Book 3 in the Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Series is The Funeral Birds by Paula R.C. Readman. The novella is published on 28th February 2020. Prior to publication, Dean and Paula sat down and chatted.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: So, first hello Paula. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how (and / or why) you became a writer.
PAULA R.C. READMAN: Hello! I live in an amazing historical Essex village surrounded by countryside where I can go for long walks before settling down to write. Apart from writing, my other great love is wildlife and landscape photography. I was a runner up in a photographic competition and have had my photos published in local newspapers and magazines. My husband Russell and I love dressing up as Victorian-style Goth twice a year, and being part of the Whitby Goth Festival. We’ve been doing it for about 12 years now. While there, I take the opportunity to hand out promotional cards about my work.
I started writing to be published just over 20 years ago, Dean. A big milestone was looming on the horizon, so I set myself a bit of a challenge to see if it was possible for me to become a published writer. I wanted to prove that anything is possible if you’re dedicated enough, so gave myself a deadline of ten years to get my first article published. I hadn’t the money, or time to do any writing courses. I was poorly educated due to being dyslexic. The only jobs available to me were minimum wage ones. My earning went to help pay the household bills. So my plan was to teach myself from ‘how to’ books, which my husband bought off eBay.
I began with nonfiction articles and was surprised when these were accepted and published. After running out of ideas, I decided to attempt writing a novel and realised I needed more skills to be able to tell a story. I gave my husband a list of books I needed. 250 books later, he told me to get on with the writing. My first story was published in 2010 by English Heritage and in 2012 I became the overall winner in the Writing Magazine/ Harrogate Crime Writing Festival Short Story competition. Since then my stories have been published in many different anthologies in Australia, America, and UK. I’m now working towards my ultimate goal to see my name on a cover of a book in a bookshop.
DP: Well done you – it does prove that with some dedication and hard work you can achieve your dreams. Our mantra here is #nevergiveup and as a clichéd as it might sound, it’s the truth. Anyway, please tell us about The Funeral Birds.
PRCR: Relationships are at the heart of The Funeral Birds. Of course, there’s also a murder, a witch and owls in a ruined church. As the story unfolds, the reader will discover the interlinking relationships between the main players. Some are long lasting, while others have devastating effects on those around them.
DP: And your protagonists:
PRCR: Dave and Joan are loosely based on a senior married couple I know. They both have been very supportive of my writing. What I admire most about them is their deep loving relationship and their great sense of humour about life. I wanted to write about such a couple who had that same wit and deep understanding of each other that it’s almost telepathy. Of course, in my story I’ve added another element that of Dave’s long departed ancestor, Granny Martha Wenlock, who died in 1651.
DP: Because of that additional element did you have to do much research?
PRCR: No. Not as such. I originally wrote The Funeral Birds for the BBC Short Story Competition in 2015. Disappointed I had no luck; I put it away, planning to turn it into a novel one day. The title of story came from a passage in a book I read called, Owls: Their Natural And Unnatural History by John Sparks & Tony Soper (published in 1971). A chapter in the book explained the mythology surrounding owls and that they were once known as the funeral birds. As my character, Joan says “The ancient Arabs believed that victims of murder sought revenge by taking on the form of an owl.”
DP: The Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Series is a slight departure for DEMAIN as the books aren’t particularly ‘horror’ (though some do have a dark edge) – what do you think makes a great crime / mystery / thriller story?
PRCR: For me, an original plot idea with clues along the way that takes the reader on a twisting, turning carousel ride of discovery without the well-worn stereotypes characters. An unusual crime or mystery, which there’s plenty to choose from without repeating the normal selection. Also the ending must tie up all the treads of the story.
DP: Ah, perhaps not all the threads though as you may want to write a sequel…creatively Paula what would you say is your biggest success to date?
PRCR: It was having Mark Billingham selecting my crime story Roofscapes as the overall winning entry in the Writing magazine/ Harrogate crime writing festival short story competition. It gave me the confidence to keep moving forwards. Since then I have won other smaller competitions.
DP: Good for you. What are your influences?
PRCR: I enjoy reading a wide range of books from classic writers like Poe, Bram Stoker and D.H Lawrence through to modern writers like P.D James’s who I was lucky enough to meet at the Essex Book Festival. I found Barbara Erskine’s time-slip historical novels so different from others books I’d read. I used to enjoy Sophie Hannah’s crime novels. They had interesting plot lines and seemed quite different from standard crime novels. I enjoyed them so much I used to per-order them, but the last one was such a disappointment. The plot was too confusing and lacked a satisfying ending and since then I haven’t read any of her books. I enjoy Robert Galbraith’ Strike novels, and no, I’m not going to make a comment about who really wrote them. I will say I never read the boy wizard books, and nor have it read any of the 50 Shades books either.
I cannot say the books I’ve read influence my writing style, but I’m sure that it must feed into what I write. If you read well written books you must absorb it subconsciously so when you are writing, and editing your work you get a positive feeling when it’s right. I do have a moan to my husband, if I read a badly written book, so I work hard to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes.
DP: Finally, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
PRCR: From the age of six, my family lived in a cottage next to a working flourmill. My father, a Master Miller, used the same technique to grind the flour using millstones as it was for the last hundred years. I spent over 25 years researching my genealogy after discovering that the family originally came from Whitby, North Yorkshire. During my investigation, I uncovered some interesting events members of my family were involved like Whitby Life Boat Disaster in 1851. My fourth great grandfather, Capt. Thomas Hodgson was Master of the SS Steonshalh, a paddle steamer, used by the harbour authorities as a tugboat during the time when the whaling ship sailed in and out of Whitby harbour. On one occasion, the towrope broke and ship Capt. Hodgson was towing ran aground. The loss of that ship ended the whaling industry in Whitby.
DP: Sounds like a great idea for a novel…thank you Paula for your time, it was a pleasure getting to know a bit more about you and all the best with The Funeral Birds.
If you would like to connect with Paula direct:
Goodreads: Paula Readman
Amazon author’s page: Paula R C Readman
Cafelit. co.uk Meet the author. Paula R C Readman
(The Funeral Birds is released on 28th February; the Kindle version is now available for pre-sales on Amazon)