HOSU 9 | Southern Storyteller

Blood In The Low Country – How Paul Attaway Left The Business World To Become A Southern Storyteller

It’s the beginning that’s the most important in both our personal and professional lives. Pivoting to another career can be challenging, but with the right determination, you are set for success. Paul Attaway, the author of Blood in the Low Country, shares with us how he left the business world to become a southern storyteller. He talks about how he created opportunities for himself to continue to grow as a writer and details the challenges he had to face in this journey. Furthermore, he talks about the entrepreneurial mindset, taking risks, and the importance of overcoming battles, reaping the rewards, and taking it into the next stage.

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Blood In The Low Country – How Paul Attaway Left The Business World To Become A Southern Storyteller

Paul Attaway, welcome to the show.

Thank you. I appreciate it.

I’m excited to have you on because you are an author. You’re many things. We’re going to get into all of that. How would you describe yourself?

It depends on the day of the week and who’s asking. Sometimes I’m husband, grandfather, a friend, a golfer, an author or just a guy. It depends. It’s lots of different things

In golfing, that depends on how well the round is going. If someone says, “How are you doing?” “Today, I’m not a golfer. I’m the husband.”

HOSU 9 | Southern Storyteller

Blood in the Low Country – https://www.paulattaway.com/blood-in-the-low-country

“Today, I’m anything but.”

How many times have you thrown your five iron into the lake?

I’m not a club thrower. That I don’t do. I’ve done just about everything wrong on a golf course but I’m not a club thrower.

The biggest mistake I ever made was buying a good set of clubs.

You ran out of excuses.

Immediately so that’s the thing. You go around and you’re pulling these tailor-made clubs and then you realize all it does is it highlights how awful I am in the game.

It’s a difficult game. If you don’t play it, it’s impossible to truly appreciate how hard the game is but it’s also satisfying. I get a lot of joy out of it. I have learned to enjoy the game without playing well. If I play terribly, that’s no fun but I don’t have to play well to enjoy the game anymore so that’s been an improvement.

It’s funny because there’s a definite correlation between entrepreneurialism and the way that you play golf. This is my theory and this is based on a sample of one, which is me. I enjoyed trying to hit the covers off balls at the driving range and see if I can hit a ball 400 yards or something, which I’ve never done and never will do. When it comes to the short game, it’s like, “I don’t have time for this. Where’s the fun?” Do you think that encapsulates some of the ways that entrepreneurs think?

Swinging as hard as you can bring tremendous reward but it carries risk with it. It doesn’t always work out but it works out enough to make you want to do it again. Another way I’ve heard people talk about it is the difference between whether or not you’re a debt guy or an equity guy.

Does that determine how you play?

Yeah. If you’re a risk-taker and going for it, you’re an early-stage equity guy. If you’re a debt guy and you’re happy with the low rate of return but first in position then you’re a debt guy and you play more conservatively.

I’d never thought of it that way. It’s funny because your career latterly and even now, in terms of your previous career before, you become the domain screenwriter for what is destined to be the next great motion picture, I’m sure. When I was reading through the summary of Blood in the Low Country the immediate thing that sprang out was, “I can see a movie here.” We’ll come on.

I can too.

In your career in finance, you started off as an attorney. Is that right?

That’s correct. I was a lawyer for a whopping two years.

What cured you of that?

Having to be a lawyer cured me of it. The first six months were exciting. My first job, earning my keep, I’m a lawyer. In the second six months, it quickly became a job and the last six months it became something like, “How can I get out of this before they start paying too much money and they have their hooks in me?” The handwriting was on the wall for me early on when one of my clients said, “I want you to do this, this, this and this to this guy.” I said something like, “They’re going to do it right back to you.” I realized that this wasn’t cut out for me. I was in the Bankruptcy Department and we represented primarily lenders. We did some debtor work. It was a great education but as a career, I couldn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. It would have eaten me alive.

That was some time ago. That was in Phoenix. Is that right?

That’s correct. That was from 1988 through 1990.

