A DECADE-long writing journey has resulted in a publishing deal for a Warwickshire author with household name Penguin.
Paula Greenlees, who lives near Henley, finally landed a deal for her book Journey to Paradise set in Colonial Singapore.
The book follows Miranda who is forced to move there with her husband and who struggles to fit in the expat community.
The story was inspired by Paula’s own move there in 1986 for her husband’s job at Singapore University.
Unlike her protagonist, Paula – a new mother at the time – found support among other women who had similarly moved to the city from overseas.
But the major life change made her consider what it must have been like for women who had been forced to move to post-war Singapore, when the island was returned from Japanese to British rule.
Paula said: “Despite the gloss and glamour of colonial living, women were frequently stuck in unhappy marriages, often unable to follow careers or have the independence they craved. If your marriage went wrong, there was little chance of leaving it – you had to put up with it.
“My interest was further piqued by a visit from my in-laws who had both been out in the east during and after World War II. They had many interesting recollections about life in Singapore during this era, which fired up my imagination.”
It was the shift from colonialism to independence, Paula described as ‘a fierce energy’ and ‘a pulse in the city’, which inspired her character.
She added: “In many ways, my main protagonist is a metaphor for Singapore. She’s someone who breaks free from her current existence and finds independence, much as Singapore was doing at the time.
“I am also very much interested in the role of women, how difficult it was to pack up your unhappy life and move on. Miranda, my protagonist, arrives still suffering from the loss of her baby – the affects of which weren’t always sympathetically dealt with at the time, even by husbands and other mothers.”
The novel – from first draft to final publication’ took the writer around a decade – a feat she found little less than a miracle.
She said: “I kept pinching myself when I got taken on by my agent. I thought that this must have been my absolute highlight on my publishing journey, but then two publishing houses were interested in my novel and offered me a two-book deal, thus creating a very difficult decision for me.”
Her advice to aspiring writers includes joining different writing groups and to take criticism on board.
She added: “When you’ve finished your novel, don’t send it out too soon. Stick it in a drawer and come back to it later with very fresh eyes.
“You only get one shot with each agent so you have to make sure your work is it’s best.”
Journey to Paradise is available from Amazon and Waterstones book stores.
Paula’s second book The Forgotten Promise – as part of her two-book deal – will be out later this year.