Thursday, 7 June 2012

Guest Author: Paula Martin

A warm welcome again to online writing friend, Paula Martin, whose contemporary novels I always look forward to reading. I’ve already enjoyed His Leading Lady and Fragrance of Violets, and now Changing the Future is getting near the top of my reading list! Paula has kindly written a fascinating guest post about the long journey her latest book took to publication and the research needed about volcanoes.

Changing the Future Blurb

Lisa Marshall is stunned when celebrated volcanologist Paul Hamilton comes back into her life at the college where she now teaches. Despite their acrimonious break-up several years earlier, they soon realise the magnetic attraction between them is stronger than ever. However, the past is still part of the present, not least when Paul discovers Lisa has a young son. They can’t change that past, but will it take a volcanic eruption to help them change the future?

Changing the Future has had a long history!

Four years ago, while on holiday in the USA, I happened to meet a Harlequin best-selling author who, on hearing that I’d had 3 books published by HQ in the 60s and 70s, encouraged me to start writing romances again.

When I got home, I found the box in which I’d dumped a pile of half-written stories 30+ years earlier when I was a divorced and single parent with two young daughters and a full-time teaching career, and simply didn’t have any time to devote to writing.

One novel was complete but was rejected by HQ in the 70s. At that time they wanted brooding and domineering alpha-men as their heroes so my story of two teachers who meet again (at a school in North West England), a few years after an acrimonious break-up obviously didn’t fit their new formula.

I thought about this story and, as I was still setting my sights on Harlequin, decided to re-locate the story in America. The heroine became a teacher at a college in Virginia but I decided the hero had to have a more upmarket job. He’d previously been a geography teacher; instead, I decided (or maybe he decided?) he was a famous volcano expert. What did I know about volcanoes? Nothing, apart from the fact that they occasionally erupt and send ash clouds into the sky!

I started reading up about volcanoes in general, and specifically those in Hawaii. I studied photos and videos, and read a lot of reports and first-hand accounts of eruptions. At the same time, I was checking my facts about American colleges with a couple of friends.

Six months later, I sent the manuscript to Harlequin, and then had to wait for nine months for them to reject it! By this time, I’d written another novel which had been accepted (by another publisher) and was part way through two more. So the volcano story was put to one side.

I picked it up again last autumn. By this time, I was well aware of its weaknesses, particularly too many flashback scenes which slowed it down in the first few chapters, but I still thought it had possibilities, so I settled down to another re-write. I moved the setting (again!) back to England, abandoned the flashbacks, and added several more scenes to develop the relationship between the hero and heroine. Hawaii was now too far away, so I had to start researching volcanoes in Iceland. I made masses of notes but probably used only about five percent of what I’d found out about volcanic eruptions. However, that other ninety-five percent of research was necessary to ensure my five percent was reasonably accurate!

The final version of Changing the Future is very different from the one I wrote back in the 70s (I think I retained and adapted about three scenes from that original story). It’s different, too, from the re-write I did four year ago, not simply because of the different setting, but also because writing my other novels taught me a lot about tightening my writing style and developing my characters.

P.S. And, just to show that research for novels can come in useful elsewhere, I did win a point for my team in a pub quiz when I knew what a correlation spectrometer measures!

Thank you very much for that excellent post, Paula!

Changing the Future is available in e-book or paperback from Amazon UK and Amazon US

You can find out more about Paula on her WEBSITE, BLOG and Heroines with Hearts

Paula Martin had some early publishing success with short stories and four contemporary romance novels, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching and has had two more novels published, His Leading Lady, and Fragrance of Violets. Another novel is currently awaiting release and she is working on a fifth.

Paula lives near Manchester in North-West England, and has two daughters and two grandsons. Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places and has travelled extensively in Britain, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her favourite places are the English Lake District and Ireland. She’s also interested in musical theatre and tracing her family history.


Gilli Allan said...

That is so fascinating, Paula. And it says something about you (and probably most writers) your dogged determination, and never give up spirit!

I'm sure some of that research about American colleges and Hawai will come in handy at some future point.

Sherry Gloag said...

I agree, I bet that sometime in the future some of that research, at least, will come in useful.
Best wishes with this latest book too.

Paula Martin said...

Hi Gilli - I think the moral is - never throw away an old manuscript, you may be able to revive it at some point!

Paula Martin said...

Hi Sherry - not sure I'll write another story about volcanoes, but it's certainly given me a longing to visit Hawaii - and Iceland too!

Jennifer Wilck said...

I love the process you went through in changing the novel from what you wrote in the 70's, adapting it a few years ago and then adapting it again.

Joanna said...

