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Writing Fiction, with Author Paula Paul

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With Paula Paul, author of the novels Crazy Quilt, The Barefoot Girl, and 21 other books

From Crazy Quilt:

“I used to wonder if God was really up there the way the preacher said he was. But I couldn’t grasp the concept of a God-king in the sky then any more than I can now. Back then I thought that I was the only one who knew God was really the stars. God the Universe.

‘There ain’t nothing like it,’ Mac says, drawing on his cigarette, his eyes still on the sky.

‘No,’ I say. ‘Nothing.’

‘I met a old Indian in Oklahoma that told me all them stars is the spirits of dead ancestors. You reckon that’s true?’

‘Captain Kirk wouldn’t think so.’

‘You think Star Trek is true?’

‘No,’ I say, my earlier wariness stirring. I am wondering if he’s crazy. Crazy enough to think Star Trek is real. Crazy enough to kill me.

He laughs. ‘Well, I’ll tell you something. They’re both true. That old Indian and Star Trek. Both of ‘em. There’s enough stars up there to accommodate more than one way of looking at ‘em.’

‘That makes sense,’ I say.

‘You think it does?’

‘More sense than anything I’ve heard in a long time,’ I say and mean it.

‘Then you’re a damned smart woman,’ he says. He points to something high on the horizon, a streak of light. ‘Look,’ he says,’ one of ‘em’s falling.’



Continuing our fiction binge (who can ever get enough?), we talk novel writing with Paula Paul, author of 23 novels spanning a variety of genres: mystery, the historical novel, children’s stories, and “the novel.”

Author Paula Griffith Paul is an award-winning novelist who usually writes mysteries, but her current novel, Crazy Quilt, is a literary novel. The main character is a woman whose body, marriage, and spirit have been ravaged by cancer treatment, but who fights her way back in a most unconventional way. Paula is donating one third of the royalities to cancer research.

Paula was born on her grandparents’ cotton farm near Shallowater, Texas, and graduated from a country high school near Maple, Texas. She earned a B.A. in journalism and has worked as a reporter for newspapers in both Texas and New Mexico. She’s been the recipient of state and national awards for her work as a journalist.

In this fascinating interview, Paula explains:

  • What is common to all the books she’s written, despite their being in different genres
  • Why she sometimes writes under a pseudonym
  • How she approaches characterization and plot
  • Why and how the reader is so important to her
  • How she analyzes other authors’ books and draws inspiration from them
  • What she does to hold the reader’s attention
  • What her writing process looks like
  • How landscape and setting mold personality
  • How she deals with beginnings and endings
  • What the hardest part of writing is for her.

Don’t miss this exciting show featuring two Paulas, Paula Paul and Writing Show host Paula B., as they explore the fertile world of novel writing!

Interviewee: Paula Paul
Host: Paula B
Date: July 17, 2006
Running time: 01:08:28
File size: 54 megabytes
Rating: G
Paula Paul’s Web site:


Purchase Paula Paul’s books at Barnes and Noble:

Crazy Quilt

The story, set in desolate west Texas, is peopled with a patchwork of interesting characters including Mac McIlhaney, an old man who both aggravates and mesmerizes Flora; James Willie, the sheriff who wants to rekindle his old love affair with her; Jillian, a young punk-rocker who thinks she has all the answers; Shorty, the dog with a fondness for wigs; and Lucy Martinez, who is willing to risk everything for Mac and Flora.

These people lead Flora through a labyrinth of emotions that seems to her at first to have as little cohesion as an old-fashioned crazy quilt until she finds that both love and healing can turn up in the most unexpected places.

Crazy Quilt
Crazy Quilt

The Barefoot Girl: A Novel of St. Margaret (writing as Catherine Monroe)

San Severino, Italy, 1340.
Fifteen-year-old Margharita is toiling in her family’s meager field when a handsome gentleman rides in with a proposal of marriage. After only a few words with her father,Master Domenico Vasari tears Margharita away from the family she cherishes and the farm boy she loves-and hauls her off to a foreign, violent life, full of strangers and strange customs.

At the Vasari castle, she is given powders, perfumes, and gowns of silk. But for these fineries Margharita pays a dear price. Vasari beats her, viciously and without warning, even when she becomes pregnant. So Margharita begins to pray, fervently and furtively, to the Blessed Mother and Saint Mary Magdalene. For her safety, for her unborn child, and for the starving masses surrounding the castle walls. Only then does the Virgin Mother reveal Margharita’s fate to her-and why she will forever be known as the Barefooted One.

