Paul Martin Midden is the author of five previous novels, each of which explores different writing styles. He practiced clinical psychology for over thirty years. Paul’s interests include historic restoration, travel, fitness, and wine tasting. He and his wife Patricia renovated an 1895 Romanesque home in 1995 and continue to enjoy urban living.

About the book:

Riley is about the eponymous protagonist who is about thirty, a writer by trade, who lives in Washington, D.C. At the beginning of the book, she has left her husband and has undertaken a novel about separation and divorce. She lives in a small apartment in a D.C. high-rise.

The characters in Riley’s novel are also in a marriage that is teetering on the edge. It opens with Adam, her protagonist, trying to decide if he should talk to Suzanne, his wife about their relationship. He works from home, and he has decided this was the day they would talk. In the end, he loses his nerve and doesn’t say anything. But to his surprise, Suzanne is the one who takes the initiative.

Riley’s life and the novel she is writing share many similarities, but there are also major differences. Suzanne turns out to be having an affair with her female boss. Riley’s best friend is a slightly older lesbian who is attracted to Riley but who values the platonic friendship they have.

As the story unfolds, unexpected things happen that challenge all of the characters. Without giving away the plot, the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur, and each of the characters has to deal with the emotional impact of events as they unfold.

INTERVIEW:

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?

I began writing fiction about fifteen years ago and produced my first novel at that time. Since then, I have published five additional novels. I came to writing fiction late, although I have written articles for professional magazines and did a great deal of non-fiction writing in my career as a psychologist. Fiction is much more fun.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.

I actually started this book about five years ago, wrote about 20K words, and abandoned it. Last year, I was looking for a project and reviewed what I had written and decided to build on it. It’s a timeless story of difficult change, re-adapting to the world, and forging ahead on one’s own. It is not an uncommon story among those heard in the offices of psychotherapists.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I do not do an outline. I would not exactly call my process stream-of-consciousness; I would describe it as purposeful narrative building. I write every day, allowing my imagination free rein. The next day, I review what I wrote the day before and let the story continue to tell itself, as it were. I am as much in the dark about what will happen as the characters.

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

I think they will gain some insight into how and why relationships fail and how and why they succeed. They will also get an inside look into people’s minds.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?

I feel passionate about people and their individual struggles. We are complicated, messy, passionate, and sometimes aimless creatures. Everyone struggles; everyone goes through periods where they feel lost; everyone has a story. I learned early in my career that there is always a backstory behind a person’s behavior, even when people do hurtful or even criminal things. That backstory is usually invisible to other people but looms large in the mind that carries it around. Bringing it into view is something a writer can do.

Are you a disciplined writer?

I am disciplined enough to write every day, which is how I work. But I am not so disciplined as to spend eight or more hours doing it. For me, that would be depleting. A solid hour of writing a day is sufficient. Time takes care of the rest.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Anne Lamott’s advice in Bird by Bird, her book about writing. What she described shaped my writing habits for the past fifteen years. It consisted of writing 500 ‘shitty words’, revising it the next day, and writing 500 more. I typically do more than 500, but the process is the same. Let whatever comes out come out.

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