Paul Backalenick - Mystery & Suspense Writer

Occasionally Asked Questions

Paul Backalenick - Author

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What is the "Twisted Roads Series" about and how did you come by that name?

By the time I wrote my third book, Empty Luck, I realized that certain characters kept showing up, so there was a familiaity with some of the people from book to book. Also, there was a chronological progression to the three books, with the characters going from high school age in the first book, Development, to their early thirties in Empty Luck. And finally, there was a consistent theme or motif that recurred in all three novels, that of morally dubious decision-making. All these factors helped me realize the three books really belonged in a series.

I thought the phrase “Twisted Roads” encapsulated the questionable paths some of my characters took in their lives, the fact that they made choices good and bad, and that there were consequewnces to those choices.

Learn more about "Tiwsted Roads."

What is your genre?

I have two, mystery and suspense, and sometimes, as in Development, both take place in the same book. The difference between thie two is this: In a mystery, like Carrie's Secret, a serious crime is committed and there are multiple suspects. The reader tries to guess, but likely doesn't know, "whodunnit," untilt the end. In a suspense novel, we do know the perpetrator, the antagonist, but they are smart and the over-riding question is "will they be caught and how?" There are two other aspects of my "genre" that I always include in my writing. One is family. Most of who we are starts there. The other is a moral dimension. Someone (or multiple people) wrestle with right and wrong choices in my books.

Why did you write your first novel, Development?

I wanted to throw a light on the cost to nature of land development. I am concerned with man's exploitation of the natural world, and the resultant loss of wildlife, beauty, and innocence. Real estate development is one human endeavor where that exploitation is often seen. But the wanton destruction of nature for profit happens in industry and farming as well. Equally concerning is our exploitation of each other, of other human beings, again for profit. I think it is important to recognize the real cost of mankind's selfish expansion and "growth."

Tell us about Carrie's Secret.

Carrie's Secret is a " whodunnit," based in a Boston psychiatric hospital. It includes one of the characters from Development a few years later. Someone has abducted a beautiful girl. Her younger sister witnesses the crime, but cannot tell the police what she saw, a secret that creates nearly unbearable stress in her. Finally, she is admitted to a mental institution where the abductor works. That's enough spoilers!

Is it necessary (or important) to have first read Development before reading Carrie's Secret or Empty Luck?

No, it isn't necessary. All my novels can be read as separate stories. However, because they are chronological and some characters reappear, the books comprise a seires. Jared, for example, is in high school when we begin Development and he grows older throughout the series.. We see him again ten years later in Carrie's Secret, and again a year after that, in Empty Luck.

Are the characters in your books based on real people?

Most of the characters are fictional. However some, including Dora, Maddie, Jared and Nicole, have traits or experiences of people I have known. So there are personality aspects and behaviors that are fact-based, but virtually all the incidents that take place in the book are fictional. And in all cases, the dialog is my own invention. As I mention in my Bio on this website, there are idiosynchrasies and experiences of mine that appear in some of my characters. I know it is true that there is a little of me in Hank and Jared, for example. There almost has to be. I believe any novelist cannot help but infuse something of himself in at least one of his characters.

What do you like to read?

I have long enjoyed police procedurals. I always like the slightly jaded, edgy detective who, despite his faults, has a moral core and catches criminals in sometimes unconventional ways. Favorite authors in this genre include C.J. Box and Michael Connelly. Features of other popular writers I very much like include Ken Follett's historical fiction and John Grisham's storytelling.

II always appreciate good writing. I may not enjoy all the horror elements of Shephen King, but I always admire his renditions of everyday characters.

Lately, I have been drawn to work by Fredrik Backman and Donna Tartt. Give me good plot and character any day. Also recenltly, I find myself reading more actual history, notably European and ancient Greek and Egyptian non-fiction.

Do you have a writing schedule?

No, I don’t have a regular schedule. I need to feel a certain amount of spontaneity to write and that doesn’t fit well with schedules. However, I find I am at my most creative and I generally feel sharpest in the early mornings, so if I can carve out time to write then, that is when I do it. I need to feel I have a fairly open block of time. The words do not flow if I am conscious of other parts of my life that need time and attention.

What do you like about being a writer?

I love the experience of losing myself in a different time, place and character. I enjoy recognizing what my characters are feeling and allowing their dialog and actions to emerge as they naturally would, in keeping witrh their character. If I have set the scene and the characters well, I find the dialog flows out of me with very little consciousl thought. It is that sense I have heard other artists describe of not feeling as though they are actually doing the writing (or playing music or maybe painting). It is more a sense of it happening to you, of the words flowing through you from an unknown source. And you just let it happen.

And I have to say another thing I value about being a novelist is the chance to entertain people. There is nothing more gratifying than hearing form a satisfied reader. Lastly, I nourish the hope that some of what I produce will outlive me. We all want to feel we have some impact on the world,,however small, and I am no exception.

Is Paul Backalenick your real name?

I could not possibly have made that up. A бакалейщик is a Russian grocer.