Those were the prime times of Gordon Gekko in Greed is Good.

The SNL crisis was in full bloom when I moved out there. With these savings and loans, a lot of cowboys were able to assimilate a lot of money and they found themselves with money to lend. There were a lot of real estate back deals, fees and high interest rates. A lot of it, if I remember correctly, this is going back a long way, was fueled by the tax code. It allowed for accelerated depreciation of assets ensuring that you could make money but not have to pay taxes. You had all these non-cash expenses that put you into a non-taxable position.

The tax code was rewritten in ‘86, ‘87 or somewhere in there and the accelerated depreciation was taken away. You had deals that, frankly, were being fueled by a desire to avoid taxes as opposed to whether or not it would truly cashflow so they all said they went upside down. The next thing you know, you’ve got all these single asset LLCs going under. When they went under, they pulled down all the SNLs with them.

It’s fascinating to see how these structures are set up. I’m sorry to throw the ball back such a long way but it probably seems like yesterday to you. Moving from that, your career moved into something much more entrepreneurial. It would be so easy to stay in that same lane, as it were.

It would have been but I had a desire to create and build. I most likely got that from growing up with my father who was an entrepreneur. He’s the first in his family to go to college. He was a civil engineer graduate from Georgia Tech. He was a manufacturer’s rep. Early on in his career, he decided, “I can make a better product than I’m selling.” He went into business making products in commercial construction and he did quite well. I’m miserable. I know that I can’t do this any longer. Sometime in ‘89 and ‘90 around there, I got it in my head to buy a business. Back then, there was no internet so you would go through the Sunday classified ads businesses for sale.

Living in fear is one of the things that handicaps us.

We had Dalton’s Weekly in England.

You get these businesses for sale and I found one with no money down. All I had to do was take over the debt, which should have been a sign to me that this was probably not a good business. I sent the financials to my father because he had bought a smaller company along the way to build up his. I asked him for his help looking at the financials and he goes, “What’s going on?” I’m like, “Dad, I’m miserable. I cannot be an attorney for the rest of my life.” He’s like, “I paid for law school. You owe me. You got to come work for me.” I said, “What is it exactly that you do, Dad?” That began about a five-year process where I went to work for my dad. He manufactured building materials for commercial construction, primarily owner-occupied businesses, a lot of hospitals, government buildings, prisons, etc. I learned that. I did that for 5.5 years. That was a great experience.

Your father probably was a hard taskmaster. You probably got away with nothing but you learned everything because you were the trusted person.

I did learn a lot and I joked with my dad. I’d go, “Dad, what about,” or, “Have you thought of,” or I’d say some idea and I’d get one of these from him which said everything. It was good working for him but also a challenge to work for a parent.

You can always say, “If I got this wrong, it’s your fault.” It’s funny when you say that you didn’t know what your dad does. My wife is convinced that my job is to print business cards with different names and different things. I noticed on your website that you say that entrepreneurial is a word that is misused. People say, “I’m an entrepreneur,” when in fact, what it means is that you are unable to hold down a job. You’re congenitally unemployable. There’s an argument that entrepreneurialism is some form of disease passed down from generation to generation, rendering you incapable of working for someone else.

There’s some truth. After I worked with my dad, I started several businesses along the way. In 2015, our youngest son went off and gone off to college. My wife was anxious for me to slow down. I had wrapped up a business with a business partner. The wrap-up had gone well. He wanted to continue in the business and I was ready to move on. I was ten years older than him so he was at a point in his life where it made sense for him to continue so I moved on. We had a nice separation, what was his and what was mine. I was tired and exhausted. I wasn’t up for another startup so I became a consultant. I was a quasi consultant executive for hire. I ended up working for a couple of other smaller businesses. I found it a challenge when they wouldn’t do what I told them to do. That was a difficult place to be. I’m not saying I was right and they were wrong. It could have been as easy that way around.

It’s almost like being an investor.

It’s difficult to share your opinion or be told, “That’s all well and good but we need you to do this.”

