I am so excited to have had the opportunity to visit with one of our local debut authors, Fiona Paul! Fiona Paul debuted her first novel, Venom, last fall and has a multitude of books scheduled to come out both under this name as well as Paula Stokes in the near future. Please give her a warm welcome and see what she has to say about reading, writing, and life!
Your debut novel, Venom, was released in October 2012. Tell us a little bit about your writing journey until this point.
I started writing in college but then quit after I was not accepted to an MFA program. This is a big regret of mine because I could have possibly been published years ago if I had just stuck with it. Then again, during those years I wasn’t writing I did a whole lot of living, and I like to think I have more to write about now. I guess things happen for a reason.
When I returned to writing seriously, I wrote 2 drawer novels, one of which scored me a chance to audition for a Paper Lantern project which later became Venom. The Eternal Rose trilogy sold in 2010, I gained my agent in 2011, I sold my first 2 Paula Stokes books in 2012, and finished another manuscript in 2013. Basically I wrote 6 books in 2.5 years and 5 of them are sold
Describe your debut novel, Venom, in 140 characters or less (inspired by Twitter).
Rich but isolated girl meets mysterious but poor artist in Renaissance Venice. Can they band together to find a murderer before he finds them?
How has your life changed since being a published author?
I know this isn’t what people want to hear, but honestly, even getting publishing deals with two Big Six publishers hasn’t really changed my life. Same apartment. Same car. I took a couple of vacations and got to go down to part-time at my day job (RN) which was nice, but there’s no guarantee I won’t have to go back to full-time work in the future. I think the biggest change for me has been the amazing network of writer and blogger friends I have made. I know some people think online friends can’t be real friends, but I would disagree strongly. I feel lucky to interact with an amazing group of authors, industry professionals, and teen readers on twitter. They remind me of why I started trying to get published in the first place–because I wanted to give readers an outlet or an escape from their daily stresses, because I wanted to share stories that I loved.
I always imagined after I had a publishing deal that I would feel ‘successful’ but no writer I know feels like that. As a writer, success is always just beyond your grasp: You need a deal. You need a bigger deal. You need good reviews. You need a movie deal. You need an award nomination. You need x number of twitter followers. And so on. It never ends. The negative thing about being networked to other writers online is that you are constantly bombarded with information about all of their successes, and on bad days that can really make you feel like you’re lagging behind. On good days, I do feel incredibly lucky to be able to make any money at all doing something that I love.
What books do you find yourself recommending the most? Why?
GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray because it’s genre-bending, the epitome of excellent teen boy voice, and it simply has something for everyone. YOU by Charles Benoit because it’s written in 2nd person, and it works. Lately I have been recommending PROXY by Alex London all over the place. It’s a dystopian adventure story that features a well-written gay main character of color. London changes POV mid-chapter and it feels natural and effortless.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Do write a lot.
Do read a lot.
Embrace your fears.
Embrace other writers.
Do read reviews
But realize they’re just one person’s OPINION.
Don’t forget to live.
What do you enjoy when you are not writing?
Oh, man. I am such an outdoorsy girl. I love biking and hiking and kayaking, or sometimes just lying on a blanket on Art Hill, reading or daydreaming. I also love to travel. I just got back from a trip to England, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland and I am already plotting about how to return.
Which authors have inspired you in your writing and/or in life?
I am inspired by JK Rowling because she’s the ultimate story of not giving up and because she created a world so magnificent that I still escape there sometimes when I’m feeling sad or stressed. I am also very inspired by Libba Bray because her voice comes through so clearly in her books, even though most of her novels are very different from one another.
Would you mind teasing us a bit with what we can expect to see from you in the future?
BELLADONNA comes out in mid-July and the final Eternal Rose book, STARLING will come out in March 2014. After that, my first contemporary book comes out under the name Paula Stokes. (Check it out here on Goodreads!)
You have had the opportunity to do a bit of traveling to promote your debut. Tell us about your highlight(s) appearing as an author.
I am super-terrified to talk in public so I was very nervous on the Breathless Reads tour. What helped a lot was that all of the other girls–Beth Revis, Morgan Rhodes, Jessica Spotswood, and Elizabeth Richards–were just wonderful and supportive and fun to be around. I had a great time doing the East tour and even got to meet 2 of my critique partners for the first time. I just kept reminding myself that the tour wasn’t about me–it was about the readers. We went to one school in Florida that cheered for us like we were rock stars and I felt really blessed to interact with kids who were so enthusiastic about reading and so grateful for the time we spent with them.
Locally, I have done a couple of events with Antony John and Heather Brewer and it’s hard to be nervous around two people who are so laid-back and fun. Speaking with them feels more like friends sitting around a dinner table than it does like a formal speaking engagement. Now if we could just lose that microphone
How can readers connect with you?
Thank you to Fiona Paul for sharing with us today! Feel free to also check out Walrus’ coverage on one of those local events she talked about with Antony John and Heather Brewer here — Young Adult Authors of Saint Louis.