12. Sep, 2016

An Interview With Paula Smith - Author Of First There Was Pain

An interview with Paula Smith

After Reading First There Was Pain, I was extremely intrigued about this book and its author, and Paula very kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

Thank you Paula for taking time out to answer a few questions.

And a big thanks to you Rachel for putting together this interview.


You’re very welcome. First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your new book, First There Was Pain?

I am very happily married with three girls, an ex-racehorse and a Staffordshire bull terrier. I am a mature student, about to start a biology degree at Blackburn College. I have worked with horses most of my life, but I have also worked in a secondary school. I am always extremely busy, and tend to juggle several projects at one time. Currently I am training my thoroughbred horse to compete in dressage, show-jumping and eventing. I am also writing novels, doing up a house and garden, in the middle of an extension, doing up a horsebox with hubby and renovating furniture. My husband and I bought and renovated an old farmhouse a few years back, spent a fortune in the process, and then lost everything. We have started over, and we’re doing okay. My first novel, First There Was Pain, includes many aspects of my own life, particularly the farmyard setting later in the book. Judith, the main character, begins life on the streets of Blackburn, and is later taken to a farm in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire.


First There Was Pain is a pretty harrowing tale, what was your inspiration behind it?

My father was brought up in Blackburn Orphanage, and it followed that I developed an affinity with children brought up in care. As a home/school liaison officer I occasionally visited dysfunctional families. What I found in some of these homes, shocked and upset me so much, that it made me realise just how lucky some of us are. Some of the pupils that were under my umbrella suffered from abuse, neglect and cruelty. As a result, they had psychological issues that were difficult to address, and even more difficult to treat. One particular girl had an awful lot of bad luck, and she never did learn to read or write properly. I was never able to help this girl enough, because just as we were making progress, she moved away. My first chapters are based on actual events, but then I wanted to lift my main character out of her abusive environment, and sent her on a journey. I created a bumpy passage, filled with intrigue, unusual relationships, murder and unrequited love.

 I have always loved the English countryside, and so I included animals and a farmyard setting for part of the novel.   


What three words would you use to describe your book?

Disturbing, menacing, hopeful,



How long did it take you to write First There Was Pain?

While I was doing an access course in biosciences last year, I did a rough draft over a twelve-month period. It was hard to give the novel much time because the access course was very fast paced. Once my studies finished in June, I started editing First There Was Pain. It then took me three months to make an idea into a novel.


If your book was made into a film, which actors would you have playing your main characters?

Alistair Bell - Jeremy Sheffield

Judith Foster - Kaya Scodelario

Vicky Foster - Daniella Westbrook

Kieran Pendlebury - Nick Robinson

Prissy - Judi Dench

When did you discover your love of writing?

I wrote poetry from a very early age, and often had my poems displayed on the school walls. I have always kept a diary, and I have always been a story teller. I used to make up stories for my brother and sister, and then later for my three little girls. I have always written long letters and emails to friends, and it was my sister-in-law that told me that I really ought to write something. That something was an autobiography, and I had a lot of fun writing it. That was the spark, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I probably have eight or nine novels on the go at this moment in time, and until recently I had nothing completed. My daughters and my husband badgered me into completing at least one of them; so I did. It was just a case of being disciplined, and seeing something through to the end. I believe that writing is a process, and that one is always learning from it. I also believe that it is very addictive, because now I am itching to complete my next.


When starting a new story, do you plan out the route in which your story is going to take? Or do you just go with the flow?

I start with an idea and then I think it through in my head for a couple of weeks. I then decide on my characters, and I get to know them a little. I like to start a novel with impact, so that the reader is drawn in from the onset. Each novel is like a journey, and often takes different directions. I allow the characters to evolve and then they can determine where they should go and how they ought to behave. After writing, First There Was Pain, I realised that I needed to be more organised, and I intend to address this in my next novel. It won’t make any difference to the finished product, but it will certainly make my life a lot easier. Every time I write I learn something more about myself and what it is that I want to achieve. So my writing, like my novels, is a journey of discovery, and I don’t always know where I’m going until I get there.


What are your absolute must have’s when writing?

Music (love all genres), or complete silence, several cups of tea, chocolate.


Who are your top three favourite authors?

Thomas Hardy

Catherine Cookson

Victoria Holt


What is the last book you read?

Belle by Lesley Pearse


A hot summers day, or a cold, crisp winters day?

Hot summer’s day every time. I’m probably the coldest person I know


If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items could you not live without?

Pen and paper to keep a log, and a warm jumper, just in case (practical to the end).


What advice would you give to any budding authors out there?

Write about what you know, what you are passionate about and what others may find interesting.

And finally, are you working on anything at the moment?

I have started to edit three potential second novels. I am still unsure which one to go with, so watch this space.

Thank you again, Paula, for answering my questions, I really enjoyed reading First There Was Pain and I really can’t wait for the next book!


Paula Smith’s debut novel, First There Was Pain, is out now on Kindle and is a must read!