You’re back to square one. Consulting is a difficult thing to do because you have all these things that you see. The longer you spend with people and the deeper you get involved with their business, the more you can see opportunities but that’s tempered by the fact that you no longer have the ability to impose your point of view on other people.

It’s not my business.

You did that for years. You suffered.

I started and sold three different businesses and each one becomes all-consuming. You’ll rarely find someone that can birth a business and take it through its growth cycle. There are people that that have done it and do it well. If you were to start a business in an established industry. I’ll make one up, let’s say you decide to become an HVAC contractor or mechanical engineer. You’re not reinventing anything. I’m not saying it’s not hard. You have to go out and find customers but you understand the business.

If you are starting a business with a new product and service in a new industry, where everything you’re creating. You constantly have to create the customer and the opportunity in the market and you get to that. To be able to then take that to the next stage is difficult because your mindset is one of starting and creating. You could say that you get bored and you get attracted by the next shiny object. It can be difficult to shepherd a startup all the way through the various stages in a company’s life and that probably describes me.

HOSU 9 | Southern Storyteller

Southern Storyteller: When you realize that the things you feared aren’t worth fearing, you take that extra step and produce great outcomes.

What you said at the beginning is the most important thing, it depends on the person. There are some people, going back to our golf analogy, where you’ve got that initial thrill of hitting the ball and making contact. I don’t know why I’m using golf. I might as well use baseball or football or something in an equal amount. How many times can you divide zero? There are opportunities where in a startup where you see success, that fuels you along. It is exactly the position you’re in now. You are embarking on a career that potentially has enormous rewards but it is about as challenging as it can get because you are surrounded by a sea of illogicalness. Your sequel, a new character, Mr. Illogicalness.

When I started down this path to become an author, I started down the path by writing a book. It wasn’t necessarily my goal to become an author. My goal was to write a book. I did that. It’s been well-received and I loved doing it so I’m now trying to write my second book and I’m selling my first book. Frankly, in a lot of respects, my career hasn’t changed one bit. I’m an entrepreneur. I am a self-published author and the product that I’m selling is me. That’s a difficult thing to do because, in the past, my product had been XYZ. I was in the seismic engineering business for a while. I was vibration control for semiconductors in life sciences for a while. I was a real estate lender for a while.

I can see the natural synergies with you being a self-published author.

All of a sudden, there is the business side of being a self-published author. I find it to be challenging and extremely hard. It is an uphill battle every step of the way. I’ve entered into a field where I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I continue to learn. I’m in a better position now to understand the task ahead of me. To be a self-published author and have any expectation of succeeding in terms of sales, it’s unbelievably difficult.

Is this something that you had inside you for years and you swore that at one point you would write the book?

No. I was not the guy that got up and went to work and kept thinking, “I want to quit all this and go write my book.” That wasn’t me. I’ve always enjoyed reading and I’ve often thought, “Could I write a book? Could I do this? Could I do that?” I had reached the end of a consulting project. I had a little downtime looking for the next project. Oftentimes, I’d finish a book and I go, “That was a phenomenal book.” I go, “I could have done that.” My wife is tired and goes, “Why don’t you try it or move on.” I said, “I’m going to try it.”

I had had a couple of months that had nothing lined up. I sat down to try to write a book. I read a lot of books on writing a book, a lot of blogs. I had 4 or 5 legal pads full of notes and ideas. I got started on it and a friend of mine called me up. They said, “Paul, there’s this company that I know you guys would get along well.” I ended up taking up a consulting project that lasted for eighteen months. I didn’t get that much writing done. It wasn’t productive writing. I moved papers around my desk a lot.

I imagine wastepaper baskets full to the brim with screwed pages.

Pages, words, ideas, half-assed and half worked. I finished that consulting project and I had two other opportunities waiting. I’m talking to these people and they weren’t going anywhere. Someone still needs to make the decision. He’s super busy with this project or whatever. I finally decided that if I was going to give this writing a chance, I had to go all-in because I know that if I take a consulting project and it’s supposed to be 15 to 20 hours a week, it ends up getting 40. I said, “I’m going to give this a shot.”

