Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Long History of 'Changing the Future'

As I received the paperback copies of my latest release 'Changing the Future' today, I thought I'd re-post here a blog I did for Rosemary Gemmell last week (at I'm sure she won't mind!

‘Changing the Future’ has had a long history!

Four years ago, while on holiday in the USA, I happened to meet a Harlequin best-selling author who, on hearing that I’d had 3 books published by HQ in the 60’s and 70’s, encouraged me to start writing romances again.

When I got home, I found the box in which I’d dumped a pile of half-written stories 30+ years earlier when I was a divorced and single parent with two young daughters and a full-time teaching career, and simply didn’t have any time to devote to writing.

One novel was complete but was rejected by HQ in the 70’s. At that time they wanted brooding and domineering alpha-men as their heroes so my story of two teachers who meet again (at a school in North West England), a few years after an acrimonious break-up obviously didn’t fit their new formula.
The original ms, typed
on a portable typewriter

I thought about this story and, as I was still setting my sights on Harlequin, decided to re-locate the story in America. The heroine became a teacher at a college in Virginia but I decided the hero had to have a more upmarket job. He’d previously been a geography teacher; instead, I decided (or maybe he decided?) he was a famous volcano expert. What did I know about volcanoes? Nothing, apart from the fact that they occasionally erupt and send ash clouds into the sky!

I started reading up about volcanoes in general, and specifically those in Hawaii. I studied photos and videos, and read a lot of reports and first-hand accounts of eruptions. At the same time, I was checking my facts about American colleges with a couple of friends.

Six months later, I sent the ms. to Harlequin, and then had to wait for nine months for them to reject it! By this time, I’d written another novel which had been accepted (by another publisher) and was part way through two more. So the volcano story was put to one side.

I picked it up again last autumn. By this time, I was well aware of its weaknesses, particularly too many flashback scenes which slowed it down in the first few chapters, but I still thought it had possibilities, so I settled down to another re-write. I moved the setting (again!) back to England, abandoned the flashbacks, and added several more scenes to develop the relationship between the hero and heroine. Hawaii was now too far away, so I had to start researching volcanoes in Iceland. I made masses of notes but probably used only about five percent of what I’d found out about volcanic eruptions. However, that other ninety-five percent of research was necessary to ensure my five percent was reasonably accurate!

The final version of ‘Changing the Future’ is very different from the one I wrote back in the 70’s (I think I retained and adapted about three scenes from that original story). It’s different, too, from the re-write I did four year ago, not simply because of the different setting, but also because writing my other novels taught me a lot about tightening my writing style and developing my characters.

P.S. And, just to show that research for novels can come in useful elsewhere, I did win a point for my team in a quiz when I knew what a correlation spectrometer measures!

The final product - after 30+ years!


Lisa Marshall is stunned when celebrated volcanologist Paul Hamilton comes back into her life at the college where she now teaches. Despite their acrimonious break-up several years earlier, they soon realise the magnetic attraction between them is stronger than ever. However, the past is still part of the present, not least when Paul discovers Lisa has a young son. They can’t change that past, but will it take a volcanic eruption to help them change the future?

‘Changing the Future’ available from Amazon, as e-book or paperback


  1. From England to VA to England - that's quite the journey for setting.

  2. I decided I was happier with an English setting, Libby, since obviously I'm more familiar with it! But I do venture to Iceland for part of the story.

  3. Perfect reason why you should never "trash" anything you write... ever! Congrats Paula!

  4. Thanks, Loni. You're right, it's worth keeping everything, because eventually you might be able to revive it!

  5. That is such a fantastic story and it really gives credence to the theory that no writing is ever wasted. Thank you for sharing :)

    ~ Rhonda Parrish

  6. You can never keep a good story idea down, Paula. btw, you have a typo in the typewriter caption. LOL

  7. LOL Adrienne, I hadn't noticed that! Maybe I should get you to proof-read for me!