Friday, November 16, 2012

Interview 04: Paula Stiles

Greetings, humans, half-breeds, and everything in between. This week I had the pleasure to interview my new friend, Paula Stiles. She has been visiting the ECS as a guest and sharing loads of interesting insights into her work. Be sure to look around and see what she has to offer. Here are the results of our interview. A good time was truly had by all and here’s how it went down.
Hi there Paula! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ECS Universe. Don’t worry about the darkness, your eyes will adjust.

 So tell me who is Paula Stiles?

I'm just a random citizen of the world. I've done a PhD in medieval history. I've been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon. I've run a rescue squad. I've trained horses. I'm trilingual, have studied ten languages, and I really know my Latin. If there's an esoteric skill out there that only five other people in the world have, I'm all over it.

Talk about being a Renaissance Woman, you give new meaning to the term “well rounded.” I am pretty excited about what you have to share. Everything you’ve done in life, I’ve only dreamed about.

So whacha got for me today?

The Mighty Quinn is about a guy, Quinn Bolcan, who leaves Vancouver in a hurry after his growop's busted, ends up accidentally defusing a nuclear bomb on the Vermont border, and soon faces an entire state's worth of folklore. Werebikers, zombie suicide bombers, elemental demons, low-rent sorcerers, fairies, vampires, ghouls, Homeland Security, Champ...they all want a piece of him.

Wow, you don’t play around. This story sounds intense. It’s a good thing I just picked up my copy; I don’t want to miss out on this.

So who’s staring is this 2 dimensional script read of The Mighty Quinn?

Quinn has two major characteristics. One is that he's a nice guy who just can't win in life. Having a flexible approach toward law and order probably doesn't help. The other is his ability to suck up heat, and other kinetic energy (including magic), which he accidentally acquired in a card game not long before the book starts. This complicates his life considerably.

I bet it does. I hope you don’t mind if I geek out a bit, but I love stories that creatively find a way to mesh science, fiction, and magic together. I’m already looking forward to the videogame and film versions of this book (fingers crossed J).

Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?

I'm sitting in front of the computer, sucking on peppermints to avoid overeating, listening to Duran Duran, Melissa Etheridge and Holst's The Planets (<=listen)- specifically, “Mars, the Bringer of War.” Because it's badass.

This month, I'm working on my NaNoWriMo project, which is an historical murder mystery set in medieval Catalonia. Trying to, anyway. I'm way behind on my Innsmouth Free Press writing because I was working the early voting and election polls in my county last month and through November 6. I'm making myself write a little bit of the novel every night until I catch up with the other stuff.

That’s cool. Sometimes listening to music when I write is a distraction, but when I get stuck on something, I find just the right song to inspire the moment. I passed on NaNoWriMo this year, but started a short story yesterday in honor of I Love to Write Day.

What author(s) has most influenced your writing? Why or how?
Oh, Lord, so many. There are modern sci-fi, fantasy and horror writers like Leigh Brackett, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Joanna Russ, Tim Powers, Samuel R. Delaney, Charles Saunders, and Tanith Lee. Then there are older classic writers like Hemingway, Lovecraft, Chandler and Hammett. Then there are older writers still like Poe and Melville. And even older writers like Homer. And Shakespeare. And the King James version of the Bible.

Mostly, it's in ideas and characters, though I really like writers who experiment with tense and POV. And, of course, you'd have to be tone deaf not to be influenced by Shakespeare's language. Or, for that matter, Chandler, Hammett and Hemingway's.

I agree, some writers can’t be ignored. Even if you don’t love their work, you have to appreciate it. I also agree that it’s more about ideas and characters sometimes than the writing styles.

Who’s brain are you just itching to scratch?

It's probably an obvious one, but I'd like to interview Gaius Julius Caesar. I think he's always been misrepresented as a tyrant. He comes across in his biographies as ruthless, yes, but also smart, charming, progressive for his time, and remarkably flexible when it came to changing battle conditions or showing mercy to enemies (though he didn't always do that). Also, he seems to have connected especially well with women and the lower classes – which may be why all the aristocratic male writers of his time complain about how evil he was when he wasn't any worse than any of them!

Good choice and I love the logic behind it. I have to admit, that I would probably be too intimidated to interview Caesar if I had the chance, but I’d totally stick around to watch you interview him.

Who is so you and why?