I spent the next six months doing nothing but writing the book, learning how to do the cover design, learning how to get it published and learning how to sell the book. As it turns out, I enjoyed it so much that I’m all in now. This is what I do. I’m a writer. I’m writing book two. I’m blogging more and all of this is to build up this brand so people will see, “Attaway wrote another book,” and they’ll buy it sight unseen. This is the challenge.

If you don’t play a difficult game, it’s impossible to truly appreciate it and experience satisfaction.

There are two things and the challenge is huge but the payoff is probably greater than anything else because you’ve overcome that challenge. Is that something that you would agree with?

Yes. We’re talking about the payoff. Do you mean the financial reward?

Not the financial rewards. The emotional and psychological payoff of you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of criticism.

It’s just me. This is it. You put that book out there. It’s funny because I had a lot of friends who were almost afraid to read the book. They’re like, “Paul, what if it’s horrible? What am I going to say? I’ve known you for so long.” The book wasn’t horrible.

Did you send it to people saying, “Here’s my book, please don’t read it.”

My wife and my kids all read it. My older brother read it and had 1 or 2 close friends read early drafts and they all said, “Paul, this is good.” I finished it and I turned it over to an editor. The editor came back and said, “This is good.” That gave me some comfort. I had paid an editor to do the job. He didn’t know me from Adam and could probably speak more honestly. It’s difficult for my wife to provide objective and unbiased criticism.

Did she leave notes for you on the refrigerator?

She’s a good critic but she’s been encouraging along the way. I did it, finally and it’s out there. It became available on Amazon. I sent out an email to everybody I’ve ever met. Hundreds of emails, get the web page built, Instagram and had a couple of book signing parties early on with people I know. It was unbelievably rewarding. All the fears that I had vanished because my friends I’ve known for a long time couldn’t have been happier for me. They were encouraging.

Would you say that one of the biggest challenges is learning to get out of your way when you’re writing a book? In other words, overcoming these fears of potential criticism or not knowing what to do or write next.

It is the literal and figurative blank sheet that you’re staring at. Not knowing how to write a book, how to even start and what to do next. Those fears of rejection, failure, either, A) You’re not going to be able to do it or, B) You’ll finish it but it won’t be any good and all your friends will know. Overcoming those fears, moving, dealing with them and moving beyond them was a big part of the challenge.

Once you go beyond the veil, as it were, you enter a new world where you realize there is probably a lot more depth to your imagination than you gave yourself credit for. I noticed this with a casual light bit of research that some of the characters of your book, Monty in particular, are now creating their persona outside of the book. How is that happening? What do you see in terms of the byproduct?

The byproduct would be sequels, more books using the same characters but not necessarily a single protagonist. I love the author Daniel Silva and he has a great character, Gabriel Allon. I love this recurring character and I read all of his books but they’re always him. What I’m trying to do is create a world based here in Charleston, South Carolina, with more than one recurring character. One book may focus on this character and then one book may focus on another character. Also, giving real depth to these characters because I enjoy a good plot-driven book but I enjoy the books that are character-driven more than I do pure plot-driven where you see the characters change. They come under pressure and they may do things you’re shocked by. They go through a character arc. I am trying to build off a handful of these characters in their world so when people come and read this series of books, they know what they’re going to get. Once you are able to do that then it becomes easier to sell the next book and the next book because they go, “I like these books. I like the setting that these books take place in.”

Does it become harder to continue to provide depth to the characters without potentially drawing it? You have to separate Monty from Paul. Is there a challenge that the lines may be a little blurred? How do you find life? How do you draw on to create that character?

