Like Family, and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She lives in Cleveland with her family.
Now let's hear what Paula McLain has to say...
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Fresno, California, a very hot and arid place, which couldn’t be more different from Cleveland, Ohio, where I currently live. When I was a kid, I didn’t even own boots or mittens or a proper winter coat—would love it if that could be true now!
Tell us your latest news?
I just learned that foreign rights for The Paris Wife have been sold to Japan, my 21st international publisher. So exciting!
When and why did you begin writing?
I always wrote—mostly poetry—and did so, I think, to try and make sense of the difficult circumstances of my life. When I was four years old, my two sisters and I were abandoned by both of our parents, and spent the next fourteen years bouncing through the California foster care system. It was an enormously confusing and lonely way to grow up, but writing helped, and so did reading.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was nineteen years old, I somehow mustered the courage to send a poem to Cosmopolitan Magazine—and they accepted it! They sent the acceptance letter with a check for twenty-five dollars, which I could barely stand to cash. I was over the moon with pride and excitement, and though I’m fairly sure now that the poem was quite terrible, the sense that I was a real author stuck with me and was absolutely empowering.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was a collection of poems, Less of Her, which I completed after finishing a graduate degree in poetry at the University of Michigan. My first book of prose, Like Family: Growing Up In Other People’s Houses, is a memoir about growing up in foster care. Through the process, I realized it was incredibly important for me to tell that story. Even though it never found a huge readership, I’m extremely proud of that book.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Poetic, I would say. I’ve always read and written poetry, and always loved language—beautiful words, a well-made sentence, and a particularly memorable image. That love naturally seeps into and informs my work.
How did you come up with the title?
The book had another title originally, The Great Good Place, which Ballantine vetoed because it wasn’t “zingy” enough. I came up with lists and lists of alternatives for them, and one of them was The Paris Wife. I like the irony in it, how from a distance Hadley might simply appear to be Hemingway's "Paris wife," the way Pauline Pfieffer was his "Key West wife" and Martha Gelhorn was his “Spanish Civil War wife.” But beneath the obvious surface, Hadley was fundamental to the rest of his life and career. I don’t think he could have become the writer we know now without her influence.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Ernest Hemingway gets a lot of flack—particularly from women—for his various (and numerous) flaws. But I hope my readers can stay open to him as a character and appreciate him for the deeply complex person he was. Hadley (his first wife and my first-person speaker) once said that Ernest had more sides to him than any geometry book could chart, and that’s the sense I got from researching his life so intensely.
What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished Geraldine Brooks’ new novel, Caleb’s Crossing, which is set in mid-1600’s Martha’s Vineyard. I think Brooks is a master of historical fiction, and found the book absolutely riveting.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I think Heidi Durrow (The Girl Who Fell From the Sky) is hugely talented. Kevin Wilson has a story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, that’s brilliant, and novel (due out in August), called The Family Fang, which is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
What are your current projects?
I’m at work on another historical novel about another real-life iconic figure—but more than that I can’t say. I’m not very far into the project, and don’t want to jinx anything.
Do you see writing as a career?
Now it is. For the last fifteen years, I’ve supported myself in any way possible—teaching, waiting tables, you name it—so I could keep writing on the side. With The Paris Wife, I can finally support myself and write full time. That feels amazing.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I can sometimes worry over the details too much and keep from making real progress in the story. I guess I’m a perfectionist, and there seems to be no limit to the number of times I’m rework a sentence, futzing over this word or that one. It can get frustrating when I’m on deadline and really need to be accumulating pages!
Who designed the cover?
The cover for The Paris Wife was done by Anna Bauer, a senior designer at Random House. Although there were many designs under consideration, this is the only one I saw and I loved it instantly.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
My advice to aspiring writers is always the same—to read, read, read, particularly in the genre in which you’re writing, and to persevere. More than talent, I admire gumption and passion. The world is always poised to tell you no—so are agents, editors, readers. You have to believe in your projects, finish them, and be committed to getting better, sentence by sentence, book by book.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for reading and for loving books. I’m so grateful that you’ve taken my work into your home and lives.
Merci Beaucoup to Paula McLain for taking time out of her busy book tour to do an interview with us.
annnndddd for donating a copy of her book to a GIVEAWAY!!!
This HANDPAINTED Fifi Flowers bookmark will ALSO
be given to the winner of the book! The WINNER will be able to select the ARTWORK for the back... DETAILS HERE
Deadline to enter is June 20, 2011 @ NOON California time...
Winner will be announced on the GIVEAWAY PAGE
Please be sure to leave your email address if you do not have a link to your site!
Bonne Chance - Good Luck!