Paul and his wife, artist Karen Loew, at a Coast Guard reception
Paul Backalenick is the author of psychological mystery and suspense novels, most recently Carrie’s Secret, published in 2020. The book was praised as “surprising” and “an engaging mystery” (Kirkus Reviews). In it, a teenage psychiatric patient bears a terrible secret. She feels it is too dangerous to reveal it, yet withholding it may destroy her family and send the wrong man to prison for life. Paul is always interested in his characters’ psychological motives and consequent behaviors and these aspects are woven into all his books.
Paul graduated from Brown University where he served as the editor of and a contributor to the school’s literary magazine. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and went on to obtain two graduate degrees, an MBA from Boston College and an M Ed from Boston University. He worked in psychiatric and rehab facilities for a number of years before becoming an information technology strategy consultant and eventually founding and running a web development and Internet marketing company, which he sold in 2018.
Originally from New England, Paul grew up in Westport, Connecticut where his first novel, Development, takes place. He now lives in New York City with his wife, artist Karen Loew. He is currently hard at work on his third novel, a mystery set in Las Vegas, tentatively titled Empty Luck.
I wanted to throw a light on the cost to nature of business development. I am concerned with man's exploitation of the natural world, of beauty and of innocence. Real estate development is one place 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 expansion and growth.
Tell us about Carrie's Secret.
It is a complex whodunnit, based in Boston, in a psychiatric hospital. It continues with one of the characters from Development a few years later. Someone has abducted a beautiful girl. And then later, her sister who witnessed the crime, 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?
No, it isn't necessary. Carrie's Secret stands on its own although two of the characters from Development do appear.
Are the characters in your books based on real people?
Most of the characters, are completely made up. Others, such as Dora, Maddie, Jared and Nicole, for example, have some traits of people I have known. Virtually all the incidents that take place in the book are fictional. And in all cases, the dialog is my own. It is true that there is a little of myself in Hank and even Jared. There almost has to be. I think any novelist cannot help but infuse something of himself in at least one character.
What do you like to read?
I especially like police procedurals. I always like the slightly jaded and edgy detective who, despite his faults, has a moral core and catches criminals in sometimes unconventional ways. Favorite authors in this genre include William Kent Krueger, C.J. Box and Michael Connelly. I very much like Ken Follett's pacing. II also enjoy historical fiction, especially novels that trace family generations down through many years.
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, 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?
The process of losing myself in a different time, place and character. I enjoy feeling what my characters are feeling and responding with dialog and actions as they naturally would. If I have set the scene and the characters well, I find the dialog flows out of me very naturally. 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. I love that experience.
Is Paul Backalenick your real name?
I could not have made that up. A бакалейщик is a Russian grocer.