Writer – Adventurer – Scruffy looking nerf herder.
Paul is a digital nomad and homeschool teacher to his young son as they travel the world. Currently based in rural Bulgaria. Paul spends most of his time butchering the Bulgarian language, explaining general relativity to a twelve-year-old, and renovating a spooky old house in the woods.
An avid traveller, accomplished martial artist, and less-than-accurate archer -Paul’s bucket list is his blueprint for life.
Everyone! I am beyond excited to share this interview with you today… Make sure you read along, think along and celebrate along 😉 I am beyond pleased for Paul! Read on to find out why 😉
Paul, your bio is without a doubt one of the more intriguing ones. Travelling the world with a young son, homeschooling and settling down in rural Bulgaria. I know people in my life who had lived in an apartment block their whole lives and they refused to go to a University outside of their city because they couldn’t imagine being away from their childhood home and neighborhood. Your way of life strikes me as bold, brave and thoroughly difficult in many aspects yet enjoyable and rewarding. What would you say to someone who feels inspired by your bio?
I think travelling and trying out different ways of life is important, and if anyone feels the urge to do it, they should. I think that life is like a book, and moving from one chapter to the next is the only way to get the full story. Staying in one place is like reading a single page over and over again. It can be difficult, especially if you have to learn new languages and customs, but that’s also part of the appeal. But it’s definitely worth it.
From a previous interview of yours, I read you used to work 60 hours a week in UK and it was enough to make ends meet. What do you most enjoy about your present life, compared to the past life in UK, working crazy hours?
Sixty hours was the standard week, during busy times of the year it was closer to eighty. But the long hours weren’t the part that bothered me. It was the effort that I was putting into someone else’s dream. Now that I’ve settled in Eastern Europe, I still work long hours, but I spend those hours building my dream. I have a little house in the woods that I’m renovating, with goats for milk, chickens for eggs, and a large vegetable plot. When I’m not working on the homestead, I spend my time writing and editing. This way of life might not be for everyone, but I love it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I could travel back in time and deliver one piece of advice, I would probably tell myself to quit the rat race and buy a boat in my early twenties. I was almost thirty when I eventually sold all my stuff, quit my job, and moved onto a little houseboat, but that was the start of my current adventure. It was the thing that changed my mindset.
Moving on to your books and your writing. Was writing something you always knew you would eventually do?
Writing was something I always wanted to do, but didn’t have the time to sit down and learn the craft. I’ve always been an avid reader, but moving onto the boat and living a slower life allowed me to dedicate the time required.
Any other hidden talents?
Well, I don’t do it as often as I would like, but I used to ice-climb to a fairly high standard. I do a bit of rock-climbing now and then, but I’m not as good without my ice axes and crampons.
Terror Forming is your newest book, a sci-fi horror novella. Your previous titles fall under fantasy and horror. What drew you towards sci-fi?
I saw a really cool submission call from Tenebrous Press, and although I was too late to submit a polished story, it gave me a new challenge. I’d never written anything in the sci-fi/space opera genre before, so I thought I’d give it a go. I enjoy stories like Star Wars and the Alien franchise more than hardcore sci-fi, and I think that shows in Terror Forming. Although, I have just started a new novel that delves a little deeper into the tech side of sci-fi.
I always feel like sci-fi is a genre that needs intelligence. To write it and to read it, I feel like some analytical bit from the brain has to be working to fully visualize, and sometimes even understand some aspects of. For example, I once read this classic sci-fi book where a cylindrical sea was within a spaceship and I had a really hard time conceptualizing it, particularly as some acticity with the characters was taking place near and around it. Luckily, my buddy reader is way smarter and he explained everything by using a teacup and stirring coffee in it really fast. Is writing sci-fi a bit of a challenge? Threading the thin line in between fictional whilst, for the more knowing and nitpickier reader, maintaining the realistic side of it all?
