You want to know something about me? Really? What can I tell you – I’m British, although I’ve lived and passed through many other parts of the world. Currently I live in the north of Scotland, living on haggis and whisky and raspberries, and enjoying the endless summer days when it never quite gets dark. The endless winter nights – not so much. I share my view of the Black Isle with my husband.
I write epic fantasy with a romantic twist as Pauline M Ross. My books are listed here.
I also write traditional Regency romances as Mary Kingswood. More details here.
I read a lot of fantasy and a little of other genres too. You can find the books I’ve read and my reviews on Goodreads here. I also post my reviews on this blog.
My archived reviews, including mystery and general fiction, plus some random essays, are at Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews.
If you’re a Twitterphile, you can follow me @PaulineMRoss, or click the button on the right.
If you want to contact me, email me here.
How I got started:
Once upon a time I thought I would be a writer. I bought myself a manual typewriter and over the space of a couple of years I bashed out three quarters of a Regency romance, in the style of (although nowhere near the quality of) Georgette Heyer. Then life and children intervened, the manuscript languished in a drawer somewhere, boxed up with everything else whenever I moved house or continent. It’s still in a drawer, untouched for decades. It’s almost certainly trash. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t opened it since.
For a long time, I wrote nothing. So much to do, so little time. I read a lot, always, but somehow I never found the time to write. Or perhaps I just had nothing to say. There were always stories in my head, but they seemed content to stay there.
Then, a few years ago, I had a dream. That isn’t a metaphor, it was an actual being-asleep dream. There were men in black with swords and stern faces, and a stone tower, and horses. Several times I dreamed, not the exact same dream, but the same setting, much the same people. Gradually, during daylight hours, these images coalesced into – something. People with names. Forests, rivers, plains. Roads, towns, farm villages. A journey. Not a story, but – something.
After a while, those people got together and said to me: look, there’s a lot of detail here. If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget it. I resisted at first. I’m not a writer, I said. But they were very insistent, so I started writing. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t know where to start. There wasn’t an obvious beginning, so I started plumb in the middle, which meant that great swathes of important stuff had to be in flashback.
Worse, what appeared on paper wasn’t exactly the same as it was in my head. It changed, and then it solidified into a bit of a mess. There were contradictions. There were things I’d handwaved away that need to be decided. It was lumpy and awkward. But slowly it began to flow, and then it took off, and all sorts of interesting and unexpected things happened. The world began to take shape.
Big problem, though – it wasn’t a story. There still wasn’t a beginning or end, just a whole heap of middle. In all, I wrote 1.2 million words of middle, which would be 3,500 pages in paperback form, and all of it backstory. There were characters in there doing things, and moving about the landscape, but still it was no more than backstory, the little details of how this world I’d dreamt up actually worked.
Then one day I saw a story. Finally, something with a proper beginning, middle and end. I left the backstory and began writing The Story (that was how I thought of it, capitalised). For the first time, I began to think about technique. I read books on how to write. I looked at software. I even uploaded a few chapters to Bookcountry, and received some really useful feedback. I had the whole thing planned out, and a sequel, too. But it was hard, because the backstory kept intruding. All those hundreds of characters I’d got to know didn’t quite fit in to this story. There was too much detail, but I found it hard to leave anything out. I wrote 120,000 words, or 340 pages, but it was hard going.
Then I had an idea. I’d read a lot of fantasy by this time, some bogged down in pseudo-medieval settings, and some less conventional, but they almost all made certain assumptions. One constant was that a marriage contained just one man and one woman. What would happen, I wondered, if there were four people in a marriage? How exactly would that work? Almost without thought, characters floated into my mind, and a setting. It was in the same world, but a different part of it. I’ll just jot down a few notes, I told myself, and then carry on with The Story.
So I started, and the words just poured from my pen. I had no idea at all where the story was going, but I found out as I wrote. It took me the best part of a year, but in the end I had 220,000 words (or 630 pages) and I finally had a completed draft. I never did get back to The Story, because when I tried, I had another idea and off I went again.
In 2011, both my parents died, first my father and then, a few months later, my mother. They’d reached a good age, so this isn’t a sob story. A couple of weeks before my mother’s final illness, she talked to me about a story she’d created. She was a huge Jane Austen fan, so of course it was a Regency romance. She described it in detail – names, places, incidents, she had it all worked out. She’d carried that story round in her head for most of her life, but she never wrote any of it down. When she died, those characters died with her. There was no manuscript tucked away in her jumper drawer, not even a notebook of ideas. It was just gone, and no one else could ever know those people, or feel the sorrows of their lives or enjoy their triumphs.
That made me even more determined to get my own characters out of my head and into some more permanent form. I was already doing that, tapping away on the keyboard, squirreling away files on the computer. But as I mulled it over, I realised that wasn’t quite enough. I wanted other people to have the chance to get to know them, too.
Now, that was a problem. Did I really want to get into the hassle of submitting to agents and writing query letters? Emphatically not. I’ve reached an age when I don’t want the stress. Even self-publishing is a lot of effort. And besides, I have no idea at all whether what I’ve written is any good. I’ve learned a huge amount about writing techniques over the last two or three years, but that doesn’t mean I can write anything worth reading.
There is only one way to find out, and that’s to put it out there for the world to see and express an opinion on. As a starting point, I created this blog to document my efforts. I posted chapters to online critique group Scribophile and discovered – hmm, needs work. So I rewrote the first few chapters; in the case of chapter 1, I went through at least four completely different versions before I hit on something workable. But gradually the kinks were worked out, and from chapter ten or so, the comments were very few, and mostly positive.
As a second stage, I posted chapters here (which attracted virtually no attention) and later on Wattpad, which didn’t set the world on fire, but were read by quite a few people. So I decided to go full steam ahead with self-publication. I wanted to do this properly, and present my work to best advantage, so I paid for professional cover art and proofreading. The Plains of Kallanash was released to the world in September 2014, and The Fire Mages a few months later, with The Mages of Bennamore following a few months after that.
Do they sell? Well, let’s put it this way: I’m not ordering the yacht just yet. I’m not ambitious, and making any serious money from writing is about as likely as winning the lottery. Kallanash sold very slowly, but a little paid promotion gave The Fire Mages a better start, and each successive book did a little better. I’ve more than covered all my costs now, but I still wouldn’t describe myself as anything more than a very humble mid-list author. I’ll never trouble the NYT bestseller’s list, but that’s fine. I’m happy to be read by modest numbers, and I’m not interested in making a fortune or winning awards. Readers are the final arbiters, always.Follow PaulineMRoss