I Love to Read Month Author Feature: Priscilla Paton
Written by Masyn Rykhus
United Way is a strong supporter of early childhood literacy. Loving to read as a child can be the foundation of a satisfying career. Just ask Priscilla Paton.
Priscilla Paton was always one of those kids who loved to read. Paton recalls having an endless amount of books in her house and visiting the bookmobile as her hometown in rural Maine wasn’t large enough for a library.
Paton hasn’t always thought of herself as a creative writer.
“My journey to writing wasn’t a linear path,” Paton says. “I wrote creatively when I was 10 to 14 and then focused on school work. In college, I didn’t think I was as good of a writer as my peers.”
Paton then went on to earn her Ph.D. in English at Boston College where she met her now husband David Anderson, the president of St. Olaf College. Paton says that Anderson was hooked on mystery books.
Her interest in the genres of books has varied throughout her different stages in life. When in graduate school, she focused her reading on serious literature. After having children, she familiarized herself with a lot of children’s books.
“Reading books to my children is one way of bonding,” Paton says.
Paton later joined a group of writers and learned about the publishing side of writing. Her first book was a children’s book, which she was able to publish without an agent. As her interest in writing grew, Paton didn’t understand how to make a profession out of it, so she continued to focus on academic writing during her time as a professor at St. Olaf. She wrote her first academic book called Abandoned England, which consisted of New England poetry and was widely received.
As Paton transitioned out of academic writing and yearned to explore something different, Scandinavian mystery novels became popular within the US such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
“I enjoyed reading these Scandinavian mysteries and making predictions based on the stereotypes of other mysteries,” Paton recalls. “A friend of mine suggested I write one of my own, and then it became serious pretty fast.”
Writing mysteries was a much-needed break for Paton from academic writing. In her work, Paton incorporates important social issues. She views reading about social issues in her mystery novels can be an escape from reading the news.
“Books are a way to filter the world. Readers love the creative dialogue between each of the detectives in my books. It’s used as a form of escapism” says Paton.
When asked what reading means to her, Paton says, “for me, reading is a way to confront the world as it is at the same time to escape the world that it is. Not all reading has to have an impact. Give it a change; you’ll probably like it.”