Last updated at 15:06, Friday, 26 April 2013
WITH her debut novel receiving rave reviews in the national press, writer Paula Daly, is set to put Bowness on the literary map. CLAIRE CRISP pays the author a visit at her Lake District home
FOUR years ago Bowness-based mother-of-three Paula Daly had never written a word of fiction.
This week her debut novel, a psychological thriller that sparked a bidding war among some of the UK’s top publishers, hit the shelves.
It’s a rags-to-riches story that sounds like a work of fiction in itself, but it’s not.
The 38 year old, a freelance physiotherapist who lives just outside Bowness with her husband Jimmy, their three children Gracie, 15, Harvey, 14, and Patrick, seven, and whippet Skippy, says: “It’s what every writer hopes for but also knows is a million-to-one chance.”
Her novel, Just What Kind of Mother Are You?, was released yesterday by Bantam Press and has already received rave reviews in a number of national newspapers, including the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail ( “She writes with a singular voice and a fierce passion that roars off the page... a potential star,” according to the latter).
The novel is about an overstretched, working mother of three, Lisa Kallisto, who takes her eye off the ball for just a moment and ends up being responsible for her best friend’s teenage daughter going missing. It is the stuff of nightmares but the idea came from real life.
Paula says: “This book came about after watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. One of Oprah’s recurring themes is getting the right balance in life, and after treating countless exhausted working mothers in my physio practice it was at the forefront of my mind too.”
The programme was about an American school administrator, Brenda Slaby who forgot to drop her baby off at the childminders on her way to work and, instead, left her trapped all day inside her bakingly hot car where she died of heat stroke.
She adds: “I was heartbroken by this woman’s story.
“As I watched, all I could think was: that could have been me. I, too, had once been so overwhelmed with balancing children and full-time work that I could have missed the one thing no person wants to miss.”
This idea grew into the blueprint for Just What Kind of Mother Are You? and Daly admits there is a lot of herself in the main character. “Though Lisa’s much nicer than me!” she laughs, before adding, “She is me, of course. I have softened her, but how she felt, is exactly how I felt.
“Women do so much now – they work full time, have kids, that is just what everybody does. But I just found it really hard.”
Ironically, Paula, who is originally from Leigh in Lancashire, moved to the Lakes 14 years ago to enjoy a quieter life “somewhere pretty”.
However, she says: “I started working as a freelance physiotherapist and I just got very busy, very fast.”
By the time the writer’s third child was a toddler she was, she says, close to breaking point: “Patrick was poorly for quite a while, I was working from seven in the morning till nine at night and I said to Jimmy ‘I’m going to end up having a nervous breakdown’.”
The couple’s answer was to “run away to France” for a year after her husband (a former rugby union player) was offered a job as a rugby referee.
It was when she came back from France four years ago that Paula started to write.
She says: “When we came back I wasn’t working full time, otherwise there is no way I could’ve written any novels. I need four free hours a day to write.”
So what made her decide to write a novel, out of the blue, at that time in her life? “I am one of those people who thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to be able to give up the day job?’
“Then a friend of mine, who has always written, recommended a book she was reading by Stephen King about how to write. I read it and I started to write the next day!”
She started by writing short stories but after just three months progressed to writing her first novel. “I sent that first novel out in the traditional way and an agent picked it up.”
Paula’s literary agent, Jane Gregory, specialises in crime fiction and also represents popular crime writers Minette Walters and Val McDermid.
Paula adds: “She wasn’t interested in that first book but said she wanted my next book.”
Paula duly turned out a second novel, Why I Ran, but while many publishers saw merit in the work, they all rejected it.
The writer admits: “I thought ‘am I flogging a dead horse here?’ But I was getting too much good feedback to stop.”
With her third attempt, Just What Kind of Mother Are You?, it seems Paula has finally got the formula just right – if the reviews so far are anything to go by.
And while the novel only hit shelves yesterday, she is already three-quarters of the way through writing her second novel for her publishers – honouring her two-book deal.
She says: “The working title is The Day Before You Came and the aim is for it to be out in about a year’s time.
“It will be another psychological thriller with two of the same characters carried forward – the detective and her aunt ‘Mad’ Jackie.”
Like her debut novel, the second book (“It’s about what happens if your friend steals your husband and no one believes you”) is also set in the Lakes.
Paula concludes: “I think the Lake District is a great, untapped resource in terms of a setting. People have set books here before, of course, but they have not been really successful – perhaps because they were not written by people who live here.”
Thankfully Paula, who despite her new-found fame has no intentions of moving out of Bowness, is set to redress the balance.
First published at 15:04, Friday, 26 April 2013
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk