Interview with Paula May, Author of First Degree Rage

28 Apr 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, First Degree Rage?

First Degree Rage is the true crime story of a homicide case in which I was the lead detective. As a law enforcement officer in the state of North Carolina for over thirty years, I investigated a number of violent and sinister cases, but this one stood out above all others as a story that had to be told, a book that had to be written. It began when a man’s nude, murdered body was found in the snowy woods in the Appalachian Mountains of northwestern North Carolina, where I worked in the criminal investigations unit of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. The murder victim turned out to be Viktor Gunnarsson, a man accused of assassinating Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden. The book details the nearly four-year old investigation that followed and the intriguing facts that were uncovered.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I have always enjoyed writing just for the creative and expressive purpose of it. But after investigating terrible crime after terrible crime, it became a way not only of putting the pieces of a case together in an organized fashion, but also a way of dealing with the stress of the things I observed. I also realized that no one else had the same perspective I did as the primary investigator of a case of violence – one that was objective as an outsider yet intimately involved with the details.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

1) King James Bible

Numbers 2 through 5 are very difficult for me to pin down. I have a great appreciation for all types of works – almost everything from humor to true crime to romance to Christian and inspirational stories. I am not a huge fan of westerns, magic and sorcery, or sci-fi, although I appreciate the efforts taken. Some of my current favorite authors are Richard Paul Evans, Sophie Kinsella, Wanda Brunstetter, Karen Kingsbury, Don Brown, Jan Karon, Nicholas Sparks, Kathy Reichs, Timothy LeHaye & Jerry Jenkins.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Nicholas Sparks or Robert Morgan or both. I would ask them if they know where all the sadness from their books comes from.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

With regard to the writing itself, my favorite thing is when the words come easily, so fast that I can hardly keep up with writing them. This is not a frequent occurrence, but when I love when it happens, and I never want to stop writing then, for hours on end.

With regard to writing overall, my favorite thing is learning that someone else has found joy or peace in some way from something I have written.

What is a typical day like for you?

Thus far in my adult life I have not experienced such a phenomenon! In all my years of law enforcement, including the last ten as Chief of Police in a small town, no day was ever the same. Even now, in the midst of the corona virus situation, I am busy with household projects, gardening, writing books, articles, and gospel music, recording music (working on our next Joyful Noise CD) volunteering and helping neighbors and friends with various needs, and it is always something different every day.

What scene in First Degree Rage was your favorite to write?

My favorite scene to write in First Degree Rage was my personal interaction with L.C. Underwood when he requested I meet with him. It was a scene that occurred just between the two of us, with no one else’s perceptions that I would need to try to convey in the book. It was almost as if the entire investigation had come to those moments just between him and me.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

I do. I firmly believe that this life is not all there is, that we live this life in preparation for eternity. I have some favorite scriptures that I have clung to throughout my life, that mean a great deal to me and that come to mind just when I need them…

For encouragement:
Galatians 6:9 “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

For peace and security:
Psalm 46:1-2, 10 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear….Be still, and know that I am God.

For motivation:
Lamentations 3:22-23 It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

For my life’s mission to share:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The work I do in the criminal justice field as well as in the mission field are meaningful to me and very important components of who I am. But writing gives me the chance to express the thing I experience and have learned to others in a way that they can receive them at their leisure or on their own terms. Writing gives me the opportunity to summarize what I believe to be important in this life and to share it with others.

Paula May is the author of the new book First Degree Rage.

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