Monday, February 7, 2011

Interview with Author Pamela Callow

© 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?

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.

Follow Pamela on Facebook and Twitter


Georgie Phillips said...


Have read both your books in record speed...looking forward to Tatoo, which I will grab on release day!!!! Love reading about the Halifax area where my daughter lives. I really associate with the story and makes it very real to me.

As I've mentined before, your books have been my only friends here in Virginia Beach. Great interview.

Georgie Phillips

Ron Adams said...

Pamela, thank you very much for such an amazing interview. Your stories sound very intense, and I like the story of Kate Lange. She sounds like a heroine anyone can relate to. I wish you the very best of luck with your series, and it looks like I'm adding another book to my shelf!

Julia Phillips Smith said...

'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.'

The challenge of a single story arc and then seeding information is multiplied when tackling a series, Pam, but you do it SO well.

Julianne MacLean said...

Love your books, Pam! Can't wait for TATOOED to come out!

Pamela Callow said...

HI Georgie,

Thanks for dropping by. Hope Virginia Beach is nice and warm! So glad you are enjoying my series and the Halifax setting. :) I appreciate your kind words!


Pamela Callow said...

HI Ron,

Thank you for having me on Murder By 4! I'm looking forward to adding PI Banks to my bookshelves (l love the Florida Keys)!


Pamela Callow said...

Hi Julia,

Thanks for dropping by. Glad to hear that you feel I met those challenges! There's always more to learn with every book I write!


Pamela Callow said...

Hi Julianne,

Thanks so much! Can't wait for your Highlander series, either! :)

Bev Pettersen said...

Love the setting and heroine. Looking forward to reading more about Kate. It's an excellent series!!

Kim Smith said...

Oh Pamela! I am so loving this book!! When I grow up I want to be a thriller writer like you! :) We are so happy to host you on Mb4 today!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Pam. Thanks so much for guesting here today at MB4. Your books sound phenomenal - I love the titles. Also love your website. Well done! The background is great, gritty and nicely textured. ;o) Come back when your next two books are out - we'd love to have you!

Pamela Callow said...

Hi Bev,

Thank you! I love writing about Halifax, and Kate is really a work in progress (just like me ). Thanks for your kind words about my series.


Pamela Callow said...

HI Kim,

Thank you so much for the warm welcome from Murder By 4 - you guys are great! And I'm so glad you are enjoying INDEFENSIBLE! Congrats on your own series, especially your forays into YA. Would love to do that, too.


Pamela Callow said...

Hi Aaron,

Thanks so much for the invite to come back - would love to! So glad you like my website and will let my designer know you liked her design! Love the sound of your Gus LeGarde series. Chopin is one of my favourite composers. Have always dreamed of playing his pieces on the piano.


Annette Gallant said...

Great interview, Pam. I read both of your books and loved them. Now I can't wait for TATTOOED to come out!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Thanks, Pam. Me, too. I play a little Chopin (or let's say, I DID, until my sweet grandkids took over the music room and whomped on my grandfather's piano! LOL!) I played the easier waltzes and some mazurkas, but very poorly. That's the nice thing about having a character who does everything better than me. Gus can run through the woods chasing villains (without getting out of breath!), play a mean Chopin Etude just for fun, keep weed-free gardens, and do it all while working full time. Ha. But then again, he does have a full time housekeeper, and his writing skills aren't quite up to par with mine. He writes dry musical historical books. LOL. I wrote the third book in the series (Mazurka) to include a little bit of made up history related to Chopin - my apologies to the master! I'm going to order the first book in your series today for our Kindle. Looking forward to it!

Pamela Callow said...

Thanks for dropping by, Annette! And I appreciate your kind words about my books :)


Pamela Callow said...

LOL, Aaron - you are so right about writing characters who can do things better than the poor authors dreaming them up! That's what is so fun about the process. Will definitely check out your series - and will try it on my new iPad (which I'm still figuring out) :).


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I'm jealous! I want an iPad!!!

Sheila Deeth said...

Great interview. I want to read these.

Unknown said...

Great interview Pam, and an awesome book! Your dedication as a writer is an inspiration to many of us still trying to make it in the writing business. All the best in the future, and best of luck with Kate's future endeavours!

Pamela Callow said...

Hello Sheila,

Thanks so much! I appreciate you stopping by. :)


Pamela Callow said...

Thanks, Michelle! I appreciate that - I've been inspired by other writers and I'm glad to have the opportunity to share my journey thus far. Best of luck with your own work! Thanks for coming by!


Marta Stephens said...

Pam, I too can relate to one of your challenges about writing a series-- "... what to reveal from the previous book." I struggled with that quite a bit when I was writing my second book, but think it gets easier with subsequent ones. I find that taking bits of information from the previous books and expressing them in different ways/contents works to help those who are familiar with my characters find a connection while offering enough material for new readers to get to know the characters in the series.

It's been a pleasure to have you as a guest. All the best with "Indefensible" and your tour!