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This blog was featured on 05/14/2018
Paula McLain on Characters, Research and Getting Published
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Written by
She Writes
7 days ago
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
7 days ago

Paula McLain, in addition to being a New York Times bestselling author, has an extraordinary ability to uncover historical details about notable personalities and weave them gracefully into fictional tales. Her latest novel, Love and Ruin, chronicles the once passionate, sometimes dramatic, marriage of Martha and Ernest Hemingway.

Paula’s poetry background is peppered through her literature, setting beautiful backdrops that you can see in your mind’s eye, tension that has you squirming in your seat and emotion so deep you feel the tears welling up. Her devotion to her craft; the delicate selection of words, the exhaustive investigation of her characters and the dignity that is given to these true life characters is admirable.

Paula spoke with PureWow and shared her insights on writing, research and challenging her perspectives.

On getting started writing

“Read everything you can get your hands on, especially in the genre within which you’re working. Find models, books that do perfectly exactly what you’d like to do, that you’d eat your heart out to have written, and then shoot for those stars. Finally, grow a thick skin. The business side of this world is tough, tough, tough. Odds are you’re going to hear no a thousand times. Keep your head down, get better and better, and don’t stop.”

On the challenges of writing about real-life characters

“I wanted to be faithful to the facts while also imbuing my characters with inner lives I couldn’t find in biographies or more than glean from their letters. Finding a way to build out from what I found and fill in the gaps with my imagination, that was the biggest reward, finding that sweet spot between fact and fiction.”

On changing her perspective on research

“I always thought [research] would be pure dullsville, but it was more like a treasure hunt or a time machine. The ’20s hooked me hard, and I found I couldn’t read enough, both about the period and from it. Modernism rocked. We’re not doing anything fresher or more exciting now than Hemingway and James Joyce were doing in 1924.”

On her idea of what it meant to have a book published

“My experience has always been that if you published a book, nothing really happened, so it’s completely amazing that the book is out there being read--800,000 copies or something in hardcover. It has changed everything about what’s possible for my next book.”

On how she unwinds in her free time

“I’m a cookbook junkie. Looking at pretty food relaxes me, and so does cooking, unless it’s for my kids, who eat, like, five things. Five different things, actually, which makes dinnertime sort of a nightmare at my house.”

[Read the full interview on PureWow.]

(Photo courtesy of PaulaMcLain.com)

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