© Marta Stephens 2011 all rights reserved
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.
A: Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog today, Marta! I’m a member of the Nova Scotia bar, former strategy consultant, mother of two, wife of one, and owner of a pug. My writing journey began when I was an eight-year-old bookworm and decided that I wanted to write as well as read books. I had a terrific English teacher in junior high school who fanned that spark. However, I wasn’t ready to take the leap into fiction writing in university. My pragmatic streak won out and I studied law, then subsequently completed a Master’s degree in Public Administration. I only returned to writing after my youngest was born and I needed an outlet. The desire to achieve my long-standing dream of writing a novel grew until I made a choice to pursue it as a career instead of returning to my corporate career when my children began school.
Q: Why INDEFENSIBLE? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?
A: Ever since I articled in a large, corporate law firm, I’ve wondered what it would be like for an ordinary, law-abiding person to be accused of a horrible crime. At the time I was writing DAMAGED, the first book of my thriller series, there were numerous headlines in the news of people who had been wrongfully imprisoned. I wanted to explore that in a novel but in the context of someone who was uber-successful, someone who defined himself by his professional achievements and his social status. I knew I had the perfect candidate: Randall Barrett, the managing partner of series lead Kate Lange’s firm. A man who is charismatic, super-successful, and who had a very messy personal life. A man who learns in the space of twenty-four hours that everything he believed to be true about his life was false.
Q: Tell us a bit about your protagonist, Kate Lange and how she came about.
A: When I decided to write a thriller series, I wanted to create a protagonist who had no particular crime solving skills. You may wonder why I chose to do that. The answer is simple: I have often wondered what it would be like to face a killer. Like most people, I have no self-defense training or forensic training. I don’t even have a fierce dog to protect me – my dog is a pug! So I decided to create a character who must survive by her wits, her courage, and her need for justice to prevail.
The result is the character of Kate Lange.
I also wanted to share with my readers some of my experiences working in a blue chip corporate environment. I wanted to show the politics, the struggles, the insecurities, the ambitions. I decided to create a protagonist who has had to struggle to be successful; someone who finally lands her dream job – yet discovers she is an outsider.
Kate is a struggling, thirty-something lawyer who has known her share of heartbreak, owns a house with leaky plumbing, and is the proud owner of an abandoned husky named Alaska. While she is at work drafting legal documents, her dog loves to leave a paper trail of shredded magazines and toilet paper all over the house.
Q: Please share with our readers a little about the plot, the characters, the setting, of your novel.
A: INDEFENSIBLE is the second book of my legal thriller series. It takes place four months after DAMAGED, in which Kate unearths a legal conspiracy that rocks the foundations of biomedical research – and puts her in the path of a dementing serial killer.
In INDEFENSIBLE, Kate is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as she deals with the aftermath of a very traumatic event that occurred in DAMAGED. Then the ex-wife of her boss, managing partner Randall Barrett, is found dead. And he is accused of killing her.
Deserted by his partners, shunned by his friends, his defense lies in the hands of the one person who knows too well the taint of criminal scandal: Kate. While Kate struggles to learn the ropes of criminal law, a silent predator is waiting to strike the final blow to Randall Barrett’s family.
My thriller series is set in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is a great place to set a thriller because it is a city of contrasts: there is a great urban vibe to the city but there is also a gritty dark side. Perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, it can be simply gorgeous. And yet, because the city is right next to the ocean, we have a lot of fog, rain, and unpredictable weather.
Q: Please describe the greatest challenge you faced in writing this book, why it was difficult, and how you resolved it.
A: There were two main challenges for me. The first was figuring out how to write a series, in the sense of what to reveal from the previous book, and what direction to take some of the characters. I resolved it by discussing it with my editor, and then just jumping in and doing it. The second challenge was the dreaded “sophomore book” syndrome. My publisher LOVED DAMAGED, and I really didn’t want to disappoint my editor. So I felt the pressure to live up to my previous book. And fortunately, my readers have responded with absolutely wonderful enthusiasm. I’ve also gained a lot of new readers. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
Q: How much and/or what kind of research went into writing this book?