In the creative process, I can only describe it for myself. I can’t describe it for anybody else. It requires a tremendous amount of trust that it’s going to happen. In the business world, if I were given a task, I could look at this task and go, “That letter is going to take me ten minutes to write. In this offering memorandum, I need to give an executive summary. Give me an hour and I can knock it out.” You knew what to do. In the creative process, you don’t know how long it’s going to take whether you’re trying to solve an engineering problem whether or not you’re trying to develop packaging and you only got $2.50 a unit to spend, you have to do research. You have to immerse yourself in a subject matter and the ideas pop into your head. You go, “I have an idea.”

Whatever it is we do, when you go, “I have an idea.” It appears and sometimes you could be listening to music, going for a run or reading something that gives you an idea about something else. I can’t explain where ideas come from but I do know that when I sit down and I free myself of distractions, I start typing and I start writing, that it happens. All of a sudden, I start, “This could work,” and you start writing. I might write a couple of thousand words in a day. They get reedited. Some of them may get thrown away but typically, there’s the genesis of something and I go, “I can work with that.” It’s not something I can turn on and off. Others might be able too but I have to sit down and trust that it’s got to happen.

Do you find that this is something that you never expected would happen? There are so many parallels between this and all sorts of other things in life in terms of entrepreneurial life.

In high school and college, I was on the debate team. Every teacher I’d had since sixth grade said, “You should be a lawyer,” because I talked, I was a smart ass. I was pretty good at school so that’s where I was headed. I went to law school and after 1.5 years, I’m done. Everything I’ve done since then if you had asked me when I was younger, “Would I be living in Charleston and writing books?” I’d go, “No.” I did not see this but then again, what makes life interesting is to be open to risk-taking and in things you could never have imagined or would have imagined.

When you’re talking about trust in yourself, I can imagine, remember or think of so many occasions where you have no idea how you’re going to do the next thing. Whether the next step in your business or how you’re going to get something to work that needs to work whether it’s a financial structure or a piece of software. That ability to have faith in yourself that, “Don’t worry, you’ll be alright.” Where does that come from? How do you generate that? How do you create that? How do you find that in yourself?

Success breeds success in terms of I’ve faced challenging times before and things worked out. Definitely, success will breed success. You won’t be quite so scared, for lack of a better word, the 2nd or 3rd time around. The other thing that helps is failure when you realize that the things you feared weren’t worth fearing. When you experience disappointments, things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to and all the horrible things you thought were going to happen either, A) It didn’t happen or, B) It ended up not being horrible. That gives you the confidence to take chances.

HOSU 9 | Southern Storyteller

Southern Storyteller: Swinging as hard as you can in baseball can bring tremendous reward, but it also carries a risk that it won’t always work out, just like entering a business venture.

Living in fear is one of the things that handicaps us. With a lot of the trust that I have, I try not to live in fear of anything. I don’t leap out of airplanes without a parachute. I’m not stupid but the things that keep us from taking risks and chances are fear of rejection, not being accepted, not being loved, failure and things like that. We make them out to be so much more than they are. I’ve had those failures and disappointments. When I got through them, I realized that it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Frankly, something cool came out of it. I have a supportive and loving wife and a couple of the challenges that I had in the business world brought us closer together. That’s a good thing. Fear is a terrible thing.

Someone said that fear is just a temporary lack of information.

Lack of information or way too much misinformation. It’s believing lies. Believing things that aren’t true.

A product of fertile imagination is the worst thing you can have.

If you have a fertile imagination, you can imagine the worst. You can imagine all these things.

For you, that must have been one of the biggest challenges because you probably didn’t go into this for the money. You didn’t go into it because you’ve always wanted to be a lifelong author so it’s leaping as it were. The biggest challenge for you must have been that fear that your friends and your family look at you in a different light because you would be the guy who’s like, “You can read his book but not for the reasons that he’d like you to.”

I’d say that was it. Knowing what I know about being a writer, I would not advise anyone to become a writer if their goal is to make money. You can make huge sums of money but you probably have a greater chance of simply becoming a doctor and making a lot of money than writing a best seller and having somebody pick up the movie rights. There are so many books published. It is hard to get noticed. It’s a lottery.

