Interview with Paulette Mahurin, Author of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
Today I’m very happy to be welcoming Paulette Mahurin, author of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap to Melissa’s Midnight Musings. I want to say a big thank you to Paulette for stopping by today. If you are interested in purchasing the book, please do, all the profits are going to a wonderful cause.
I will be reviewing The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap in the upcoming months.
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.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?
Please let me first say a big thank you to Melissa for having me over to your great blog site. It’s been terrific getting to know you and I’m really grateful for this opportunity.
I’m a Nurse Practitioner, specializing in Women’s Health. I live in Ojai with my husband, Terry and our two dogs, Max & Bella (rescued from a kill shelter). Unusual hobbies: I love to take IImprovisation classes and love goofing around, being spontaneous and silly with others. These kinds of classes allow you to do that, to make an utter fool of yourself, without feeling self-conscious, like I would under “normal” social get together events.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing when I was about ten but really knew I loved it when in college and won a couple of award for short stories I wrote. I’ve always loved writing, but the spark to want to do it, and produce something didn’t happen till I was Junior in college.
Where did the inspiration for The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap come from?
I was taking a writing class and the teacher brought in a bunch of photos for us to do an exercise on writing a ten minute mystery. My photo was of two women, dressed in what looked like turn of the twentieth century dress, standing very close together, and it screamed out to me lesbian couple. Prior to that I had been dealing with a person who was gay and in the closet, afraid to come out because of molestation and prior abuse issues. All this dovetailed together into the seeds for the story. When I started my research into that time period, Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment rang out as a key homophobic event in history, that I could use to create an air of persecution and move the story along. It would be the news of his imprisonment, that spreads around the world and reaches the small Nevada town where Mildred Dunlap lives with her partner, Edra, that throws the town into a frenzy of hatred and prejudice.
Who is your favorite author?
I love Steinbeck, how he can write about a tragic but ordinary human experience and turn it into something epic. But, thereare so many great authors, known and not well known, that I loved and am hard pressed to really state I have a favorite.My favorite is the one I’m reading and enjoying, the one whose book intrigues and holds me to the page, and makes not want that story to come to and end because the enjoyment of the
words on that page are something I look forward to.
Do you have writing routine? A special pen, a certain type of music, time limits?
I like absolute quiet and do better in the morning. I write on the computer and like to take breaks to look out my window to my park like front lawn that fronts on a creek. I live in a beautiful city, Ojai, and intersperse my writing with breaks outside.
Do you enjoy edits/rewrites, or not?
Not as much as the actual writing when it’s flowing. It can get tedious, especially the line editing and grammar corrections, but it’s part of the process and you now you have to do it so that it all flows smoothly and looks good, doesn’t distract the reader’s attention from the page. I have a couple of great editors that I work
with and I love them, not the million of rewrites when I find another typo, then have to read through the whole manuscript again because you now are wondering if there are any more typos, etc. It can get to be maddening, but again it is part of the process and what is needed to put the icing on.
Which character was your favorite to write and why?
It changes depending on the perspective I’m viewing and they all make up a composite that moves the story along. I love Charley, who is tortured from the loss of his wife and through this devastation opens and grows in ways he’d never envisioned. Then there’s Gus, whose voice is all about living and expression through the world as it is, as it is experienced, and not buying into another’s belief system, no matter the “group-think” pressure that surrounds him in a small town. And, I love Mildred, who for the most part accepts the hand she’s dealt in life and continues to survive, make the best of what she can, and shows open heart generosity to a fault. These three move the story along, but there would be no story without Josie, the metaphor of hatred and prejudice that develops the needed conflict to hold the story and make it interesting, I like her in the way we all like sensationalistic things because it reflects in us areas to grow in and improve.
How do you come up with your character names?
Some I draw from people I know that would fit the personality, others from research of the time period, and others…I look at newspapers, anything on my desk, a cereal box, lol, and see what calls out to me that fits.
Please tell us a little bit about your journey to publication
I went through several rewrites and work with a couple of superb editors, when a friend, who owns her own small publishing company (an Ex-NY Journalist) and is a great editor and design person asked to see my
manuscript. She read it and loved it, said it really kept her attention, so she worked with me to put it in print through her printing company (the one she uses for her publishing company). She didn’t have the funds to pursue the marketing so I took that over and went into the indie world, where I now happily live and connect with great people like you, who’ve been incredibly supportive.
What is the hardest part of being a writer?
Some of the feedback along the way can be brutal, someone reads it and says it should never be written and it stops you dead in your track, you give too much weight to what others think, until it starts to take form, really shape up into something defensible, and then you start to get some good feedback that diffuses the response you felt about your writing not being good enough. You sit and write, and I spent six years in this process, and it feels like giving birth, it’s your creation, your baby, you want it protected, not kicked in the teeth. After a while, it’s all taken in stride, you take the good with the bad and start to objectify that it’s just another opinion.
What is the main thought or feeling that you hope readers of the book will walk away with?
How we think and our world view when seen through eyes of judgment, that are limiting or intolerant of another, doesn’t just impact on that other person but closes down our own heart. Can you step back and look at someone, who’s different and embrace the differences, and accept them for who they are? If they aren’t hurting someone, can you suspend your thoughts, beliefs, and see if there’s a new, perhaps different way of viewing that might open you to a greater compassion. We’re all in this world together, interacting, impacting on each other, sensing attitudes and energy communicated through words and body language, how do we want to be that makes us sit comfortably in our own skin and sleep well at night, knowing deep down, we did no harm to another human being, not in actions, words, or thoughts.
When you’re not writing, what are your other hobbies/passions?
I love dogs and have been involved in animal rescue, with my husband, for the last 28 years. All the profits from my book are going to animal rescue, the first and only no-kill animal shelter in Ventura County, CA, Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center. (http://www.santapaulaarc.org/)
Are you working on any new projects?
I’m in the middle of my next novel, but it’s on the back burner now while I’m promoting this one. It’s been
keeping me very busy.
Quick Fire round:
Coke or Pepsi? Coke, diet decaf, lol.
Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate!
Rainy winter days or blazing hot summer days? Sun, give me sun, any time, but it’s so dry here in So. Calif and we so desperately need rain, that I’d welcome lots of rain right now.
Hard Copy or e-book? A book
Favorite book? Too many to pick just one.
Last book you read? Just finished Guardians and Other Angels by Linda Lee Greene. I loved it.
What’s a quote that inspires you? Be yourself, everyone else is taken. Oscar Wilde.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Pasta or warm fresh bread