Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Experience an Underwater Adventure with Author and Diver Paul J. Mila

As evident from this blog, I'm a mountain person. I love the mountains, lakes, rivers, cold weather, and anything old west. That isn't to say I don't enjoy the occasional trip to the ocean, but author Paul J. Mila isn't going to take us on just a simple day at the beach. Get ready for a real underwater adventure! (All images shown in the post are ©Paul J. Mila.)

Near Miss  
Spies, treasure hunters, and Cozumel divers collide in a Caribbean thriller.
Husband and wife diving duo Terry and Joe Manetta return in this adventure, along with a new cast of unforgettable tropical characters.

Displaced international consultant Dayle Standish heads for the Caribbean, following a losing battle involving corporate intrigue and blackmail. Diving Cozumel’s azure waters, Dayle photographs a mysterious encounter inside a deep underwater cave. Soon after, a deadly assassin working for a foreign intelligence service starts targeting Cozumel dive operator Terry Manetta's customers. But Dayle is determined not to become the next victim, keeping one step ahead of a relentless killer pursuing her across the Atlantic and back to the Mexican Caribbean.

An Interview with Paul J. Mila
Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
My original career was in finance and banking. However, I always enjoyed writing and often thought about writing a novel one day but had no ideas for a story. 

On a vacation in Cozumel before I decided to leave corporate life, I met a dive instructor who divulged her very interesting background. Consequently, the idea for a dive adventure featuring a strong female character emerged. My dive instructor became the model for the main character in my first novel, Dangerous Waters, and in subsequent stories, Whales’ Angels, Fireworks, and Near Miss.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?
I have several—scuba diving, underwater photography, and playing tennis.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?
I suppose the greatest challenge as a writer is developing story lines that readers will find interesting and enjoyable. Somehow, life keeps throwing ideas and characters my way at the most random, unexpected, and unplanned times. I think the greatest challenge of the writing process comes afterward in the marketing and selling, which I find grueling and not as much fun as writing. I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome that one; I’m still working hard at it.

If you had to sum it up Near Miss in 30 or less words, what would you say?
A young woman’s life is turned upside down after she accidentally photographs a secret encounter inside a deep underwater cave in the Mexican Caribbean.

What inspired the idea behind your book?
Scuba diving several years ago at Cozumel Mexico’s famous Palancar Reef, I noticed numerous bricks scattered on the sea floor, remnants of cargo from a nineteenth-century shipwreck. Divers typically move the bricks around and then continue their dive.

Watching the movie Letters to Juliet, a scene struck a chord with me. Vanessa Redgrave’s character explained that “What” and “If” are two of the most powerful words in the English language, especially when used together: “What if . . .”

Diving in Cozumel again, the dive master had paired me with a very interesting dive buddy, a spunky young lady from Australia. I spotted the bricks and began thinking, What if . . . there was something special about those bricks? I felt confident my Aussie dive buddy would make a fantastic female protagonist in a Caribbean thriller. I combined those thoughts and wondered, What if . . .

Do you have a favorite character in Near Miss? Who and why?
Definitely! I enjoy all my characters, but my favorite in this story is the main character, Dayle Standish, based on a very interesting dive partner I met in Cozumel. Dayle is multifaceted: gritty and tough, yet sensitive and vulnerable; cocky and self-assured, yet uncertain about her future. She must use her wits and resourcefulness to stay alive, keeping one step ahead of a determined assassin, while she is already enduring a personal struggle about the direction her life will take.

What message do you hope readers take away from the book?
In all my books I try to educate non-diving readers in an entertaining way about the beauty of our undersea world and the need to protect it. For example, Whales’ Angels is an anti-whaling novel inspired by my experiences free-diving with mother humpbacks and their babies.

What kind of research was involved for Near Miss?
I interviewed police and FBI acquaintances to ensure facts, procedures and terminology were correct. I also used internet searches to confirm the accuracy of historical and technical information. It’s amazing how easy the internet has made research.

What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book?
After book #3, Fireworks, I feared not having the creative energy to write another book. Meeting someone who inspired the story and then actually writing it has been a source of personal satisfaction.
In addition, spending so much time in tropical latitudes I’ve met many interesting real-life characters.  Including them in Near Miss and using their actual names and personas has been a lot of fun.

Of the four books you’ve written, which is your favorite?
Dangerous Waters is special because it was the first. However, I like Near Miss the best of the four stories because I think with each book, my storytelling and writing have improved.
Who do you read for inspiration? Why?
No one in particular, but reading Nelson DeMille’s books, especially the stories featuring the sharp dialogue and edgy humor of DeMille’s husband and wife team, Kate Mayfield and John Corey, gives me a “mental bounce”—I guess inspiration by another name.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
Currently coauthoring a nonfiction book with a west-coast author about our undersea adventures. Working title—Bubbles Up. As far as book #5 in my adventure series, I’m on the lookout for possibilities.
What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?
Receiving unsolicited comments from readers saying how much they enjoy reading the books provides immense satisfaction. In addition, the personal and professional friendships I’ve made from writing have been priceless.

If you had a chance to rewrite, is there anything about your book you would change?
Not with Near Miss, but I plan to republish my first book, Dangerous Waters. When I read how I wrote some of the scenes and descriptions, I cringe. But that was my first time out of the box. I’ve learned a lot about writing since then.

Does where you live or have places you’ve been influenced your work?
Definitely! Living on beachy Long Island NY and traveling throughout the Caribbean and the South Pacific have provided inspiration, story lines, and characters.

How long did it take to get Near Miss from idea to being published? What was the most grueling process?
Thought about it in 2010, started writing in April 2011, published in December 2012.
Editing and rewriting was the most grueling process. However, my editor, Lorraine Fico-White, made the editing process almost as much fun as the original writing process and a great learning experience.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Has it ever happened to you?
Sure. It happens. But if you don’t stress about it and look on it as a puzzle you will solve, it will work itself out.

If you could get anyone to read your book, who would you choose and why?
Steven Spielberg. A frequent comment from my readers is, “This book should be a movie!” Who better to make a great movie?

Raise of hands! Who's ready to go deep-sea diving? . . . or perhaps just read a book about it.

Thank you for sharing your world with us Paul!

Meet the Author 
Paul J. Mila traded in his corporate suit for a wet suit in 2002 and now devotes his time to writing, scuba diving around the world, underwater photography, and speaking to groups about ocean conservation. He has enjoyed photographing and diving with sharks in the Bahamas and with diverse sea life in the Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Bonaire, Hawaii, Antigua, and in his home waters off Long Island, New York. In addition, he has had the opportunity to free-dive and photograph humpback whales in the Dominican Republic and the South Pacific Tonga Islands.

Paul’s underwater photos and videos have been featured in magazines, scuba diving websites, and used by National Geographic Television. He also publishes a monthly online newsletter, The Sea-gram. www.sea-gram.com. Diving in the same waters as the characters in his books has enabled him to write with realism, and describe for non-diving readers the beauty and wonder of exploring our undersea world.

Paul and his family reside in Carle Place, New York, a small town on Long Island. You can contact Paul via e-mail.

Also available from Paul J. Mila


  1. Thank you for sharing with us today Paul. Your photography is beautiful, and you really seem to capture life underwater.

  2. Hi Mk,
    Thanks for having me as a guest, you did a great job weaving the photos into the interview. Hope your readers enjoy the story and photos.

  3. I think Paul really captures life under the water (both in his books and through his photos). I never tire of seeing his photos of sea turtles, either. Thank you both for an enjoyable interview!