Welcome back to Author Journeys. I’m pleased to have Paula Cappa as my guest today.
Paula Cappa’s novels include Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural, and The Dazzling Darkness (Gothic Readers Book Club Award Winner for Outstanding Fiction and Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Award), published by Crispin Books. Her short fiction has appeared in Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Whistling Shade Literary Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Every Day Fiction, Fiction365, Twilight Times Ezine, and in anthologies Journals of Horror: Found Fiction, Mystery Time, and Human Writes Literary Journal. Cappa’s writing career began as a freelance journalist for newspapers in New York and Connecticut. She writes a weekly blog, Reading Fiction, Tales of Terror.
Q: What was your toughest writing lesson and how did you grow as a result of it?
A number of years ago I had an editor who completely ripped apart my story, my writing, my skills and talents. Pure judgment and offered no help. I felt like a complete failure with no where to turn. I went to another editor and he gave me the coaching I needed and never judged me. He instructed me about my weaknesses and strengths. I learned so much about what fiction editors really do: it’s all about directing the writer. I’ve been an editor for some 15 years in medical. I always treat my medical writers with great respect because I know how important it is to establish a trusting relationship. And I’ve learned how to spot a bad editor who doesn’t understand the value of directing the writer rather than just criticism.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about writing?
The mysterious part of the creative process. I don’t know where my stories come from, but they seem to emerge quite on their own. Example: a word flew into my head one day. Renner. No idea what or who Renner was. Weeks went by and the word Renner kept running in my mind. Out of the blue, literally while nature walking, I realized Renner was a blind man. Once I sat down at the screen and started exploring Renner, I found the story. SmokeLong Quarterly published it and it’s still on their web site, titled “Bird, White and Running.”
Q: Describe a day in your writing life:
I’m up early, tea with my email and a favorite blog or two. Then I spend the morning working on my novel. Break for lunch hour and catch up with personal things, then back to the novel for the afternoon, until 5 or so. This is if I don’t have any paid editing work. Sometimes I’ll go back to the novel at night if a scene is too bumpy. But I’m writing even when I’m at the grocery store or driving in the car. My characters never leave me alone.
Q: Describe your writing method:
Lots of research about story setting and the occupations of my characters. These are my anchors so I can get creative on the page. I like the blank page actually. Feels clean and open. Sometimes I’ll sit outside and hand write a scene but it’s very sketchy. My best writing is done at the rewriting and rewriting and rewriting stages. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for a scene. My novel is the last thing I think about at night and the first thing I think about in the morning. Fortunately, my children are grown and out of the house!
Q: What is your ideal writing space? If you prefer an office, describe how it is set up.
Have to have a window! Have to see trees and birds and sky.
Q: How has your writing method evolved over time?
I’m writing leaner than I used to write. Instead of cutting whole pages of scenes out, I’m only cutting certain lines. So I have a clearer idea of story as I’m writing now.
Q: What is the most useful writing strategy you use?
I reread some my writing instruction books. I reread John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, Story by Robert McKee, Donald Maass’s Fire in Fiction and others. Reading these remind me that a writer never finishes polishing his craft. I also have one or two writing blogs that I follow that post about craft and mechanics of writing: good reminders for me.
Q: What are some things you have learned to help with your success?
Well, I’ve learned that writing and/or publishing successes are fleeting.
Q: What are your future writing goals?
I’m writing my third novel and have two short stories half written. So it’s to keep exploring fiction. Keep learning about my craft, keep writing, keep connecting to my readers.
Q: In your opinion, what is it that makes a great book?
Characterization is key. I have to be excited about the characters. But also, I like to learn when I read, not just be entertained or thrilled or captivated by a story. Right now I’m reading Lisa Gardner’s The Neighbor and learning a lot about police procedure and the justice system for sex offenders. So, it’s not just the mystery of a wife missing and the husband being the suspect. I’m also educating myself.
Q:How do you push through hard times like writer’s block, rejection, or negative pressure from your publisher or readers?
I don’t get blocked much. But I do get rejection a lot. Especially for my short stories, which I’m sending out regularly. Example: my latest short story, Magic of the Loons, was rejected by nearly 40 magazines before Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine published it just this month. Over a year of solid rejection! I just wouldn’t give up and kept sending it out. A writer friend of mine told me years ago that persistence is 75%. Of course you still have to have a really good story. But even if it’s good, finding a home for your story is not easy. Negative reviews or readers? Toughen up and resign that not every single person is going to like your story. I don’t like everything I read either. What was a real wake up call for me about negative reviews was Donna Tart’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch. This is an excellent and talented writer, no doubt about that, and that book got a lot of negative reviews on Amazon. 35% were negative at 1 and 2 stars!
Q: Tell us a bit about what you’re working on now:
My third novel is about the supernatural power in music. Lots of research because I know nothing about music or composing. Very exciting for me to learn about music!
Q: What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Keep reading stories and analyzing them for story, plot, theme, characterization, and writing mechanics. Keep polishing your craft. Persist at all odds; you’ll find the way.
About Paula’s novel, The Dazzling Darkness, a work of supernatural, mystery, and dark fantasy from Crispin Books:
A secret lies buried beneath the haunting statuary in Old Willow Cemetery. In Concord, Massachusetts, the surrounding woods are alive with the spirits of transcendentalists Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. Elias Hatch, the cemetery keeper, is the last of modern-day transcendentalists. Does he know the secret power buried in Old Willow Cemetery? Would he ever reveal it? Next door to this cemetery is a lovely gabled house. When the Brooke family moves in, the secret of Old Willow strikes. On a cold afternoon in March, five-year-old Henry Brooke does not arrive home from the school bus stop. Antonia Brooke is frantic her child is missing, or—the unspeakable—stolen. Adam Brooke spends a harrowing night searching the Concord woods, fear gripping him as hours pass with no leads. Finally, a police dog tracks Henry’s scent inside Old Willow Cemetery. Detective Mike Balducci suspects that Elias Hatch knows the truth about what happened to Henry. Balducci knows Hatch’s metaphysical beliefs. What Balducci discovers buried in the cemetery is beyond the grave, beyond apparitions or shadowy drifts rushing through the pine trees. There are the dazzled faces in the darkened air … and their secret.
Buy The Dazzling Darkness:
Available in bookstores in the following locations:
Booksy Galore, Pound Ridge, NY
Elm Street Books, New Canaan, CT
The Village Bookstore, Pleasantville, NY
Westchester County, NY, Libraries
New Canaan, CT Library
Connect with Paula:
Fan email address: firstname.lastname@example.org