Interview with Paulette Mahurin
Paulette Mahurin, an award-winning author, is a Nurse Practitioner who lives in Ojai, California with her husband Terry and their two dogs–Max and Bella. She practices women’s health in a rural clinic and writes in her spare time.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was ten I used to keep a diary and I loved to write in it. Writing was my sanctuary, where I felt safe to be myself without fear of what others would think of me. I had a brother who was schizophrenic and couldn’t being friends home, he was sexually inappropriate, morbidly obese, and inappropriate, he scared my friends, so I used writing as a place to communicate what I had no other place to do it. By the time I got to college, I wrote and submitted stories to magazines, contests, etc. I won a couple of awards for my non-fiction writing. After college, I became busy, for years, until one day around fifteen years ago, just after I rescued a dog (Tazzie) I got a tick bit, which evolved into a full blown Lyme Disease Diagnosis in the next six months. I had to drop out of the Emergency Room I was working in and take to my bed (with cardiac valve, neurological, and arthritic complications). The upside of this illness is it afforded me time to do little other than writing. When I started to feel better I took a writing class in town where I live, Ojai, CA. and in that class sprang the seeds for my story, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I need complete quiet. I have so much noise and dialogue inside my head, while writing, that I get easily distracted by music and noise in the house, which can be a challenge cause we have two young dogs that like to play and can’t seem to do it without growling (very loudly) with each other. I do love quiet, especially those times when the writing pours out and there’s nothing left–inside my head is empty, not many times I can say that about my overly busy mind.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I fell in love with the characters, they became real to me, and we talked to each other. I took direction from them, what felt authentic in their voice, what to leave out of the story, and I learned that the story was about them, not me. I already knew about me, and so when I got out of the way, they came alive. I did my best when I allowed them to flow through me, without trying to show off how much I researched, how much time I put in, how smart I was, what message I wanted to get across, no, I had to let “me” go, and let “them” live.
Where did you get ideas for your books?
This one was in a writing class, where the teacher came in with a stack of photos. Mine was of a couple of women dressed in turn of the twentieth century garb, standing very close together, looking drab, downtrodden, almost fearful. It screamed out lesbian couple afraid of being found out. We were to write a ten minute mystery about the photo and so mine became a lesbian couple back around the late 1800s, living in a western town. When I got home, they haunted me. I couldn’t get my attention off of them and started researching that time period. My husband helped and boy did he hit pay dirt when he discovered that in 1895 Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in Britain for homosexuality. Bingo! That would serve to move the story along, the news coming in over telegraphs about his imprisonment. I even found a New York Times article dated April 5, 1895 in which they blasted him and homosexuality. Wilde’s injustice was a watershed moment for GLBT history; prior to his imprisonment there was an acceptable tolerance but after, hatred and bigotry became parlor conversation, openly between men and women. That was a black time in the history of human rights.
Out of all the books you have written which is your favorite and why?
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is my only published novel. I’ve written others that are ready for final edit, a friendship story, two murder mysteries, and one love story is almost done.
Who is your target audience?
Everyone really, after the age of around the age of twelve. It’s a story about bullying, hatred and bigotry, with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship heal. I feel that the lesson, of bullying and intolerance, is something “we” all can have another looks at. I’ve had readers from all sorts of genres other than historical fiction as their preference read and comment that it surprised them how much they loved the book, couldn’t put it down, lot of reviews on Amazon mention that.
What do you think makes a good story?
An interesting protagonist that the reader relates to emotionally, can identify with, then an antagonist who comes into conflict with the main character to bring tension into the story, a what will happen, I have to keep reading to find out, can’t put it down. Ultimately, it will end with a satisfying resolution or one that can be justified as the way things are in reality, but usually what makes a good read is do the first five pages get me involved and hold me, does the action and narrative stay true to the story or digress. Last but certainly not least, good professional editing. Sloppy work can distract off the read of the story, typos, poor formatting, etc. can really pull attention of the writers words.
