Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Author Feature: Paul Shortt

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


Paul is from Ireland and has the distinction of being the first male author featured on Tell Me Your Story Tuesday. His first novel will be released in 2012 by WiDo Publishing.

Let's get to know Paul!

What made you decide to write? What did you do before becoming a writer?

Paul: I've wanted to be a writer since I was a child. I can't say any one event make me think "Yeah, that's what I want to be!" but I always read, much more frequently than I do now, and knew from about the age of twelve that it was what I wanted to do. I grew up loving stories, whether they be books, movies, or theatre. Having parents interested in theatre and music definitely helped expose me to the different ways a story can be told.

I've been working in office administration for an internet company for the last five years. Landing that book deal doesn't mean I get to quit my day job, I'm afraid! (I get disappointed every time I hear this!)

 Do you have a writing routine? What does it look like? Where do you usually write?

Paul: I do, but it's not very structured, and it has required bending at times. Monday to Friday, I get into my office early and write before work starts, then again during my lunch hour. Google Documents is my friend. Got to love it. Then in the evenings I'll often set aside more time to write.

On weekends I get up early, usually between 8 and 8:30, and go to our front room where we have our books, my computer and my wife's piano. It's a sort of combination study, writing room, music room and games room. This is my favourite spot to write, because I've got my office chair and my music. I'll work there until my wife gets up, then make us breakfast before going back and working away until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, depending on our plans for the day.

Aside from that, I also work from a netbook whenever I have a spare moment or there's nothing good on tv. Of course, I'm not just writing for all of that time. I also use this time to research places and mythology that I can use in my books.

 Is the life of a writer what you thought it be? What is different?

Paul: You mean different from what 12 year-old me expected? Oh, definitely. When I was a kid I thought one book deal would mean I'd be rich and never have to work a day in my life again. I had no idea the amount of work involved in just getting a book written, let alone getting one ready for publication. I think the most surprising difference though is how prepared you have to be for criticism. I never expected, when I was younger, that I would have to consider, and be able to accept, the amount that my work would have to adapt in order to be published. Even when you've got that deal, or decided to self-publish, you need a thick skin and no small amount of humility in order to make sure your stuff is the best it can be. 

Tell us about the contest that led to your publishing contract. How did that all fall into place?

Paul: Back at the beginning of the year, Karen Jones announced that WiDo Publishing were holding a contest. It was simple enough. Anyone could send in a covering letter and the first three chapters of their novel. Up to three finalists would have their full manuscripts considered for publication. It was actually a friend and fellow writer, Ellen Brickley, who pointed out the contest to me, so I really owe her a lot!

I was contacted by Allie, WiDo's acquisitions officer, in April to let me know I had won and that they were going to offer me a contract for my book. I have the e-mail framed, hanging over my desk at home.

  What is the best advice you have received about this journey?

Paul: One of my favourite authors, Jim Butcher, once said the only different between a wannabe author and a published author is that the published author kept trying. The fact is, you don't need to be the best new writer on the scene. You don't have to be better than Stephen King, or beat J.K. Rowling's sales figures. All you have to do is hold on long enough even while the others around you give up. Most aspiring writers don't even manage to finish that first novel. Keep writing. Keep querying. There is simply no other way to get there.

 What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were starting out?

Paul: That it's okay for your early work to suck! Though to be honest, I doubt I would have listened at the time. So maybe I'd rather wish that I'd been more open to receiving advice and criticism.

 What do you do to fight burnout? Do you ever worry about "running out of stories"? How do combat that?

Paul: I'm terrible for pushing myself to exhaustion. My wife and friends have often had to order me to take a night or two off writing just to uwind and re-charge my batteries. I'm the kind of person who has a need to be writing. Not writing feels wrong to me, and I'm often quite hard on myself if I'm having trouble. The best thing for me then is to turn off the computer, have a glass of wine and watch a movie.

I try not to think about "running out of ideas." I think it helps to accept that there is no such thing as an original plot. Every possible story has already been told, it's just the set dressings that change. So focus on telling whatever stories you find fun to write, and you'll do fine.

 What kind of scenes do you have a hard time writing?

Paul: Any scenes where one character is explaining something to another. I'm very prone to infodumps so I have to watch myself like a hawk for using too much exposition and not integrating the details into the story.

 Do you ever write material based on your close relationships, such as a best friend?, and how do you balance that material with the need to tell an interesting story?