Currently, I guess that would be Dean Winchester from the show, Supernatural. He's a natural smartass who is loyal and stubborn and speaks his mind. The whole universe can grind him down and he'll claw himself back out of whatever hole it puts him in. He proves you sure can't keep a good man down, especially one with such a bad reputation.

Nice. I love bad boys who are good guys or sort of. I like characters that tip toe that line. He’s the kind of guy I’d write about in a story, but in reality I’d stay away. I’m a wimp.

What’s your ideal reading spot for your next highly anticipated read?

I'm currently reading a paperback I picked up in a used bookstore in an airport a few years ago.

My next highly anticipated read will be Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt by Joyce Tyldesley.

It's pretty fascinating to read about women in that period. I like to read books about very ancient history, the origins of things, and Ancient Egypt is one of the oldest – if not the oldest - civilizations out there. Egyptian women did not have the same opportunities as men, and their worth was heavily tied up in their fertility, but they were also much freer and better treated than other women in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East.

This sounds like a read I may have to pick up. Thanks for the tip. I love history, but oddly enough, I sometimes forget about it.

What was your favorite book or story, pre teen years?

Star Wars or Star Trek. Book? Either Tolkien or Narnia, though I was also really fond of Watership Down. Sorry, I know that's like every other geek out there who grew up in the 70s.

Don’t be sorry for appreciating a work that influenced a generation. From one geek to another, I like Star Wars first then Star Trek. I leave the true blue Trek love up to my dad

Now this where the questions get a little kooky; are you ready?

 Go for it.

Alright then, here we go.

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That's kind of tough. Don't they all get boring after a while?

Maybe Bull Durham, because it's such a rollicking story about life. Or maybe Forrest Gump. Or Casablanca. Or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I know what you mean. If I could only choose one, I might decide to have none at all, but I love movies. I hadn’t considered Forest Gump, even though it’s a great film. I guess it would be nice to have a movie that made references to many other times in history and had a varied sound track.

What makes you geek out?

Astronomy, history, archaeology, paleontology, and all the speculative genres.

Wow, that’s a first for me, but I like it. I can only imagine what insights into the world you must have knowing so much about its history. That’s pretty cool.

 So what’s testing your patience right now?

Well, the new Bond film [Skyfall]is already out, but I haven't seen it, yet. And I really want to see it, but I have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

Ahhh! I’m totally with you. I haven’t seen it yet, but my hubby and I are waiting until Thanksgiving so we can take my father-in-law to see it…I may have to sneak out to see it on my own before then.

When the soundtrack of your life is playing in your head, what songs express your glee and what songs bring out your rage?

I really like hard rock, blues, Motown, classical (especially Russian composers), metal, some pop (especially pop and folk music from different countries), soundtracks, some techno, older country. Opera and jazz aren't favorite genres, but I do have favorite songs in them, especially swing like “Sing, Sing, Sing(<=listen). I used to be a college DJ, so I've actually been exposed to a fair bit of music.

Not fond of most rap or sappy college emo alternative stuff. And I cannot stand Björk.    

Yeah, Björk is “special” and emo is irritating sometimes, but I can see why some like it. I love old/classic music like you’ve mentioned as well as classical. I like Jazz, but again, understand why some don’t. I actually have “Sing Sing Sing” on vinyl. I have to admit that I’m a product of the Hip-hop generation so I do like rap, but it is pretty sad to see the state of it these days. So much of it just isn’t any good anymore.

What’s the most fun experience you’ve ever had?

I like to say that the most fun is still coming up. Why go through life feeling as though you already peaked?

But so far, I guess I'd say it was my two years in Peace Corps.

I see your point. Maybe I’ll reword this question to my next guest as “to date”; surely there are more good times to be had. I bet the Peace Corps is something you will never forget.

 Remind me again how I was lucky enough to meet you?

Tracie McBride from Dark Continents introduced us.

Oh yeah, that’s right. She found me on LinkedIn in the Book Marketing group and then we got this party started.

Not that you can see into the future, but in your opinion, what does the future hold?

Hopefully, I'll be making a decent living as a writer by then (I'm making a living now, but I wouldn't call it “decent”). I could be back in Vancouver. Or on the Outer Banks. It's hard to say. I have goals, but I've learned the hard way not to be rigid about long-term ones.

Well, it seems you have pretty good outlook on things in the past, present, and in the future. Thank you so much for sharing with me this week and taking the time to let me and my followers get to know you.

Ok, humans, half-breeds, and everything in between, that’s all for today. For more from Paula Stiles, check out these great links:

The Mighty Quinn