Interview with Paula Morris, author of The Eternal City

11 Jun 2015

As someone with a soft spot for old cities, I knew we needed to get in touch with Paula Morris, author of YA adventure novels set in some of the oldest towns in the world. Her most recent release is The Eternal City (Point: May 2015).

Tell us a little bit about your new release, The Eternal City.

The Eternal City is my fourth YA novel, and like the others it’s a mystery with a supernatural twist set in a very old city. The others were set in New Orleans and York, so this setting – Rome – is the oldest of all. I like writing adventure stories about regular teens, ie ones without any ‘special’ powers aside from brains and imagination, engaging with the rich and often dark seams of history in a place. This book is a bit different from my other YA novels, in that there are ancient gods creating chaos rather than ghosts.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a child I had almost no idea of what jobs existed in the world. I was more interested in attending or setting up a boarding school, because I was obsessed with the ‘Chalet School’ books by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. I liked reading and writing above all other things.

Which book from your childhood or teenage years has stuck with you as an adult?

I first read Jane Austen’s novels as a teen, probably when I was fifteen, and they are still favorites. And I’m still very fond of many of the authors I read as a child and adolescent, like Edward Eager, Lorna Hill, Eleanor Estes, and E. C. Spykman. My absolute favorite childhood books, the ‘Five Dolls in a House’ series by Helen Clare, still make me laugh.

Where is your happy place?

Yesterday I read an article about five instant ways to feel happy (here is the link). I agree with all of them:
Listening to a favorite piece of music
Spending five more minutes with someone you like
Going outdoors
Helping someone else
Having a new experience
I did four of the five yesterday, and I did feel happy.

What’s your favorite scene from your book?

My favourite scene from The Eternal City is the big set-piece towards the end when the band of young people have to fight their way through the streets of Rome. Set pieces are hard to write in some ways, but very rewarding when they finally come together.

What’s the last song that was stuck in your head?

The song stuck in my head yesterday was by New Order. I think it was ‘True Faith.’ I was singing it in the street.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Auckland?

There are way too many good restaurants in Auckland, but my current favorite is Sri Pinang, a Malaysian place on K Road. You can get every possible cuisine here, from Mongolian BBQ to Maori hangi to Afghani naan to kosher deli … too much choice!

If you had to pick one place to vacation for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

France, if you’ll let me choose a whole country!

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

I’m not much of a one for wise words. Silly words are more my thing. Like Groucho Marx as Hugo Z. Hackenbush in “A Day at the Races” dancing around and singing “I knew it all along.”

Photo: Mike Brooke

Photo: Mike Brooke

Paula Morris is the author of the new book The Eternal City.

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Taylor loves books with a heavy dose of absurdity, hilarity, and beautiful prose. She is a marketer, adventurer, nature-lover, Hufflepuff, wannabe world traveler, and advocate of laughter.