Interview with Eve Paludan
Eve Paludan is the author of Letters from David, a story about romance, freedom, and reinventing oneself. Eve is an editor of scholarly works by day and carves out her nights to write her own stories. She also is a freelance fiction editor. Letters from David is the first eBook that Book Divas has reviewed and was excited when Eve responded to a tweet that we were interested in reviewing electronic books. So, a big thanks to Eve for reaching out to Book Divas! Follow Eve on Facebook or Twitter (@evepaludan). The ebook is for sale on http://www.notreebooks.com/ (just scroll down a little and you have options for Kindle or .pdf versions.
How long did it take you to write Letters from David?
I participated in the popular National Novel Writing Month challenge (http://www.nanowrimo.org/) to give myself a deadline and a word goal and to receive support from other writers who are doing the same challenge. I finished the 50,000-word first draft in a month, at night and on weekends, because I have a day job. For the next three months, I edited and refined Letters from David. About 10,000 words ended up on the cutting-room floor, as they say in the movies, and the final story weighed in at over 76,000 words when it was finished.
What is it like to publish a book yourself?
It is exhilarating and freeing to have total creative control over every aspect of my work; I will likely do self-publishing again, if I write another “niche” book. When I began to write Letters from David and the heroine’s voice emerged as a gutsy forty-something widow, I knew it was going to be a hard-sell to a category romance publisher -- my heroine’s age put her outside of their written guidelines. But I fell in love with my characters and their unique voices so I pushed ahead, knowing that Letters from David was going to end up being a personal project in every sense of the word, including publishing and marketing.
Also, typically, the bigger romance publishers want the heroine to get married or be headed to the altar by the end of the book --- it says so right in most of their guidelines. Ultimately, my creativity drove where the story went and how it ended, rather than a publisher telling me how people and events should unfold or end.
It seems like you revealed something new about your character in every chapter, did you plan all the plot twists in advance, or just let the story develop?
I wrote this novel without an outline. I knew what the beginning was, and I knew what the ending was going to be. Shortly after I wrote the beginning, I wrote the ending. Then, I just had to connect the dots. Every step of the way, not only did I know where my characters had been, but where they were going. The technique worked out very well because the end was always in sight. I only wrote one of the middle chapters out of order, the one about the ghost.
Claire always seems to be startlingly honest with herself and those around her, is honesty something that’s important to you?
Honesty is personally important to me as an author because the reader has to be able to trust the integrity of the hero and heroine. Sometimes I read novels where the heroines (or heroes) are liars or thieves or even complete shams, pretending to be someone they aren’t. Even if a heroine is flawed, she should have accountability and integrity. So should the hero. It’s important in my personal life as well. Honesty has to be a part of a relationship between me and other people, or we will have no common ground to build upon. The same is true in a novel. Honesty is the common ground that allows the characters to learn about each other and build a healthy relationship.
In Letters from David you deal with the complexity of grief and the guilt of remaining loved ones, why did you choose to deal with this topic?
My characters chose this level of adversity and I let them run with it. I think that readers also have empathy and sympathy toward victims of tragedy -- when the almost impossible odds are surmounted, the triumph of the happy ending becomes all the more poignant. I also know about the stages of grief and that made for a very layered plot and character revelations and evolution. I like characters in a novel to have a lot of depth and I had a lot of secondary plots that all tied into the same themes. Having multiple characters deal with grief showed different perspectives on the same issues.
You mention ghosts at different points in your story, do you believe ghosts exist?
Yes, I do believe in ghosts. I saw “dead people” early in my life. I couldn’t have been crazy (yet) because I was only four or five when I saw my dead grandfather walking around in his row house in Philly. Over the years, I’ve occasionally seen ghosts and once lived in a haunted house – the ghost was a little boy who kept crying for his mother. He drove me bonkers for several months while we were remodeling the old house. I also believe in angels.
I just loved how you wove letters perfectly into the story, are you a big letter writer yourself?
Thank you so much. I loved writing the letters for this novel. Before e-mail existed, I wrote many more letters than I do now. I’ve probably written close to a thousand snail-mail letters in my life. I had a couple of school friends with whom I exchanged correspondence for decades. I had an international pen pal for several years as well as a favorite aunt who is now deceased – she was an avid letter writer and I spilled out my heart to her many times. Letter writing has become a lost art. A letter is a place where you can speak your heart and your mind and not hold back, as you might in person. It was wonderful to be able to explore epistolary storytelling in parts of this novel.
“The Merry Women” are at the center of your book. Why do you think friendships between women are so special?
I feel that women can and should create lifetime bonds with each other; they usually do when they are single. But when they have boyfriends, lovers, or husbands, those friendships may become tenuous -- it is a lot of work to maintain those woman-to-woman connections when there is a man in your life. Perhaps not letting go of those bonds that women share becomes more important as women get older and some M-F relationships disappear for one reason or another (death, divorce, or breakup). Strong friendships between women mean that we can look to our “sisters of the heart” for feedback and comfort, as well as laughter and advice. The common shared stories of women, the secrets of our hearts and life experiences, are a rich tapestry of woven voices.
When talking to Claire, Noah says, “Life should not imitate art. Art should expand on life…If I haven’t lived it, how can I write about it?” Is that also your philosophy about writing?
In the movie L.A. Story, Steve Martin’s character says, “A kiss may not be the truth, but it is what we wish were true.” In that vein, I believe that human beings are the sum of their parts which includes lived experiences, genetics, environment, personal hopes and desires, our (sleeping) dreams and what we imagine our lives could be -- or wish they could be.
Likewise, humans are influenced by the stories of others, whether they are real people we know, or things that we read in books or see in movies or in news media. We are subtly changed by what our brain takes in and processes in the sections of our minds that analyze and react to intellectual information and emotional responses to that information. If you fell in love with
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Janis Joplin once sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” I hope that readers will finish this book with hope in their hearts and an optimistic outlook that no matter what losses may occur in their lives, that there is still a chance to go forward and reinvent themselves. I hope this novel will become a testament about how the many different kinds of love (agape, eros, philia and storge) enabled the courage and triumph of the human spirit.