Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pauline Baird Jones Talks About Time Travel, Sexy Octogenarians and Protecting the Muse

Hi, Pauline! Thanks for chatting.

Your website is called Perils of Pauline. Did you watch that cartoon when you were little?
Actually, I got the idea from a very old movie, called The Perils of Pauline. Pat Boone played the hero. I remember his teeth would sparkle when he smiled. It had a villain and lots of peril. When all the stuff about author branding began to hit cyberspace, I was a bit stumped, because my books cross genres and then I realized I’d been using my brand all along. All my books have peril.

Your latest novel, Out of Time, has its protagonist, Mel Morton, traveling in time. Is this a concept that’s always interested you?
Yes, I’ve always been drawn to time travel shows, even the really lame ones. I love the “fish out of water” aspects of traveling through time. And I like the idea of being able to “redo” a bad decision or change the future. That led me naturally to: what if you did change something and you really messed things up?

If you could go back in time, like Mel, where (or when) would you go?
I’d probably go back to WWII, too. I know I wouldn’t want to go to any time period without bathrooms! Or electricity. Or chocolate. And I’d want to take comfortable shoes with me.

Mel meets Jack Hamilton, a “sexy octogenarian, genius/scientist and former WWII bomber pilot.” None of the octogenarians I know are sexy. What makes Jack such an attractive guy?
Think Sean Connery. That guy is STILL sexy and he’s getting on in years.

In my story, I think partly what makes him interesting to Mel is who he is. She doesn’t just see an older man, she sees the pilot she’s heard stories about all her life. And he’s held up real well.

Are you particularly interested in World War II? What sort of research did you do for the novel?
I think I’ve always been fascinated with the period. It was a time of great danger and people rising to combat it with courage and dignity. My dad is WWII vet, as is my father-in-law.

I had to do a LOT of research, which was fun, but also challenging. I was able to ask questions of the men who actually flew B-17’s, which was way cool. But I also found that their memories didn’t always track with each other. I came to realize that they all had their own experiences and I tried to steer a path through that in a way that would feel real to anyone reading the book. I had some color footage from the period and even that contradicted a lot of what I was reading.

And then when my characters got shot down in France. Oh my. Let’s just say they spend a LOT of time in the dark.

You’ve written seven books. Do you learn a bit with each new one?
I think that’s the fun of writing, you learn different things from each book. Sometimes it is the research, but I also learned something about the process of writing and story telling. I try to stretch myself with each book, do something I’ve never done before. When I wrote Out of Time, the challenge was writing in a historical period. That’s probably why I’m writing a book set in space at the moment.
<strong>On your website you give advice to would-be writers: set realistic goals. Is this a lesson you’ve learned, as well?
Yeah, and learned the hard way. It is sometimes very hard to stay motivated in this business. So much rejection and success doesn’t always feel successful. You have to find ways to feel successful that aren’t always obvious to someone who doesn’t write. I’ve also learned to avoid negative influences like the plague. I protect my muse like a tiger.

I need to hang around with you, Pauline!
What sorts of goals have you set for the coming year?
Probably my biggest writing goal for this year is to finish this huge, unwieldy sort of sci-fi novel I’m working on. I don’t know where it came from, but the story has me by the throat and won’t let me go until I finish it. Once a book is turned in, then my goals focus more on promotion. I really have to pump myself up to promote. I’m naturally shy. (My husband says I’m a hermit.) Emerging from seclusion to promote is very hard for me—though once out, I find I love talking books with people. Readers are amazing, and for the most part, kind. ;)

The beginning of Out of Time has Mel Morton hurtling out of a plane (wearing a parachute). Have you done this? Do you go that far to research your books?
LOL! I don’t hurtle anywhere anymore. I did go crawl through a B-17 and endured having my picture taken. And I once hiked part way up Long’s Peak in Colorado for a book. Had to stop when we hit snow and I had sandals on. Oh, and I let my brother talk me into rappelling down into a cave. I wanted him to tell me what it felt like. He showed me. Once.

Mel hosts a show called Make Me Cry Uncle, and she’s never given in. Did you want her to be seen as a role model for women?
I like writing strong, female characters who do things I’m too much of a wimp to do. But I’d also had her character in my head for a long time. Just hadn’t found the right book for her until Out of Time. I got the idea of an adventure reporter watching George Plimpton (many years ago!).

What’s your writing day like? Do you have any particular rules for yourself?
Let’s see, my writing rules are: only three cans of Diet Dr. Pepper and then you HAVE to drink some water.

My vice is Diet Coke. Same problem. It has some water in it, doesn't it? Back to your rules:
Eat chocolate. No Solitaire until you’ve got at least three pages down. And the first two rules are the most important.

With some books, sitting down to write is easy and others I have to circle for awhile before I can settle down and write. My latest book doesn’t want me to sleep, so I’m putting in long days. I hope my next book has better manners.

Your books are full of romance and adventure. Are these also the kind of books you like to read? Do you have some favorite books you can name?
Yes, I love reading books that mix it up. I discovered Mary Stewart when I was about twelve and was totally hooked.

I LOVE Mary Stewart! I put her in the acknowledgements of my book!
I also love Helen McInnes, Alastair Maclean, Elizabeth Cadell, and Georgette Heyer. I’m also a fan of Harry Potter and Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next books. A new favorite is Diana L. Driver’s Ninth Lord of the Night. The climax blew me away. I read across genres, so my books tend to cross the lines, too. I know I’m forgetting some others!

What’s the best experience you had as a writer this year?
I was notified that Out of Time was a nominee for an EPPIE by EPIC (http://www.epicauthors.org/). :)

Congratulations! Does that success feel like success?
Finaling does feel great and it would be great to win. But its always about the next book, isn't it? I keep thinking I'll know when I'm "there," (sort of like I'll know when I'm a grownup), :) but so far I don't feel there. I'm still loving the journey!

How can readers find out more about the Perils of Pauline, and the books of Pauline Baird Jones?
You can visit http://www.paulinebjones.com/. Browsing the site will tell you more than you wanted to know about me…and it has links to my blogs. :)

Thanks for chatting, Pauline!
Thanks for having me!

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