Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Truth about Paula Rawsthorne …

I first met Paula Rawsthorne at Foyles bookshop in February of last year, at the launch party for the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Anthology. At the time, neither of us had a publisher and were somewhat nervous and bemused at finding ourselves in a room full of agents, editors and book industry people.

It's now eighteen months later and Paula's debut novel The Truth about Celia Frost hits the shelves on Monday. Already the response to the book has been fantastic with a real buzz in the industry and great reviews from readers. 

But these 15 minute interviews are all about the writing – attempting to peek around the other side of the typewriter and maybe steal a few secrets of how the magic on the page is conjured in the first place.

So, Paula – what's your secret? 
Lots of luck and an over active imagination! I was the kind of kid who had imaginary friends when I started school and I pretended I had a limp (but that's a different story).

A limp! In an attempt to get sympathy? Or something more sinister?
Attention seeking drama queen is probably the diagnosis! 

Ha! It sounds like you were always focused on medical issues, even as a child. So what was the spark for Celia Frost? Was it your first novel?
Yes, Celia Frost was my first go at writing a novel. Before I'd written short stories for adults. The spark was really the firm idea in my head of what KIND of story I wanted to write. I knew it had to be for YA and I wanted it to be gripping, entertaining, twisting and hopefully thought provoking. From there the image of Celia and Janice Frost came to me.

So, did you make it up as you went along? Or plan the whole thing out? 
Once I had the images of Celia and Janice in my head, I suddenly knew that there was something about Celia that Janice wasn't telling her. From that point the plot emerged and evolved. As it's a very twisting tale I worked out crucial plot points along the way and knew the end but, as you know, with writing things can take unplanned turns and that's always exciting. 

How long did it take to write? Did you write a few dead ends along the way and have to retrace and try a different route?
I certainly had a few Eureka moments when I suddenly realised what should happen or what a certain character would do, but it never felt like dead ends, it felt more like excavating. I worked when the kids were at school and in the end it took a school year to write.

That's fast! It doesn't sound like you suffer writer's block or have that point, about a third of the way through, where you lose faith – like many writers seem to. 
I was fortunate not to get writer's block but at times I suffered badly from lazy, faffingitis!! Eventually, I conned myself that periods watching Home Under the Hammer was time well spent as something was bound to be fermenting in the depths of my mind (hopefully to do with the story)

Yes, allowing your subconscious to mull the story over without interference. That's work. 

With Celia about to hit the shelves, I know you've been working on your next book for Usborne. How's it going? How did you decide what to write next? Did you have a few ideas to choose from? 
I'm glad you agree, Dave! I was lucky to get a two book deal with Usborne and they have been wonderful to me. The only thing they asked of me was to write another thriller, so I went away and had a very big think and put in a synopsis that they really seemed to like. Then they said – off you go and write it (and gave me a delivery date!)

Paula signing books at the recent launch for Celia Frost
I've now written half of it but need to quicken my pace. All the lovely publicity and work to do around Celia Frost has been great but it's taken me away from Book 2. I got to a point were I just had to put Book 2 to one side for a while to make the best job of the book tour, events, writing articles etc. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it again, very soon.

Can you tell us what it's called, or any other sneak previews?
I only have a working title at the moment. It's like having a baby – with some, you know what you want to call it even before it makes an appearance (Celia Frost) but with this one I'm going to have to wait and see what suits it once it's delivered! The only thing I can tell you about it at the moment is that it has a shocking opener and events unfold from that. Plus I was getting far too involved with all the characters so it's probably best i've had a break from them.

I take it then, that this time you're working to more of an outline than you did with Celia. How are you finding that?
Yes, definitely. In fact, this time I went and got a corkboard and note cards and basically made a storyboard. This felt quite comforting but events and plot lines are still emerging and taking on a life of their own – which I love.

What's your daily writer's routine now you're published and have all the other things, besides writing, to take care of? 

Paula's guilty secret? Coffee and cake to summon the muse!
It's not ideal, but as I'm giving up full-time work at the end of this month, I'm hoping my day will be a bit more like yours, especially regarding the cake!

Is there any advice you would give to the Paula who sat down to write The Truth About Celia Frost ?
I've just consulted my kids on this and they've said "Don't eat some many cakes!" I'd say "Paula, this is a bloody long shot but you only live once so keep the faith sister and get that book written!"

Ah, you can never eat too much cake! Good advice. Keeping the faith as a writer is half the battle! You did and look at you now!

Finally, what question do you wish I'd asked you? And what would your answer have been? You can consult with the kids again if you like. Or how about – what question do you wish I'd asked and also what question do they think I should have asked?
Kids would have asked how much T.V I watched when I was meant to be working. 

Mine is- how do you manage to write having to share a laptop with three kids trying to get on the internet all the time!?

Good questions! And what would your answers be?
HA, HA- The kids will never know! 

And- it's a miracle I get anything done because as soon as I leave my chair (even to go to the loo) one of them jumps on it!! 

Maybe it's time you pestered Usborne to buy you your own!
Thanks for sharing 15 minutes of your time with us Paula, and thanks also to your guys for their input.

The Truth about Celia Frost is published on Monday, 1st Aug, available from all good book shops and online here.

To find out more about Paula and Celia check out:


  1. Great interview! Hoping to get my hands on a copy of Paula's book soon.

  2. Can't wait to read Celia Frost, it sounds great!

  3. Great interview. I'm still terribly jealous about that two book deal! By the way, I found the book on the shelves in Waterstones Warrington on a three for two deal on the 30th August!

  4. Yay for Paula (and Dave). Thanks for letting us in on your grubby laptop sharing shame - actually, if you have to share a laptop, it's probably literally grubby!

  5. Great interview! I got a sneaky advance copy and loved the book. (I will be buying another copy that I hope to get Paula to sign!) Congratulations to Paula for a truly thrilling thriller. It's a great study in how to write an engaging and thought-provoking story.

  6. Can't wait to read this and great interview. Go, go, go Paula!