Who are some of your favorite Authors?
There are way too many to comment on but I love Steinbeck, his genius for writing about the ordinary and turning it into a gripping, heart-wrenching, Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I’m talking about the ever brilliant, Grapes of Wrath, which stayed with me days after I read it.
If you could pick one actor to play a character in your book in the movie version, who would it be?
I thought of Robert Redford, a young version of him for Charley. I featured Charley after him, the younger Redford, and described Charley with his characteristics. Charley was the man, whose wife was dying, that Mildred decided to show an interest in to divert attention off of her being a lesbian. Because he was so good looking, so in love with his wife, on death’s door, Mildred was sure he’d reject her, which would start a rumor that she was interested in him, to divert attention off any suspicion she feared could come to be after the news of Wilde came to their town.
What song best describes your book and Why?
John Lennon’s Imagine. It’s a story about tolerance, where we get along, where people see each other as various shades of human and different, not bad or good, but just simply unique, where we can accept each other civilly. It’s my dream, and you may say I’m a dreamer…
Who are some of the people that influenced your love of writing?
Another hard one. I’ve had some great and supportive college professors, writing teachers, my parents who said, “you can do anything you make up your mind to do,” friends and professionals who’ve read and edited it and helped me grow and feel good about myself as a writer. I’ve really been blessed with being surrounded with a good of good people, but top of the list is my husband who is amazingly supportive and helpful, he gets right in there with me doing research, reading for typos and flow, and we share in the project together.
If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring Author, what would it be?
A writer writes. Doesn’t matter how long. Just sit your butt down in the chair and do it, like the nike commercial. Leave the editing to a professional editor and tell the chatter in your head, all the I can’t, I’m not good enough, no one will ever like it, all the head noise…tell it to shut up!
What would you like to say to friends and family of writers (not just your own)?
Thank you, to everyone who’s helped me with an interview, you here now, all the bloggers, other authors, reviewers, who have given me their precious time to help spread the word…this is the best most supportive wonderful community of people, helping each other and I just am left near speechless on how to say thank you. You are all an amazing beautiful gift in my life, and also in all the lives you will help touch by raising awareness of intolerance. THANK YOU!!
What projects do you have up and coming?
I’m working on a love story, based on a true story, of a couple who meet in an oncologist’s office and fall in love, both have cancer. It is a beautiful poignant story.
Is there anything else you want to share with your readers?
Thank you, every single one of you, who showed an interest in my book, whether to buy it, review it, mention it to another, blog about it, or lend me a kind word of encouragement. It means everything, you are why I write.
He lapsed into a monologue of exaggerated details, altered beyond
original description: The Negro must have lied, probably has some rich white women sponsoring him because he’s good in bed, and the Jew deserved to be imprisoned for having the gall to try to become some- thing he was not born into. “People should know their place. When they are made by God to be inferior, they should just do their best to stay out of the way of the good hard-working folk who are the backbone of society.”
Mildred was disgusted. Anger welled up into her throat that wanted to be let out in a scream and she felt an urge to pick up one of the horse- shoes and whack him to shut him up. As the blood began draining from her head, she felt sick to her stomach. “Oh my,” she mumbled, trying to ease out of the tirade.
He kept on and on, discharging a hatred that gave her chills. She knew then and there, beyond any doubt, that the fear she had felt when she first heard of Oscar Wilde’s conviction was not just about prejudice existing across a continent and ocean, but rather the ignorance that lives in closed minds everywhere. The seeds that grow and inflate the small- est minds into giants, those who believe they can take down anyone with their petty realities, was what she saw full-blown in Pursey. It mattered not whether his reality was based on prejudice, fear, or just plain ignorance, the end result would be the same, ruined lives. The tone in his voice reminded her of Josie that day outside the telegraph office. She now understood why up till that time this sort of talk didn’t bother her.
The hatred was now something personal and she knew, no matter the excuses, that she and Edra no longer were immune from suspicion.