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An Interview with Paula de Carvalho

Exclusives’ Julie Wood recently conducted an email interview with South African author Paula de Carvalho, to find out a little more about her and her book, Playing with Fire. The interview went as follows:

EB: You had your first book, Playing with Fire, published in 2009, so are still relatively new to the writing scene. For our readers who perhaps haven’t heard of you yet, would you mind please giving us a brief overview of who you are?
Paula: I’m 37 years old, and I was born in Mozambique but brought up in South Africa. I went to Assumption Convent from Grade 1 to Matric, and then to the University of Witwatersrand where I did a BA degree (I majored in Portuguese and Law). I’ve been married for fifteen years and my husband and I live in Kempton Park, together with our two dogs.

EB: Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

Paula: Yes I do, I work as an English editor at the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), which means I check the grammatical accuracy of South African national standards and technical specifications. Before that I worked at a language institute where I taught foreigners how to speak English.

EB: Have you always wanted to write?

Paula: Yes. As far back as standard six, I remember writing ideas for stories during class, trying not to let the teacher catch me. I’ve still got those notes (rather yellowed with age!). It’s always been my passion.

EB: What inspires you?

Paula: That’s hard to pin point because it’s not one specific thing. I can be watching a movie, or listening to a song, or even paging through a magazine and suddenly an idea will pop into my mind. And once the idea is there, the characters emerge and before I know it, the story is developing by itself – I often see it like a movie in my mind.

EB: Who are your favourite authors?

Paula: I enjoy Janet Evanovich, Diana Gabaldon, Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Clive Cussler, and David Morrell, to name but a few. I love to read!

EB: Please tell us a bit about your debut novel, Playing with Fire.

Paula: Playing with Fire is a contemporary romance thriller primarily about a policewoman, Sara, who encounters a mysterious man (whom she falls in love with) while she’s investigating the crimes of a sadistic serial killer. And what happens when she has to face the prospect that they might be one and the same. We follow Sara as she tries to discover the identity of the killer before she becomes his next victim.

EB: Could you please give us some more information about your main character, Sara?

Paula: Sara is a Portuguese girl who was raised by conservative parents and subsequently breaks the mould by entering the police force. (I thought it would be fun to make her Portuguese because then I could draw on my own experiences growing up.) Sara’s career takes off, and she becomes a police detective in record time – but she can be a bit reckless with her own safety in her desire to fight crime (what I call her ‘superhero complex’), which we see right at the beginning of the book where she single-handedly tries to take on robbers that are carrying out a jewellery store heist. When it comes to love, Sara has thus far been unlucky: all the guys her mother sets her up with aren’t very comfortable with the idea that she carries a gun and knows how to use it!

EB: Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Paula: Yes, it’s called Once Bitten and follows the events in the life of a woman who was at the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessed a murder which forced her to enter the witness protection program. And what happens to her when the person she testified against finds her again.
EB: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Paula: I would say keep writing no matter what, and don’t give up on your dreams. 

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