Interview with Paula Boer
IFWG Publishing Australia
Bart’s Interview with Paula Boer.
Paula Boer lives on 500 acres of forest in the high country of Australia. She loves all types of creatures, from spiders and snakes to horses and dogs.
Unicorns and dragons feature in her fantasy novels as well as presiding in her library at home. She has traveled in over 60 countries on 6 continents, with only Antarctica to go!
Paula has many short stories about animals published, plus seven novels. She regularly writes for horse magazines, is a submissions reader for Aurealis Magazine, and a judge for the Aurealis Awards.
What got you into writing, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I loved writing stories as a child, and the English Language was my favourite subject at school, but when I left at age 15, there was little time for writing. I worked first as a farmhand, then due to a back injury, undertook a three-month course in COBOL programming with the hope of one day owning a farm.
Twenty years later, and having traveled the world with my computing work, my husband and I had a ‘tree-change’ and ended up working on cattle stations in Far North Queensland. At the end of each workday there was little to do, (no TV, internet, libraries or shops within a 5-hour drive) so I turned my hand to writing—a manuscript that will never see the light of day!
But from then I was hooked. When we moved to Tasmania to care for my mother-in-law, I attended a novel-writing workshop. My fictional memoir, The Okapi Promise, was about my travels in Africa in 1990. I was very fortunate for that to be picked up by an Australian publisher, IFWG, when they were starting and looking for new authors. I have been with them ever since.
What I most enjoy about writing is the ability to leave the real world behind and immerse myself in make-believe worlds with characters of my choosing.
Which writer influenced you the most?
My tutor, Robyn Friend, has to be the writer who influenced me the most in the early stages of being a writer. However, I really admire Barbara Kingsolver’s lyrical descriptions and aspire to use metaphor as successfully as she does. For my fantasy novels, I would love to have the skills to create epic novels such as those written by Robin Hobb and Kate Elliott.
What turns a good story into a great one?
There are many elements that a writer needs to consider when ensuring a reader keeps turning the pages. These days, an early inciting incident is required (no longer the ‘once upon a time’ setups of stories in my youth). Characters that readers care about are essential, which means giving flaws to your heroes and good points to the villains, else they are not believable. Which brings me to probably the most essential point—readers must be prepared to suspend disbelief, at your worldbuilding, at your characters’ superpowers, at your cultural system, and so on. It’s no good solving a challenge by suddenly producing a magic sword when there has been no mention of magic or swords, to that point.
How do you balance your schedules and artistic goals with everyday life?
Easy! I retired! Well, not that easy, as I am looking after 500 acres on my own since my husband died last year. I find I write best after a walk, so take my dog around the property after I fed all the animals. I am best at new writing in the mornings and tend to edit in the afternoons. Weekends are for house and farm chores. I only go to town once a week, so I do have plenty of time to write. Procrastination is always a problem, which means I have never had such clean windows in my life (!), but I aim to write 1,000 words a day when I am doing the first draft.
What do you aim to evoke in the readers of your books?
Primarily enjoyment. I want readers wholly immersed in my world, and want to get back to the characters as soon as possible if they have to put the book down. At a subliminal level, I also wish to create empathy and drive, especially in young people, for them to help restore the balance of humans and animals. That is why I now have animals as main characters and humans secondary.
Please tell us about your latest work, what inspired you to write it, and the research involved.
The Equinora Chronicles is a fantasy trilogy set in a horse world. The first book, The Bloodwolf War, is officially due for publication on 15th November 2019, but pre-orders are available. I was inspired to write the trilogy as I had completed my Brumbies series of 5 books for middle-grade readers about wild horses in the Snowy Mountains going to be captured for pet food. I wanted those readers to move up to more horse books in an older age group. Equinora is classified as ‘Young Adult‘ but is suitable for all readers aged 14+.
As far as research is concerned, I spent a lot of time studying the flora, fauna, and geography of Canada, where I grew up. The setting of the first book is a made-up region similar to the Rocky Mountains of British Colombia. The second book crosses to the plains of Alberta, and the final is located in a region similar to Algonquin Lakes in Ontario. I also did a lot of research for each book as to how to solve the challenge, but I can’t tell you more about that without giving the stories away!
Can you give us a story outline of your book?
Equinora, the world where horses live in harmony with people, is in trouble. The six unicorn guardians created by the Goddess have abandoned their roles and vicious bloodwolves rampage across the land, massacring the herds and villagers.
Fleet, a young stallion without a territory, dreams of galloping with other horses and building a herd of his own. But an attack by a bloodwolf leaves him poisoned and alone. Driven by despair and a promise to fulfill his dying dam’s vision, Fleet sets out to discover how to vanquish the bloodwolves. The only help the renegade unicorns provide is to insist Fleet follow a prophecy to confront the villainous Shadow, an equine so powerful that the Goddess imprisoned him to prevent him from destroying her realm.
Accompanied by Yuma, a young man desperate to escape his destiny, and Tatuk, a tiny dragon. Fleet seeks Shadow and a cure for the bloodwolf poison. But even as he begins to fear the selfish unicorns have sent him to his death, he discovers a secret that might mean he has a chance to save all horses and people from annihilation.
What was the most challenging part of writing this particular book?
Keeping the word count down. I loved the story so much, I could have made it into epic fantasy, but with the target audience as Young Adult, I had to restrict the length to under 90,000 words.
Can you tell us about how you had your book edited, published, and its cover- art created?
I was very fortunate that being an existing author for IFWG. I was able to submit to them at any time. Once I had completed the trilogy, I sent the chief editor the first manuscript. He came back with an offer of a contract for all three, without even reading the other two. Dreams can come true!
From there, IFWG handled all the production for the e-book and paperback. I worked with a very experienced editor who was a real delight, and had to make only a few minor changes in addition to accepting his useful suggestions. I was involved in the cover art creation by providing ideas, sending in my character definitions and images, and reviewing drafts. But IFWG handled the actual process.
What made you ultimately decide between self- publishing and conventional publishing? And will you use the same procedure for your next publication?
Having been with IFWG for all my novels (7 in print and 2 more under contract) plus 2 chap e-books, I have no intention of self-publishing at this stage. IFWG treats its authors as family, and it is one I am proud to be part of.