Interview with B.A. Paris

Posted by Goodreads on June 26, 2017
When she was 50 years old, B.A. Paris decided it was finally time to follow her dream of becoming a writer. For decades she'd set aside her creative ambitions in order to raise five daughters. But when her youngest was nearing high school, Paris found she had enough time to write…and write and write.

Over the next five years Paris estimates she finished six novels, which kept getting rejected by agents. "I never let it get me down," she recalls. "I mean, of course when I got the rejection letter, I'd be really disappointed for about five minutes. Then I'd say, OK, write another book." Her only wish, she says, was to go into a local bookstore and see her novel on a shelf.

Last year Paris achieved that and more with her debut novel, Behind Closed Doors. The psychological thriller about a seemingly perfect couple resonated with readers around the world, selling half a million copies in just three months. Now B.A. Paris is back with The Breakdown, a gripping tale about a woman who isn't sure whether she's being stalked by a murderer…or losing her mind. The author talked to Goodreads contributor Kerry Shaw about writing advice, "Second Book Hell," and more.

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Goodreads: Before you started writing, was there a moment that made you say I have to do this now, I have to finish my book?

B.A. Paris: Well, I'd told a couple of my daughters that one day I wanted to write a book. One of them encouraged me to sign up for a competition in one of the newspapers here, The Sunday Times. You had to write an 80,000-word novel. I didn't think I could—I'd always figured I'd write children's stories—but she encouraged me.

So I went to bed that night with an idea. About a week later, I started writing. It wasn't Behind Closed Doors, it was a different novel, but it gave me the bug. I could not stop. I'd fall asleep over the computer at two in the morning. I have never done drugs, but I imagine that's what it's like to have something that you can't quit.

It also happened at a time when my husband had changed jobs, so he was around more to help with the kids. I had a little bit more time and thought, Well, it's my turn now. I'm 50 years old. I've been bringing up children for all these years. I want to do something for myself. And that's what I did.

GR: These days, who are your first readers?

BAP: My daughters and my sister. They're very good critics. They don't want me to make a fool of myself, so they'll tell me if something's boring or not quite right.

GR: Did your friends know about your writing dreams?

BAP: Oh no! I didn't want anybody to know. My friends in France—who I've known for 25 years—only just found out a couple of months ago that I'd had a book published.

One of them was joking that whenever company came over for dinner, they brought a present for the host, but it was always for the woman. He said, "Next time, you bring me a present. And it's got to be handmade!"

I was going to knit him a tie or something really stupid. But my husband kept saying, "You have to tell them!" In the end, I went to dinner and gave my friend my book. I said, "This is the present! I've made it."

My friend opened it and was very confused. The book didn't have my name on it. Then he saw my photo and figured it out. I begged him not to tell anyone. And we were having dinner with about six couples, and he just went and straight told them all.

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GR: When you sat down to write The Breakdown, was it nerve-racking, knowing that your first was so successful?

BAP: Yes. I felt like I had a lot to prove. I'd heard about "Second Book Hell" when I started writing. Every author goes through it, especially when your first book is successful. There is this awful pressure. You just know that some people are going to want you to fail. And there are bound to be readers who say, "Oh my god, the first one was good, but this one was awful!" But so many people have told me they like The Breakdown as much as or better than Behind Closed Doors.

GR: What was your inspiration for The Breakdown?

BAP: I had two ideas. One was a murder story. And then I wanted to do this gaslighting thing. I didn't even know this term, gaslighting, but I learned it the other day. That idea came from a friend whose mother was suffering from dementia. Or so they thought. She had a stay in the hospital, and when she came home, she couldn't use the microwave. She thought it was because she had dementia, but in fact it was because her husband had bought a new one that was more complicated. I thought, What a way to make somebody think she's going mad.

GR: How do you write such suspenseful stories? Do you outline?

BAP: I don't plan anything. I know my opening scene, and I usually know how I want my book to end. But otherwise I just write and get surprised about where the characters take me.

When I sat down to write Behind Closed Doors, I never expected Jack to turn out how he did. But when I was writing, it was like Jack took over. Sometimes when I read back what I'd written the day before, I'd be really shocked and wonder how could I have written something like that. That bit about the dog is awful. My daughters would barely speak to me. They said, "Mummy, how could you?"

