Which voice do you prefer to write in, first person or third? The first three novels I wrote were in third person. I liked it and it worked for me. And furthermore, I swore I would never ever write a book in first person—never. Well, you know where this is going. Turns out when I write in first person I have a very distinctive voice and a natural flowing style. And, I’m funny—quirkily and “catch you off guard, choke on a cracker” funny. Who knew? So, you ask, why did I decide to switch? I didn’t—the character decided for me. Yes, I heard her voice in my head—loudly. Perhaps psychological types would have concerns about such things, but it is my process and I just didn’t have a choice on how the story unfolded. The very first word that came into my head and went onto the paper was “I.” And I loved it! It was freeing in a way I’d never imagined and I started having so much fun I could hardly stand it. I’m working on my fourth novel, Killer Moves, now and I have a few scenes written in third person when Jolene isn’t onstage, but it’s her story—and Lucille’s—and it is told from a very personal viewpoint.
When and how did you become a published author? In 1999, my first mystery, Hot Enough to Kill, had been under serious consideration by a major New York publishing house for about a year. During that time, we had communicated quite a bit, including two lengthy phone conversations and I truly believed they were ready to make an offer. Instead, I got a brief letter from the VP saying they changed their mind because it would compete with another series they already published. I was not disappointed. I was not angry. I was freakin’ livid! I’d wasted a whole year waiting and had even turned down another offer from a small publisher. I’d gone from “almost published” back to square one, which was a big problem since I was on the executive boards of two large professional writers’ groups and speaking on their behalf as an author. I was the only board member who didn’t have a book in print and I felt like a fraud. So, I announced to the world that I was not going to do another event without a book in hand. The next event was only six weeks away and there were no print on demand or digital options, not to mention that I was clueless on where to even start. Nevertheless. I did it and Hot Enough to Kill went with me to that event.
What are some milestones on your journey as a writer? I have had some really cool stuff happen with my books along the way. Hot Enough to Kill was featured in Redbook, Colorado Homes and Living, Romantic Times and a lot of magazines and newspapers and I had personal features in Mountain Living, San Antonio Woman and others. A few years ago, an excerpt from the book was included in the University of Texas Press’ Lone Star Sleuths: An Anthology of Texas Crime Fiction. To be included along with big names such as Kinky Friedman, Mary Willis Walker, Walter Mosley, Joe Lansdale and many others was a pretty fantastic thrill. And, I admit to being a little star struck at the group book signing event. The second book in the series, Dead Man Falls, won a literary award and getting Turkey Ranch Road Rage into print after a long stretch of “life happening” was a big deal for me too. After I revised and re-released the books as ebooks in 2012, Hot Enough to Kill wound up as the number one book in the entire free Kindle store with almost 50,000 downloads in November. And, along the way, I also became a seven-time award-winning author of self-help nonfiction as well. Yeah, milestones!
Is writing a form of personal therapy for you? Yes and no. Because I also write self-help, most people assume that Living the Life You Love by Paula Renaye is my own personal therapy book. It isn’t. Not at all! My personal therapy occurs in my fictional world. I mean really, how cool is it that you can go back and rewrite your story so that it turns out the way you really wanted it to. And, as a special bonus, anybody who ever pissed you off can die a slow and appropriately painful death! That’s pretty therapeutic! Of course, it usually doesn’t work out that way for me. Several of the characters I’ve intended to deliberately and deliciously murder, not to mention metaphorically mutilate, did not die. Once I’d worked through what I need to, it just didn’t matter anymore and the story went however it needed to.
Do you put experiences from your life in your books? I’m working on Killer Moves now, and while I have way fewer axes to grind these days, I am surprised to find that I certainly have an adequate supply t to entertain myself. And, on my recent trip back to Texas, I gathered a few more. I stopped in a little town along the way—yes, I went to the Dairy Queen just like Jolene—to get a mega-unhealthy, grease-coated and gravy-laden chicken basket. I was sitting in a booth, minding my own business, and this man came up to me and spontaneously said some wildly inappropriate things. Now, Jolene would have punched him and Lucille would have shot him. Paula, however, responded quite calmly with only two little words—and they weren’t even bad ones—“That’s inappropriate.” His face turned deep red and he literally ran out the door. Oh, yeah, he’ll be in a book somewhere!
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Genre – Mystery & Thriller / Women Sleuth
Rating – PG13