1) What comes first for you, character or plot?
I think that at the start, I come up with about one quarter plot and three quarters character. I may get the glimmer of a plot from something I’ve overheard or seen in the media. Then ideas for characters draw me in until I have their personalities, appearances and histories, locked into my mind. That’s when I go back to work on filling in the plot to give it more depth.
I believe the two should be well balanced, yet if one gets more emphasis, I’d prefer it to be character. I’ve reached the end of several novels with complex characters and dull plots. Yet when the opposite happens, it’s harder to hold my interest. If the characters don’t appeal to me, I don’t care how exciting their lives are.
2) Was there a particular incident, place or monument that first sparked your thinking for this novel?
One of my favourite places to travel in the summer is a coastal town named Port Elliot, a 45 minute drive from our home in the hills. It’s a beautiful seaside town built around a bay shaped like a horseshoe, with old stone buildings and a rugged coastal walk, which tends to get rough and slippery around the edges when the sea pounds against the rocks, sending up towers of salt spray. For years, I’ve wanted to feature the location in one of my novels, and my chance came with ‘Imogen’s Chance’. Port Elliot is the ideal place for some of the events in the story to happen.
I like including small South Australian towns in my novels. They are pretty enough places to make excellent settings, and it pleases locals to read about their familiar locations in stories.
3) Did you know how the novel would end before you wrote it? Or did you consider any alternate ending?
I knew how the story concerning my hero, Asher, would end. That was non-negotiable. But I did figure out a few other details as I wrote. Imogen herself is such an enigmatic girl, with a lot of mystery surrounding her, even though she’s the main character. Readers will quickly find out that she is battling guilt over something that occurred long ago. My choice was how culpable to actually make her. I could have had her virtually innocent of any wrongdoing, blameworthy enough to match her guilt complex, or somewhere on a gradient in between. Her involvement in the big revelation took form the more I came to know her as I wrote. I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether or not she beat herself up too much. Some may even think she got off too lightly. Differences of opinion wouldn’t surprise me at all.
4) What was the most difficult aspect of this story to write?
It was surely what I put poor Asher through. His ordeal is pivotal to the plot, and it was hard to see him suffer, much as I loved him. However, I’m sure he would share the sentiments of others who have spoken of surviving similar circumstances. It’s not just a case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Many people believe that as they’re now able to help others in some way, their experience wasn’t wasted. As Asher’s character mellows and refines wonderfully during the story, it was surely the case for him.
5) What is one thing readers may not know about you?
I seem to have a unique accent of my own that puzzles people. I get asked whether I’m from England, Ireland, Wales, South Africa or New Zealand. I’ve heard them all. Even my husband asked me where I’m from when I first met him, although now he wonders what sparked that question, since I sound so ‘normal’ to him now. Many seem surprised when I tell them no, apart from a tiny bit of travel, I’ve lived all my life in Adelaide, South Australia, where I was born.
6) Was Imogen based even loosely on somebody you know or have met even casually?
No, I didn’t base her on anybody in particular, but I’d like to think she’s a composite of several people. She’s the sort of friend who would be great to have. Not noisy, showy or pushy, but thoughtful, pensive and very sweet. She’s the sort of person who gently speaks up, if she thinks it’s in a friend’s best interest, even though she may be quaking in her shoes, knowing that what she has to say may not be welcomed. Whether or not you come to feel that being too willing to take people at face value is her downfall remains to be seen. Is the girl too trusting? If so, perhaps she’s a good contrast to her friend, Asher, who has learned to question everyone’s motives.
7) Where is your favourite place to write?
I like to occasionally get away and drive to quiet parks. It gets noisy in my house. It’s full of family ranging in age from my 23-year-old nephew to my 10-year-old son. And my husband is a saxophonist who loves playing his instrument whenever he can. It sounds great, but isn’t conducive to quiet times.
8) Do you read fiction while you’re working on a novel? Or do you tend towards reading non-fiction or poetry?
It takes me some time to work on each novel, so I do read fiction as I write. It’s something I enjoy too much to put on hold while I’m working on other projects. I find I don’t take on other people’s styles or mannerisms, especially if I break it up with lots of non-fiction reading and daydreaming.
9) What are you currently reading?
‘Wild Mint Tea’ by Valerie Comer, which I’m enjoying very much.
10) What is the most helpful advice about writing you have ever received?
To put the critical, editing side of my brain on hold while I’m working on the first draft of each chapter. That really works for me. If I stop every couple of sentences to correct grammar, shorten sentences or change words, I get nowhere. Messy, haphazard first drafts are like buried treasure, rich with creativity and light- bulb ideas. You have to go in very gently when you start to fix things. Too rough an edit will destroy the delicate natural resources.
11) Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have several, but I’d love to give some fellow Australians a plug.
Meredith Resce, Amanda Deed and Rose Dee collaborated with me on a novel called ‘The Greenfield Legacy.’ We had a wow of a time working together.
Carol Preston researches her family history and writes it in the form of engaging stories set in Colonial times.
Jo Wanmer writes gritty contemporary stories with honesty and courage, inviting readers to consider difficult subjects that many prefer to shy away from.
Jenny Glazebrook’s books aren’t published yet, but her characters live on the page, three-dimensional and easy to empathise with.
Mary Hawkins’ books highlight Australia, and she has a heart to help others along their own writing journeys.
This is just the tip of the ice berg, but enough to begin with.
12) Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks very much for hosting me, Dale. It’s great to celebrate the launch of a new book with others. To me, it has a bit in common with the end of a pregnancy, when the long-awaited baby has just been born.
My pleasure Paula.
My Review of Imogen's Chance
There was something about this story that got me in right from the start. Maybe it was the characters, maybe it was the issues of guilt, the life threading health issue being faced, or maybe it was the idea of secrets.( I love books about secrets.) More likely it was all these things. I’m often not a big fan of prologues but here it sets the scene and is absolutely critical to the attitudes and actions and guilt held onto by Imogen and also as we find out later by Asher. It highlighted several things that I think will touch a chord with readers - like the bargain she made with God. How many of us have tried that tactic at some point in our lives? Imogen’s part of the bargain is to go back to Australia and try and make it up to the Dorazio family for the pain she had caused them in the past. Isabel had stayed with the Dorazio family as a child while her missionary parents were in the Northern Territory. Imogen’s plan is to bless the Dorazio’s somehow, though she has no idea how. She just knows she has to go and try to help. But of course things don’t go the way she expects.
Meanwhile Asher is facing his own serious health issues. He is also carrying guilt himself for events in his family’s past. I found both Asher and Imogen very easy to like and to relate to. The issues facing them felt so real and were skilfully handed. Guilt for past actions and health issues are two that many readers will be able to relate to. Some of the issues they dealt with and the questions they raised I could relate to personally.
I liked the way the relationship between Asher and his brother Seth was portrayed and the glimpses of past family dynamics between Asher and his twin sister Becky and Asher and his Dad. This is not a family where all is sweetness and light. There are tensions and personality clashes that bubble to the surface at times, just as they do in any real family. The thank you letters and humour in the book are a great touch. I liked the way the subject of God’s healing was dealt with in this book. While it gives hope, it doesn’t try to take the stance that God always heals or that if he doesn’t it is through lack of faith on the person. Rather the decision to heal or not is God’s alone. Healing may be in his plan or it may not.
I found this book an absorbing read. I started it one afternoon and finished it the next day. All I wanted to do was keep reading. Thanks to Paula for and advance reading copy.
More info about Paula and her books
Award-winning author, Paula Vince loves to evoke tears and laughter through her novels. A wife and homeschooling mother of three, she resides in the beautiful Adelaide Hills of South Australia. Her youth was brightened by great fiction and she’s on a mission to pay it forward.
Her novel, Picking up the Pieces, won the religious fiction section of the 2011 International Book Awards.
Her novel, Best Forgotten, was winner of the 2011 CALEB Award in the fiction category and also recognized as the best overall entry for the year, chosen over memoirs, devotionals and general non-fiction.
Paula’s books are a skillful blend of drama and romance tied together with elements of mystery and suspense.
Find out more at www.justoccurred.blogspot.com
Paula is the author of Picking up the Pieces, The Risky Way Home, A Design of Gold and Best Forgotten. Her new novel, Imogen’s Chance, will was published in April, 2014.
Paula is also one of the four authors of The Greenfield Legacy .