I said, "It wasn't me; it was Jack!" And honestly I don't remember ever thinking, "Jack is going to buy a dog for her and then he's going to kill it."

GR: Are there any authors whose works have really inspired you?

BAP: Psychological thrillers aren't what I used to read at all. I love Wilbur Smith. I used to love reading all the Leon Uris books like Trinity. And then James Clavell with Tai-Pan…I grew up on those books.

Now I don't have much time to read because I'm writing. But I love Wendy Walker, Mary Kubica, Sophie Hannah.

GR: Goodreads member Tracy would like to know how has your life changed since the publication of Behind Closed Doors.

BAP: My life's a bit of a fairy tale at the moment. I had been a stay-at-home mom and never really went anywhere. My husband had a job where he traveled all the time, and I was always at home with the children. And now I get invited to parties and events and book festivals: in France, in England, in New York City. I went to Madrid and Oslo. I feel very, very, very, very lucky.

I feel bad sometimes because there are lots of other books that are brilliantly written and deserve to be a success. Maybe they're better written or more literary. A lot of this is down to luck, writing the right book at the right time.

GR: What's been the best part of your success?

BAP: The letters I've had from women. So far, they've all been women. About 25 have written to me, saying, "This is my story." They say thank you for writing, for bringing the idea of psychological control into the open because it's very hard to prove, as there are no bruises. It's just damaging your brain.

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GR: Nelly would like to know why you write as B.A. Paris. She adds, "I have noticed many women writers do not use their first name. Is there a reason for this?"

BAP: Mine is because "Bernadette" is such a long name, and I don't really like it. So I wanted to use my initials. But I didn't use my married name, either, because I wanted to put a little bit of distance between me and my writing.

I came up with "Paris" for two reasons. One because, when I moved to France, I lived in Paris, and I love it. Second, when I was little, I used to take dancing lessons at a place called the Paris School of Dancing. I thought it was so exotic. My teacher was called Miss Paris. Of course, years later, I found out that she wasn't really called Miss Paris. It was just a pseudonym!

GR: Do you Google yourself? That's from Shejuti.

BAP: No. For a long time I didn't even know that I could. This sounds naive, but I'm not a social media person. I have Twitter because I have to have Twitter, and my daughter made me a Facebook page because she says I should have one. She put "B.A. Paris" into Google once. All this stuff came up about me, and I don't know how it got there! But I honestly can say I have never put "B.A. Paris" into Google to see what's there.

GR: Luana would love to know how you feel about comparisons to Gone Girl.

BAP: I could never understand it! Another one I get a lot is The Girl on the Train. Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins must get so fed up with books coming out and people saying, "This is the next Gone Girl!" or "This is the next Girl on the Train!"

When people say that, I think what they mean is, it's the next thing that's gripped people's imaginations. The only real similarity between Gone Girl and Behind Closed Doors is they're both really tense.

GR: Faye asks whether you have any tips for aspiring authors who don't have a lot of time or money.

BAP: If you've got a really good story that you can't leave, you'll find time to write. Whenever you've got a bit of time, just try and write. I know that's really hard if you've got a job or children. But once you're into a story, you'll write all night anyway because you won't want to leave your characters.

The second thing is don't give up. Never, ever, ever give up. If you get rejections, it's fine. Everybody gets rejections. Either you make your book better, or you just write another one.

If you have some money to spend—say, a few hundred dollars—try to get a literary critic to look at your book before you send it off. I did it for one of the first books I wrote. I got some really good feedback that helped me understand where I was going wrong. It's hard, though, because you have to read all these critiques of your work.

GR: On that note, are there any things that you did in terms of your writing career that now seem like a waste of time?

BAP: No. Nothing you've written is a waste of time. I ditched one book after getting about a third of the way through. I thought that was a waste of time, but then I realized that kind of story wasn't really what I wanted to write.

Actually, I think that's the most important writing advice I can offer: Write what you want to write. Don't try to write for the market. There are different people who like different kinds of books, so you don't have to write a psychological thriller. If you want to write a romance book, write a romance book. If you want to write a mystery, do that. Because if your heart isn't in it, you won't write a good book.

Read more of our exclusive author interviews on our Voice page.

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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message 1: by Reshma (new)

Reshma Dear Mam,

Congreats for success and achieve many more.....