The secret weapon here is many years of experience as an entrepreneur dealing with these different businesses. There is a part of you now saying, “The first book is under the belt. I’ve got some good ideas for the sequel. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s see what we can do with this industry.” Are you now excited about this whole new landscape that’s in front of you with these layers?

It is a business challenge. Getting published is not that big of a challenge. Getting published simply means getting your book in print or in digital format so you can do that. It’s then getting it sold. Independent bookstores will never know you exist because they’re called on by publishers and publishers don’t carry your book unless either, A) An agent has brought it to them or, B) You managed to somehow get their attention.

If you are self-published, the only way you can get into independent bookstores is by going door to door, which is what I’m doing here in the Southeast. I go door to door and I have a book signing at a place called Pawleys Island. They’re happy to carry a local author, who has a book based here. The other 15,000 to 20,000 independent bookstores out in the country don’t know who I am. You’re dependent upon Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook and all these formats. Being able to be self-published is a wonderful thing because you can get published. That also means there are no gatekeepers.

I like to think my book is pretty good but I also know that there’s absolutely nothing stopping anybody from publishing a bad book. There are about 10,000 books published in this country so getting noticed on Amazon means social media. Facebook ads, Google Pay-Per-Click Ads, Instagram, Twitter and creating a brand and a following so you have followers. I knew this much about social media and now I’m on Facebook and Instagram daily. I’m not on Twitter, that remains to be seen but it works. It’s fairly affordable and time-consuming. It’s hard to be genuine, effective, original and at it every day.

You have different audiences.

You can’t turn it on and off. You have to always be out there.

Impressing the internet is always a rather challenging task.

It’s difficult.

Do you think publishing is one of the last industries that is still done with a handshake and personalities because of the nature of what the business is with the fact that it’s the authors creating works like an artist in a gallery?

There is some of that and also, the publishers go back before Amazon and before the internet. They had a stranglehold on the business. You had to get an agent who would then take you and help you find the publisher. Once you were in, you were gold. There weren’t nearly as many new titles every year. They could spend a lot of time and money pushing and promoting their authors. You’d walk into your Barnes & Noble or all the other bookstores that you might go to and the books would be there and you can find them.

With the publishing world, you still have the big five or so but the margins they make on each title have come down. The publishers expect the authors to do more and more of their advertising with social media. They become even more selective because they don’t have the horsepower to go and promote. Once you’re in, you’re in the club and your book is going to get published, printed, pushed and promoted regardless. Breaking into that is difficult. Agents are going to come along and they’re going to go, “Do you have more than one book in you? Who is your audience? Do you have an audience?”

If I was promoting nonfiction, they would say, “Paul, how many followers do you have?” I’m not nonfiction. I’m fiction so I have to build it. My goal and hope is that I sell enough books as a self-published author through sheer persistence and muscle that when I’ve finished my manuscript for book two, an agent will take a harder look at me and go, “You did this on your own. You’ve got more than one book and I’ll take a look at you.”

How much of that success impacts your ability to write? Does it become a vicious cycle? If you don’t get the success and the winds that you’re hoping for, does that take the wind out of your sails when you’re trying to write the next chapter?

It would. It will and it might. I say all three of those. I’m pitching my bets. Ideally, if you were picked up by one of the big ones like Simon & Schuster or someone like that, they’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting. They’re managing the distribution. They are going to get you in front of book clubs and bookstores. That’s one less thing for me to worry about. It frees up time. As with anything else, if your revenue exceeds your expenses, you can relax a little bit and you’re not making rash decisions. I’m in a situation where I can spend a little bit ahead of the curve to generate revenue. At the same time, if this becomes a financially losing proposition, while I may continue to write, I’ll write with different goals in mind. I’ll write and I won’t spend as much time marketing the book. I can’t be stupid with money and spend $1 million.

It’s a challenge that an artist has where you want to be pure to what drives you and what you want to see both as the written word or as paint on a canvas. There comes the point where you’ve got to eat, I suppose.

