Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interview with Paula Treick DeBoard talking about her debut novel The Mourning Hours––"I love how the cover turned out – it’s so simple, but so haunting and evocative, too. For me, the cover is symbolic of what happens to the family in this novel. "


A family's loyalty is put to the ultimate test.
Kirsten Hammarstrom hasn't been home to her tiny corner of rural Wisconsin in years—not since the mysterious disappearance of a local teenage girl rocked the town and shattered her family. Kirsten was just nine years old when Stacy Lemke went missing, and the last person to see her alive was her boyfriend, Johnny—the high school wrestling star and Kirsten's older brother.

Click the link to see what Goodreads readers think of the novel-http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17133946-the-mourning-hours#other_reviews

Paula welcome to my blog
Thanks! It’s great to be here.

Tell us a little about your novel The Mourning Hours.
It’s about a family whose lives are torn apart by a single mysterious incident – the disappearance of a teenage girl. The story is told mainly from the point of view of a nine-year-old girl who is both naïve and, at times, very perceptive. I think it speaks about what it means to be a family – about how you might love your family members, but not always trust them completely. Ultimately, the family in this novel is faced with the possibility that one of their own is a killer.

Where did the original idea for the novel come from?
It’s funny to look back on now, but the very first thing I wrote was a tiny scene that is now in the middle of the book. Kirsten, the narrator, is watching her brother compete at a wrestling tournament. It was just a brief, tense scene, but then I started to people the stands with his other family members and his girlfriend – and I realized there was a deep tragedy waiting in the wings for these characters. It wasn’t until I really immersed myself in the writing process that I discovered the whole story.

This is your debut novel yet according to your bio you’ve been writing since family vacations in the backseat of a station wagon.
What was the first story you remember writing about?
Here’s where I thank my mother for keeping my childhood well stocked with books, 70-page spiral notebooks, and sharpened pencils. I was the weird kid who was always slightly away from the action, observing things and writing them down. My characters back then tended to be just like me (or at least, how I thought I was) – brilliant and misunderstood. As a kid, I read a lot of books about World War II, and the earliest stories I remember writing were about that time period. I had this dream of writing a sweeping historical novel set in war-torn Europe, but I generally abandoned the stories before finishing anything.

You have written and published short stories.
How are they different from writing a novel, how are they the same?
Well, obviously the length is a key difference – which means that character and plot have to develop quickly in a short story, and in a novel, there’s more of a chance to really delve into each. The novel format has given me the freedom to take some chances and play around with where the story is going. But I wouldn’t say that writing a short story is easier or faster, necessarily. There’s one short story I’ve rewritten about fifteen times, and I know it’s still not quite right. I try to resist the idea that the potential for a novel exists in every short story, and let the short story stand on its own as a tiny, beautiful thing.

I have to admit that the cover intrigued me.
Tell us how you think the cover relates to the novel?
I love how the cover turned out – it’s so simple, but so haunting and evocative, too. For me, the cover is symbolic of what happens to the family in this novel. I spent half of my childhood in the Midwest, and I remember catching fireflies in Mason jars on sticky summer nights. It’s a thrilling feeling – to be able to capture something and enjoy it, if only for a short time. In the novel, the narrator wishes she could capture one perfect, peaceful moment with her family and hold on to that moment forever – although, of course, she can’t.

What genre shelf would you put your novel on?
This is a suspense novel, with some significant family drama that unfolds along the way. Readers should get a hint of the upcoming tragedy from the first pages, and that feeling intensifies page by page as the story progresses.

You went to college in both Iowa and Maine and you now live in California.
Was there a specific reason you set your novel in Wisconsin?
I’m really a Midwest girl at heart, even though I’ve been in California for most of my life. I have strong family ties to Wisconsin, and my father grew up on a farm that is roughly located where I set the fictional town in the novel. That land was in our family for more than 150 years. Some of my earliest memories are of chasing my sisters and cousins around the barn or exploring the creepy nooks and crannies of the farmhouse attic. Essentially, the farm in the novel is the farm from my childhood memory – even though I wasn’t even conscious of that fact at first. Somehow, my mind is always returning to that place.

You also teach college. Is your ultimate goal to one day write fiction full time?
I’d love to keep doing both, although at times it’s definitely a balancing act. Writing fiction tends to demand long, uninterrupted hours with my laptop. I’m currently teaching critical composition, which tends to demand long, uninterrupted hours of grading. But I couldn’t imagine my life without the rigors and rewards of teaching. Writing is a very solitary act, and it can feel dangerous to be in my own head without another outlet. In a way, writing and teaching have both been escapes from each other.

Will there be any events or signings where fans can meet you in person?
We’re planning a big book launch and some readings locally, but I’m also hoping to connect with book groups either in person or online. Ultimately, I’d love to give a reading in Wisconsin – I want to hear from the locals if I got things right! And of course, there’s always Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for answering a few questions Paula and good luck with the new novel.
Thank you! I’d better get back to it.

Visit Paula's website here

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  1. This sounds quite good and was new to me, so thank you for sharing. I found it interesting that the book started from one scene at her brother's wrestling match.

    1. Thanks Kim, it's always one of my favorite questions to ask authors.
      Glad you like the interview