“I See Everything with Catholic-colored Glasses” – An Interview with Catholic Writer C. L. Paur
Most Recent Book: Stories
Education: BS Psychology, MA Communications
Current Employment: Writer
Profile: Trying to be a faithful Catholic living out my vocation as a wife, mother and writer.
List of Books Published:
Waves (a sequel to Stories, forthcoming)
Favorite Quote: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill.
Favorite Poem: “Bowtiden” by Elizabeth Paur (my daughter).
Favorite Novel: The Idiot by Dostoevsky.
Favorite Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).
Favorite Painting: Still Life with Flowers and Fruit by Rachel Ruysch.
Favorite Piece of Music: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi.
Favorite Song: I Can See Clearly Now, by Johnny Nash (secular) O Sanctissima (religious).
Favorite Place to be: On my back patio watching my girls play.
Favorite Meal: Chicken thighs cooked on the grill with barbeque sauce, corn on the cob – sopping with butter and salt, and fresh bread with a glass of Merlot.
Favorite Cocktail: Southern Comfort Old Fashion.
Last Book you read: Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.
Last Movie you saw: Enchanted (2007)
Last Trip you took: Great Smoky Mountains
Last non-literary feat you accomplished: Getting my eldest daughter graduated from eighth grade so she could begin high school.
CatholicFiction.net: Why do you write?
C. L. Paur: My reasons are threefold. First, it is an act of obedience to my calling; second, I want to be a part of the renewal of the culture; third, because I do really like it.
CF: What first inspired you to become a writer?
CLP: I was ten-years-old when I wrote my first story. Not sure why, but being born with a cleft palate, and having to deal with the surgeries, speech therapy, trips to Madison (yearly checkups at the University Hospital) and the teasing, I think writing was an outlet for me.
CF: If you were a critic writing about your own books, how would you describe the defining characteristic of your writing style?
CLP: Straightforward. I can’t stand reading books that go on and on describing a particular scene or feeling. I like to get right to the point.
CF: Is there a favorite place you have to write?
CLP: My favorite place would be a quaint cottage in England, but my usual workspace is also the classroom where I teach my children. I do get to look out the window, something I have done all my life, even as a student. I wake up around 6 in the morning, read my bible readings, eat breakfast, catch up on news or Facebook/Twitter. By 7 a.m. I try to get to writing – either my blog, or on my next novel, Waves. Sometimes I need to write for pro-life things or other issues that pop up.
CF: What is your cure for writer’s block?
CLP: Write. Writer’s block, in my mind, is just an excuse not to write. Just put something down – more than likely you’ll have to rewrite it anyway.
CF: What is your cure for procrastination?
CLP: Confession. I sometimes try to rationalize why I’m skipping out on writing, but it really weighs on my soul. Though I’m not a brilliant writer by any means, I believe God did instill this talent in my very being. Thus, when I don’t write (for any lame excuse) I feel I need to ask God for forgiveness for not using his talent.
CF: Describe in your own words what the “Catholic imagination” is – or alternatively, what it means to be a “Catholic writer.”
CLP: I see everything with Catholic colored glasses. I contrast or view my characters through those lenses. It’s hard when you’re trying to depict characters that have never had any Catholic upbringing.
CF: What three writers – alive or dead – would you like to invite to dinner? Why?
CLP: G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens and a toss up between Russian writers Leo Tolstoy or Fyodor Dostoevsky. I honestly have never been able to get into Chesterton’s writings, but he seems like a gregarious fellow who would have a belly laugh that would get the room in a jovial mood. Then he’d say something in which the other authors would shift uncomfortably in their seats. For Dickens, Tolstoy/Dostoevsky, I’d ask them why they wrote what they wrote, and if their writings impacted the culture at large. Of course, I’d ask that to Chesterton as well.
CF: What would you serve them – appetizer, main course, dessert and drink? Why?
CLP: Appetizer: Stuffed mushrooms with Merlot; Grilled Steak, potatoes, salad with Merlot; and Trifle with strong coffee. Why? Because even if the conversation waned, I think they’d enjoy the food. I like steak and I think most men do. Of course, I would check to make sure they’re not vegetarians.
CF: What is the “best thing” about being a writer? And what do you enjoy most?
CLP: Flexibility. Though I get to my writing every morning, I don’t have to get dressed and drive to an office everyday. I can be home with my children, yet still write. Also, putting words together in different patterns to create a mood or to create a character.
CF: What is your latest book about? Provide a one-sentence synopsis.
CLP: Catharine Zimmer’s deception follows her to the grave.
CF: What inspired you to write this story in the first place? Where did the story line come from?
CLP: Someone from my parish died around the same time a famous person died (I can’t remember now who these two people were). I wondered if they would have met as they took the journey to their final resting place. Also, being a member of a Divine Mercy cenacle, I pondered God’s mercy. We have learned His mercy is greater than any sin. I chose three characters that obviously didn’t live holy lives, but I asked in the story, “Could they still end up in heaven?”
CF: Did you hold onto the idea for a long time before giving it shape, or did it come together in a flash?
