Writing is a passion. Publishing is a business.


Interview with PAULA STOKES

Paula Stokes writes under the pseudonym Fiona Paul and lives in St. Louis, MO where she's managed to persuade fancy universities to award her degrees in psychology and nursing. Between her studies, she traveled around five continents and spent time living in Thailand and South Korea (which is probably why she finds the idea of wearing shoes in the house a little weird). In addition to writing, Paula is somewhat obsessive about coffee, music, and adventure sports. Her future goals include swimming with great white sharks and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

What are you reading right now?
WITHER by Lauren de Stefano

What first sparked your interest in writing?

I've always loved to write, ever since I was a kid. I guess reading sparked my interest since I remember being twelve years old and thinking that writing a Sweet Valley High book would be the coolest thing ever.

What do you love the most about writing? The least?

Most: I was always the kid with my head in the clouds. I used to walk down the street daydreaming about stuff. When I listened to music, my brain was always concocting music videos. Writing is indulging my fantasies, being able to embrace them as meaningful work and turn them into stories worthy of being shared with others, instead of chiding myself for wasting time. Also, I really like interacting with readers and bloggers.

Least: Before I got a deal, all I wanted was a deal. It didn't matter how or with whom or for how much. I just wanted my books on shelves. If I could do that, then I had "made it." But after I had that, I realized books on shelves means nothing as far as job security or a future in writing. Even awards and reviews don't matter. The only thing that really paves a way for a long-term writing career is sales numbers, something that often feels out of an author's control. It is motivating, but terrifying, to always have in the back of my head "This might be the last book I ever sell."
Tell us a little about your writing process.

My process is flexible depending on what I'm writing, but generally I start with at least a rough outline and I always work on multiple projects simultaneously. That way if one book isn't flowing, I can still be productive by working on something else. I draft fairly quickly but revise slowly. I probably revise 3 or 4 times before a manuscript is even ready for beta reading. I generally write every day because my writer-brain never shuts off, and if I don't let it write then it just gets revenge by coming up with new story ideas.

What inspires you?

Everything inspires me - music, books, weird internet stories, snippets of conversations overheard on the train, people who surprise me in a good way, snails on the sidewalk, the way waves hit rocks. I am very big into nature.

Why young adult?

Just like setting, POV, etc., I think the age range of your book is dictated by the story. If you try and force an adult storyline into a YA book or vice versa, the results won't be optimal. Most of my ideas are YA ideas, probably because I think the problems encountered by teens are more interesting than adult problems. Also, in YA it seems a lot more acceptable to hop genres. After writing the historicals, I wrote a contemporary romance - THE ART OF LAINEY - and then a noir murder mystery - LIARS, INC. - (writing as Paula Stokes). What I just finished is another completely different type of story. Writing is hard work and I want to write the books I'm really passionate about. Right now, those seem to be falling into several different categories.

How was VENOM born?

VENOM was a collaborative project with the book development company, Paper Lantern Lit. I was invited to submit to them after working with one of the co-founders in an online class. When I was selected, the idea for a historical murder mystery was already in place. We developed the outline for each book together, pitching ideas back and forth until all parties were satisfied.

Did VENOM require a lot of research?

VENOM required an insane amount of research. In addition to myself, I had help from a Paper Lantern Lit intern and a Renaissance expert. I am sure that combined we spent at least three times as much time researching as I did writing. And yet we still missed a few things! Certain liberties were taken for the sake of story, but a few anachronistic words slipped through, and I'm sorry if those detract from anyone's reading experience.

I talk in more detail about research here if anyone wants to read more.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Read. Read more. Write a little something every day. Channel envy to make you work harder. Cry when you need to. Vent when you need to (but not online!). Write the book you want to read, trends be damned. Don't be in a hurry. Don't give up. Don't take reviews personally. Don't get sucked into internet drama. Don't judge yourself against other writers. Don't forget to live.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

The name Fiona Paul is a pen name owned by Paper Lantern Lit. I have my own stories coming out through HarperTeen starting in 2014 under my name, Paula Stokes. The first book, THE ART OF LAINEY, comes out a couple of months after STARLING. Whereas the Venom books are historical, third person, past-tense, description-heavy stories, my first two Paula Stokes books are first person, present-tense, faster on pace and lighter on description books. If you liked VENOM, give them a try. If you didn't like VENOM, maybe also give them a try. The books really could not be more different.