Who we are: Summit County man balances firefighting and fantasy
summit daily news
When Paul Lawrence isn’t fighting fires, he spends his days off delving into another world – one rich with invisible creatures, underground caverns and misguided heroes.
Though working as a firefighter and writing sci-fi adventure novels are both passions of Lawrence’s, he didn’t come to them right away. Growing up in Lake Tahoe, Calif., his mom worked in fire administration, and his dad worked as a fireman, so he hung around the fire station a lot. But his first love was acting, a career path he pursued both in college through studying theater arts and English literature and upon graduation by helping create a couple of short films and acting. His last job in the theatrical arts involved working on the “Curious George” film, until Project Firefly’s budget dried up. That was about six years ago when, being married with three sons, he decided it was time to “get a stable career.”
And so began the studies; he earned his EMT, started working for Orange County Fire Rescue in Florida in 2005 and, while there, attended fire and paramedic school.
He had met his wife, Cathy, in Florida, but the state never quite felt like home to him. He loved the West Coast, and her roots stretched back to the East Coast.
“We (always lived) on one person’s soil and not the other’s,” Paul Lawrence said. “She loves Florida, and I love California. About three years ago, we started looking in the middle.”
Specifically, they looked for a community amid the outdoors, preferably with a big lake – similar to Lake Tahoe. They found Summit County, but at the time, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue wasn’t hiring. That is, until last August, when Paul Lawrence secured a job there.
When he moved to Summit County, his creativity spread like wild fire. He had developed a specific storyline in his head during his last year of college in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1993. But it took over 15 years to morph into its present form.
The idea first came when he listened to an instrumental CD a friend gave him in college. As he closed his eyes and let the music waft through the room, he suddenly saw the entire opening of a film. He wrote the idea down, started considering the storyline, but didn’t actually complete a piece – in the form of a screenplay – until 2002-03. As he tried to find an agent, people who read it encouraged him to transform it into a book to flesh out the characters and storyline. But as life would have it, school, projects, family and a new firefighting career filled his time.
Then he moved to the mountains of Summit County. When he saw Buffalo and Red mountains, he knew he had found the perfect place to nestle the imaginary castle in his medieval fantasy novel. Every day, he went to Borders in Dillon to write, and by Christmas, he ended up finishing the first book, “The Veil of Blood,” in a trilogy. He’s now waiting to hear from agents, but a university professor and professional editors have given him good feedback, he said.
The prologue begins with a king who abandons his castle in a mystical realm and ultimately volunteers his life in a place later named the Valley of Blood.
Many, many years later, Paul Lawrence’s main character, Jonathan, finds himself resisting a prearranged marriage and a carved-out life in an alternate medieval universe. But as soon as he stops fighting, a river sweeps him away to another multilayered mysterious world, where he ends up training to become a stealth assassin. He rises in power, but is then betrayed by friends and ends up in the same underground prison where creatures once dragged the king. From there, he undergoes a transformation and awakens to the truth.
Paul Lawrence wanted to make the series a trilogy because fantasy fiction, such as “Lord of the Rings” and writings by C.S. Lewis always have fascinated him.
“I like the symbolism and metaphors and subtext, and I tried to write it with a lot of characters working through inner flaws,” he said. “I think in everybody, there’s always hope for change.”
In fact, his own relationship with his step-dad transformed; he respected his step-dad and modeled his main character after him, but their communication was “superficial” until his step-dad had surgery, and they started talking on a deeper level. Paul Lawrence’s step-dad passed away right after he completed the novel, which he describes as “the human drama behind the drama.”
“Miracles are always surround by struggle. I think creativity is the same way,” he said, adding that if there’s not a lot of struggle, the creative project usually doesn’t have much depth.
Paul Lawrence’s trilogy is meant to speak to an adult audience and also help see young adults through their formative years.
While he’s waiting to hear from agents, Paul Lawrence has no intention of resting his creative mind. He just started three separate blog sites – one personal, to discuss creativity and what it takes to write a book; a second ushering readers into the Realms of Irenay, where his Medieval fantasy takes place; and a third to sketch out the adventures of a fox on “an impassioned quest to find the world’s finest cup of tea.” He calls the third Farnsworth and believes it will evolve into children’s literature with ideas that adults can relate to and enjoy.
He’s also gearing up to start a new series of young adult fiction novels, called “The Stories of Peter David Shepler.” Inspired by the “Harry Potter” series, the adventures will follow a young orphan living in an ancient monastery. As Peter encounters challenges, such as fighting off wolves, his actions will affect the outcome of another point in history (for example, snipers pinning down American troops in World War II).
Paul Lawrence’s writing lies in service of his ultimate goal: becoming a film director and screenwriter and hopefully opening a movie studio. He asserts that reading great literature helped him become a writer.
“If I’m a good writer then I can become a good screenwriter,” he said, “and then become a good director.”
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