South Lakeland physiotherapist-turned-novelist sparks publishing bidding war over her debut psychological thriller

11:00am Thursday 18th April 2013

By Hannah Upton

BOWNESS physiotherapist Paula Daly knew she was taking a bold step when she gave up work to become a full-time writer.

But the gamble has clearly paid off for the mother-of-three as her debut novel, which sparked a bidding war between six publishers, is set to be released next week.

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is a psychological thriller set in and around Troutbeck, centreing on the horrifying disappearance of a teenager who the protagonist - the girl’s mum’s friend - should have been taking care of at the time.

It has already garnered positive reviews from literary critics, and there is even talk of it being turned into a three-part TV programme.

“It’s all so exciting,” she said. “Not many local people have read it yet but I am looking forward to getting their reactions when it is released.”

Paula, who is originally from Leigh in Lancashire and has lived in the Lake District for the last 13 years, said she embarked on a career in writing for the same reason as many - “I wanted to give up the day job,” she said.

“I was working part-time as a physiotherapist but took the plunge in October last year to concentrate on just the writing.

“About three or four years ago I thought I’d like to have a go; before that I hadn’t done any creative writing since I was 16. I started with some short stories and a novel which wasn’t published because it fell between genres.

“But I got an agent off the back of it and this novel was picked up straight away.”

The theme of the story, an over-stretched mother trying to keep a life/work balance but who takes her eyes off the ball, appealed to the publishers, as did the ever-constant fear for parents of a child going missing.

“The idea for the story started when I was watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show about a woman whose baby died because she accidentally left her in the car instead of dropping her off at nursery.

“As I watched, all I could think was that it could have been me - I had once been so overwhelmed with balancing children and full-time work that I could have missed the one thing no person wants to miss.

“A few weeks later I was at Booths I bumped into a woman who always manages to make you feel a bit bad about your life and how hers is so great. I sat in my car thinking, who is friends with her? And I thought, what if you were to lose her child, and how much worse it would be than to lose anyone else’s child.

“With a 15-year-old daughter and sons who are 14 and seven, you can never really relax as a parent.”

She said Troutbeck was chosen for the setting of the story as it fits in with the geography of the story and the type of characters she has created.

And work is almost complete on Paula’s next novel, another psychological thriller set in a Lakeland hotel.

“It is about a couple who have a very tight marriage and run this hotel. But then a friend steals the husband and turfs her out, and it’s sort of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle meets The Fugitive because the wife sets out to prove that she is a complete fraud.”

Aside from writing, Paula said her life is filled with taking care of her family, reading, and walking whippet dog Skippy.

“My family are really proud of me and glad to see it is happening now,” she said. “My husband Jimmy, who is a painter and decorator, has been brilliant. He is the one stood at the top of the ladders in the freezing cold while I am sat making up stories.”

And she had some simple advice for any other budding writers in South Lakeland. “Just write,” she said.

“It’s like when people asked me about being a physiotherapy, you just have to try it to see what it’s like.

“Writing is hard work but you can be successful. It seems an impossible thing but somebody gets published every day and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be you.”

• Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is published on April 25 at £12.99


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