The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is the debut novel by award-winning author Paulette Mahurin. It is a historical novel about tolerance, love, friendship and loyalty, set in 1895.
It begins with Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment in Britain, for indecency, under the new law that made sex between males a criminal offense.
Mildred Dunlap is living with Edra in a small town called Red River Pass, in Nevada. They have a secret…
Edra, who is known to the people of Red River Pass as Mildred’s cousin, is, in fact, her friend and life partner.
Seeing the turmoil in town regarding the news about Oscar Wilde, Mildred is determined to keep their true relationship secret. So she makes a plan…
Paulette Mahurin is with us, to discuss her book and writing adventure:
Paulette: First let me say a very heartfelt “thank you” for having me over at your site for this interview, Tugce Sevin. It is an honor to reach so many readers and to come together over a book, a story, about tolerance.
Tugce: You are welcome. Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
Paulette: I am a Nurse Practitioner, which in my country, is like a general practitioner medical doctor. I specialize in Women’s Health. I also do a lot of pro-bono work with women with cancer and other health issues, who need someone to sit and talk to, who will take the time. Aside from this work, I am, an advocate for tolerance, rescuing animals out of kill shelters. My husband and I have been involved in rescuing dogs for the last 28 years, and now all the profits from my book are going to the first and only no-kill shelter in the county I live in, which helps dogs, cats, and other animals.
Tugce: Even though, the theme in the book is still a present issue, the historical texture was not lost. You can see the town, people and the turmoil the news caused, as clear as an old photograph. How did you choose the genre you wrote in?
Paulette: In some ways I can say it chose me, it came to me, like most things in life, it appeared, and I paid attention. It started with a photo in a writing class of two women dressed in clothes that were a turn of the twentieth century, standing very close together, looking fearful, it screamed out to me lesbian couple afraid of being found out. That’s how it started. Because of the time period of that photo, I began my first historical fiction novel.
Tugce: And what was your inspiration in writing it?
Paulette: The cruelty and injustice to any person or group that’s been persecuted against, unjustly, because of whom they are, their nature that can no more be changed than a leaf cannot be green, a dog cannot wag its tail, all things of nature, all authentic. I’ve dealt with people in the closet, the anxiety and fear, the pain and torment, all because of energy directed at them. For me the inspiration is about leveling the playing field, being a voice for those too afraid to step forth and speak for themselves.
Tugce: You were successful in turning a heavy plot into an easy read, enjoyable, and a gripping story without overwhelming the reader. What kind of research did you do for this book?
I researched the history of the same sex relationships, persecution of women in history, to get a sense for where lesbian persecution fit in to the big picture. I researched that time period, what was the news of the day. And that is when I got lucky because I found that, in 1895, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in Britain for homosexual activity. Britain had recently changed its laws to make it a criminal offense. His imprisonment set the theme of the book and moved the story along, for it was the motivating factor for why Mildred Dunlap & Edra would suddenly become fearful. Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment was a very dark period in history, for what was prior hushed about in living rooms turned into screaming wars afterward. I also researched the clothes, the food, buildings, what towns on the frontier looked like, and the political happenings of the day, etc.
Tugce: Mildred and Edra, are the two main characters in the book, but many side characters are very vivid and well developed, which gave the book a rich storytelling opportunity and a chance to consider different point of views for the reader. Can you tell us how you made your characters and named them? And also, who is your favorite character in your novel?
Paulette: It started with the two women, Mildred and Edra. Then there was the plan, which had to involve another character and that was Charley. I needed a philosophical voice so that the story didn’t sound too much like a preach, and in came Gus. I didn’t want it to be anti-religion with the gossip mean spirited women who went to church, so I created Amos, the Preacher, who is the most neutral ethical character. There had to be Josie for the tension, the story conflict, or there would be no story, it would be boring. All the other characters fell in place as part of what was needed for the action of the scenes. I spent time with names of that period and used some from people that I knew that fit with some of the character’s personalities.
I think my favorite character is Charley, because he grows and transforms from the ashes of despair over the loss of the love of his life. In moments of being raw and vulnerable, he opens to new things and in doing this he shows the power of the heart of love, where anything is possible.
