Welcome Paula Greenlees, today’s #AuthorInTheSpotlight | The Forgotten Promise | @RandomTTours @PGreenlees @PenguinUKBooks

I’m delighted to welcome Paula Greenlees to the blog today. Paula’s latest novel, The Forgotten Promise, is published by Penguin and came out in paperback at the end of last year. Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for having me as part of the tour.

Welcome Paula. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?

My husband’s job has taken us to various places, including Singapore where we were based for three years.  After leaving Singapore, we spent a year in Chicago, before returning home to England, firstly to Sheffield, then onto the Peak District. Over the years, we have spent time in other countries including Germany and then back to San Francisco.  I loved living in SE Asia and living there left me with a love of travel and interest in foreign cultures.  Being a writer, I think you have to be inquisitive, so I always ask lots of questions where it allows, as well as sitting and observing ‘what’s going on’ interesting places.  I find that photography allows me to take snapshots of the places I have visited. As a writer, it is important to have a wide range of interests – not only does it adds flavour and layering to prose, but allows it allows time for ideas to mull and to percolate. Apart from people watching in cafés, I am a keen hill walker. Oh, and I mustn’t forget that I am interested in food! Good food is essential and I love to cook using the best ingredients I can find. (You will find lots of food references in my writing!).

I have always loved reading; it was my escape as a child. I grew up in the middle of nowhere and had to find my own entertainment. As a little girl, I used to spend hours writing stories and turning them into books, even using flour and water as paste to stick the pages together.  As a teenager, I became interested in writing poetry and short stories, often when I should have been doing my homework. It was this need to write and a love of reading that led me to take a degree in English and European Thought and Literature, and later, a master’s degree in creative writing.

What inspired you to start writing?

My teacher. I had the most wonderful English teacher at school who encouraged me to write. Sadly, she has passed away so she never knew how much her encouragement spurred me on.  I’d have loved to hand her my debut telling her that it was thanks to her that I kept on writing.  Life gets busy, and as a young mother I found it difficult to spend a sustained period developing my writing, but when my children were older, I joined a WEA writers group, then joined creative writing evening classes and finally enrolled on the master’s degree in creative writing.  I was very nervous about going back to education later in life, about whether I was up to scratch, but I stuck to it – and I’m so glad that I did.

Tell me about your journey to publication

For my master’s degree the final submission was whole novel of 80,000 words. This was what became my debut, novel Journey to Paradise. I was surprised when I received encouraging feedback suggesting I approached agents with my book.  I duly bought a copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook and made a list of agents that I hoped might be able to represent me. I was very lucky as I had a fair amount of interest and eventually signed with my wonderful agent, Caroline Hardman.  Two publishing houses offered me a two-book deal and deciding which to accept was the hardest choice in the world to make. The Forgotten Promise is my second novel.

In a nutshell, what is your book about?

The Forgotten Promise tells the story of a family divided by the Japanese occupation of Malaya. It follows the fate of two Eurasian women, Ella and Noor, of approximately the same age who were childhood friends. When the Japanese arrives in Malaya, Ella is forced to leave her family behind and flees to England. Noor, meanwhile, falls victim to the Japanese occupation. Will their lives ever return to normal and will the family ever be reconciled?

My writing, although set against exotic backgrounds, is set on the cusp of change: the shift from colonial dominance to independence. I like to dig into a variety of issues, and my main protagonist is, in many ways, a metaphor for the events surrounding her at that time. It isn’t always an easy journey, but in the end, success comes her way. My work also focuses on themes of marriage, motherhood, displacement, race, inequality, isolation, grief, friendship, education, politics and self-discovery all peppered with social, political and military history.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I had working titles for both my books: Journey to Paradise was originally called The Rain Tree as it is a flowering tree in Singapore that only flowers after the rain: a metaphor for what takes place in the novel!  I had various working titles for The Forgotten Promise, but my editor suggested it, and I think it’s perfect.

How did you celebrate publication day?

Although The Forgotten Promise comes out on 29th December, I will be spending the Saturday 31st December signing books at my local independent bookshop, Kenilworth Books. Later, I’ll go out for lunch and enjoy a large G&T, perhaps, then later, a nice dinner at home with family and a bottle of fizz!

Do you have a work in progress just now?

I am plotting a series of three books based around the lives of sisters. I’m not saying much more about that yet, but it involves lots and lots of research!

What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?

I really enjoyed Small Pleasures, by Clare Chambers. It is such a delightful read with wonderful characters. There is right balance of insight into the flaws in human nature sprinkled with hope and disappointment without being depressing. That narrative is based on true historical events, which I always like. The structure is perfect, and you can’t quite guess the end.

What are you reading just now?

Still Life by Sara Winman.

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

I think it would have to be an illustrated encyclopaedia! As a child I loved looking at an animal encyclopaedias and at school I spend hours looking at the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Lots of lovely pictures and unusual facts for writing inspiration!

[I’ve chosen a history encyclopedia to inspire you!]

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?


Twitte: @PGreenlees

Instagram: paulagreenlees

Facebook: facebook.com/WritingMatter

And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

I always loved TV programmes such as Bewitched when I was a little girl and dreamt of having secretive and magical powers, so I would have to be a witch from one of the Harry Potter books.  Is there one who likes reading and writing? If not, Professor McGonagall.

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