Friday, May 18, 2012

Questions - and Answers

Following my request last week for questions about my latest release and /or about writing generally, I was delighted at all the interesting questions you sent. As there are so many, today I’m answering the ones specifically about my latest release ‘Changing the Future’, and tomorrow I’ll answer the more general ones about writing.

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?  (Available from Amazon)

From Erin O’Quinn: The volcano itself is a powerful image. Can you give us a few hints of how you used the symbol throughout your new book ‘Changing the Future’?
This question made me think, Erin! I don’t think I consciously used it as a symbol but, in fact, the analogy is there throughout the book! Maybe my subconscious was at work?
(a) Volcanoes are usually found where tectronic plates are converging or diverging. In this case, the two lead characters are ‘converging’ after several years apart.
(b) The early signs of possible volcanic eruptions are (amongst other things) increased seismic activity and/or gas emissions; this could represent the words and actions of Lisa and Paul that gradually become more intense.
(c) Of course, not even the best experts can predict the exact moment when a volcano will erupt. They can monitor the changes and may know from these that an eruption is imminent, even inevitable. In the same way, I think my readers will recognise the ‘signs’ of an inevitable eruption in Lisa and Paul’s relationship, but even my two characters were taken by surprise about how and when it actually happened.

From Lindsay Townsend: How did you research what volcanologists do? And do such experts share certain characteristics which you could show in your novel?
I won’t pretend I’m an expert on volcanoes, Lindsay, although I did do a mass of research, 99% of which I didn’t use, but still needed to do to ensure the other 1% was reasonably accurate. In particular, apart from the ‘theoretical’ information about volcanic activity, I read a lot of first-hand accounts about eruptions and also watched dozens of videos!
As far as volcano experts are concerned, I got the impression that they work closely together and respect each other’s expertise. Thus I had Paul in close contact with the head of the Iceland Volcano Research Centre, and with other geologists.

From Jennifer Wilck: What first attracted you to the idea of making your hero a volcanologist?
Would you believe he started out as a High School geography teacher? That was back in the 70’s when I first wrote this story. When I dug the ms. out of a box into which I’d dumped my stories, I decided I needed to ‘upgrade’ him to the top of his profession. I’m not really sure how or why I decided he was a volcano expert. Maybe it was a kind of progression from geography to geology to a specialist who might also be a television ‘celebrity’. The Iceland volcanic ash cloud a couple of years ago played a part in this decision too.

From Elizabeth Rodriguez: In your latest book, one of the main characters is a volcanologist! That is a bit off the beaten path - how did you come up with it? Did you research volcanoes? Did you find out anything interesting?
Elizabeth, you’ll see part of my answer to you in the above answer to Jennifer. When I decided that was my hero’s job, I then had to do a huge amount of research. I admit I didn’t understand some of it! But I still found it fascinating. I think the most interesting was all the information about the eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980, and also the reasons why the Icelandic ash cloud caused such problems a couple of years ago when other eruptions in Iceland don’t have the same effect.

From Linda Swift: Paula, this is more than one question but all related. Where is the setting of this story? Did the plot involving volcanoes require a lot of research? Are you setting us up with the foreshadowing that the heroine's son may belong to the hero or just being upfront about it from the get-go? Now I HAVE to read the story and find the answers!
Linda, the first part of the story is set in an imaginary college on the edge of the Lake District which, as you already know, is my favourite part of England. I could have located the collage anywhere really, so why not the Lake District? It’s easier for me to write about places I know personally. I did take the hero and heroine to New York for a short time, but again, I’ve been there several times, so I’m reasonably familiar with it. The scenes set in Iceland presented a different problem, as I have never been there, so had to rely on maps, photos, and videos to give me an idea of the landscape etc. As I explained in my previous answers, I did a lot of research and made pages of notes about volcanoes, the ongoing monitoring even of dormant volcanoes, and the causes/signs of volcanic activity and eruptions. And I’m totally upfront in the story about the child being the hero’s. For the rest, yes, you’ll have to read it!