One of the first times reality hit me was when I was fortunate enough to meet a consultant online and I struck up a conversation with her. She knew her way around the industry. She helped me through this learning process. She starts to ask me, “Paul, what’s genre? Who’s your audience?” All these questions that I look back on made perfect sense but when I sat down to write a book, I wasn’t thinking about marketing, the demographic of my reader, what their average income is and all these types of things. I was writing a book so I wrote this book and I go, “I don’t know. I finished the book. We’re going to find out.” Now, I do think a little bit more about, “What bookshelf would this be on at Barnes & Noble?”

Is that a good thing?

James Patterson has done pretty well with a formulaic approach. He’s talented, too. If your goal is to get published, you need to take a realistic look at this other than self-publishing. If your goal is to be published by somebody else, they’re in it to make money. They’re going to go, “These books don’t sell.” It doesn’t matter if you’re Hemingway. You can be a beautiful writer but no one wants to read stories about X. If you want to write them, that’s great. If you’re going to hope to get published by someone else, you need to understand that if your book has a larger appeal than a smaller appeal, you’re going to have a better chance of getting picked up.

Be confident in taking chances when you experience disappointments in life.

It’s like a business. Successful businesses solve problems. You have the adage. If you build it, they will come. Are you seeing the same thing? Is your business brain thinking, “Even though my emotional side is slightly offended by the fact that I’m going to have to tweak slightly the way that I write these books?” Is the logical side of you thinking, “This is a bit like a business where the problem people have is they want to read stuff that they like. If I don’t solve that problem, I’m not going to sell anything. I want to sell books because there’s a satisfaction to it.” That’s the next step, isn’t it?

Yeah. This may have to do more with the fact that I was not a trained writer. I was not an English major. I took classes. I was a finance major in college and I went to law school. I had no training in storytelling. I learned to write in law school so I’ve always thought that I was a good writer but storytelling is different. One of the things that I’m learning that addresses this market challenge is its fiction. People read fiction to escape. They may learn something along the way if it’s historical fiction, about a certain something or other that you can squeeze into it but it’s fiction. They want to escape.

There’s popular advice to writers, “Write what you know.” That’s great but if you write about your own life, it’s boring. You have to fictionalize the stuff. One way that you can appeal to the market, solve this problem and meet the need is to provide them with an escape from what they do. They want to go and sit someplace whether it’s for 10 minutes or 1 hour and they want to go find out, “What’s happening to Monty? What’s happening to so and so?” Part of the challenge is your writing. You have to let go of the fact that this probably wouldn’t happen in the real world. You can’t be so overblown that the story makes no sense. You have to achieve a balance between believability and yet escapism. There’s a definite skill to it.

That is where you draw on your decades of experience in dealing with people.

If you read my book, Blood in the Low Country, there’s a subplot that involves some shady real estate developers and lenders. A lot of my buddies, who are in the real estate go, “Attaway, who was that character based on?” I go, “I’m never going to tell.” I do draw on some experience being a real estate lender for a while of some things that I saw.

I can imagine, were you the author of the disclaimer at the front of the book that went on for 40 pages?

Yes. It’s purely coincidental.

It sounds like it’s the beginning of an incredible journey. Do you think this is far more rewarding, challenging and exciting than you ever thought it would be?

Definitely, yes to both of those than I ever thought it would be. I know. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it again. Writing a book is hard. There are others out there that make it look easy and quite possibly, for them, it is easy because they’re extraordinarily gifted and talented. That’s not to take away anything from someone for whom it comes easy. It’s hard but it requires focus. There are lots of things to distract us more and more with every new technological time-saving device. To put those distractions aside and try to set aside time every day to write requires discipline, focus and those can be a challenge.

I’m excited because there’s a good chance I can probably get a signed book.

There is.

Which I will pay for but to have been able to have this conversation know that the Paul Attaway, who I once spoke to who is now the screenwriter of a blockbuster because you can see this and it’s not the stories, the depth and the characters but it’s you driving it. You can see that as you get to each stage. Your enthusiasm and you’ll be rolling up your sleeves saying, “Come on. We can make this happen.”