I agree completely. That’s one reason I stayed away from the hardcore stuff. All sci-fi requires an element of scientific accuracy, but it needs the flexibility of fiction, otherwise the more knowing readers will literally pick it apart. Suspension of disbelief is an unspoken agreement between reader and writer. Readers go into a book knowing that it’s a work of fiction, but the writer has to make the ideas believable. One way of doing that is to say what technology can do without explaining in too much detail. The more technical detail an author includes, but more likely they are to get something wrong.
Artificial Intelligence has a strong presence now both in fiction and in real life. What’s your take on AI – is it an opportunity, or is it a bit scary? A bit of both?
I think it’s both. In an ideal world AI would make lives easier and give people more time for creative pursuits. Unfortunately, AI is being used in creative endeavours like art, thereby removing the human element. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and people will always use tools to make a profit. I briefly considered using AI to generate the artwork for Terror Forming, thinking it would be a good link to the AI characters in the book. In the end, I hired human designers for the cover and character art. I like the look of some of the AI generated images, but the fact that they steal from human artists turned me off the idea. That and the fact that human artists need to eat.
Thinking about writing in general, which is more important- opening line or closing sentence?
I think writers often place too much emphasis on the opening line. It’s certainly important, but the inciting incident usually occurs within the first three chapters, giving the writer plenty of time to hook the reader’s attention. Whereas the closing sentence is the last opportunity an author gets to punch the reader in the gut, create a cliffhanger, or confirm the happy-ever-after. I think the The Nightcrawler is the best example of this in my own writing.
What is your writing pet peeve?
Love triangles. There is a special place in hell for authors who write drawn out love triangles.
Talking of pet peeves, is there a scene, a character or a genre you will never write about?
Probably not, there are tropes and scenes that need to be handled with care, but nothing that I would blacklist. Apart from the prolonged love triangle of course…
How would you describe your style of writing? Are you more of a dialogue writer or do you enjoy writing descriptions to help the reader visualize? Serious or cheeky? Bold or cautious?
I like to think I’m a bold writer. Most of my works centre around serious topics, so I try not to take them too lightly. I wrote Terror Forming during the same time that the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. The book doesn’t tackle the issues of reproductive rights, but it includes them. As for world building, I try to let the dialogue build on the descriptions as much a possible. With novellas like Terror Forming and The Nightcrawler, page space is limited, so it’s important to make each word count.
You can have dinner with 3 authors, dead or alive, who will you choose and why?
I’d love to sit down with Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, and Brandon Sanderson. What an awesome learning experience that would be.
What’s next for P.A. Sheppard?
Just this morning (20th January, 2023), I received an email from Aphotic Realm, confirming that they want to publish the next book in the Still Extant series. So fans of The Nightcrawler can expect another instalment later this year.
As for my next publication, I plan to release my longest book so far, The Wolves of Amleth. An 880 page epic fantasy novel inspired Norse mythology and my experiences while exploring Scandinavia. The Wolves of Amleth will be out on the 1st of March this year.
Outside of writing, I’ve just bought a dozen beehives, so I’m hoping to harvest some honey without too many stings. I feel this new hobby will have a steep learning curve.
Website I Goodreads I Amazon I Twitter
Okay. I mean… CONGRATULATIONS, PAUL! Hahaha, I am still kind of screaming in my head since that email on Friday last… I was so happy to hear of the book contract news, I may have done a little happy dance/wiggle. Good news are hard to come by these days so everyone’s good news feel like a big deal to me, too! 🙂
And beehives? Man, you’re going to be reaping some sweet-sweet rewards! I will be reading Terror Forming next and then The Nightcrawler, and then will dip into Paul’s fantasy, too.. so I better bloody like the books because Paul’s bio is kind of my #lifegoals, except I am a wuss and probably will settle for far less exciting! … Still, no shame in admitting here that I admire the guy for the life he has made himself!
So, I would like to wish Paul happy writing, happy Bulgarian home-making, happy homeschooling memories
and other adventures!
Great interview Liz. Interesting author indeed. Lots of great cover art too. I will check his work out soon as I get a chance
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a little happy dance/wiggle….hahaha
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🤣 yeah, I’m young at heart…
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Very VERY interesting. 👏👏👏
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