A head for storytelling

Revere resident Maria Paige uses her extensive background as a psychiatric nurse to write thrillers.

Revere resident Maria Paige uses her extensive background as a psychiatric nurse to write thrillers.

By Seth Daniel

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Revere’s Maria Paige knows what it means to turn the page.

Sitting with a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean from her condo at the St. George’s on Revere Beach, Maria Paige has penned two psychological thriller novels, and readers say they can’t stop turning the pages.

The real mystery, though, is how she found the time to write those books while working full-time as a psychiatric nurse for 42 years. She has had two books published with the PublishAmerica Company of Baltimore – the latest being “In Plain Sight”.

Interestingly, Paige said it was her nursing career that spawned – rather than disrupted – her writing career.

“Each person has his or her story to tell,” she said in a recent interview. “You take a piece from here and a little piece from there, and it’s like a recipe…It’s amazing the psychological process and delusions people can have. Unresponsive to treatment, they can live in a world where everything seems normal. Their world of delusions can be very normal to them.

“I used to work the 3 to 11 shift,” she continued. “That’s a time that a lot of clients like to talk. I was just fascinated by what goes on in their minds.”

Paige has carved out her niche in the writing world so far by focusing on deranged serial killers, and it’s something that she has some real experience in dealing with.

After growing up in Lincoln and attending nursing school in Boston, Paige began working with incarcerated, mentally ill patients at McLean Hospital in Belmont.

Many times, she dealt with clients who were serial killers.

“I got really interested in why the bad people do the things they do because they all have a story that starts really deep in their childhood,” she said. “What would cause a person to take kids? In the case of my latest book, it’s a whole story where the person thinks she’s helping kids [in the Department of Youth Services] system by kidnapping and killing them because their lives are so bad.”

Oftentimes, Paige has gotten to hear those gruesome details in her daily work, which, ironically, is how she got started in writing.

Many years ago, at McLean, she befriended now-acclaimed mystery writer James Patterson. At the time, he was an aide at McLean when she was a nurse. Later, she would stay in touch with Patterson and work alongside him for two decades at his advertising agency, a job he had for several years before becoming a national best-selling author.

At one point, he told her that she should also start writing; that she might have some good stories to tell.

She took it to heart, and initially, used the experience as her own therapy.

“I have a demanding job that’s emotionally draining,” she said, noting that she has worked at the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless program for the last seven years. “It’s emotionally draining, and I need to come home and have some time to relax. Some people go to the gym and some watch movies. My way was getting inside someone else’s head and writing.”

She produced her first book in the mid-1990s, a thriller called “Friday’s, 4 p.m.” It was about a serial killer who would exclusively kidnap, assault and kill Catholic altar boys. There were several twists in the story, and Paige said it was based in part on an obituary that she found of a disgraced ex-priest and Revere native, Father James Porter.

Nevertheless, at that time in history, no publishing company would bite on such a tale, deeming that it was too far-fetched and no one would hurt Catholic altar boys. After the priest scandal of a few years back, though, that mindset changed.

“It wasn’t until 2005 that the book came to be published and we finally realized that things like that could happen,” she said.

That first book launched her into her second novel, “In Plain Sight,” which steals from characters at her work and also from her own experience in having a twin sister (her sister also lives in Revere).

“This story is really a case of the good twin and the bad twin,” she said. “But what if you didn’t know you were a twin?”

The story centers on a woman who works for the Division of Youth Services (DYS) and finds many of her young clients coming up dead. At some point, there become too many coincidences, and the plot thickens from there.

Paige said there are many references to Revere in her book. She has lived here more than 13 years now and enjoys the area immensely.

“Of course you can’t write about Revere Beach without writing about Kelly’s,” she said of her newest book. “This was a diversion for me. It was very, very personal because it took place where I live.”

In one scene from the book, the characters are heading to the former Antonia’s on the Beach for dinner while being unknowingly stalked by the “bad twin”.

“Once over the Tobin Bridge and onto Route 1, they headed to Revere Beach,” it read. “The last time they had been there, he had sat her down to watch the planes over the water head toward Logan Airport, and they had shared a wonderful take-out meal from Kelly’s, complete with sand in their toes and holding each other close. Tonight wouldn’t be the same, but Anna hoped that they would both feel better for it. Neither one of them noticed the car following them or the lady in the black wig and large glasses driving it.”

Paige said she is working on her third and fourth books (the third one parts from the serial killers and delves into a traditional love story set in Maine), and has a custom of celebrating the end of a book by having a glass of champagne on the balcony of her condo at the St. George’s.

“I love the moment when you can say that the book is done,” she said.Paige’s books are available at most bookstores, including Borders, and online at Amazon.com.

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