The Barefoot Girl: A Novel of St. Margaret, Patroness of the Abused
The Barefoot Girl: A Novel of St. Margaret, Patroness of the Abused

Half a Mind to Murder
Dr. Gladstone confronts an epidemic of a mysterious illness, and one of the side effects is murder. She must visit an alienist in London to learn how to top the death and the madman who has set the epidemic in motion.

Half a Mind to Murder
Half a Mind to Murder

An Improper Death
When the body of retired Admiral Orkwright washes ashore wearing nothing save his wife’s underwear, the entire village of Newton Upon Sea is shocked. When Dr. Gladstone uncovers the truth about his death, it’s even more shocking than what he’s wearing.

Improper Death
Improper Death

Geronimo Chino
Geronimo Chino, eleven years old, orphaned, and half Apache, half Pueblo Indian, runs away from a children’s home to find his friend, Mr. Coleman, an old rancher. His adventures and misadventures both before and after he finally hooks up with the rough-edged old man teach Geronimo what it means to belong to a family.

Geronimo Chino
Geronimo Chino

Paula’s other works include:

Symptoms of Death
Edward Boswick, Fifth Earl of Dunsford, hosted a small gathering of friends at his country estate, including the village’s lady-doctor, Alexandra Gladstone. The noblest of the nobel, each of his intimates was in possession of title, land–and a secret vendetta against his host. And so,when their “dear Eddie” is found murdered in his own bed, the lords and ladies point to a helpless servant–and flee. But when Dr. Gladstone finds evidence suggesting otherwise in her autopshy of the late earl, her inquires lead her into a web of scandal and deceit.

Leading An Elegant Death
Ex-law student Jane Ferguson, a California girl stranded in Alabama, whose culinary expertise doesn’t go beyond ordering a pizza, and whose flair for decorating never got beyond a sputter, is desperate for a job. She manages to get herself hired as assistant to local decorator and party planner Hillary Scarborough, whom Jane refers to as “the Martha Stewart of the South”. When a dead body turns up in the house they’re hired to decorate, they have to coordinate clues along with color schemes as they find themselves the new targets of the killer.

Deathday Party
Cassandra Bean, a local psychic, hires Jane and Hillary to plan a banquet in honor of a dead ancester. When the two of them arrive at the old Bean mansion in the backwoods of Alabama, they find Cassandra dead and the other members of the eccentric family convinced that the house is haunted by other ancestral Beans. Then a flash flood traps them all there and others begin to die. Jane and Hillary have no choice but to finish the job they were hired to do and try to avoid being finished off in the process.

Red Wine Goes With Murder
The stylish sleuths go from southern Alabama to the south of France to attend the prestigious cooking school of Madame Hulot. Before Jane and Hillary unpack their bags, they discover a corpse in a vat of Cotes du Rhone, full-bodied and robust–the wine, that is, not the corpse. Their search for the killer takes them on a wild spree along the Riviera, from the famed Monte Carlo Cassino to nude beaches and from quaint villages to a castle of one of the Knights Templar.

A Bad Girl’s Money
Alexis Runnels, rich and rebellious, returns from the Great War in Europe in 1918 where she has served as a nurse. Now she’s no longer content with the staid life of the southern aristrocacy in Houston nor of the empty fast life of the Jazz Age in New York. She meets Jon Calahan, several years her senior, married, and her father’s business rival in the oil business–the perfect challenge. She becomes Jon’s business partner and lover and finds herself in the oil wildcatters’ fields of Midland, Texas where she has to come to terms with here-to-fore unknown truths about her past and a scandalous present.

Sweet Ivy’s Gold
Ivy Barton leaves behind her home in Tennessee and her shattered innocence as well when she travels across the country with her husband, Alex. When Alex’s unwise choices leave them penniless in the rough and tumble world of the Colorado gold fields in 1891, Ivy assumes the identity of saloon owner Montana McCrory to survive. A ruthless gambler named Langdon Runnels becomes her tutor not only for the business of gambling and saloon keeping, but for the art of life.

Last Summer I Got In Trouble
The trouble started when eleven-year-old Andy Bradford of Chicago came to Texas for a summer while his parents were away. He met a kid named Bernie, who didn’t care about being cool. He also met Ricardo, who had broken the law by crossing the border from Mexico. Before the summer was over, Andy found himself being arrested and facing criminal charges. He would never forget the summer he got in trouble. It would change his life forever.

Sarah, Sissy Weed and the Ship of the Desert
When a ship unloads a cargo of cames in Sarah McCluster’s hometown of Indianola, Texas, in 1857, no one will claim them, so the camels are set loose to tear up lawns and fences. Sarah and her friend, R.J. La Salle discover the camel ship was also importing illegal slaves, and very soon their lives are in danger. Sarah befriends a young slave girl and finds a most unique way to help her survive.