Tugce: Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? Will you write others in this same genre?
Paulette: Yes, I have. I’ve worked with people in the closet. I knew their fear, and I poured that into the story. I see a lot of myself in a lot of different aspects of most of the characters. I think that’s true with most authors; we arrive in the characters, whether intended or not, for wherever we go there we are, in life, on the page. I really enjoyed the historical fiction writing, the research, stretching my brain, and yes, I’m not opposed to writing in this genre again. But, for me, it’s not about the genre but rather the story. I won’t pick a genre and then write; I’ll flow with the story and see where it fits.
Tugce: So you have been working with people for a long time, but how did your writing adventure began? Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Paulette: I can never recall not being interested in writing. For me, it’s so natural, I love it. The pen landed in my hand when I was ten years old, and there was my sanctuary, my safe place to say anything I wanted without fear of what will people think or the feedback I would receive. When I write, I am free.
Tugce: You have a day job; you are a nurse, so how do you manage your writing time? And what would you advise to new writers with similar situations?
Paulette: I only work part-time and have plenty of time to write. I’m very lucky in that regard. My husband is also very supportive of me, my schedule, and my writing.
A writer writes. It’s just that simple. If you don’t sit down in the chair and do it, nothing happens. Doesn’t matter if it’s for ten minutes or ten hours, just do it. Leave the editing to the editor for later, and tell the critic in your head, the one that says I don’t have time, I’m not good enough, no one would want to read mine…Tell that inaccurate voice to shut up!
Tugce: As we’re talking about advice; this is your debut fiction novel, right? Can you tell us about your experience towards being published? And how do you market your work?
Paulette: Yes, this is my debut novel. For six years I wrote, and when the story was finished, a close friend of mine, who has her own publishing company, asked to see it. She loved it. She edited it, formatted it into a book, and had it printed with her company, but her funds were limited, so my husband and I took over the printing and promoting of the book. I switched off her printer, who was pretty expensive, and put my book on Amazon through their CreateSpace free publishing. I then had the book formatted for Kindle and again had Amazon Kindle publishe it for free. It’s been a lot of work, a lot of time involved, in getting the word out. The writing was the easy part, the promoting for an independent author has been very time consuming, but because all my profits are going to animal rescue, a mission of love, I don’t mind putting in the time. I am passionate about helping get those sad faces out of cages and into their forever homes, wagging their tails. For this reason, I keep at it and every single person who helps with a blog post, and interview, a review, buys the book, mentions the book, every voice is an important energy to help those animals. And, also, I am passionate about tolerance and would keep at it day and night for that also. I’m blessed with promoting something that is helping two passions in my life.
I network anywhere I can, Facebook, Twitter, blog sites, the World Lit Cafe, Book Blogs, e-mails, phone calls, book stores, anywhere anyone will listen, I talk and say I wrote a book, and it’s helping animals and is a message about tolerance, would you like to read it? If not, would you be kind to spread the word? People in the indie movement, are very supportive, very generous. I have been very fortunate with this one. To thank everyone for all the incredible help I’ve been given, I put it on Amazon for free for 5 days a couple of weeks ago, and at the end of that time, it had 18,852 downloads. Sales have been strong since, and funds have been going to the shelter.
Tugce: And as a last question. You said funds are going to the shelter, can you tell us about that?
I have had several loves in my life, but ranking at that top is Tazzie’s, my beloved Rottweiler girl, who went on to the rainbow bridge September, 2011. Seems like yesterday. I still miss her; the wagging of her little stubby tail when I came home, the drool at the side of her mouth to let me know it’s meal time, the spot on the carpet where her body left an imprint, beside my bed, her collar still hanging in the entrance hall, and yes, a year later little black hair keeps showing up. I loved her with every cell in my body.
She died around the same time the first “no-kill animal shelter” opened in the county where I live. My husband and I have been into dog rescue for over twenty-eight years, and we loved that this shelter opened. Tazzie’s death and the shelter opening happened around the time I finished my book. It just all came together that it would be a wonderful idea to pay tribute to my wonderful, beloved Tazzie, by giving all profits to the shelter. I think she should have really wagged her tail about this. (http://www.santapaulaarc.org/)