It was a dark and stormy night as the rabid reader climbs the trellis outside the inspirational romance novelist’s home. Looking right and left, Rabid Reader assures herself that she hasn’t been seen. Good. She’s trained for this day: hours of lifting heavy books, crunching numbers to be able to buy all the books she wanted, and bending page corners to keep her place in such wonderful books.
Dressed in black, she feels a bit like a cat burglar. Only it isn’t jewels she wants; it’s information.
After she climbs through the conveniently unlocked window and lands quietly on soft carpet, she tiptoes across the bedroom and looks down the hallway. There, two doors down, comes a soft light. That's the room! The office where Pamela Tracy works, writes stories, stories that have driven Rabid Reader to tonight’s deed.
Pamela: Ouch. Hey, what’s with the rope?
Rabid Reader: I’ve tied you up. Now you won’t be able to type another work until you tell me all your secrets.
Pamela: Secrets? Me? I’m on deadline? I’m too tired to have secrets.
Rabid Reader (waving the cover of Pamela’s last Harlequin Heartwarming titled What Janie Saw) : It’s all your fault. I start these stories, and I have to read them in one setting because I have to know whodunit.
Pamela: And you’re telling me this why?
Rabid Reader: So I can finally wake up in the morning with more than five hours sleep, so I won’t be looking at my clock all day and thinking when can I get back to the book, so I won’t be at work and wondering if I’m – just like the heroines in your book - just one step from the extraordinary, so…
Pamela: I get it. You’re wondering how a romance writer, one who pens suspense, works? Specifically how I, a wife, teacher, mother, friend, come up with these plots that keep you guessing until the end?
Rabid Reader: Yeah.
Pamela: Untie me and I’ll tell you.
Rabid Reader (picking up a bookmark and aiming it at Pamela): No, I don’t trust you.
Pamela: Good, never trust a inspirational romance novelist. We just might put you in a book.
Rabid Reader: That would be grand. I love all this characterization stuff you guys do. Just what do you do?
Pamela: My heroines are always 1/3 me, 1/3 someone I know, and 1/3 spunk. My heroes depend on the book I’m writing.
Rabid Reader: What are you working on now?
Pamela: Well, right now I'm writing a 70,000 word Harlequin Heartwarming. It doesn’t have a title yet. I’m calling it Yolanda’s Legacy. I’m sure the name will be changed to the Secret Cowboy’s Pregnant Bride or something like that. (Just kidding. It’s not about a cowboy.) I’m waiting for revisions for a Love Inspired contemporary. It will be out in April and is called Finally a Hero. Not very suspensy.
Rabid Reader: No, not very suspensy.
Pamela: You want me to talk about my next book?
Rabid Reader: Yes.
Pamela: Well, it’s called Holiday Homecoming. My hero is Jimmy Murphy, a journalist/maker of documentaries about animals and their plight. He doesn’t believe animals should be penned... ever. He’s a Matt Damon type. (Yes, yes, I watched the movie a hundred time and soon couldn’t get the man out of my book. Me, I wanted Johnny Depp. Matt said, Nope, my turn.) My heroine Meredith Stone works at an animal habitat and has felt the sting of his prose. She’s also the girl he left behind ten years earlier. Now, he’s in Scorpion Ridge, Arizona, because his little girl needs a place to call home. Soon, he realizes home is with Meredith. And, yes, there is a mystery.
Rabid Reader: Oh, I wish I could meet him.
Pamela: Buy the book online.
Rabid Reader: I will. Hey, you have a television in your office. Way cool. What are you watching?
Rabid Reader: Is that your favorite show?
Pamela: No, I do like it, but I watch it for mood only. You can’t trust it for fact. See, the investigators on the show have way too much freedom with crime scenes. When I write, I have to pay attention to what my readers will believe. Personally, I don’t believe all I see on Bones. I actually am really into The Gilmore Girls right now. On DVD, of course, during their heyday I was much too busy meeting deadlines to get to watch.
Rabid Reader: Judging by your books, I’d not take you as a Gilmore Girls fan.
Pamela: My critique group actually made me stop watching the Gilmore Girls. They said I was starting to put cutesy stuff in my suspense novels.
Rabid Reader: Where’s your critique group now? If they were loyal writer buds, they’d be here rescuing you.
Pamela: They’re too busy to rescue me. We all have a three pages a day goal. Then, we meet once every two weeks for critique. They’re brutal, which a suspense writer really needs.