Paul: In all honesty, I try not to. Sometimes I find it easier to write a certain character or scene if I draw on emotions from my own relationships, but it's much more generalised, not specifically basing a character on someone I really know. But for high-emotion scenes, it's difficult to ignore when I've experienced similar feelings in the past.

What sources do you use for inspiration? ( Music, movies, people watching)

Paul: Music is my primary source of inspiration. I listen to music a lot, especially film scores, and I'll often be walking along and an idea for a scene that matches the music I'm listening to will grow in my mind. You'd be amazed how much of my writing is based on "this would be great in a movie with this music in the background!" Though I do also draw inspiration from movies, books, theatre and mythology.

 What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Paul: What little time I let myself off from either writing or researching I usually spend reading, watching movies, or with my tabletop roleplaying group.

Tell us a bit about your work in progress.

Paul: It's an urban fantasy set in New York. My hero, Nathan Shepherd, remembers past lives and uses the knowledge from those memories to track down a creature which has been preying on people for over a hundred years. Along the way he learns about the hidden supernatural society of New York and how his previous incarnations have been involved with it, while at the same time trying to hold onto his job and his relationships with his friends and girlfriend.

Naturally the book deals with questions of life after death; the idea of a natural cycle of death and rebirth. Whether we're still the same people whose memories we have, with the same potential and responsibilities, or each life is a blank slate, with the person you were before, and all the things you achieved, meaning nothing once you die. The book also looks at the choices we make, the sacrifices we're willing to accept for the things we believe in. The primary question running throughout is just how much Nathan is willing to risk to stop this monster, and what, if anything, will he have left in the end?

The book is currently undergoing edits and will be released as part of WiDo's 2012 lineup.

 What is next for you?

Paul: Well I'm currently working on two novels. One is a sequel to my first book, continuing Nathan's story, currently titled Silent Oath, though that's likely to change. I've almost finished the first draft on that. The other is a Young Adult book called Nightfall, about a boy who turns into a bird-like monster after the sun sets. I've been enjoying both. Each one is a different experience and I can't wait to see where they go.

How can we find out more about you? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?

Paul: I have a blog at I'm also on Facebook under both a personal profile and an Author page, and my Twitter username is PAShortt.

Thanks for having me on your blog! It's been fun
It was a pleasure having you, Paul. I look forward to reading your book when it comes out! Thanks for stopping by!

Anyone else have questions for Paul?


Anonymous said...

No questions, just a comment on how intriguing your story sounds, Paul. Okay, maybe one question: will it be available in North America?

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Really interesting interview! Paul, you have original ideas, despite what you say about there being no new ideas! I like the sound of the YA story as well.

Whenever I do one of these contests, Allie and I talk about "What if no one submits a ms. that WiDo really wants to publish?" Well, it turned out that altho the prize would have gone to 3 winners this time, there was only 1 that fit the bill-- Paul's. However, there was a rewrite and resubmit from the previous contest-- Amy Saia's YA paranormal-- and Allie accepted that one about the same time as Paul's, so really it was like there were 2 winners.

But how fortuitous that Paul entered! WiDo (and my blog contest) got a prize winner, and Paul got a contract. Win win all around!

Mari G said...

Interesting story, Paul and great insights on the writing routine & how to keep the inspiration flowing.
Just wondering if you plan to do any public readings of your forthcoming novel...if so, perhaps you might like to travel to an Open Mic night in Kildare & do a reading?

Michelle Fayard said...

Paul, I've just added to my file of inspirational quotes your following words: "You don't have to be better than Stephen King, or beat J.K. Rowling's sales figures. All you have to do is hold on long enough even while the others around you give up."

Congratulations on your debut novel! Your urban fantasy about Nathan Shepherd also sounds extremely intriguing.

Dawn, I'm so glad to be a follower. :)

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

lindapoitevin: Thank you! And yes, it most certainly will be available in North America. Get every bookstore you can to order it once it's out!

KarenG: I'm thrilled you think so! I'll be sure to keep you up to date about the sequel, and I'll be querying Nightfall as soon as it's ready. I definitely think I won out on this.

Mari G: Absolutely I would! I love the power of the human voice to tell a story, whether it's for someone who is blind or severely dyslexic, or just to enjoy how it sounds. If you think there'll be enough interest I'd love to give a reading. Maybe we should talk closer to the release?

Michelle: I'm flattered, thank you! I can't take credit for the sentiment though. Jim Butcher, seriously, check him out if you haven't already.

Dawn Alexander said...

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to support Paul. It has been a pleasure having him!
Michelle~ Thanks for following. :)

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

Thanks for having me, Dawn!