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.