A: I do a lot of research for every book. With INDEFENSIBLE, I started with general research using university texts and online references, including psychology, forensics, journalism, and criminal procedure. Then I interviewed various subject matter experts, including a homicide detective, forensic pathologist, two crown attorneys, a journalist, and a few people who could help me with some back story on some of my characters. I always research occupations and procedures very carefully, as I like to be as accurate as possible.
Q: What do you find the most difficult part of writing in general and what do you do to overcome it?
A: Time! Being an author means you are running your own business: creating the product, promoting it, and responding to many requests. I wear a lot of different hats (including being a mom) and it’s a constant juggling act.
Q: How do you balance your time to make time for writing?
A: I stick to a fairly rigid schedule. After I walk my kids to school, I walk my dog (which helps clear my head). Then I respond to emails. After that, I write until my kids get out of school. Then it’s family time – which usually means a lot of driving to various activities! I’m usually back at my computer by nine p.m. and then I work until I head to bed.
Q: What impact would you say completing Indefensible has had on you personally and on your writing?
A: Interesting question! Writing INDEFENSIBLE was a draining process both emotionally and physically. The book examines the fallout of the murder of Randall’s ex-wife on his family, especially his teenage son who believes he saw his father kill his mother – and wants revenge. I wrote the book in a short timeframe so it was a very intense experience. As well, I became quite sick with H1N1, which made it a challenge. In terms of the impact INDEFENSIBLE has had on my writing, it has demonstrated I can write well under adverse circumstances. It has given me a lot of confidence.
Q: Who has been the greatest influence on you with respect to encouraging you to write and become a published author?
A: My late mother, who believed I could be anything. She really did. And that made me believe in myself. My husband has been tremendously supportive and I’m very grateful for that. I also think my professional experience gave me confidence to tackle the daunting task of getting published.
Q: With respect to your writing, please give us some insight into your writing process. In other words, did you outline the chapters? Did you think about the plot for a while before writing it? What steps did you take before you wrote the first sentence?
A: By nature, I am a plotter and planner. I spend several months doing preparatory work before a single word is written. In addition to research, I write extensive back stories of my characters, I work out their character arcs, how their motivations intersect with the plot. I also do multiple flowcharts to work out sequencing of actions, reactions, evidence reveals, and plot turns. Then I write an outline, and I also write a synopsis for my editor so she doesn’t have any surprises. Like I said, I like to plan.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m currently writing the third book of the series, TATTOOED. It will be released in January 2012. Right after I finish it, I will be diving into the fourth book, which is also scheduled for release in 2012. And I’m excited that I’ve been invited by the International Thriller Writers to write a short story featuring Kate Lange for their Thriller 3 anthology, coming out in the summer of 2012.
Q: Any words of wisdom and advice to aspiring writers?
A: I often use the F word. And by that I mean, have faith in yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. You have to believe in your work and persevere. If you want to have a writing career, treat it like a career. Network, go to conferences, join professional writing organizations, and always believe you can do better. I viewed getting published as the first step of my writing career, not the final rung. I want to get better and better. And I work very hard to do that. I analyze books I enjoy, I attend workshops, I have my work critiqued, and I always try to up my game.
Thank you for having me on Murder By 4, Marta! I really enjoyed your questions.
About the author:
Pamela created the Kate Lange series drawing on her experience working in a blue-chip corporate environment. Prior to making writing a career, Pamela worked as a strategy consultant for an international consulting firm. She is a member of the Nova Scotia Bar, and has a Master's degree in Public Administration. Pamela lives in Nova Scotia, along with her husband, two children and a pug. She loves to go for walks (unlike her dog), and drink coffee. Her most eagerly anticipated vacation is the annual family camping trip where she can sit around the campfire, eat smores, and catch up on some good books.
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