Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Review + Interview // The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap – Paulette Mahurin
Synopsis for The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
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, 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.
Today Paulette answers a few questions about her novel for the readers of Loaded Shelves.
1. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is a thought-provoking novel, what inspired you to write it? First let me say a big thank, Caragh, for having me over to your great site for this interview.
To answer your question the inspiration came from a real life situation, a person I had been involved with, working with who was in the closet. This individual had been molested, abused emotionally and fearful of coming out well into their adult life. Nothing I did or said helped them feel comfortable to even consider coming out. It pained me. On this backdrop, I started taking a writing class. One day the teacher came in with a stack of photos for an exercise in which we were to write a ten minute mystery. The photo I chose was of two women, huddled very close together, in circa turn of the twentieth century garb, with strangely fearful looking expressions on their faces. It screamed out lesbians afraid of being found out. That was the initial seed for the story which blossomed upon my doing research and coming across Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for homosexual activity in 1895.
2. Each chapter begins with a quote from Oscar Wilde. Did you actively seek these out to fit the book or did you already have them in mind? I sought them out. When I started reading about his trial and conviction I was moved to sorrow. Here was a man who fell in love and wanted to be with his lover, as natural a thing as a bird chirping, wind moving clouds, snow melting in the sun, that he could no more change than we can stop being who we are. He was thrown in prison, slept on a hard wooden bed, was fed watery porridge, not allowed pencil or paper and had to walk on a treadmill for six hours a day. For what? Who did he hurt? I read a letter he wrote to his lover while in prison, “De Profundis,” which is one of the most powerful pieces of literature I’ve ever read. A lot of the quotes at the beginning of each chapter come from this. I wanted his presence felt throughout the story. His imprisonment was a watershed moment in history for gay men, a very dark stain on humanity and tolerance.
3. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap was, at times, uncomfortable to read given the subject matter but characters such as Charley and Gus made it easier. Did you always intend to have them be the voice of reason in your book or did they just develop into that themselves? They developed spontaneously. They spoke to me and told me to create a balance, that the women couldn’t do it alone, not up against Josie-the antagonist, a metaphor for hatred and bigotry. It really does take a village, a support system, to generate enough love to diffuse that kind of hatred. The story also needed to show change and hope. I felt it would have been too unreal to have that change come from Josie or Mildred & Edra and so the two men were the change agents in the story, the external factors to show that the heart knows what the mind can never envision, of all that is possible.
4. Your talent for writing is obvious, have you always wanted to be a writer? Thank you for this very lovely compliment. I can’t remember a time I wanted to “be a writer” but rather writing is something that came to me. I love to write and so I do it. It’s my sanctuary where it’s safe to say what I want without fear of consequences and that is very therapeutic. I’ve never had a lot of time in my life to sit down and write daily, until I became ill with Lyme disease and then there was very little else I could do. In six of the later years I was ill, I wrote the story. In some ways I feel it contributed to my getting better. I’m now about 95% there.
To see the rest of the interview and review please visit this great site and feel free to connect up with the wonderful blogger Caragh Finnan all the way from Northern Wales. She’s a great friend to indie authors so if you’re wanting to connect up with a blogger to help you out, she’s a sweetheart. http://loadedshelves.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/review-interview-persecution-of-mildred.html