Rabid Reader (Finding the pre-order for Holiday Homecoming on her Kindle and waving it around): You mean, you wrote this book at just three pages a day.
Pamela: Well, I wish I’d written it in three pages a day increments. But really, I have a full-time job (college professor), a husband, a son (in elementary school) and so many other things to do (clean house, attend church, judge contests) that I’d start with my three pages a book goal (Did you know that at three pages a day, you can write three books a year?) and eventually I’d be behind and start trying for five pages a day until I’d be really behind and writing ten pages a day for ten days. It works. By the time I get to the last 100 pages, I’m flying.
Rabid Reader (frowning at book): Wow, a college professor. Do most writers have day jobs?
Pamela: Yeah, I’m pretty sure.
Rabid Reader: Do you get your ideas during your day job?
Pamela: No, my all-time favorite book, Pursuit of Justice, came to me when I kept noticing the same homeless woman in my old neighborhood. She was about my age and size. I got this “What if” idea. A whole book idea came from that moment.
Rabid Reader: A whole book idea! The idea came complete, all you had to do is write it?
Pamela: No, I had to write the synopsis, which is never easy for me. I always know my beginning and my end, but the middle is pretty much a mystery. I have four papers with two columns on them. I label the first column with the heroine’s name and the next column with the hero’s. Then, I starting coming up with at least three harrowing events per chapter that will happen to both. In one of my books, a Love Inspired Suspense, Fugitive Family, there’s warnings posted on doors, flattened tires, tornados, corpses. Oops, I’m telling you too much. I need you to buy the book and then read it. Oh, and I also research. I found a bank manager and investigated what his life was like because I made the hero a bank manager. The heroine is a lawyer. Then, I also researched things like fallout shelters and go-go boots and stalkers and-
Rabid Reader: Stop, all of those things are in here! In one little book. See, that’s why I broke in tonight. You put all these great plot points in a book, and then I buy it, and pretty soon I’m losing sleep because I try to read it in one setting.
Pamela: I think you lose sleep because you’re reading and training to be a cat burglar when you should be sleeping.
Rabid Reader: Do you have a cat?
Pamela: Yes, his name is Tyre.
Rabid Reader (suddenly studying the walls and pictures in Pamela’s office): Do you have any jewels?
Pamela: Hey, I thought you were here to find out how I wrote books?
Rabid Reader: Yeah, but you just told me that most writers have other jobs. I’ll be a cat burglar by night and a writer by day. Thanks for helping me out.
Pamela Tracy is an award-winning author who lives with her husband (He claims to be the inspiration for most of her heroes) and son (He claims to be the interference for most of her writing time.) She was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and started writing at a very young age (a series of romances, all with David Cassidy as the hero. Sometimes Bobby Sherman would interfere). Then, while earning a BA in Journalism at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, she picked up the pen again only this time, it was an electric typewriter on which she wrote a very bad science fiction novel.) First published in 1999 by Barbour Publishing, She has written more than twenty-five books/novellas/devotions and has sold more than a million copies. She's written contemporary, historical and suspense - all in the romance genre. Her 2007 suspense Pursuit of Justice was a Rita finalist. Her 2009 suspense Broken Lullaby won the American Christian Fiction Writers' Carol award.
Sandra again to thank Pamela for such a fun and informative post.
So to summarize, you:
1. Design a third of your character's traits after someone you know (Beware friends of Pamela)
2. Watch suspense shows to get in the mood.
3. Use a critique group to keep you in line.
4. Have reasonable goals like 3 pages a day, but don't freak out if you don't meet them. You just find time somewhere to make it up.
5.You make a chart for hero and heroine and list three harrowing events per chapter.
These all sound like great tips for a busy working mom. And folks, on top of this, Pamela keeps her marvelous sense of humor. I'm sure that plays a big part in her success in juggling all of her commitments.
Do you have any questions for suspense author, Pamela Tracy? For those who comment we will put you in the doggy dish for a drawing of a kindle copy of Pamela's Rita finalist novel, Pursuit of Justice and another winner will receive a copy of Carol Award winner, Broken Lullaby.
Pamela loves Irish shepherd pie (we shared some at Desert Dreams conference ) so I have put out a huge casserole dish of Irish Shepherd pie for all to enjoy. You don't have to cook tonight so watch out for that cat burglar.