I first interviewed Paul V Walters back in January 2013 after reading the first two books in his Jonathan Savage thriller series. Since then he’s finished the series and published a short story collection that I’ve just read and reviewed—which was the impetus for this catch-up interview. That, and wanting to find out more about his never-endingly interesting life.
Alana: Hi Paul, it’s terrific to catch up with you again and I’m not letting you go until you’ve told us everything about life as you know it nowadays. A move to Bali, freelance article writing around the world, plus two more books since we last spoke. Let’s start with the move from Queensland to Bali. How and when did that come about?
Paul: My life has always seemed to revolve around making impulsive decisions, and I guess this was another to add to the mix. After I sold my advertising agency I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. Fortunately I’m married to an extremely clever and talented woman whose skills are needed in the education field in developing countries. When we were wondering what we should do (or should I say, what I should do) the phone rang with an offer of an exciting project for Elisabeth in Bali. After debating for all of 3 seconds we both looked at each other and said…”Hell, let’s go!”
Alana: Do you retain a foothold in Australia?
Paul: Less, less and less these days. We have our youngest daughter there who is finishing a degree at Queensland University but apart from that not much really. Recently we sold the family home, the investment properties, cars, appliances and everything else that filled our lives. It was a liberating experience!!!!
Alana: Wow! A brave move, but how exciting! I believe you started out using Bali as your base when you wrote the first two books in the series: FINAL DIAGNOSIS and BLOWBACK. Was that still your modus operandi for the third and final book COUNTERPOINT?
Paul: I finished the third book while ‘on the road’ so to speak. Elisabeth and I travel a lot and I would use the evenings when we stopped for the day to type out a chapter. My journals, filled with notes along the way, were a great help. I ended up finishing the book in Bali although the island doesn’t feature at all.
Alana: My admiration has just gone up in leaps and bounds that you had the energy and willpower to do that! Did you have an association with the island before you began to write?
Paul: I visited Bali on a few occasions and at one point attended the Ubud Writers Festival. At the time I had a manuscript in my bag, which was the first novel I had ever written. I had no idea what to do with it and was hoping for some guidance from somebody at the festival. Fate intervened when I shared a table with an Indian stranger in a crowded café. He was a charismatic diplomat and the current Indian Ambassador to Japan. After chatting for a while I discovered that I was sitting with Vikas Swarup who told me his book Q & A had recently been turned into, as he put it, “ a small film that they named Slum dog Millionaire”. He was incredibly generous in sharing with me the methods he used in getting published and I took his advice (and shamelessly, his contacts) and viola!
Alana: I take the view that he wouldn’t have shared if he wasn’t okay with that. And there’s no point in letting information go to waste!
Paul: The first publisher I approached took the novel … a fluke one might say!!
Alana: Well done! And well deserved. Getting back to Bali, give us an insight into your typical day. What do you do? Where do you go? What do you see?
Paul: It always intrigues me that 99% of visitors to this place spend all of their time confined to .5% of the island and never venture beyond the confines of their resorts. To me Bali is a treasure trove and one I will never get tired of exploring. There are over 70,000 temples here, a culture that stretches back 5000 years, and impossibly beautiful places that will take your breath away. And then there are the people. The Balinese I do believe are infused with the ‘nice’ gene at birth as they are some of the most wonderful, loving and warm people on this planet. They also smile pretty much all the time. So when S & P (sloth and procrastination) doesn’t envelope me I get out and about. I write for several magazines here and around the world and Bali is always a topic they want covered and so off I toddle to get the story and the photographs … it’s a fun job!!
Alana: It certainly sounds like it. You travel to some very far-flung and interesting places in search of topics for articles. How did this side to writing come about? Are the articles commissioned or do you write them and then find a market? Where are some of the places you’ve been and what topics have you written about?
Paul: I feel a little blessed most of the time. A couple of years ago I ran into an editor who runs a high circulating English Language magazine and she asked if I would consider writing a piece for her on a well known artist from Bali. I did and suddenly I was swamped with requests from other Vox Pop publications wanting material. I then branched out and began to scribble for in-flight journals for several of the major international carriers. Most of the pieces are commissioned; however, I will often fire off a story to a magazine covering a place I have recently travelled to. I travelled by road right across the north of the Indian sub-continent in December and January of this year and gathered a wealth of material. After that trip a 5 week stint in Africa followed which has given me more than enough material to last for a few more months. Next month I’m off to Borneo to take a river cruise into the heart of Kalimantan. So as I said, I feel blessed to be able to get to go to wonderful places, stay in fabulous hotels and then get paid for the privilege!
Alana: You finished the Jonathan Savage series a while back and then made a genre move to short stories with the just-published LOOKING FOR LIONEL collection. What inspired that?
Paul: In addition to writing for magazines I also produce a weekly blog on all matters trivial. (www.paulvwalters.com) I was rather attracted to the concept of a bite-sized read as I thought it would be easy. How wrong I was when it came to the crafting of a short story. I take my hat off to the Alice Munroe’s of this world, as crafting a short story is no easy task! Many of the stories in the Lionel anthology have been ‘hanging around ‘ for years and the bottom drawer needed a clean out so this was a good way to get them out of the way. At my publisher’s urging I also included several published articles that have appeared over the years and these are 1000 words and sometimes a little less which appear at the back of the book.
Alana: Will Jonathan Savage make a return at some stage, do you think, or has his story been told?
Paul: He has moved on and his time with me has finished. However, I have retained D.I. John Moore as a character to fill the role of the hero. I kind of like his ribald, sarcastic sense of humor and I did miss him after I finished the trilogy.
Alana: I know you’ve just published LOOKING FOR LIONEL so this may be a bit premature, but do you have any more stories on the drawing board?
Paul: I have returned to my familiar genre, which is a thriller. I have another novel that is chugging along (slowly) and it has the working title, Scimitar. All going well and, if I am able to ward of the sloth and procrastination, it just might be ready for Christmas.
Alana: I look forward to reading it. Paul, thanks for being so patient and indulging my curiosity. Talk to you again soon.
Paul: Thanks Alana, always a pleasure and I look forward to seeing you at the next Ubud Writers festival. As they say, “if you never go, you’ll never know.“
Alana: How right you are! ☺ Cheers.
Take this link to my review of LOOKING FOR LIONEL