From Nancy Jardine: So, what would make him doubt the boy is his?
Without giving a real spoiler, I can’t answer this one, Nancy! Maybe it’s enough to say he hasn’t seen the heroine for over 5 years, when they split up because... no, can't say any more.

From Betty Alark: Is Lisa's son Paul's? Is Lisa presently in a relationship with someone that is the child's father and if so what future can Lisa and Paul have without affecting the lives of the people that she presently has a life with?
You’re asking me to give away the whole story here, Betty! I can tell you that yes, Lisa’s son is Paul’s. That information is revealed on page 3, so I’m not giving too much away there. Regarding any other relationship, my lips are sealed! You’ll have to read the book!

From Carol: Will there be a prequel to explain how they got together originally?
Carol, I hope there is enough in the story to give the reader a pretty good idea of how they first got together and why they broke up.

From Ana: What was the hardest part of writing ‘Changing the Future’, and what was the easiest?
I think the hardest part was deciding which scenes from the original to retain and which to ditch! I had no problem abandoning the ‘flashback’ scenes, but then had to find some way of incorporating enough about their earlier relationship for the reader to get an idea of the love they’d once shared. Easiest part? Difficult to say! Sometimes the tricky scenes flow, and the easy scenes become the hardest to write. Probably the easiest part to write was when Lisa finds out the volcano has erupted, because I was living through her panic and dread all the time I was writing about this.

Please come back tomorrow to look at the questions about writing in general, and see my answers!
Tomorrow’s questions are from Gilli Allan, Debra St John, Brenda Moguez, Glynis Smy, Jennifer Wilck, Jo Heroux, Daphne Romero and Ana Morgan.


  1. Good timing on this post and this release! Today is the anniversary of Mt. St. Helens errupting in 1980!

    Such a clever idea for a post today...I hope we do more of this at Heroines with Hearts.

    I'm out of town this weekend, (away from Internet access) but I'll try to pop in on Sunday when I get home to take a look at part two of your post.

  2. Great answers, Paula, and I think it's very brave of you to pick a profession for the hero about which you knew nothing to start. Most times, I think we stick to ones we know. Your ability to research and make it believable enough to get the story published speaks to how well you did it. Congratulations!

  3. Dear Paula,

    Of course! The volcano itself is a kind of metaphor for the smoldering emotions of the protagonists. What an apt comparison. Such a simile invites--compels--a reader to be around for the eruption, eh? You have me at hello, once more, as you did with FRAGRANCE OF VIOLETS.

    Keep up the outstanding work, as I know you will.

    Slán, Erin

  4. Wow, Debra - that coincidence hadn't occurred to me but yes, May 18th 1980 at 8.32am PDT - 'Vancoouver! Vancouver! This is it!' - the famous final message sent by David Johnston before he was swept to his death.

  5. Jen - when I was researching volcanoes, I said 'Someone remind me not to choose a profession I know nothing about in my next novel.' So what is my new hero? A veterinary surgeon! What do I know about a vet's job in the Lake District? Nothing! So more research required!

  6. Many thanks, Erin - I loved how your question really make me think about the analogy! And thanks for all your support, my friend! xx

  7. Researching professions is part of the fun of writing, isn't it?

  8. Yes and no, Ana! I spent an inordinate amount of time researching volcanoes and eruptions, simply to ensure that the few facts I actually used in the story were reasonably accurate. However, I did learn a lot in the process!

  9. Paula, a friend of mine is a vet. If you need to interview her, let me know.

  10. Thanks, Jen - will remember that! I can find a fair amount of info online, and I thought of going into our local vet to find out about their surgery set-up, as I assume there won'be be too much difference in the way the surgery works here compared with those uin the Lake District. The main difference, of course, will be that between suburban and rural vets and the actual work they do.

  11. Okay, just let me know. I believe she's rural, but American.

  12. You did a great job with the volcano info, Paula, for not knowing anything at all.

    Good luck!

  13. That made for an interesting post, Paula!

    Great questions and answers.

  14. Paula, what a clever idea for a blog! I enjoyed reading all the Q & A and I learned more about your extensive research. Can't wait to read this book.