Interview with Paul V. Froehlich

Tell us about your new novel, Welcome to Confluence.
Confluence is the name of the fictional rustbelt town where the story takes place. Within the context of the book, the term "confluence" also means a "coming together." That's what the story is about. The main characters suffer a significant loss that have devastating consequences to each of them, both personally and financially. This leads to hostility and conflict. The questions become, will they continuing fighting each other or will they cooperate? And, do they have the courage and the wherewithal to raise the town from the ashes?
What's the story behind the book?
I grew up as the steel industry was on the downswing. So, it's a very personal story to me and to people who came of age around that time. I thought it was important to tell that story and to remember what was going on, what we were thinking, and what was at stake. After the steel industry collapsed, everything changed. Workers called it "Mamma the Mill" because they trusted the mill to take care of them for life. So when the mills closed, this enormous cloud of disbelief, despair, and desperation hung over the region for years. It caused a huge population exodus. Hundreds of thousands left their generational homes to find jobs elsewhere. Many of those left behind felt abandoned and cut off from any new economy efforts. It took quite a few years for a recovery to take hold. And even today, many mill towns still haven't recovered from an economic, social, or psychological standpoint.
Why is the setting of the book—five years after the mill closed—so important to the story?
At that point in time, the town is still grieving over the closed mill. People are beyond the shock, but they still are in denial and there's a lingering malaise. Just a few have accepted that the mill is closed for good. So, early in the story, when faced with this new disaster, it's déjà vu all over again—the shock, the denial, the disbelief. Who is going to take care of us? What will happen to our way of life? And those questions set the stage for the ensuring conflicts and power struggles.
The book also calls out a few of the town's personality quirks. Talk about that.
Steel towns were company towns. The mills so dominated the way of life for generations that it created a lot of baggage. Several characters in the book point out instances where this emotional baggage is holding the community back. One example is a collective inferiority complex that leads to self-limiting behaviors. Another is resentment of another person's success. One character says, "The townspeople will support you and rally behind you, especially if you are an underdog or if you overcome great odds to succeed. They want you to win and to be successful—but only to a certain extent. Once a person gains success, there’s glee all around at the inevitable comeuppance."
Why did you choose to tell the story through multiple viewpoint characters?
Each character is very different. I thought it would be interesting and more realistic to follow the story through each of their eyes. How they think, feel, behave, react, and change over time as circumstances unfold. Readers have told me that they like the multiple viewpoint approach and that they find themselves associating with one particular character or another.
What is your writing process?
My writing process is fairly simple and straightforward. Of course, it took me a long time and lots of trial and error to get to this point. After I settle on an idea that I like, I'll sit down and do mind-mapping exercises and see where the idea leads. If the idea has merit, I'll move it into plotting tools to flesh it out. After it seems ready, I'll sit down at the keyboard with the plotting tools to compose. I strive for a solid, two-hour block of composing time. If I get two good hours, then I'm satisfied. And then I'll edit heavily what I just wrote. I try to keep a set schedule and compose regularly. For me, once I find an idea that I like, the key is persistence. Overall, planning takes about 10% of my time on any writing project, composing the first draft takes about 20%, and the rest is spent editing and rewriting.
What are you working on now?
I enjoy writing about the struggles facing everyday people. So, in that sense, there's plenty of material to write about. Right now, I'm finishing a collection of short stories that should be available around Christmas 2016. Some interesting and very diverse characters are popping up in those stories. I'm also in the early plotting stages of another Confluence book, so it's still a ways off until it's ready.
Published 2016-01-25.
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Books by This Author

Welcome to Confluence
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 122,350. Language: English. Published: May 1, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Historical » General
The City of Confluence is dying. It's been five years since the steel mills closed for good. Twentysomethings Sophia and Will are passionately at odds about saving their rusting hometown. When the town's secret benefactor dies, they suddenly find themselves battling gamblers, opportunists, and entrenched moneyed interests, changing their lives and their town forever.