Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Judy Christie is Shannon! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This week is Paul Gaus is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Paul’s latest book, Harmless as Doves, leave a comment on this post!
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I am married, with two grown daughters, Laura and Amy. I live in Wooster, Ohio, with my wife Madonna. For thirty-one years, I taught college chemistry, but now in retirement, I am a full-time writer. My six Amish-Country Mysteries have now been republished in paperback editions by Plume, a division of Penguin Group USA. The novels were first published by Ohio University Press, which will publish the seventh story in the series this summer as a new hardcover edition.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I write mystery novels about Amish and Mennonite people. The stories are set in Holmes County, Ohio, where the largest Amish settlement in the world is located. Each of my novels is an allegory for an important spiritual principal that guides Amish lifestyle and culture, and although they are murder mysteries, they are authentically Amish, with a recurring cast of English characters who work on solving the mysteries.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
At the age of fifty, I found that I had things that I wanted to say about life, and I found that writing fiction was the ideal outlet for me. I had published numerous articles in professional research journals, and I am the co-author of a best-selling textbook on inorganic chemistry. But, it is fiction that proved most interesting to me, and I began to write mysteries about Amish society. Now there are six Amish-Country Mysteries in print, and a seventh will be published this summer.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
This took three years. Once the series was established, I wrote at a pace of six books total in ten years.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I have usually thought about a new story, or a new chapter in a story, for several days (or even weeks) before I try to write it. I find that it is not productive for me to try to write at the same time every day. Instead, when I have thought about it long enough, I find that the writing happens very quickly. Then of course, I revise constantly. However, one of the things that I try to remind myself is that although I can never revise enough, I can revise too much.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
My wife Madonna has been my greatest help. She reads everything, and I trust her instincts about the stories. Otherwise, family and friends are not particularly useful, because they always tell me that my writing is wonderful, very good, that sort of thing. I have not joined any writing groups, because I have always enjoyed a very singular and personal understanding of what I am trying to write, and mostly I find that I am not particularly adept at critiqing the work of other writers.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
I had published enough as a chemist to know what the publishing world is like. But now, as a full time author of fiction, I find the life to be wonderful. It is the best of everything I dreamed it could be.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
Clearly the best event was when my stories were republished over the last six months by Plume, as trade paperbacks. This has brought national attention to my work, and Madonna and I have traveled all over the country to promote the series for Plume.
The worst moment was when I realized that the seventh story in the series would have to be entirely rewritten. I had a good story, but I made a mistake in trying to write with a different style. My editor convinced me to start again, and he was right.
Now Harmless as Doves is what it always should have been, and it will come out in a hardcover edition this summer.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
Mostly, I find that I don’t like waiting for the royalties. Best of all is the satisfaction of seeing the first printings of a new story arrive in the mail. A close second is seeing the books on the shelves of a fine bookstore.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Put your novel in a drawer, and write another one with the same theme or characters. This is the most instructive thing a writer can do. If you are paying attention when you do it, you’ll be vastly better at revising the first story.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
If you would like to know and understand what it is like to live as an Amish person, then these books are for you. If you also like a good mystery, then these books are especially for you.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I will attend two conventions of mystery writers this year. The first is Malice Domestic, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the second is Bouchercon in St. Louis.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
On my website (www.plgaus.com), I have listings and links to some of the better places to buy my books. Barnes and Noble stores have been especially good at keeping my books in stock, but there are plenty of other places, too, for instance Poisoned Pen, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)