Friday, April 2, 2021

Interview With Author and Agent Paula Munier

Hello again. Today we're honored to present Author and Agent Paula Munier

She's a USA TODAY bestselling author of the Mercy Carr mysteries. A Borrowing of Bones was a Mary Higgins Clark Award nom and named Dogwise Book of the Year. Blind Search, inspired by the real-life rescue of a boy with autism, also won a DWAA award. 

The newly-released The Hiding Place is now out. 

Paula credits Mission K9 Rescue, her own rescue dogs, and her beloved New England as her major influences. She’s also written three books on writing: Plot Perfect, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, and Writing with Quiet Hands, as well as Fixing Freddie and Happier Every Day.

Q. You wear many hats in the writing world: former reporter, editor, literary agent, non-fiction writer, and now award-winning novelist. How do you fit it all in, and decide what to work on next? Do you have habits of particular writing times?

A. I just work a lot. Seriously, like many of my clients, I have a day job as a literary agent, which I love and which takes up most of my time. I write at night and on weekends and whenever else I can squeeze in some scribbling. I work from home, so my time is my own to schedule. Although the pandemic has kept me from traveling (I used to spend a week a month in Manhattan, go to conferences, etc.), and I miss writing on planes and trains and buses.

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. I had a title, because in the struggle to find a title my publisher liked for BLIND SEARCH, THE HIDING PLACE proved the runner-up. And my editor suggested that I write a cold case story. My heroine Mercy Carr’s late grandfather was a sheriff, and I figured that the cold case could be a missing girl he’d never found. This missing girl haunted him—and now she’d haunt Mercy.

Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. I wrote a book called PLOT PERFECT: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene, in which I set out ways in which writers can plot out their novels before writing them. So I have always outlined first. That said, I’m writing Book Four now, and I’m going way off script. We’ll see how it turns out. 

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)? Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. THE HIDING PLACE is about, well, hiding. Not just about how we might bury secrets or treasure or dead bodies, but also about how we might conceal the truth from others and from ourselves. Most important, it’s about how we hide who we really are from others and from ourselves.  

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story? 

A. Great characters and good storytelling. As my editor likes to say, “They come for the mystery, and they stay for the characters.”

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. When you’re writing a series, anything and everything is fair game. I read widely (I am an agent, after all) and so I draw inspiration from everyone from Shakespeare and Jane Austen to Maya Angelou and Mary Oliver to Alice Hoffman and Julia Spencer-Fleming. Lately, I’m obsessed with Elly Griffiths and Attica Locke. And I do make a vision board and a playlist for every book….

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. I believe in storytelling as a basic human need: Food, clothing, shelter, and stories.  

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. I’m just trying to get through Book Four.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. When I send to the book to the publisher, I’m usually rushed. And I revise like crazy.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. My editor is Pete Wolverton at St. Martin’s. He’s a genius (and I don’t say that lightly, having been an acquisitions editor myself for nearly twenty years). I listen to what he has to say. He’s never steered me wrong, and my books are far better for his input. If I need feedback before I turn in the manuscript, I go to my own agent, the wonderful Gina Panettieri, and/or Dana Isaacson, editor extraordinaire.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. I’m an agent. I’m besieged by writers asking for help. I do what I can when I can. I also wrote three books on writing, do lot of workshops and conferences, and I’m a founding member of Career Authors. 

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. My books are available as audiobooks, read by the amazing voice actress Kathleen McInerney aka Veronica Taylor. She’s fantastic. She makes me sound good.

As for TV/film adaptations, I’d give myself the same advice I give my clients should the opportunity arise: Take the money and run.

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. Book Four.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I make really good gumbo ;-)

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