3 July 2012

Guest Post: Paula Priamos

Hey everybody! Summer has begun and my move is in full force so the blog has been kind of quiet. Today things heat up with a guest post from Paula Priamos, author of The Shyster's Daughter. Here's what I know:
Paula Priamos is a Los Angeles based writer whose writing has been regularly featured in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post and other high profile publications. 
Part coming-of-age tale and part detective noir, The Shyster's Daughter tells Paula's story of growing up in a Greek immigrant family in Southern California in the late ‘90s. As the daughter of a defense attorney, Paula was raised in and out of courtrooms. Unbeknownst to her family, she witnessed her father––the very man who defended such criminals as suspected murderers, rapists, high-level drug dealers, and white collar criminals––become one himself. 

When her father mysteriously dies, Priamos starts to investigate into his death. Her findings reveal a side of her father that wreaks havoc with the image of the hard-working and honest man her family has come to cherish and lead to a stunning revelation on how we choose to remember our family.

At its core, The Shyster’s Daughter is a universal story about the unbreakable bond between a flawed, mercurial father and his daughter, and the strength of family ties. 

For more info on Paula, visit: http://www.paulapriamos.com.
Sounds like quite the life. I can't wait to read it! Now I'm turning the blog over to Paula:
Memoirs oftentimes get a bad rap. Readers assume a memoir will read like an autobiography, a dry one that chronicles a person’s life in painfully slow and expository detail. Tedious and time consuming, these types of personal stories typically start at birth or at a random moment from early childhood and end on some pivotal moment as an adult. The narrative spans too much time and the dramatic moments, the ones worth focusing more attention on appear more like talking points on the page because the writer, well, he or she just can’t shut up. The writer wants to include too much. Extraneous details are the reason why it’s too boring for you, the reader, to ever really finish, but explains why it remains on your nightstand because it serves better as a sleep aid than any over the counter drug.
I made the decision to begin my memoir with a prologue, the phone call my father made to me hours before he mysteriously died. That night has haunted me to this day and finding out the reasons why he died was one of the driving influences for me writing the book. But the true beginning of my memoir, where my story starts is with my first experience with violence. I am twelve years old and it’s the night an inmate has just escaped from a prison a few miles away from our home. The escapee had been arrested under an alias. He is much
more violent than authorities had thought. He has just slaughtered an entire family and left the soul surviving child laying in his parents’ bedroom, plugging four fingers in his slashed throat for eleven hours until help came.
The news of this horrific scene prompts my family into action. My father heads outside and inspects the perimeter of our house with a loaded rifle at his side while my mother, who is six months pregnant, and I barricade the sliding glass doors with big lumbering dining room chairs. This night for me and my family was frightening and a suspenseful place to begin the book. But it also marked a significant change for us. My mother would soon give birth and inevitably leave my father. She was tired of life with a shady criminal defence attorney who made his living off aiding dangerous killers like the one we were so desperate to keep out of our home that night. I would stay with my father and he and I would struggle to move on after the rest of our family had moved nearly two thousand miles away.
The night my family’s lives were in danger was a natural place for me to begin my memoir. But there were other events that occurred later that I had to carefully reconsider if I should flesh out or omit altogether in order to keep the story moving. I purposely structured my memoir to read like a novel using scene, dialogue and plot. What to include in a memoir is just as important as where to begin. Make no mistake, writing memoir is personal on more than one level, and the mundane details of day-to-day life do get in the way of a good story. It is the difference between a book being hard to put down and one that is left on the nightstand as a cure-all for those rough nights of insomnia.
 Personally, I love a good memoir and this sounds like a good one to me. Thanks to Paula for being here today.


  1. Thanks for a really interesting post about memoir writing, I was interested by how the author says she was conscious of writing the story so that it would read as a novel.

    1. I liked that as well. It can really make or break a memoir, I think.

  2. I am half way finished with the book and the best part that I love so far is the way she describes everything and everyone. Best example would be how she describes her mother as a "Mutt".

    1. She's very vivid with her descriptions and the narrative of the story is as brisk as any suspense novel I've read.

  3. Paula's work is supberb.From the shady criminal defense attorney and other character descriptions, this is a must read.

  4. I would find memoir so challenging to write. I admire anyone who tackles it and succeeds in making an engaging book. Thanks for your introduction to Paula and her work.


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