Paula Daly: my journey to publication
Paula Daly’s gripping psychological thriller Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is an unputdownable family drama, a fantastic page turner and an astonishing debut.
Here at Dead Good, we’re always intrigued to find out how a debut author has reached the point where their first book is in the hands of readers all over the country. Did they always know they were going to be a writer? Is their published novel the first book they’ve ever written? How did they reach this point in time?
We asked Paula to tell us about her journey to publication:
“You know the saying ‘you should only write if you cannot live without writing’? Well, that wasn’t me. I belonged to the group of perhaps millions of people who longed to be writers so they could give up their day jobs. What could be better than sitting by the fire on a cold wet February afternoon being paid to make up stories?
Trouble was, I had no idea how to write. Or even how to start. I didn’t have anything to say and I wouldn’t have known how to say it even if I did. I had not studied English since I was sixteen, I was a physiotherapist, and I wasn’t even certain how to punctuate dialogue correctly.
Then my friend called and said she was reading Stephen King’s book On Writing. She told me to read it, which I did, and the next day I started writing. His book gave me the confidence to just give it a go and write anything that came into my head. Suddenly I found I had more than enough to say. In fact, I couldn’t stop. I had paper all over the house and wrote whenever my youngest child would allow.
After around six weeks of short stories I felt ready to tackle a novel. No idea what I was doing – I thought I’d start writing and see what came out.
What came out was a rather silly, frivolous psychological thriller. Not good enough to be published, but good enough to attract the attention of an agent who said, ‘We don’t want this. Write your next novel and we’ll see how you do.’ I tried telling her I didn’t really know what I was doing, that I didn’t know how to put a novel together, but she assured me I could do it.
That next novel was turned down by all major publishers. A near miss, they said, but deep down I knew it wasn’t good enough. Writing is a skill that takes time to learn. I was fully prepared for it to take the same amount of time as a degree course – my reasoning being I was retraining for a job and any skilled profession takes at least three to four years of full time study.
Eventually, I struck lucky. Just What Kind of Mother Are You? came together once I found a great premise and figured out my characters’ motivation. Once written, and sent out to publishers by my agent, it sold in just over a week.
I’m still not sure I know what I’m doing, but at least now I realise neither does anybody else.”