Welcome to the 26th in the Interview with… series. This month, I’m branching out a little – mostly because I had an accidental gap this month, put a shout out on social media, and found some fascinating authors to bring to you over the next few months. Sometimes it pays to be disorganised!
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Paul Lima has been a professional writer and writing trainer for 40 years. He has been a Multiple Sclerosis and New Daily Persistent Headache warrior for 22 years.
Paul has written 25 books: three novels, a short story collection, a memoir, a book about MS, and books on various aspects of business, promotional, online and non-fiction book writing. He has also produced free webinars on many aspects of writing, as well as a number of MS video blogs. More information is available on his website.
An English major from York University, Paul has worked as an advertising copywriter (print and broadcast), continuing education manager and magazine editor (Northern Lights and Toronto Computes).
Welcome to the Fountain Pen, Paul – please tell us a little more about yourself.
Now retired, I’ve been an advertising copywriter, freelance journalist, freelance corporate writer and writing training for 40 years. I started writing when I was young and never stopped. I’ve written twenty non-fiction books, many of them about various aspects of writing. In the last six years, I’ve written three novels. My third novel should be published by the end of October.
How did your writing career begin?
My writing career began out of boredom. As I kid, I had older and younger siblings who ignored me and had few friends or hobbies. One day I picked up a pencil and started to write words. Seriously. I wrote for the York University student newspaper and another student publication. When I graduated in English, I applied for, and landed, a job as a copywriter. The rest, as they say, is history.
Why did you write non-fiction, then memoir and then literary fiction? Did you choose them, or did they choose you?
I taught a business writing continuing education course for the University of Toronto. The textbook wasn’t very good, so I wrote a course textbook. I guess that is me choosing the book! That led me to write other book on various aspects of writing. After I had written a number of books, I wrote How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Days. It has sold close to ten thousand copies. I have multiple sclerosis, and after combating it for fifteen years, I wrote Everything You Need to Know About Multiple Sclerosis. I put a lot of myself into that book, so it seems to make sense to write my memoir next–The Accidental Writer. When I retired, I could not stop writing and I turned to fiction. Geri: A Post-Pandemic LGBTQ+ Novel. The book, based loosely on Seinfeld, is a comedy. Chronic: A Sick Novel. Sick because four people with various illnesses and disabilities move in together; life happens. And I am finishing the proofreading of my most ambitious work, Family Tree: An Historical Novel Spanning 17 Centuries. It has already received solid beta reader reviews.
Where do you see your writing career heading?
At 68 and with MS, I don’t know that I have another book in me. But, I confess, I am playing with an idea. So we shall see.
How do you approach a new project? Are you a plotter or a pantser, or somewhere in between? Where you do get your ideas?
When it comes to non-fiction, I am a meticulous plotter. I don’t start the book until I have a chapter-by-chapter outline in front of me. And I stick to my outline. I loosely plot my fiction, but am willing to let the characters run loose. This lets me visit places that I had not thought of initially. While I meticulously edit both fiction and non-fiction, I spend more time editing my fiction as the story grows.
The ideas for my non-fiction books and first two novels have come from my work and life. I’m a writer who writes about writing. I have MS and wrote about MS. I am not LGBTQ+, but I have LGBTQ+ siblings, a child and friends. LGBTQ+ people have been an important part of my life since I was a teenager. And of course I have MS, as does the main character in Chronic. As for Family Tree, the idea descended on me. I do not know my family history beyond grandparents. Corey, the main character in Family Tree, has seventeen centuries of history. Maybe the book was my way of making up for something that I lack!
Is there anything you need to have with you when you write? A tool of the trade, a mascot…?
I am not a superstitious person so I don’t need anything, beyond my computer, to write. That and Google to help with historical research for Family Tree. I don’t know how people wrote historical fiction before the Internet! I suppose I could have sat in a library and used encyclopaedias. But searching Google has been so much easier.
How do you promote your books? Does social media help or hinder?
The use of social media is how I promote my books. It is a big help.
I could not imagine my life without writing. I thrive on writing. Words, stringing them together, have been an important part of my life since I was a kid. Some people golf. I write!
Thank you so much for sharing your writing career with us. Good luck with that new idea!