Thursday, July 23, 2009

Welcome Paul Midden!

Greetings, readers! Today I'm happy to host author Paul Midden, who's in the middle of a blog tour promoting his new book, Toxin. At the end of this interview, you'll find information on how you can win an autographed sit back, relax, and enjoy!


Jake Telemark, a junior senator from Wisconsin, enjoys his position as a moderate, common-sense legislator in Washington, D.C.—until the phone call that changes his life forever. Isadore Hathaway, daughter of the late Frank Hathaway, a renowned senatorial powerhouse, demands to see Jake immediately. During a mysterious meeting with Isadore, Jake learns an uncomfortable truth: a group of fanatical right-wing evangelicals, who call themselves The Bookkeepers, are planning to destroy the US democracy.

Shocked by Isadore’s revelation, but initially unwilling to get involved in something he can scarcely believe, Jake soon learns why Isadore Hathaway singled him out for this clandestine meeting: she’d uncovered a part of Jake’s past that he’d fought to keep hidden, not just by law, but by of the demands of his sanity. Isadore’s plea is both startling and matter-of-fact: she wants Jake to kill the men involved in this sinister plot—because if Jake doesn’t kill them, they will kill him.

When parts of Isadore’s scenario begin to come true, Jake becomes ensnared in a dangerous and deadly plot. With the country at risk and freedom hanging in the balance, Jake is thrust into excruciating circumstances. Forced to confront the demons of his past, and the demons that threaten the future of the country he serves, Jake inconveniently falls in love with Isadore. As this burgeoning relationship plays out against the backdrop of the most tumultuous time in US history, Jake Telemark must wage an intense tug-of-war between his promise to never harm another human being, and his duty to the country, and woman, he loves.

Sounds like a great thriller, Paul! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I have spent my adult professional life in clinical practice as a psychologist. I run a treatment center for Catholic priests and religious. Because it is later in my career and because my duties are primarily administrative and clinical oversight, I have some time on my hands. For a good while that was taken up with a home rehab project that my wife and I began about twelve years ago. Mercifully that is well in hand: we live in a beautifully rehabbed 1895 gem in an older section of St. Louis.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

Writing fiction was not something that I thought much about, at least not since some creative writing classes in college a million years ago. But one day I was preparing a talk, and, to keep my anxiety under control, decided to write out the entire presentation. In the midst of that stressful experience, I realized that I enjoyed the writing part. Not so much the presentation part, which has been a bane in my professional life. In any event, the day after the presentation, I sat down and began writing my first novel, Absolution.

I had fortunately read Bird by Bird by Ann LaMott, in which she described how she wrote: 500 “shitty” words a day, every day; revised the next day with 500 more “shitty” words added. This approach fit my temperament perfectly. It only took about four months to finish a 100,000 word novel. I have since written two more, using the exact same method.

Great philosophy! Now, tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My most recently published book is Toxin, the one under discussion during this blog tour. It’s a first-person narrative, a thriller, and a fun read. It was equally fun to write. I deliberately decided to approach narrative works in differing formats to see which ones I like the best and which ones I am most comfortable with. I learned from Toxin that, while writing in the first person is fun and makes for a fast read, it is very limiting in plumbing the personalities of other characters. Not impossible, but there is just less access.

My most recent work, which is as yet unpublished, is entitled One Voice Too Many. It returns to the third person narrative style and recounts the story of someone who loses the internal battle with sanity. Because of a quirk in my writing style—the climax in my books is almost always at the beginning—I am not giving too much away. But the book is not a thriller so much as it is a heartbreaking story of a guy who gives life all he can but may not be able to make it work. Or work safely.

How do you go about developing your characters?

This is one of the most surprising and curious elements of writing fiction. The strict answer to the question is: I have no idea. Because when I write I do so daily, each character develops a little each day. This does not seem to me to be a deliberate process on my part. The subjective experience is that I am as interested in how each person develops as a reader would be; I just happen to be the medium through which these characters come to life. Many of us overeducated types—especially psychologists--like to analyze this sort of thing, but the truth is writing is an inherently creative process that is not always logical, and the origins of it lie in an area of our consciousness that is not directly accessible to us. The unconscious maybe, or regions of the brain where integration happens outside our deliberate awareness.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I read widely. I do read fiction, although I would be hard pressed to name a single author. I like many: John Irving, Wally Lamb, even Dan Brown. I like to read history and current affairs. I read some psychology, but usually only major works where an especially talented psychologist integrates a wide range of information and forges genuinely new ground. Such works are limited; think Jerome Kagan and Three Erroneous Ideas, or Judith Rich Harris’ The Nurture Assumption.

The best book in English that I have ever read is The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which took a while to read but which was an unremitting pleasure. It is a well told story and is filled with wit and wisdom, all encased in language that is just beautiful.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

It is this business about how books essentially come to life on their own terms and how they are mediated by writers. It’s humbling, really. I used to think it was all about grammar and structure and deliberate architecture, but those things flow when the creative spigot is on. I love that process, although it can be frustrating. I do have control issues.

Paul, thanks so much for being here today!
Readers, Paul Midden is giving away a signed copy of Toxin to one lucky tour visitor. Go to his book tour page,, enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 2241, for your chance to win. Entries from Allie's Musings will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on their book tour page next week!


misterreereeder said...

Thanks for sharing the interview. The questions (and their respective answers) were revealing. I can ONLY imagine what it must be like to write.

itsamystery said...

Thanks for sharing your interview. This has been a wonderful tour! I'm anxious to enter the giveaway.