Tule Author Q&A: Paula Altenburg talks on her successes and inspiration for her stories

Paula Altenburg popped by the Tule blog to share some insights to her writing process, touch on her writing inspiration, and give us a glimpse into a future project with Tule!

Transitioning from a career in aviation and aerospace to writing contemporary romance and fantasy is quite a shift. What inspired you to pursue writing, and how has your background influenced your storytelling?

This is a hard question! I don’t think I pursued writing—writing pursued me. Story ideas are no problem because there’s a voice in my head that’s constantly whispering, “What if?” Sticking with a project to the end is the far bigger challenge, but I’ve learned to take pride in my work. A demanding day job has taught me two things—treat writing like a professional career and create a professional product to be proud of.

Living in rural Nova Scotia sounds idyllic. How does your environment influence your writing, especially in terms of setting and atmosphere?

I had this talk with a writer friend recently. I will always and forever be a country girl, whereas she’s a big city girl, and it really shows in our work. I write cowboys because I know small towns inside out. The same when I write fantasy. I stick to rural areas—the few times I’ve tried a city setting, the atmosphere I was trying to create didn’t ring true. My friend finds the same. She’s tried cowboys, but her city settings work much better for her. Unless you have a deep curiosity about an unfamiliar setting and are willing to put in the work to bring it to life, I don’t believe it will carry onto the page. At least, that’s how it is for me. I can Google setting details, but atmosphere is a whole other thing.

As a USA Today Bestselling Author, congratulations on your success! Can you share some of the key moments or milestones in your writing career that you’re particularly proud of?

The thing I’m most proud of? Always being willing to learn. You’re never too old or successful to learn something new—about craft, about business, about publishing trends. What’s the new hottest genre? (Right now, it’s romantasy.) What’s the next hottest trend? (I have a prediction on that in my head.) How can I add more detail to a setting? What would motivate this particular character? I’m also proud of my story ideas. I don’t want to copy someone else’s ideas or follow trends blindly. I want my work to stand apart.

You write contemporary romance and fantasy with romantic elements. What draws you to these genres, and do you find any common threads between them in your writing?

Right now I’m focused entirely on contemporary romance. I have a fantasy in the works, but it’s going to have to wait until I can give it the attention it deserves. The common denominator between my contemporaries and my fantasies, I’ve discovered, is the setting, because other than that, they’re worlds apart. (See what I did there?) I tend to focus on the characters, so both genres are deeply emotional, but with the contemporaries, I like to add more humor. I like to take the ridiculous and make it believable. That’s probably another similarity between them, but expressed differently—in my fantasies, I like to take the fantastical and bring it to life.

How do you engage with your audiences and what do you enjoy most about interacting with readers?

Engage? Interact? It’s like you don’t know me… I’m as big an introvert on social media as I am in real life. Facebook is my hangout online. Unlike most people, I don’t go out of my way to friend others. If I send you a friend request, check first to see if I’ve been hacked before you accept. If you send me a friend request, I will check out your profile before I accept. (Only because I want to make sure that you’re human.)  But once I accept, I will follow you faithfully. I look at your posts. I like them or send hugs, depending on what they require. Occasionally I’ll comment, but I’m not nearly as funny as I like to think I am, so I try not to say too much. But if a reader sends me an email through my website to tell me how much they liked one of my books? Fair warning. I will respond to the point you’ll have to block me. I’m like the boring guy at the party you made eye contact with and now can’t get away from. 

With a husband and two sons, how do you balance your writing career with family life? Do your family members ever inspire characters or plotlines in your books?

These days, my sons occupy my thoughts more than my time. (I really need to update my bio.) However, having said that, I do have a day job that I really like. (And a husband I’m passingly fond of.) I get to work from home and my bosses are lovely. They don’t mind that my career is my writing. But I learned early on that writing every day isn’t for me. I need to think about things. I get up at 5 am, write/think about writing for a few hours, work at the day job, go back to thinking or reading. The weekends are when I try to get actual words on the page. I try to keep family and friends out of my work, but at the moment, I have one son who’s making that really hard.

What are some of the challenges and rewards of writing fantasy with romantic elements compared to contemporary romance?

This one’s an easy question. In fantasy, I love being able to set my imagination loose and create my own worlds. (I do the same thing in contemporary romance, but reality interferes.) The challenging part about fantasy worlds is having to make them seem real, because, interesting fact—readers can’t see inside my head. I have to make them buy into what I create.

Are there any particular themes or messages that you strive to incorporate into your novels, regardless of genre?

A good story will usually have at least one message/theme, possibly more. I don’t always start out with anything particular in mind—each book is different, and the characters and their circumstances usually make those decisions for me. The book that really stands out for me is my first Grand, Montana story (it’s also one of my USA Today bestsellers!), The Rancher Takes a Family. Jake McGregor isn’t in touch with his feelings, but when his sister and brother-in-law are killed in a plane crash and he finds himself the guardian of three very young, very lost children, he doesn’t question the need to step up. He knows the right thing to do. The message is family first. Because he discovers firsthand how devastating it is to lose a big part of one. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors who are looking to pursue a career in writing?

Never forget the importance of craft. You can have the greatest plot ever, but in today’s competitive world, polishing up the little details will set your work apart. Also, always pay attention to innovative ways to earn money if you want to make writing your career. Technology is progressing at light speed, and new opportunities seem to crop up daily, like weeds. And, oh yes… Repeat after me: Marketing and promotion are my friends

Looking ahead, what can readers expect from your future projects? Are there any new genres or themes you’re excited to explore in your writing?

I’ve spent a lot of time in Grand, Montana over the past few years and I love those people. I have eight books set in the town, and two more stories are in the works. But my next contract with Tule is…I hesitate to say romantic comedy, because they’re western romances, but I went out of my way to create a setting for these books that’s going to stretch reader credibility a teensy bit. So, the setting is somewhat comedic, but the romances are genuine and will be filled with the usual scale of angst and emotion I love to explore. (I’d like to thank Tule for taking a chance on a project that I’m enthusiastic about, because as I said earlier, I prefer my writing to stand apart from the trends.) 

BONUS: What is one book that you would consider to be your comfort read that you will always reach for?

One?!? Tule has tons of great comfort reads. But Megan Crane’s Most Dangerous Cowboy (formerly Cody) is a winner for me. 

About the Author.

USA Today Bestselling Author Paula Altenburg lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband and two sons. A former aviation and aerospace professional, Paula now writes contemporary romance and fantasy with romantic elements. You can connect with her at www.paulaaltenburg.com.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By posting a comment, you consent to have your personally identifiable information collected and used in accordance with our privacy policy.