Conversations with author Pauletter Mahurin, who wrote The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, via emails and messages have always been a pleasure. She’s passionate about many facts of life, animal rescue and rehabilitation toping the list. She talks to IBR about her book, the very true-to-real-life plot, her writing inspirations, and more… Read on.
Shana Susan Ninan: I cried when I read your book. I cried ‘cos I could relate to the various characters and the direction of the plot. When you wrote the story did you think of how the reader would react?
Paulette Mahurin: First let me say thank you so much Shana for having me over to your great site, for your time and generosity in reading and reviewing my book, and helping to shine a light on tolerance.
I’ve had feedback from several readers that the story made them cry, the ending in particular which unexpectedly reveals the unintended consequence of acts of hatred. I could relate to the characters as well which may sound odd being that I am the author of the work but in reality they spoke to me and told me their stories, some through people I know and have worked with, one person in particular who committed suicide because he was gay, others from things I read about the history of lesbians, and then the varied emotions I see surrounding me in every day life, inside my head and that of others. We are all shades of the human condition, no one escapes loss and death, and some of us with compassionate hearts, sensitive souls, see these things even in fictionalized stories.
I felt the reader would react as all humans react when faced with anything, through their own subjective personal experience, conditioning, emotions, and knew it’d be all over the place. The reviews reflect this from hating it because it has a lesbian protagonist and it violates their belief system to loving it and finding God through the words of the story. I kid you not; one reader wrote to the book’s Facebook page this story helped her find her God. That floored me. I’m a practical person and don’t hold out a lot of expectations which lends to some lovely surprises as I move along in this journey called life.
SSN: How did this storyline come to you?
PM: I had been working with a person who was in the closet (as a medical provider) here in the United States. The person was tortured and abused as a child and shared this with me in confidence. It weighed on me and was present in my mind while I was in a writing class and came across a photo of two women, dressed circa turn of the twentieth century. We had to do an exercise using a photo and write a ten-minute mystery. The two factors melded together and out came the theme of the story line—a lesbian couple on the frontier afraid of being found out. It continued to haunt me after that class was over, demanding I write about it. Out poured the story, which was published six years later. The time lag was due to my having a chronic illness and limited time to put into writing as well as the amount of research and editing that all went into the book.
SSN: Fictionalised true events or pure fiction, what appeals to you as a writer?
PM: What appeals to me is the story, does it grab and hold my attention, do I relate to it, want to read it, and am I sorry when the last page is turned and it’s ended. Whether it’s fictionalized true events or pure fiction, if I’m not engaged than that speaks for what I like or not. I do find it fascinating that anything one can imagine has probably actually taken place lending to the old adage that fact is weirder than fiction. When one comes across these pieces of info it’s so interesting. I found a lot of that in writing this book, the debacle Oscar Wilde went through, how lesbians were treated on the frontier, right down to the details of aspects of daily living: what they ate, how they cooked, dressed, survived when their money ran out, etc. I loved, and got way too sidetracked, cruising down history lane as I wrote. The upside is it helped expand a few of my cerebral gray cells, lol. continue reading…