This is a collection of funny, sad, thoughtful stories about the world beyond the obvious. ‘And so, here she stood, at the edge of the copse, beyond the house in which the sweet-munching spoilt boy with black rotten teeth had lived; beyond the collapse of corrugated iron which had been a pig pen; beyond the tree she and Ffion had climbed to hide from their little sisters; beyond the bracken where they played cowboys and Indians; beyond the blank nettly, brambly space where the playground had been, where the teenagers had mocked their attempts to touch the sky on the swings; beyond the rocks they’d climbed and from which, alone again, she had sometimes sat and stared at the mountain on the other side of the river, a greenish mound like a giant settled for a sleep.’ Once there was a little girl who spent a lot of time alone. She sat under trees and sheltered in caves and hollows. She sat under bridges and looked downstream. She looked into mirrors and into books and out of windows onto storms crashing over the mountains. She imagined. She grew up, but she has never stopped imagining.
My Q&A with Paula Harmon
Describe yourself using three words?
Imaginative, day-dreamer, short
What inspired you to write your first book?
“Kindling” is a collection of short stories inspired by so many different things. Some were from prompts, some from thoughts going through my head at the time. All of them based on looking out of the office window or the train window or the kitchen window and wondering “what if…” Re-imagining things which had actually happened or which could happen or which, well, are highly unlikely, but you’d like to hope.
“The Advent Calendar” is my other collection of short stories. I imagined an old fashioned advent calendar where you opened a door and saw a picture and wrote down each imagined picture on a piece of paper, folded up the papers and put them in a jar. Every day I pulled one out and wrote a Christmassy story based on the word. Some are funny, some are true, some are sad.
What time of day do you like to write?
Any time I’ve got free. I’m more of a day time person than an evening one. If I haven’t written anything before 8pm, I probably won’t. I like writing in the morning best and often write on the train if I’ve got a long journey (hoping no-one is reading over my shoulder.)
What is your favourite book and why?
I can’t possibly decide. I like so many different types of books and authors. Books I’ve recently enjoyed have been by Jessie Burton, Louis de Bernieres, Bill Bryson, Sian Preece along with less well-known writers I’ve got to know through Facebook like Julie Eger, Liz Hedgecock, Michael Williams, Voinks.
How did you pick the title of your book?
One of the stories in the book was originally written from a prompt: “A Walk in the Woods at Night” and is about someone doing just that and taking her e-reader with it. “Kindling” seemed a good title in context of an e-reader and as most of the stories are about beginnings or the start of something new, the idea of kindling seemed to sum them up.
Are the characters in your book based on real people?
Two of the stories are actually true (with a little poetic licence), two of them are sort of true; others are based on real emotions (“what if, feeling like that, I had…”); many, if not most, are based on real places.
What’s your favourite word?
I don’t know! I just love words. I wanted to study the development of the English language once. “Haven” – that’s a word with story potential.
If you were a colour what would it be?
A nice warm blue or deep red.
Do you plan your story beforehand or go with the flow?
A bit of both. If it’s short, I tend to go with the flow, but usually have an idea of where it’s going. With the novels, I planned a framework to keep myself on track, but if the flow went in a different direction, I went there anyway.
Who is your favourite Author?
Again, impossible to say.
If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?
Fagin. Don’t ask me why, but I always felt a bit sorry for him and felt he just needed someone to help him turn over a new leaf. I think I always felt that he sort of cared, in his own way, for the boys he used as a criminal gang and was actually (in context of the time) probably saving them from something even worse (including starving to death).
Are you working on a new project?
The one I’m turning into a second draft is a thriller set in post-WWII Dorset. It was inspired by a dream about someone who lived in a house she hated but couldn’t get leave and felt increasingly fearful. I woke and thought:
Why can’t she get away? Why does she hate the house? What’s she afraid of?
The other one I’m working on at the moment is about a young woman who’s trying to deal with grief and frustration but is also having to look after her larger than life brother who is “indisposed” at new moon and a shapeshifter who’s in love with him, while warding off the local busybodies.
You can find Paula books on Amazon UK.
Thank you, Paula, for being on my blog today!
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