About Paula Houseman:
I thought my life was, well … meh. Until I started fiction writing. Memories flooded back and I realised my existence had not been mundane at all. It had been ridiculous!
My university studies helped me see what was hidden behind the absurdity, and to understand that at the core of everything we read and circulate, there’s a wealth of ancient, uncut stories that echo from the backwoods of our psyches. My blogs debunk the widespread misconceptions that have made these stories unpopular, and I expose their healing potential.
Digging around in the myths, I rediscovered my muse, the ancient goddess of obscenity. It explained my passion for wordplay (not least, double entendres). With an up yours to moral purity and dry, boring facts, it’s been like playing in the mud again—a reminder of what it was like to be real; a reminder that life was, is and always will be untidy.
My bawdy novel, Odyssey in a Teacup, pays homage to the glorious mess that is life, and shows the advantages of approaching it in a way that got me into trouble as a child! (More mess and more trouble feature in the upcoming sequel.)
What inspires you to write?
What inspires me to write …
I grew up at a time when women and girls were taught to make ‘nice’, and the catchphrase was ‘Children should be seen and not heard’. That’s tough, especially when you’re a spirited child who thinks outside the square.
We need to be able to express who we are, all of us, not just our ‘niceness’. I used to express through art, but it wasn’t enough. I needed to find my voice—my many voices. And for me, the beauty of fiction writing is that I can do that through my characters because they represent the many aspects of the human psyche. I can give voice to the extremes of emotion without being shamed for it. That helps my journey, but I believe it also helps the reader’s because I’m writing from the soul, where writer and reader connect at the most basic level of humanness.
Extending on that, I have some big ideas that are outside mainstream thinking, and that have helped me through difficult times (and still do). And if they help me, they can help others.
Tell us about your writing process.
Where my writing is concerned, I don’t follow a step-by-step process. I’m not really a plotter; I’m more of a ‘pantser’—I fly by the seat of my pants. My creativity doesn’t want to be constrained by a pre-determined plan. And relying on instinct rather than logic makes the writing process mysterious and so much more interesting. And more real. I’m also interested in other writers’ techniques, and I learn a lot through reading; through paying attention to what I love in others’ writing—what makes me want to keep turning the pages? I also edit rigorously, but I follow novelist Zadie Smith’s advice: ‘The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.’
I have awesome conversations with my characters! Most importantly, I feel when I write. If I’m crying while I’m writing a sad scene, or raging when my protagonist is locking horns with an obnoxious character, or getting turned on when I’m writing a sex scene (!), then I know that what I’m writing has depth and will resonate with the reader, because we relate through emotions, not thoughts.
As for advice, well, all writers have to deal with an inner critic—the bitchy nitpicker of the psyche that can ambush you in many forms and in varying degrees.
But like all the other voices, this annoying predator is innate. And it’s not separate from your creativity—the critic can block creativity, but if you let it have its say, it can fuel it. Letting it have its say is not the same as letting it get its own way, though. Giving it a voice, not authority, can end up providing excellent raw materials for your writing, and can add dimension to the villainous character in your book!
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I didn’t know which way to go after I finished my book. But, right time, right place … I was going to submit my manuscript to a traditional publisher, but then I was led to someone I’d met a couple of years earlier and who had self-published a book. She had engaged the services of a digital marketing strategist. This also seemed like the right fit for me because I knew nothing about how to get my book out there.
And I’ve learned a lot about what is asked of an author, not least, the need for branding—through a website, blogging, regular presence on several social media platforms, through interviews, press releases. My marketer took care of organising my website, having my manuscript professionally formatted for ebook and paperback, positioning my book on Amazon where it would get maximum exposure, promoting it and dealing with the minutiae of publishing. I had the book edited and the cover designed by professionals. And it all added up to helping it reach #1 Amazon Best Seller status (in British satire and humour) not just once, but twice!
My advice to new authors: thoroughly explore your options, avoid vanity publishers, and if you’re considering self-publishing, don’t try and do it all yourself.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think we’re a culture of backlash. When one way has dominated for so long, it follows that we’ll see a polarised response, and it follows that when there’s been hierarchy, there will be revolution! We’re seeing this with book publishing. Traditional publishing dominated and made it difficult for many new writers to get a look-in. So, it’s not surprising the masses are protesting, and self-published books are flooding the market. And because so much information (‘how-to’s) is accessible to the general public, do-it-yourself-ism is trending.
Self-publishing is no longer stigmatised and it’s no longer the last resort. And while traditional publishers are more open to new writers, in that they’re offering incentives to submit manuscripts, I’ve read authors’ blogs and seen discussions on social media amongst relatively new authors who have had books traditionally published, and they weren’t happy.
Many lamented the fact that they could no longer recognise their own voice in the book, post-edit (the editing process also included requests from the publisher and the marketer that the author was under pressure to accept). And because of this experience, they’ve opted to self-publish future novels.
Once you start to find your voice, you want to be heard. But that can get out of hand (as we’re witnessing on social media platforms). Where there’s not much of a future for any industry that wants to hang onto long-established ways of doing things, there also needs to be some means of quality control in regards to self-publishing. A middle-ground approach is the ideal—not just your way, not just my way. Our way. And hopefully, it’s in the future of traditional publishing.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: Humour Fiction, Satire, Chick lit, Coming-of-age, Women fiction humour, Women Inspiration, Romance,
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.