My wife jokes that she hopes George Clooney has a role in the movie.

You better hurry up before salt and pepper become just salt. We shall depart momentarily to our Hooked On Startups Quickfire question. Fasten your safety belts. Scream if you want to go faster. Question number one, what is your favorite word?

It’s a word you’d never heard of. The word is asquibalitch. We challenged our kids when they were young to come up with their own word that would describe virtually anything. If they didn’t feel like going to school that day, they felt a bit of asquibalitch. This is a word our children created to use to describe anything at any point.

It sounds like a fantastic character that should be alongside Wallace and Gromit on the screen.

It could be a noun as well.

It’s fantastic. What is your least favorite word?

Social distancing.

It’s tautological.

It should be asocial distancing.

It’s funny words that we never thought would be put together in that context. Question number three, what are you most excited about?

My wife and I, kids are all gone and everything’s paid for. We have purchased a home in McCall, Idaho and we’re moving out there. We’ll be spending our summers out there. A break from the Phoenix heat and now we live in Charleston. We love Charleston but summers can be brutal.

I spent some time in Charleston, it gets a little humid.

It gets a little sticky so this is what’s got us most excited.

Question number four. What turns you off?


You’re not the first person to say that. Question number five, what sound or noise do you love?

Our grandson laughing. He’s learned to laugh and it’s great.

I know that sounds well. Question number six, what sound or noise do you hate?

It’s the sound of chairs being dragged across floors, fingers on a chalkboard. It’s that horrible pitched squeak. I can’t take it.

Also, the sound of some politicians, effectively. It’s synonymous. Question number seven, what profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Sports broadcaster.

What sport? Is this racing?

No. It’s like a football game, baseball game or basketball game being the broadcaster doing the play-by-play of college football.

Painting a picture with words.

That’s one of those things that the people that are good at it, they make it look so easy but to be a good play-by-play announcer, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. That’d be fun.

You’re building this two-dimensional. You’re bringing color over the radio. What profession would you not like to attempt?


I can see there’s a bit of a theme here. Is there a book where the politicians get it?

There’s got to be. If you’re looking for a bad guy, in our politically correct world, Nazis can always be your bad guy. Nazis are never going to have a fan club out there so you can always make Nazis your bad guy. Now you could make politicians the bad guys.

A dodgy dealing real estate politician or something like that.

Politicians are a safe mark and are politically correct. You can still write negatively about them.

There are volumes you can write about them. Final question, if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates.

HOSU 9 | Southern Storyteller

Southern Storyteller: A business venture is an uphill battle every step of the way, and you continue to learn in the process.

“Paul, I’m so glad to see you.”

That’s fantastic. Paul, I can’t begin to say how much fun this has been. I’m so excited to follow your progress and it’s been such a pleasure. What is the best way for people to get hold of you?

The easiest place to go would be the website and it’s at PaulAttaway.com. There’s a contact page. If someone wanted to email me. You can find out how to buy the book. There are links to Barnes & Noble, Amazon and a few others. My Instagram page is @AuthorPaulAttaway. My kids can’t believe it either because they thought I’d be the last guy who would ever be on Instagram and Facebook.

Thank you, Paul. I look forward to you staying in touch.

I do appreciate it. Have a great day.

Thank you.


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About Paul Attaway

HOSU 9 | Southern StorytellerI’m blessed. I have spent the last 35+ years with Lyn, my wife and best friend, over thirty of those years married. We met in college and have been together ever since. We raised three children in Phoenix, Arizona but now call Charleston, South Carolina our home.

I recently retired from a thirty-year career as an entrepreneur. I’ve never liked that word: it sounds pretentious. I think it may be Latin for ‘no one will hire me’. Nevertheless, I’m here and excited for what comes next.

As to what comes next, I am committed to a second career as a writer. I recently finished my first novel and I loved it. I loved the process, staring at a blank sheet, the research, the character development, the joy of writing myself out of a corner. Loved it.