If the nosedive of the economy and rising airline tickets has nixed the winter vacation or get-away, never fear, Carle Place author Paul Mila has published another rip-roaring novel. His third book Fireworks, published by AuthorHouse, will transport you from a terrorist hideout in the mountains of Pakistan to the warm waters off Mexico before heading to New York City.
Paul Mila relaxing on the beach in Mexico.
According to Mila, Fireworks has something for everyone: courageous kids, bad guys you love to hate, an intuitive retired New York Police Department detective, his sassy smart wife and a wild dolphin. Mila takes the reader on a roller coaster as the terrorists put their plan into place. The book is peppered with action, switchback surprises and sophisticated electronic explosive devices. The subplot of a married couple that works together, treating each other, coworkers and their children with deference and respect is a refreshing counterpoint.
Other than high school and college English and writing classes, Mila said he has never taken a formal writing course, per se. He also never attended a creative writing workshop or belonged to a writers' group.
"I've never signed up for something like 'how to write a novel.' While I would never discourage anyone from taking writing courses, and I probably should take a few, I would never inhibit anyone from trying to write or advise that they must absolutely take a course as a prerequisite to writing. The point: on the job training can be invaluable!" he said, referencing his own experiences with the art.
Mila said he has always been a secret author at heart, enjoying writing. When his elementary school chums were dreading the required essays, Mila relished the opportunity and said that, as a businessman, everyone turned to him to write proposals, reports and eventually a monthly business letter. About a year and a half before Mila retired from the corporate world, he began to wonder if writing his own stories was a viable option. Mila said that as a child he remembered listening to radio shows, always "visualizing the stories."
Mila said he draws his ideas for stories from what impresses and intrigues him, and that the old adage "write what you know" fits, as a dive trip to Cozumel galvanized Mila into a full-fledged author, an author who now has three novels (Dangerous Waters, 2004, Whales' Angels, 2006 and Fireworks, 2008) to his credit. In Cozumel, he found the life of a particular female dive operator compelling enough to base first one character on, this then eventually evolved into an entire cast of characters for his successive books.
When asked if he believes that to be a writer one must also be a reader, Mila agreed, saying that reading not only "makes you a more interesting person," but also gives a beginning writer "a frame of reference and sense of style." He credits his own eclectic reading list in having infused his writing. Mila lists Nelson De Mille's and Tom Clancy's early work as strong influences.
"I have tried to model my plots after Clancy's where the individual plot lines are woven and come together at the climax in surprising ways," Mila said, adding that he also admires De Mille's dynamic characters that frequently have edgy, dry senses of humor. In fact, Mila's protagonist, NYPD retired detective Joe Manetta is fashioned very much along those lines.
In addition, Mila said he admires "Peter Benchley of JAWS fame [who] has the ability to make you care about a character in record time, only a page or two. The best examples are two of his older novels - The Girl of the Sea of Cortez and BEAST." Mila also praises Jimmy Buffet for being "one of the few writers to make The New York Times bestseller list for both fiction and non-fiction. His great, breezy writing style is so descriptive that you will feel you have a suntan minutes after reading his description of a vivid sunset," said Mila.
As for non-fiction, Mila said, "I love stories about the sea and diving, anything about sea creatures; and so he favors "aquatic nature as a category, books like The Fireside Diver by Bonnie Cardone."
Once a story has percolated, Mila begins to draft an outline of the plot arc. Of this process, he said, "I like to know where I am going, to have a roadmap, and although it can and does change along the way, I can begin to flesh out the story."
Mila typically writes between 4-6 hours a day, and he said that once he has begun the novel he stays with it until it is finished, the process of the first draft taking up to 3-4 months. He states however that sometimes he needs to "step back and take a break" from the subject matter. He advocates doing this but cautions "Try not to take too long as it may be hard to pick up the momentum again."
What is more time consuming, Mila explains, is the editing and revision process. He is a firm believer in asking for input from other writers and typically sends the manuscript in draft form to "as many eyes as I can get on it." He then waits for these responses, weighing and evaluating each critique as they come back to him.
Mila welcomes input and believes it is important to avoid being "thin-skinned." "It's how I learn to be a better writer, and it gives me a fresh perspective," he said, adding that although family and friends can be supportive, they may be reluctant to give critical feedback.
The three-time novelist also offers the following advice to people who may say to themselves "I want to write but..."
"Don't be discouraged, do your homework and keep writing!" said Mila. He believes everybody can write, and encourages those with a dream of writing to "give it a shot. You don't know what's going to happen, you might surprise yourself!"
To purchase Fireworks or Mila's other two adventure novels stop by the Book Revue in Huntington, Book Hampton and East End Books both in East Hampton or Barnacle Books in Montauk. His books can also be purchased online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders, through publisher AuthorHouse or at www.milabooks.com.