Saturday, April 3, 2021

Paula Munier

Paula Munier is the USA Today bestselling author of the Mercy and Elvis mysteries. A Borrowing of Bones, the first in the series, was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award and named the Dogwise Book of the Year. Blind Search was inspired by the real-life rescue of a little boy with autism who got lost in the woods.

Munier credits the hero dogs of Mission K9 Rescue, her own rescue dogs Bear, Bliss, and Blondie—a Malinois mix as loyal and smart as Elvis—and a lifelong passion for crime fiction as her series’ major influences.

She’s also written three popular books on writing: Plot Perfect, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, and Writing with Quiet Hands, as well as Fixing Freddie and Happier Every Day.

Munier lives in New Hampshire with her family, the dogs, and a torbie tabby named Ursula.

Her new Mercy and Elvis mystery is The Hiding Place. My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

When I was writing Blind Search, the publisher didn’t like the working title (which was so bad I’ve forgotten it). So I came up with a list of 100 titles I could live with. The publisher liked Blind Search, and the editorial director liked The Hiding Place. So my editor told me, “This novel will be called Blind Search, but your next novel will be called The Hiding Place.” So I began plotting the story knowing it would be called The Hiding Place, but without knowing why. I had to write the book to find out. In retrospect, it seems inevitable, but it didn’t seem that way when I started.

What's in a name?

Mercy Carr is my heroine. I wanted to use a virtue name, as there’s a long tradition of virtue names in New England where the series is set. I chose Mercy because it’s pretty and it reminded me of one of my favorite songs, "Mercy Now" by Mary Gauthier. Carr is a family name of one of our New England forebears. So it all fit.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Since I went to high school in New Orleans—every teenager’s party dream town—and had never set foot in New England, I’m sure my wilder, younger self would wonder how the heck I ended up here in the snowy woods. And why.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I really can’t begin until I have an image in my mind. That image usually becomes the beginning. In A Borrowing of Bones, it’s the image of a woman and a dog home from Afghanistan marching off their grief in the Green Mountains of Vermont. In Blind Search, it’s the image of a little boy with autism lost in the woods. In The Hiding Place, it’s the image of a dying man asking Mercy to solve the cold case that has always haunted him. So I rarely change the opening, because I have this image in mind. The endings are a lot more fluid, because the ending I have in mind when I begin the novel—if I have one in mind—may not be satisfying enough.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I think there’s a bit of the writer in every story’s characters. That said, for me, writing fiction is less about autobiography and more about roads not taken. Most of my characters are composites drawn from real life, research, and my imagination.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

The more stories you write, the more material you use up. So you end up priming the pump with everything and the kitchen sink. That’s half the fun, weaving all these disparate elements—your dogs, your garden, TV interviews with law enforcement, murders that make the headlines, what you saw on your last hike in the mountains, that dessert you had in Alsace, and more—into a story that makes sense. It’s a form of alchemy—and if you’re lucky, you get gold.
Visit Paula Munier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Paula Munier & Bear.

My Book, The Movie: The Hiding Place.

The Page 69 Test: The Hiding Place.

--Marshal Zeringue