Picking up the Pieces

August 11, 2014 at 4:14 pm

PaulaToday my guest blogger is award-winning author, Paula Vince. A wife and homeschooling mother of three, she resides in the beautiful Adelaide Hills of South Australia.

Her novel, Picking up the Pieces, won the religious fiction section of the 2011 International Book Awards. Her novel, Best Forgotten, was winner of the 2011 CALEB Award in the fiction category and also recognised as the best overall entry for the year, chosen over memoirs, devotionals and general non-fiction. Paula’s books are a skilful blend of drama and romance tied together with elements of mystery and suspense. Find out more at www.justoccurred.blogspot.com

Paula is the author of Picking up the Pieces, The Risky Way Home, A Design of Gold and Best Forgotten. Her new novel, Imogen’s Chance, was published in April 2014.Imogen

Paula is also one of the four authors of The Greenfield Legacy.

Paula is giving away a copy of Picking up the Pieces to someone who comments on this blog. Leave a comment below and you will go into the draw to win.


My first published book was Picking up the Pieces. It is still one of my personal favourites, even though I wrote it such a long time ago.

At the time, I’d been reading several novels with villains who were easy to hate. They came across with no conscience and seemed to love committing crime for the sheer pleasure of doing harm. In each case, they were condemned by the heroes and brought to justice. I had the impression that we readers were supposed to cheer about the removal of a menace. The repetition of this pattern started to bother me a bit, because it seemed to promote the sort of sad, vicious circle nobody wants to be part of. Condemnation for actions committed may add to a person feeling worthless and bitter, which in turn, may make them more likely to commit further crimes in the future.

I wanted to see another sort of story, where the perpetrator of a vicious action is treated with love and understanding. I wished somebody would write one, but as the idea stayed with me, I thought I’d make it my hobby for that year. I wanted to explore the notion that an essentially good-hearted person may snap and commit a horrible crime, totally out of character, on the spur of the moment.

I had two little children at the time. I’d drop my son off at kindy, drive my baby daughter to sleep, then park somewhere nice and quiet to work on it until kindy pick-up time. The main theme was a date rape situation and my mission was to get people feeling equal sympathy for Claire and Blake, the two main characters. I remember anxiously asking my earliest readers, ‘How do you think Blake comes across?’ I wanted to hear that, although he’d committed an unthinkable crime, they loved him. I wanted the nature of God’s forgiveness and embracing love to shine through.

There have been several ‘moments’ on the journey of Picking up the Pieces and I’ll share a few.


piecesCoincidental Moment

After writing the novel, I had no clue how to set about getting it published. I’d read the books of another South Australian author, Meredith Resce, and thought she would be interesting to talk to. I took my courage in my hands because she was a stranger, found her number in the public phone directory and gave her a call. She was willing to advise me and thought my name sounded familiar. After thinking about it, she realised she’d already read some of my writing, which a friend of a friend had lent to her. Meredith asked me to let her read Picking up the Pieces. Two days after dropping the manuscript off to her house, she phoned me, equally as excited as I was to see it in print.

I call that a serendipitous moment. We’ve been good friends ever since and even worked on a collaboration together with two other Australian authors in 2012.

Funny Moment

That first print run of 2000 copies in the year 2000 sold out and the novel was unavailable for almost a decade. In 2010, my new publisher decided to re-publish it with a brand new cover. When I read through the story searching for possible changes to make, I didn’t expect to find that technology needed to be updated often. In 1999 when I wrote it, I still had characters walking around looking for public pay phones and listening to cassettes which they had to manually turn over.

Shocking Moment

A lady came past a book stall I’d set up, looked at Picking up the Pieces and said, ‘That’s the book that almost split our church in half.’ It seems her pastor, who hadn’t read the story but knew its theme, wanted it off their church library shelf. ‘We just want good, wholesome books. We have to draw the line somewhere,’ he and his supporters said. The church librarian and her supporters were convinced that it was a sound, convicting, deeply touching and life-changing story which everybody should read. At first, I was horrified to think it caused divisions among church members, but friends suggested that good Christian novels with challenging themes cannot help doing that very thing. They draw the best and worst from their readers and help reveal what may be in people’s hearts.

Proud Moment

After being out of the market for all that time and freshly published, Picking up the Pieces won first prize in the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards for 2011, an honour won by a Karen Kingsbury novel the following year. 

I think all of this is what helps this book keep a special place in heart. I like to think that people may still be reading it for many years to come.

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