CLP: It actually happened rather quickly (I have a couple of novels that are only a few chapters long – still waiting for completion). Stories came to me, and it was written within a year. Of course, that doesn’t include rewrites and an editor review, but it went quickly for me.
CF: All fiction comes from a mix of past influences and impressions – things we’ve lived, seen, imagined, or read. Can you talk about some of the elements that came together to shape this particular fiction?
CLP: Again, Divine Mercy and also my love of politics. How does Divine Mercy merge into the culture? With Stories it was somewhat difficult because I had no personal contacts with a dictator, a woman who became paralyzed or an atheistic movie director. But, we all sometimes act in ways that mirror these characters. Also, though certain people seem so far removed from us, either by distance of lifestyles, I believe we have an obligation to pray for them, and seek their conversion. My main character, Catharine, was very comfortable in her life, paying very little heed to the sufferings of others. I think we all get that way sometime in our lives.
CF: What did you learn about yourself in writing this book?
CLP: That I could actually finish a book.
CF: What did you have to do to prepare for this book in terms of research, etc.?
CLP: I read different articles on dictators. I also watched YouTube for various south American celebrities to hear their dialects. I also went to some atheistic websites (something I really abhorred). Also, I found four different photos of people, copied those images, and used those images to help me describe the characters. There was a blond male model for Adrien, a curly-hair, dark Hispanic man for Aleric, a blond, pale woman for Ursula and a long hair, red head for Catharine. Under those pictures I wrote what each one liked to eat, their favorite flower, their family, and many other characteristics. I wanted to ensure the characters were not flat. I needed the visual image of the characters as I wrote about them.
CF: How does this book differ from either a) previous books you’ve written or b) other writing work you’ve accomplished?
CLP: Since I’m a journalist, the book is different primarily because I’ve used my imagination to illustrate the characters and the plot.
CF: What was the most challenging aspect – a character, a plot point, etc. – of writing this book?
CLP: Typos. I’m terrible at typing and spelling. Apart from the mechanical aspects of writing, I guess writing the characters was the most difficult. I had to create characters that were believable, yet distinct and unique.
CF: Which characters in this book did you find most challenging to work with, and what was it like to write with them? Conversely, do you have any characters that came particularly easily to you?
CLP: They all posed special challenges to me since their lives were so different from mine. For Aleric I kept having to ask myself, “How did this man become so evil?” And the answer had to be believable. For Ursula, her life is basically a tragedy, whereas my life, for the most part, has been one of amazing blessings. Finally, Adrien, the atheist, I was so worried about making him flat and predictable.
CF: Creating a work of fiction is a spiritual journey in itself. Can you talk about your own spiritual life—realizations, doubts, crises, etc. – that came during the writing of this work?
CLP: It sure is a spiritual journey, and it hasn’t stopped yet. Trying to promote the book has had its own set of challenges. I think for me, however, is the constant self-doubt I’ve had about writing. Over and over I have had incidents where it is clear that God wanted me to write, but I kept ignoring the call. Finally, I asked the now Venerable Fulton Sheen to pray for me. I got my answer in my heart a week later – very loud and clear. I realized that God doesn’t always call the best, but he calls the willing and obedient.
CF: Name one good habit you do have as a writer and would like to continue to cultivate.
CLP: Writing at least an hour a week. Sounds pathetic, but I wasn’t even writing five seconds a week before.
CF: Name one bad habit you have as a writer that you would like to break.
CLP: Blowing off work when I’m mad or upset about something.
CF: Name one good habit you would like to have as a writer and do not have at the moment.
CLP: To be able to write a thousand words a day.
CF: What one book by another author do you wish you had written?
CLP: Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky.
CF: What is the most discouraging aspect of being a writer?
CLP: Sometimes people don’t always understand the work involved in writing a book (or writing a 1,500 word article). They’ll ask, “What do you do?” I’ll respond, “I’m a writer.” And then they’ll say, “Oh, I want to write a book,” as if it’s as easy as ordering a Happy Meal. Critics are also discouraging. But, I try to discern if the criticism will help me or it’s only intended to be malicious. If it’s helpful, I try to incorporate the advice. If it’s mean-spirited, I try to pray for the person (people).
CF: If given the chance, what fictional world would you like to inhabit?
CLP: Most fictional worlds are wrought with conflict, so the only fictional world I’d like to live in is my made up one where I get to tour old cities and churches, take boat rides, have afternoon tea, tour some more, then have a great dinner with family and friends. Probably not what you’re looking for, but one can dream.
CF: What one project do you daydream about accomplishing as a writer – your magnum opus?
CLP: Having my screenplay Valentine produced. I have so many projects I want to complete, that I am not waiting until it’s produced to continue writing. I’m praying someone will see my other work, then give Valentine a chance.
CF: If you could no longer work with words, what medium would you work in to create art?
CLP: Painting and sculpting. Since teaching my daughters, I have learned so much about art and the great artists. Now, when I look at great work (which sadly isn’t being produced too much these days) I have a greater appreciation for the piece.