Congratulations to Paula Carlson, winner of the 2015 EFC Short Story Contest!
How did you come up with “Bedside Manner?” Edward Burns is one of my writing inspirations. The other influence I grew up with is O. Henry. The opening of Edward Burns’s The Brothers McMullen has stuck with me for years. The scene is Finbar (Edward Burns) standing with his mother at the grave of his recently deceased father. His mother tells Finbar she is returning to Ireland to be with the man she truly loves. I wanted to give a slight nod to Edward Burns’s Brothers and wanted to give the classic O. Henry twist. This metamorphosed itself into “Bedside Manner.”
Why do you enjoy reading and writing? Reading gives me the opportunity to go to places and meet characters that were born in another writer’s mind. I like to see how, after so many centuries of writing, there are still characters no one has dreamed up before. As for writing, it gives me non-work writing to do and allows me to work on dialogue and still use my imagination. I also like to write stories for friend’s birthdays. People are always surprised when you name a character after them.
What is your favorite genre to read? I love historical fiction. I am still messing around with a story that was originally a screenplay. Books like Leon Uris’s Trinity, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and Cindy Brandner’s Exit Unicorns series are like candy for me because I love history, and you know they poured their hearts and research into these grand stories. Throwing the reader into history is just fascinating for me.
Who is your favorite author? That’s like asking me my favorite musician. But if I had to choose, it would be Anne Rice. She constantly mixes up her genres and is in touch with her readers. Anne has given us vampires, witches, angels, and even Jesus.
In your opinion, what is one book that everyone should read? Definitely my own opinion because not many agree with me: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It is a great example of using your craft to hide the politics of your time. The book is a satirical look at atheistic, Stalinist Russia through the clever use of characters such as a talking, chess-playing cat, the devil, a witch, and Pontius Pilate. Again, my favorite book comes back to history and fiction. The book is ultimately about good and evil, in both the fictitious sense and what the author was dealing with in his real life in Russia while writing the story.
About the author: Paula grew up in western Pennsylvania the daughter of a WWII Veteran coal miner and nurse/hotel bellhop. Paula was heavily influenced by music and her two Brooklyn neighbors. With the initial intentions of becoming a sports physician and working for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Paula discovered that instead of chemical formulas, she had a passion for dialogue and politics, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and political science. Paula did some travelling to Sydney and Belfast before hitting up NYU for a graduate degree in some more political science. She met and married a New York City Firefighter who grew up in NYC. Paula and her husband are both avid runners, music enthusiasts, and both volunteer at a camp for children who are burn survivors.
So what does one do with degrees in creative writing and political science? Work for the New York City Emergency Management, of course! Since 2004, Paula has been developing disaster drills and high level tabletop discussions as well as preparing for and responding to the City’s emergencies. Writing has become an important part of her career. The need to clearly communicate information is important when writing situation reports during events and evaluations and summaries following drills. It is precisely this job that made Paula re-discover writing. Long hours and stressful events call for some mental time off. Paula has two blogs to exercise her writing skills. She has both a short story blog, No Evasion to Reality, and a music blog, Paula’s Music Journey.