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Friday, July 6, 2012

Interview with Paula Weston, author of 'Shadows'

Angels are everywhere.  They have exploded on the young adult book scene and now seem to be in some bizarre turf-war with vampires and zombies for supernatural creature du-jour. That's why, when I say you have to read Paula Weston's debut novel 'Shadows', it's a big freakin deal! Angel-themed it may be, but Weston's 'Shadows' is "the bets of the angelic bunch", in my humble opinion. 

This book has everything - exotic locales, masterful biblical origins, amnesiac twists and a couple so sizzling they scorch the page!

But don't take my word for it. Read it to believe it, and in the mean time check out this interview with the lovely Paula Weston, debut Aussie YA author on the rise! 

Q: How were you first published, agent or slush pile?

Agent (Australian Literary Management, who I’ve been with since 2008.)

Q: How long did it take you to write ‘Shadows’, from first idea to final manuscript?

I’d had a kernel of an idea for a few months before I started fleshing out the characters and plot. I was working on another project at the time, and when that ended in a series of rejections, I decided to play around with the other idea…just for fun. I wrote 20 pages in a day and then had 90 pages within two weeks – and I was hooked. I had a completed manuscript 12 months later.

Q: Are you a plotter or a ‘pantser’? – That is, do you meticulously plot your novel before writing, or do you ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ and let the story evolve naturally?

A bit of both. I’m definitely a plotter as far as character and main story arcs go, but I like flexibility in how I get there. It’s nice to have enough freedom to go where your characters and the story takes you. (Having said that, I do know how each book in the Rephaim series will end.)

Q: Where do story ideas generally start for you? Do you first think of the character, theme, ending? Or is it just a free-fall?

For me, ideas always start with characters and the dynamic between them. Shadows started with the idea of two people with a complicated history that only one of them remembers. I knew their story had paranormal elements and went from there.

Q: Were you already interested in angels before you had the idea for ‘The Rephaim’ series, or did your research start the moment you had the story spark?

I’d definitely been interested in angels before the idea for the series came along, but I actually didn’t set out to write an angel story. I wanted to write a paranormal story (a genre I love when done well) but it was only when I started brainstorming the plot and character arcs for Shadows that I realised the fallen angel concept was the best fit for what I wanted to achieve. I then started researching relevant mythology/theology, which in turn sparked more plot ideas.
Q: Angels have kind of blown up in the YA genre lately (but I must say, ‘Shadows’ is one of the best, and most original, Angelic-themed books I have ever read!). I’m curious if you’ve read other Angel books to compare and contrast to yours? If so, did you read them before or after you finished ‘Shadows’?

Thanks for the lovely compliment. :) I’d read a few angelic themed books before I had the idea for Shadows: the first two of Lauren Kate’s Fallen series and the first two of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush series (in between a stack of vampire, werewolf, zombie and faerie stories). But I think it’s safe to say Shadows is very different from both of those series as far as mythology, plot and character development goes.

Q: Your protagonist, Gaby Winters, is one tricky heroine. She’s battling grief, memory-loss and the dawning realization that she’s not entirely human . . .  how hard is it to write a character who’s really sort of a two-for-one-deal? Gaby is also ‘Gabe’/‘Gabriella’ – with a history of violence and a reputation for bad-assery. Was it hard to write her, while keeping things from her (and readers) that are so intricate to who she is?

Very tricky! One of the most challenging aspects of the series is that there’s always several layers of plot going on – and they all have to come together and make sense in the final book. That’s why plotting certain aspects of Gaby’s past was critical at the start. I needed to know the whole story so that I could plant the right seeds at the right time, and get the timing right for major reveals. My goal with the series is for readers to get to the end, understand everything that’s happened, and want to start at the beginning so they can experience it a second time knowing the whole story. (And by the way, I love the term ‘bad-assery’)

Q: One of the things that made ‘Shadows’ so enjoyable is the much-talked-about chemistry between Rafa and Gaby. They absolutely spark on the page! How do you gauge, as a writer, when you’ve struck gold between your love interests? What do you think are the essential, romance ingredients that ensure a couple is one readers will get invested in?

Thanks! It’s always hard to tell whether or not you’ve struck gold – at least in a way that appeals to someone other than yourself as the writer. For me, the essential ingredient has to be believability. Characters have to behave like real people, with real challenges (it’s just as important in a paranormal story as it is in “straight” fiction). The attraction and relationship for any love interests have to be established through their characterisation and their experiences - and they need to grow and change to keep readers engaged. I’ve always loved antagonistic romantic relationships, but they have to be antagonistic for a reason. I’ve tried to achieve that with Gaby and Rafa.

Q: Tricky question, but if ‘Shadows’ were to be adapted into a film or TV show (fingers crossed!) who would you cast in the main roles?

Very tricky question…Naturally, I want readers to picture the characters for themselves, but I’d be fibbing if I said I hadn’t thought about it. I honestly haven’t seen an actor where I’ve gone “that’s Rafa!”. But there’s a scene with Mila Kunis in Friends with Benefits that to me is vintage Gaby (when she confronts the doctor on the street after what turns out to be a one-night stand). I’d be interested to know who readers picture for Gaby and Rafa (or anyone else in Shadows).

Q: ‘Shadows’ is full of delicious, careening twists and turns, and by the last page I was absolutely desperate for book #2. So, can you tell us anything about what’s in store for Gaby and Rafa? Even a book title? Or, how about an approximate release date? And how many books are planned in this fantastic new series (my vote is for an indefinite number, FYI),

:) There are more twists and turns in Book 2 – as well as some answers. Gaby learns more about the past (including things about Jude’s life), and the Rephaim discover something that threatens all of them. And, yes, there are plenty of interesting moments and developments for Gaby and Rafa. The working title (which I think will stick) is Haze. It’s the second in a four-book series – but thanks for the vote for indefinite number! (At this stage, Haze is due out around mid 2013).

Q: Favourite book(s) of all time?

It’s an eclectic list: Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series and The Scorpio Races; Saving Francesca (Melina Marchetta); Truth (Peter Temple); All I Ever Wanted (Vikki Wakefield); The Book Thief (Markus Zusak); The Arrival (Shaun Tan); The Road (Cormac McCarthy); The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkein); and, of course, the Harry Potter series (JK Rowling).

Q: Favourite author(s)?

Maggie Stiefvater, Markus Zusak, Melina Marchetta, Richelle Mead, Peter Temple, Claudia Gray, Carrie Jones, JK Rowling, Marianne de Pierres.

Q: What advice do you have for budding young writers?

The usual: read lots and keep writing. And never give up if writing is what you love to do. (I wrote five other full-length manuscripts before Shadows and have a huge folder of rejection slips – but all that frustration and disappointment has been worth it to get to this point.)

All images are from


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  2. I have just finished and loved both Shadows and Haze so it was great to read Paula's interview to see her take on how it all came to be.

    I picture Kristin Kreuk as Gaby & model Raphael Verga as Rafa (


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