Paula Brierley began writing mysteries at the age of ten, entertaining herself “with the imagined adventures I would surely have if I ever got out of school”. In addition to her passion for writing, Paula wanted a career in medicine. In nursing school, she met her future husband. In an amusing twist of fate, he was the last male patient she ever treated. “I transferred directly to OB/GYN after that, working there before starting a family and my writing career.”
“I started writing for craft magazines in my early twenties because the writing teacher at the Adult Education Department said those were the easiest to sell—due to the high demand for new crafts. Later, I wrote for a few small local and regional news publications and lifestyle magazines. I met and interviewed the most amazing people.” She also started her own business, Writer’s Ink, teaching people the craft of writing.
Paula has seen amazing changes in our profession since then, including leaps in technology. “All my writing at that time was completed on a small manual typewriter using white correction tape.” When she wanted to reorganize a piece, she would “cut the typed paragraphs apart and lay them out on the floor to rearrange in a logical pattern and tape back together and then retype. One afternoon’s session was interrupted by a phone call in another room. Somehow my little dog wasn’t in our back yard and had sneaked into the ‘taping room’. Can you visualize the mess? She looked so guilty and so proud at the same time. I couldn’t help but laugh…after the shock wore off. It wasn’t like accidentally hitting the delete key of today. Everything was still there, just all over the place!”
Composing stories also served as a haven for Paula when she was widowed at a young age with two small children. “Writing became both my anchor and my outlet,” she explained. “After a few years, I stopped writing, but I didn’t stop thinking about writing. I moved from Oregon to the snowy part of Washington State and worked in the admissions department of Washington State University for many years.”
Paula then moved from the Northwest corner of the country to the Valley of the Sun, and she’s delighted to be in the warmth of Arizona. Arriving in the Grand Canyon State, she accepted a position with Arizona State University, then worked for a smaller private school. “It was during this time that I had an idea to write about finding one’s passion in life. The feature story was published in a small local newspaper. I felt renewed and creative again,” she said.
Following that success, Paula submitted a short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Although she received what she described as “the very best Oh, No rejection letter”, it contained two important messages. The editor said “he enjoyed the writing and wished I had sent it in earlier as he had just purchased one the week before with a similar ending. The take-away: Never sit on an idea. Get it done and out the door. Just in case.”
Soon after, Paula began a ten-year career working for State of Arizona governing boards overseeing medical-related professions, in positions ranging from licensing administrator to Deputy Director and Investigator. Though she still wanted to be an author.
“I bought books and more books on writing. Even if I didn’t have a clue what to write, I kept my hand in by reading about it,” she said. “I have two books that, when the momentum for writing has disappeared, are my go-to books for a creative and/or mental boost. The oldest is The Lie that Tells a Truth, A Guide to Writing Fiction by John Dufresne. No matter which page I open to, there’s something there that redirects the mind back to writing. The other is How to Write a Mystery, (by Mystery Writers of America) edited by Lee Child with Laurie R. King. I can pick any chapter that seems to fit the problem of the day and move on from there.”
Now Paula is enjoying retirement from her previous vocations and concentrating on her first passion. “I’m fulfilling my promise to myself and have returned to writing. I have started three books. One is unfinished and lives in the left-side drawer of my desk, another is also unfinished and lives in the right drawer of the same desk, and one is active on my computer. Surprisingly this third one pulls in some of the other two. Guess those were first drafts or warm-ups. This one is a mystery featuring a protagonist who reflects today’s older woman who possesses intelligence, intuition, a love of life and adventure, and isn’t afraid to go after her dreams, no matter her age.”
Paula has a great support system for her creative ventures, too. “I have two adult sons, the younger one is the biggest supporter of my writing, and lives in Arizona. The older one still lives on the rainy side of Oregon and loves it. My writing sidekick is Suzie, my nine-year-old black and white Pomeranian, who provides the exercise I need by insisting we walk around the block several times a day. It clears the cobwebs and loosens the muscles. Fresh air, fresh mind, fresh ideas. My three best friends have been best friends forever and are very supportive of my writing career. We’ve been through everything together.”
She’s a strong advocate of the value of help and encouragement for writers. “A few months back I was looking for a writers’ group and accessed the Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers chapter’s Facebook page and website. The information I found was perfect. A place to learn, a place to belong and a place with people who are writers of all levels who understand and support other writers. A place for us! The learning and the support are very important. I was asked if I would be part of the chapter’s Task Force (combining the Special Events, Programs and Conference Committees). I volunteered and never looked back. Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers has the personality and awesomeness for which I was looking.”
Paula also served on the Nominating Committee for the election of the chapter’s 2022 Board of Directors.
She enthusiastically embraces life, creativity and new adventures. “I’m a writer, an artist, a dancer, a reader, a gardener, a crocheter, and a weaver—my newest hobby. I’m still wrapping my hands around just how to do that one. Creating this and that is what I do—and all of it keeps the paths open to new ideas that translate onto the page.”
Get to know and follow Paula on Facebook.