This an extremely exciting month for the Santiago Writers. Two of our writers have publications coming out in December. Today we are having a discussion with Charmaine Pauls, who has contributed stories to two anthologies this holiday season.
In Frozen a Winter Anthology, Charmaine gives us the romantic comedy The Ice Hotel Wedding Test, in which Jess gives Derrick an ultimatum, and Derrick proposes a most bizarre test to decide their destiny.
In A Holiday to Remember, Charmaine gives us the Grayton Christmas Supper Contest. Nobody truly knows what happened the Christmas of 1910 in the small town of Grayton, South Africa. What is for sure is that people until today are still talking about the scandalous event that grew into one of the country's biggest annual food festivals!
Please introduce yourself and your writing.
Ever since discovering the mystery of stories and the magic of books in our dusty school library, I knew I wanted to write. I won my first essay contest at the age of nine. My prize money was R2 (18c of a dollar today), and I spent it on bubble bath that came in a bottle shaped like Santa Claus. Between then and now I’ve never stopped writing. My professional career always required extensive writing, but it’s only since the last four years that I have written creatively full-time. I have a weakness for unrequited love stories and classics such as Wuthering Heights, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Dracula. I write sweet, sensual and sizzling hot romance novels, and balance those with dark, psychological short stories.
What inspires your writing?
Reading. Whenever I pick up a good book, I’m motivated to write when I turn the last page. My plots are inspired by emotional triggers, big or small, by events or people who touch me in a profound way.
When did you first realize that you were a writer?
I always knew I wanted to write. At some point in the struggle of holding a job and paying the bills, I almost gave up on my dream, but today I’m glad I persevered.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I’m a diligent writer who writes at least four weekdays from 9 am to 1 pm. Weekends are family time. No matter if I feel inspired or not, I sit down at my desk and type away. As I have my creative peak in the early morning, I save that time for just getting the story down on paper. In the evening, when I experience a slump in energy, I edit from 9 pm to 11 pm. One morning a week is dedicated to creative recharging, whether that means having a coffee with a friend, taking a walk, or visiting an art exhibition. My brother’s art teacher always told him that environment is very important for creating, and, remembering his wise words, I have set up a special, sacred room that is quiet, and in which I feel calm and stimulated. Whenever I walk into my study and sit among my favorite books and objects, I’m emerged in a special ambience that feeds my imaginary muse.
Which is your favorite of all the stories you’ve written?
Pyromancist. This book is the first of an eight-part paranormal romance series due in March 2015. It’s dark, it’s hot, it’s magic, it’s fantasy, it’s gothic and it's esoteric - all rolled into one. It’s like the juiciest hamburger on the menu with all the toppings.
What do you try to communicate with your writing?
One of my reoccurring themes is balance. I’m fascinated by opposites and how they complement (and need) each other. I use a lot of yin-yang, black-white, day-night, sun-moon, good-bad, etc. in my stories. Even my titles reflect this quest for finding the whole in two halves. My first novel is titled Between Yesterday & Tomorrow. The central theme of the book is living in the present, instead of in the past, or the future. My second novel, Between Fire & Ice, a futuristic romance that plays off in Chile, showcases personalities attributed to the sun and the moon, the desert and the glaciers, the fire and the ice. Even the protagonists’ names reflect the theme, Elena meaning moon, and Cy (short for Ciro), sun.
What is your advice to aspiring writers for getting published?
Determination and perseverance. With a bit of talent and a lot of hard work, you can make it. Invest a good deal of time researching publishing houses, to decide to which house your work is best suited. The mistake I did with my first book, was trying to submit to everyone. With my second book, I chose 3 publishers that printed the kind of books I wrote, and customized my query letter and submission to each house’s style. The research took a lot longer than drafting the actual submissions, but the effort paid off. Two of the publishers I had submitted to, offered me a contract three months later, and I went with my first choice.
What is the best advice you ever had about writing?
Less is more.
Who is your all-time favorite author?
Aside from the classics, I’d have to say Lora Leigh for her Breed series. She has a talent for writing thriller and paranormal into romance. Every single one of her opening sentences has always hooked me, in all thirty of her breed series books.
If you could go anywhere in the world on holiday, what would your destination be?
Turkey. Or Morocco. No, wait! I’d really like to take a flip in a space shuttle to the moon. I loooooove to fly.
You can purchase Frozen A Winter Anthology here.
You can purchase A Holiday to Remember here.