The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap – Author Interview
By Carol / October 10, 2012 /
I’m pleased to welcome Paulette Mahurin to my blog today. Paulette is a writer of historical fiction and author of the book The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap. Though I haven’t read her book yet, the story is so intriguing, I’ve moved it to the top of my stack.
Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your great blog site, Carol. It’s really a pleasure to have connected with you!
Tell us a little about your book.
In the late 1800s, Britain changed its laws to make homosexual sex a criminal act. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap starts with this news going out over telegraph wires around the world. When the news hits a small Nevada ranching town, it throws the town into chaos—in particular a lesbian couple fearful that all the homophobia generated from the news of Oscar Wilde‘s imprisonment would cause others to now be suspicious of them. This is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended consequences and how love and friendship heal.
What was your inspiration?
I was taking a writing class and the teacher brought in a bunch of photos for us to do an exercise on writing a ten-minute mystery. My photo was of two women, dressed in what looked like turn of the 20th century dress, standing very close together. It screamed out to me, “lesbian couple.” Prior to that, I had been dealing with a person who was gay and in the closet, afraid to come out because of molestation and prior abuse issues. All this dovetailed together into the seeds for the story. When I started my research into that time period, Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment rang out as a key homophobic event in history that I could use to create an air of persecution and move the story along. It would be the news of his imprisonment, that spreads around the world. When it reaches the small Nevada town where Mildred Dunlap lives with her partner, Edra, it throws the town into a frenzy of hatred and prejudice.
When I was doing research into lesbians in history, I learned that women friendships, even displays of affection or living together as spinsters, were acceptable. But were the women to have been suspected or labeled lesbian, then they were diagnosed as insane and thrown into mental institutions. Their treatment was rape, to cure them so they could then enjoy men.
I am a Nurse Practitioner specializing in women’s health. When I read that, I thought of all the beautiful, kind, decent-hurting-no-one women I provide for, and I couldn’t put this story down. It screamed to be told.
What advice would you like to give to other writers?
An author writes. Just sit down and do it and don’t let the critic in your head get in your way. Doesn’t matter the time put in or judgments involved by self or others, a writer writes. Leave the editing and critiquing up to others when the writing is ready for that but pay attention to seeking out supportive positive friends for feedback in the early stages so you don’t get your creative light turned off.
All your profits are going to the first and only no-kill animal shelter in the county where you live. How did this come to be?
I’d love to quote from a recent article in the Ventura County Star (the largest circulating press in Ventura County, CA, where I live, in which I answered that question:
Paulette Mahurin’s eyes light up when she talks about the dogs. An animal advocate, the Ojai resident and her husband, Terry, have been rescuing Rottweilers for nearly three decades.
When her beloved rottie, Tazzie, died last year at age 15, she was heartbroken. In addition to losing her best friend, the dog had been her constant companion throughout Mahurin’s life-altering bout with Lyme disease.
In honor of the 15 years spent with her beloved companion Tazzie, as well as her desire to support no-kill animal shelters, proceeds from the sales of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap benefit the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center.
After Tazzie died, my husband and I went to a kill shelter to rescue other dogs. I was still grieving her loss when I saw all those sad faces behind bars, on death row. I wanted to do more to help, more than just bring a few dogs home. This happened around the same time as I completed my novel and also heard about the first no-kill shelter opening. It just came to me to donate my profits to them.
Thanks for joining us, Paulette. Good luck with your book and thanks for helping out the animal shelters.
For more information on The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, here are links to guide you: