Inkling Interview: Paulette Wiles
Happy Friday Night Friends!
I’ve been so looking forward to interviewing this writer. We connected fairly early in my introduction to the #writerscommunity and she’s always been a soundboard/source of encouragement not only to me but anyone that interacts with her. I’ve also seen excerpts of her work and can say from just those glimpses that she writes beautifully. Please lend your figurative ears to the stoic and thoughtful: Paulette Wiles.
Hi Paulette! I ask everyone this question first: where are you at in your writing journey, and how did you get there?
I’m currently revising a novel, and I’ll be querying it by March of this year. I got to this point by writing a novel I truly wanted to write instead of trying to create something marketable or profound. I’ve struggled with finishing novels in the past and I believe it helped to write in the genre I love to read most — historical fiction.
Good luck next month! And I feel you: I've also struggled to finish manuscripts and get them into "queryable" shape, so major kudos! Can you pitch your current project?
My current project is The Gloaming Veil — a gothic romance set in the late Victorian era. There are lots of aesthetics! My novel takes place in Hampshire UK, the Scottish Highlands, and New Orleans. I’m bringing in creepy and atmospheric manor houses, stone circles, folktales, and a clipper ship called the Nepenthe. The novel is both a romance and a mystery.
Ooh, I love a gothic romance, they always want to make me find a Victorian house to cozy up in an read all afternoon!
Here’s my pitch if you’d like:
When Eliza’s ambitious mother sends her abroad to find a noble husband, Eliza is weighed down by a trunk full of Worth gowns and a lifetime of resentment. Free to build a new life apart from her mother’s influence, Eliza creates a stir in Victorian Hampshire with her disregard for propriety -- something her well-bred suitors find irresistible and her rivals abhor.
While being courted by a boastful, dandified earl, Eliza meets Malcolm - an eccentric viscount burdened by a tragic past. Malcolm’s scandalous story is the conversation of choice over brandy snifters throughout the county, but the dark rumors surrounding Viscount Havenwood stand in contrast to the charming and witty gentleman Eliza comes to know.
Eliza becomes obsessed with the mystery surrounding Malcolm’s equally enigmatic mother Miriam, who disappeared after a tragedy at Havenwood Manor -- a crumbling mansion whose walls whisper with a life all their own. During her quest to discover the truth about Miriam, she’s drawn into an unexpected relationship rife with consequences.
The Gloaming Veil is a gothic romance in the same vein as The Essex Serpent and Her Fearful Symmetry.
A Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote comes to mind: "Well behaved women seldom make history." That sounds lovely and even your pitch is beautifully written (of course). When I talk to writers about their work, I’m always fascinated by how identities and backgrounds impact our writing—how do you feel your background affects your work?
I’ve been a lover of gothic fiction for as long as I can remember. I’ve read all the classics, and I always knew I’d write a gothic romance at some point in time. Moody elements and atmospheric locations are a big inspiration to me — especially old houses and their secrets.
Sidenote: you'd love my parents' creepy old Victorian house in Arkansas. But to stay on topic as we talk about writing, do you have parts of the process you especially like or don't like?
Revision has been my favorite part of the process. I enjoy taking my prose from boring and stilted to something that slowly begins to sing to me. My least favorite part of the process is writing Act II of the first draft. This is where, historically, I’ve always given up and deserted projects.
I FEEL you, friend. I much prefer revisions too. In talking about stories: do you prefer to write plot-driven or character-driven stories, and do you feel the same way about what you read?
Character-driven, all the way. I want to fall in love with the characters I write, and I feel the same way about books I like to read.
Fair enough! Now, the question I also ask everyone because I think it’s interesting: how do you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
I’m very fortunate in that I’m able to be a full-time creative professional. I’m a freelance photographer who mostly works on the weekends, so I have the ability to work on my writing during the week. I have a supportive spouse who has a job with benefits, and this is a big part of the reason I’m able to focus on my writing.
That IS very fortunate (I'm a bit jealous). Of course, having that ability to focus on your craft doesn't mean the journey is automatically perfect. I'm sure you stillhave to deal with critiques and hard days. So, what has been the best (and maybe hardest) advice you’ve gotten about writing?
To not take myself too seriously. I had a real issue with that in my younger years — wanting to be the next Stephen King, etc. I learned to write for myself and to not care about being profound or deep and it gave me the freedom to write the novel of my heart.
I really wish more writers internalized this. Now, a fun question: Would you rather have an all-expenses paid trip to see one country a day for a month, or visit one country for a whole month and go nowhere else? (And where would you go?)
One country for an entire month. I’d go to the UK and Ireland, because that’s where my roots are and many of the writers I admire are British or Irish.
As someone who's taken that sort of ancestral pilgrimage (to West Africa), it's well worth it. Okay, Paulette: What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
I think being bold and unapologetic about writing your experiences and what you love can’t be overstated. Even if you’re afraid it’s not marketable or that no one wants to read it, your story will have value to so many people!
YES! She's talking to YOU, you who are reading this right now and doubting yourself. I always say this: somewhere out there is someone who wants and needs a story like yours. Okay, another fun question for you: what’s your “anthem,” the song that would play if your life was a music video?
“Shake it Out” by Florence + The Machine
Love it! And, a bonus Question! You have a tree in your backyard that will grow anything you want forever, what grows on it?
Well said. Thanks so much for being such a wonderful writing friend Paulette. It's a pleasure to know you and to now know a bit more about your journey. My fingers are doubly and triply crossed for your next month!
Next week's interview is... K.L. Burd! Stay tuned and thanks for reading!