Paul Schumacher is a fantasy fiction writer who lives with his fiancée and cat in an apartment in Normal Illinois. After getting out of the Army, in 2007, he went back to college at Illinois State University and got his bachelors degree in English Literature. A life time of video games and Dungeons & Dragons have filled his head with stories, and it is these stories which he writes into novels. You can read more about his adventures in publishing and everything else, here.
With the highly anticipated return of Fangirl Friday, I decided to interview debut novelist Paul Schumacher. Paul is actually someone that I know personally from an early writer's group that I was in about a year ago. I actually read an early draft of his debut novel and loved the concept plus the humor that Paul was able to weave into this hauntingly beautiful tale.
Can you tell us about your upcoming debut novel?
Paul: Little Red Wolf is a fairy tale reimagining in which many of the female characters of these tales are empowered with modern ideals. Little Red Ridding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf team up with Goldilocks, to rescue Rapunzel from her tower. Along the way they meet Prince Charming and find out he is sort of a useless jerk... but he IS royalty.
I created this story as a stand alone novel but I plan on linking it into a series of serial novels which I have divided into nine main story arcs. My publisher has asked me to keep the page count below 400 pages so only time will tell how many actual books this will make. Like a weekly soap opera, where the episodes end but the story goes on, I will try to find good cut-off points.
What inspired you to write this story?
Paul: When I was taking a class on prose, I was assigned a book called, “The Energy of Delusion” by Viktor Shklovsky. This book echoed the bard, saying the great stories have already been told, but if we can put a fresh words to old tales, and delude ourselves into believing it is new, then the energy of that delusion can be focused into our stories.
I decided to take this statement literally, and use stories and characters from our past to generate my own. In this first book, I have almost no original characters. While my portrayal of these characters is my own, nearly every one of them is easily recognizable, and most American audiences will be able to figure out which fairy tale or legend inspired them. Personally I would like to play a game with my audience called, “Which story is this part of the book from?”
The challenge of writing a series this way is I must continue to find tales to parody. Over 9 books I have created plot arcs which are of my own design and I have been trying to find other classic tale which mimics them closely enough that I can honor the original tales and still write my own. Some stories are flexible enough that something as simple as a gingerbread house is all the parody I need. In other stories, only people who have an interest in certain specialized mythologies will catch the reference. Also, I will admit, I have been reading a LOT of old stories in order to find inspiration.
What was the road to publication like for you? Did you have any bumps along the way?
Paul: My road to publication has been a dream. Upon reaching the end of my college career, a former class-mate called me to let me know she was working for a fledgling publishing company called The Little Things Publishing which would likely like to publish my book. She was correct.
The bumps I have hit, so far, have been so minor they are barely worth mentioning. My contract gives me more freedom than most bigger companies would allow, my editor is a dream, and even the artist for the cover art took his marching orders from me. The smaller company may not have to power to project my book into the market, like the larger ones do, but they have made a point of giving the artists more attention and more control over their work. As one of those artists, I appreciate all of the attention and freedom they have given me.
I know this story started out one way and you ended up taking a different path than you originally intended. How did you decide to change certain aspects and is there anything that you would have liked to keep in the story?
Paul: During my first class at Illinois State University, back in 2007, I began writing a novel about a boy wizard. I worked on this practice novel for two years before I discovered a massive plot hole I could not fill.
During this time I had been taking writing classes which gave me the skills I needed to become a writer and I wrote many short stories on the side. One of these was a perverted Little Red Ridding Hood story which I then kept writing because the characters were much too interesting to let go of. When my wizard novel died, I was in an Ernest Hemmingway class in which my professor mentioned all of Ernest Hemmingway's stories may have been connected in some way. I decided at that moment to create a novel which would connect to my wizard story and fill the plot hole.
Thus, I took the character and setting of my Little Red Ridding Hood story, removed the sex, and started over. The world I have created for this character is the same world I created for the boy wizard. I also decided Red Ridding Hood's story begins about 80 years before the boy wizard's story. Thus, I know where the story is going but there is a lot of time between now and then.
As for what I would like to have kept... hmmm... there are several secondary characters which were cut, including Dew Drop the pixie and the three goblin brothers. I miss them, and I hope to find ways to introduce them into future tales.
What do you want people to take away from this story?
Paul: I want people to think about their dreams before they leap head first after them. Our dreams are important, but we have been deluded to think they are right in front of us for the taking. Our dreams require hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and a little luck to achieve, but with good friends and good networking skills, we can achieve them.
As a male writing a female main character, how did you channel your inner angsty teen girl?
Paul: When I was growing up, I became obsessed with the legend of King Arthur and the idea of Chivalry. I created this fantasy that women were akin to living goddesses and needed to be worshiped and protected like sacred beings. Naturally this belief was brutally bludgeoned by the real world, but I never lost my fascination for the feminine ideal. Thus I studied women, read girly magazines, watched romances, and listened to my female friends when they talked.
Then, when I was 17, the internet came into our homes. On line, I discovered I could act as a female and be much more successful than I could ever be as a man. Several social experiments later, I discovered women in the United States have more power than men. Thus, I role-played as women, and when it came time to write a book, I found my female characters more interesting than my male characters.
Also, I have many female friends who I can always turn to when in need of advice. A woman's period, for example, was something I needed to ask about. While I have a pretty good grasp on physiology, sociology, and the over all quirks of women... there are some physical aspects which I have needed to go to my female network to discover.
Did you have any sort of a musical play list for a novel or if you had to create one, what would it include?
Paul: I had a variety of tunes which I played at different parts of the book in order to give it a certain feel. Generally I went to www.Pandora.com and set up a classical movie tune list. But there was one song in particular which I used to write one of the darker scenes toward the end, “Day Sixteen: Loser” by Ayreon.
If your novel was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
Paul: I would have to insist that Selena and Cynthia be played by husky “normal looking” women and then Ellora would likely be one of those obnoxiously hot beauties. I would love to use one of the Twilight boys for Prince Charming (as uselessly pretty as he is) and the Babas would need to be played by veteran Hollywood actresses.
Favorite book, movie, and TV show?
Paul: I was obsessed by the original Star Wars trilogy while growing up. I also love the Lord of the Rings movies, and detective shows like “Lie to Me,” “NCIS” and “Bones.” Then there is “Burn Notice” which is a modern day MacGyver. Basically, I love watching people be clever.
Words to live by?
Paul: Blessed be the dreamers, for they breathe life into the Earth.
And if you are a dreamer, be sure to create a safety-net before you go on your adventure.
Also, NETWORK!!! I got to where I am today because I know I cannot get there on my own. By networking, and making friends, I managed to build the contacts that helped me to achieve my goals. Without these precious people, my books would be less interesting and might never have been published. I owe them everything. I hope I can honor their efforts with a magnificent collection of best selling books.