attorney) and our three dogs, rescued from a kill shelter: Eli (a choc lab), Max (a deformed rottie puppy) and Bella (a numbnutz rottie/sharpie puppy). I like to write, a lot, and therefore I write whenever I can. After moving to Ojai, 15 years ago, I was bitten by a tick, six months later I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. God answered my prayer for time to write in a not-so-great-way, but the Lyme afforded me the time to sit, and sit, and sit, and six years later my novel was born.
Tell us about your novel: The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap takes place in 1895, in a small Nevada farming town. That was a year ripe with memorable history: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; Richard Olney, Unites States Secretary of State, expanded 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 Britian’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense.
When the news of Wilde’s conviction when out over the telegraphs worldwide, it three a small Nevada town into chaos. This is a story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Wilde’s imprisonment, a lesbian couple in particular. It’s a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.
What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? My own emotions and interest. A story either grabs me, holds me, and carries me along or it doesn’t. Nothing erudite about it.
Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? Vicktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. If you’ve read it, this needs no explanation. It was his journey in a concentration camp, and after losing his entire family he watched and noted the strength of the human spirit to survive in the worst of situations. Profound, deep, life changing words on each page, based on his experience which was spine chilling.
What was the seed of inspiration for your book? I took a writing class in Ojai. The Teacher, Deb Norton (a screenplay/stage play wright of The Whole Banana) came in one day with a stack of photos. We had ten minutes to write a mystery. My photo was two spinsterly looking women standing very close together.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? Tolerance for the human condition and to see, beyond stupidity that, after-all, we’re all human.
What challenges have you faced in your writing career? Physical exhaustion and bodily incapacities when getting into some compelling parts. Other than that, I enjoy the process, even the painful feedback because it helped me learn about my insides.
What has been your best moment as a writer? Getting feedback that someone really loved the story. Then having that multiplied and a word of mouth wave was created, which resulted in a reading at The Ojai Art Center, a prestigious Art Center in California.
Who is your author idol? Too many to name. I like Steinbeck a lot.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters? There are parts of me in all of them.
Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? It’s a process. There’s no dream involved, rather a life flow, and much gratitude for being able to do something I like/even love at times. I’ve known writing rapture and despair and I’d say that the dream is not to dream but to be awake in the process and float with the unknown, the “what’s next” while sitting in the experience of this live unfolding moment.
What is your personal cure for procrastination? That’s a hard one. Sometimes I wonder if the writing is doing itself. It happens – even sitting down to put in the time happens. I think, am I doing anything I can take credit for? Not really sure. I just do it. I sit. I write. I go off and do other things until I return to sit and write. A writer writes. That’s all. Doesn’t matter if it’s five minutes or five hours. It’s like asking someone about a successful diet; if we’re going to be real about it you tell me what works then see if it really works, outside of sitting my ass down before a computer/typewriter and doing.
What does your workspace look like? It’s a room with a desk, an office. Neat, pleasant, windows that look out at to trees.
Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? My back hurts when I sit too much and I don’t get up and stretch enough.
Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? Sure and on that day, I did. Then I restarted.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Spend time with my hubby and dogs. Help rescue dogs. Work as an NP, do a considerable amount of pro-bono health consultations for women with cancer and with other medical conditions that need a friend with experience.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? Don’t loose sight that you are human, and one step away from suffering or loss like the rest of the world – staying grounded in the experience is something to be grateful for, but nothing lasts and nothing is forever.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school? How to study. How to spend time researching. How to use time wisely.
Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? No. I don’t know that I’m meant to be a writer. I do know/feel that writing sits comfortably in my skin. I’ve tried acting, painting, and other right brain activities but none felt comfortable; they made me feel self-conscious, but that’s not the case with writing.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? A writer writes. Sit down and do it. And tell the critic in your head to go to silent retreat!