It was so interesting to read about the history of this story. It's a wonderful account of Paula's determination and belief in her story. The research sounds very interesting. I'm beginning to learn from my own that a lot has to be done in order to whittle it down to the appropriate amount needed for the novel. My problem is getting sidetracked by the research, although sometimes the accidental discoveries come in useful too.

Thank you, Paula and Rosemary, for such a good post.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Gilli - determination is essential, I think!

Hi Sherry - thanks for commenting!

It's a lesson to us all, Jennifer!

The research can really hold us back sometimes, Joanna. I like to do only as much as I need but you're right - it's the accidental discoveries that are so interesting!

Linda Swift said...

Good morning, Paula and Rosemary,
at least it's morning in Kentucky. I was fascinated to read the story behind this story and you've proved once again thatpersistence pays. I have only read three chapters of Changing the Future but I can tell it is going to rate right up there with my current favorite, His Leading Lady. I wish this book the success it derserves.

Paula Martin said...

Hi Jen - it's been a long process LOL, and the end result is very different from the original!

Paula Martin said...

Joanna - I think I knew the basic 'plot' was okay, it was all the details that needed sorting out! Also, in a way, you need the research more for yourself than for the actual story, and you;re right that knowing what to use and what to leave out is so important.

Paula Martin said...

Rosemary, thanks so much for having me on your blog again, it's lovely to be here. I actually enjoy the 'incidental' research as much as the detailed research, and you're right about the accidental discoveries!

Paula Martin said...

Linda, thank you so much, I value your opinion highly, since you are such a talented writer and in so many different genres too!

Joan Fleming said...

Paula, thank you for sharing the history of Changing the Future with us. It has certainly encouraged me to resurrect the novel in the bottom drawer and get to work on it!

J. R. Lindermuth said...

This goes to prove nothing goes to waste for a dedicated writer. Lots of excellent lessons here for all--research, revise, re-submit. Enjoyed the read, Paula.

J. R. Lindermuth said...

This goes to prove nothing goes to waste for a dedicated writer. Lots of excellent lessons here for all--research, revise, re-submit. Enjoyed the read, Paula.

Paula Martin said...

Hi Joan - it's definitely worth taking another look at one's 'old' work. It can spark off lots of different ideas!

Paula Martin said...

Thanks, John! It's interesting now to look back at the original and see all the differences in the storyline and character development. As you say, nothing needs to go to waste!

margaret blake said...

Lots of luck with your latest book, Paula, sounds so intriguing.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Linda - thanks for coming over!

Me too, Joan!

Thanks for commenting, John!

Hello Margaret - it does indeed!

Katherine said...

Hi Paula, You've given me food for thought regarding the first novel I ever wrote. I wrote it about 12 years ago when I was determined to write a book like those that I loved to read. It's full of all those mistakes you don't know are mistakes as you're learning the craft of writing a sellable novel. I figured it will always have a place of pride on my closet shelf but now you've inspired me to pull it out and if anything is salvageable, even if it is only 3 scenes or 3 paragraphs. Thanks for the great post.

Paula Martin said...

Thanks, Margaret!

Paula Martin said...

Katherine - my story was exactly the same as you say yours was (especially, in my case, with too many flashback scenes). So I'm glad I've inspired you to dig yours out again as I'm sure you'll find something to salvage. With my story, it's the basic scenario that has stayed the same i.e. hero and heroine meeting up after an acrimonious breakup (for which they each blame the other), and a the heroine with a young son the hero knows nothing about.
Very best of luck with yours!

Debra St. John said...

Hi Paula,

I love it when an old story gets new life. It's a bit like a phoenix rising from the ashes!


Annie Seaton said...

I have always been fascinated by volcanoes. Your story sounds great. Definitely going on my TBR pile

Jenny Twist said...

Fascinating post.

Paula Martin said...

That's a great analogy, Debra!

Annie, the more I found out about volcanes, the more fascinated I became!

Many thanks, Jenny :-)

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Lovely to see all the support for Paula!

Hi Katherine - I'm finding it inspiring too!

Hi Debra - thanks for commenting!

It's on mine too, Annie!

Thanks for coming over, Jenny!

myraduffy said...

This shows you should never throw anything spite of what the de-cluttering experts say!

Paula Martin said...

You're absolutely right, Myra. We're always being encouraged to recycle things - so what better than to recycle an old story LOL

Rosemary Gemmell said...

How true, Myra!

Thanks again for being such a great guest, Paula.

Paula Martin said...

Rosemary, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. It's always lovely to be here, and so great to get so many interesting comments. Talk to you again soon! :-)

Patsy said...

That's proper dedication, Paula!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Absolutely, Patsy!