Writing, for me, is an adventure. I like to follow a story into a world outside of myself; to travel to a place of unfamiliarity and ‘otherness’.
When I first went to Vietnam in 2001, I wasn’t looking for a location for a story. I was after adventure of the more prosaic kind; a holiday in the sun.
But something happened when I took a detour from the coast and found myself in the hill station of Dalat, with its Petit Eiffel tower, Valley of Love and persistent drizzle.
I fell in love.
‘Otherness’ was everywhere – there were cowboys by lakes, monkeys in restaurants, snakes in jars. I was energised by the landscape, by the richness of the culture and geography. I fell in love with the canvas Dalat offered; the space it gave me to imagine.
I started writing about an unfortunate police chief who sells his daughter to a local criminal. I came back to England and carried on. A drear London winter was bearable because in my head I was adventuring somewhere else.
The story took shape through the spring and summer. Autumn approached, I saved up money. When the nights drew in and the leaves dropped from the trees, I packed a draft in my rucksack, and got on a plane back to the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Paula is the author of Creative Truths In Provincial Policing is published in paperback today. Find out more about the book here. Her The First Book of Calamity Leek was described as ‘hypnotic…one of the hottest reads of the year’ (Elle) and ‘a mash-up of Roald Dahl and Margaret Atwood’ (Lady). She lives in London and works in television production.