I m keen interested for beta reading.....could you give me one chance for that.......

message 2: by Begis (new)

Begis Sultamuratov Dear Mrs.Paris, your creative life is once proven that writing experience will be result of old age and overcoming the life's trials during this period of time. I wish you "sharp pen"and inspiration for the next bestseller novels.

message 3: by Jacquie ♡ (new)

Jacquie ♡ Wow! So far this is the best interview with an author I've read. Not only have each of her responses captured me, it is also motivating and captivating and I haven't even read any of her books! This makes me even more interested in reading her books. I have seen the title of Behind Closed Doors for quite some time and ignored it. I definitely want to read this book. Wow! I am so amazed! Thank you for your honest responses, see you soon in your books!

message 4: by Moirelyn (new)

Moirelyn Jewula Having recently read The Breakdown as a Netgalley member, I am a firm fan of Ms B A Paris. What an interesting interview and such an honest and humble approach to her talent! I will definitely be reading Behind Closed Doors and look forward to reading more from her in the future.

message 5: by NWEKE (new)

NWEKE EMMANUEL It pleased me 2 enjoy ur testimonies madam. Keep active ur dream. Be blessed.
Evang. Emmanuel Nweke.

Mahmudur Rahman Such a refreshingly frank interview. I must add these books to my collection. There's so much to learn but I must admit after 80 odd rejects the ego is deflated and my book is gathering dust.

message 7: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Moirelyn wrote: "Having recently read The Breakdown as a Netgalley member, I am a firm fan of Ms B A Paris. What an interesting interview and such an honest and humble approach to her talent! I will definitely be r..."
I liked Behind Closed Doors----hope you do too!

message 8: by Julie (last edited Jul 07, 2017 09:40PM) (new)

Julie Lynn wrote: "Moirelyn wrote: "Having recently read The Breakdown as a Netgalley member, I am a firm fan of Ms B A Paris. What an interesting interview and such an honest and humble approach to her talent! I wil..."

Lynn wrote: "Moirelyn wrote: "Having recently read The Breakdown as a Netgalley member, I am a firm fan of Ms B A Paris. What an interesting interview and such an honest and humble approach to her talent! I wil..."

The Breakdown
B.A. Paris

B.A. I absolutely loved your new book. Thank you for the opportunity to relish in the fact I was privileged to devour your next "Best Seller." Behind Closed Doors was a fascinating read. The Breakdown almost brought me down. Thank you for writing books that keep me awake at night either to finish what you've started or to wake up and pretend it was just a nightmare. Kudos. Thank you. Keep writing. Keep me guessing.

message 9: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth U. Congratulation to you ma, though i have not read your book but i think you have good job, well done on your success.

message 10: by Flora (new)

Flora Sawyer Great interview - encouraging and helpful!

message 11: by Teresa (new)

Teresa BA I have read both of your books and LOVED them!! Can't wait for the next one! I have passed them around my family and they loved them too! Keep up the great work and your dream!!!

message 12: by T (new)

T Ramon I became a huge fan the moment I started Behind Closed Doors. I finished the book in two days and made it my business to follow your work going forward. Your writing gives me chills that frighten and excite my senses. For me, that's what great writers do. Thank goodness you found the time to follow your dream. We readers are the fortunate ones. Thanks for all the inspiration in this interview. Best of happiness to you and your family, B.A. Paris.

message 13: by Brandon (new)

Brandon Judell Hi! Could you tell Ms. Paris that "gaslighting" comes from the classic 1944 film "Gaslight" with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman?

message 14: by Liz (new)

Liz Lazarus I really enjoyed "Behind Closed Doors" and am so glad to hear the praise for "The Break Down" - it's on my list to read next.
I'm writing my second thriller and find it is much easier ... and instead of writing 130k words and cutting it to 90k, I'll just stop when I get to 90k. ;-) #lessonslearned #secondnovel #baparisfan

message 15: by Steph (new)

Steph This was a lovely interview, thanks for sharing!

message 16: by Tina (new)

Tina O'reilly I loved Behind Closed Doors - an unputdownable book. Well written, just the right amount of trepidation, have recommended it time and time again to others. This interview was great to read, lovely to hear about the author, and inspirational to fellow writers.

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