23 February 2011

Author Answers with Pamela Callow

Word Nerd's gone north of the border for today's Author Answers contributor, Pamela Callow. Callow hails from Halifax and her second thriller, Indefensible has recently released. You can find out more about her at her website.

Word Nerd: What's Indefensible about and where did you get the idea for this book?
Pamela Callow: INDEFENSIBLE, the second book of my Kate Lange legal thriller series, is about trust, betrayal, and truth versus perception. It is summer time, and Kate is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after the events she survived four months previously in DAMAGED. Kate’s boss, Randall Barrett, is about to begin his summer vacation: his ex-wife is arriving in Halifax with their two children, and he is planning to take his estranged son on a sailing trip. But within the space of twenty-four hours, his ex-wife is dead and he is accused of domestic homicide. The evidence is damning. His own son believes he saw his father murder his mother. The police have two suspects: the father – or the son. Abandoned by his partners and unwilling to throw his son to the wolves, Randall turns to Kate, knowing that her own past experiences will not let her walk away. But Kate isn’t sure if she can trust Randall. And she’s never practiced criminal law. While Kate races to stay one step ahead of the prosecution – and figure out if Randall truly did kill his ex-wife – a silent predator waits to strike a final blow to his family.

The seed for the premise of INDEFENSIBLE was planted long before I wrote the book. 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 that everything he believed to be true about his life was false.

Word Nerd: This is the second book in the Kate Lange... was it harder or easier to write a sequel? Why?
Pamela: Both, really. It was easier in the sense that I knew the main characters, and I knew the starting point. As I mentioned, the premise for INDEFENSIBLE came to me when I was writing DAMAGED. And I also knew that after what Kate went through in the first book, there was a lot of fallout I wanted to explore.

The hard part in writing the book was twofold. First, because it takes place just months after DAMAGED, and some of the story line ties into the first book, it took some figuring out about what could be revealed from the first book. There was no way to write about what Kate was going through without spoilers about what happened in DAMAGED. So for any readers out there who like to read in sequence, I do recommend that you read DAMAGED first, although INDEFENSIBLE stands on its own as a novel. The other challenge in writing the book was the “sophomore book” syndrome. My editor loved DAMAGED, and my publisher was very excited about it. I knew the bar had been set very high with the first book, so I had a lot of anxiety about meeting those expectations with INDEFENSIBLE. I’m happy – and hugely relieved – to say that my readers have really loved this book.

Word Nerd: 
You mention on your website that you love libraries. What is so special about them to you?
Pamela: Libraries are where I learned the joy of losing myself in a different world. When I was in elementary school, a bookmobile used to come to my neighborhood every other Friday afternoon. I’d rush there after school and spend an hour sitting cross-legged on the floor, sampling the books I would take home with great anticipation for the weekend. The staff was incredibly kind to me, and would select books from the main library for me to borrow. When our dog had puppies, one of the staff even adopted one!

Many years later, my first summer job was in Halifax’s main library branch. I was supposed to start right after my high school graduation. But on the night of my high school prom, I broke my ankle bunny-hopping (!). Again, the library was kind to me and let me work all summer hobbling around in a walking cast.

I never dreamed at the time that my books would be shelved there. It is still amazing to me.

Word Nerd: What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Write late at night, etc?
Pamela: My writing process is a combination of detailed planning and those jolts of inspiration that can turn on a dime. I spend several months researching, creating characters and back stories, interviewing experts, plotting, creating flow charts, outlining, and trying to figure out the main angles of my stories. I write in multiple points of view, so I like to know exactly what is driving each character and what they know for each event in the book.

My writing schedule has changed in the sense that I literally am at my computer all the time, unless I’m pulled away for my mom duties. I spend an hour first thing in the morning responding to emails and interacting on my Facebook Book page, then I dig into my work in progress. I work until my kids’ afterschool activities begin, then I do my mom thing until about 9 or 10 at night, and then I work again until bedtime. My deadlines are very tight with this series, so I haven’t taken much time off in the past 18 months, and don’t see that changing until the fourth book is delivered.

Word Nerd:  What books have captured your attention lately?
Pamela: My favorite read of 2010 was Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, hands down. It is Survivor 
Olympics + Lord of the Flies. I loved the social commentary in it, the scope of her imagination, and her characters. I’m a big Ken Follett fan, so I’ve got Fall of Giants on my bedside table. I’m also interested in reading Kathleen Winter’s debut novel Annabel, because we were in Newfoundland last summer. I really could use a recommendation for a funny read – really, any great reads -- so any suggestions would be welcome!

Word Nerd: What's next for you as a writer?
Pamela: I’m in the middle of writing TATTOOED, the third book of the Kate Lange series. I’m having fun
doing the research for it, as I have a cold case, and I love forensic anthropology. I also wanted to explore the mainstreaming of tattooing in our culture, so in this book, a tattoo artist who is Kate’s alter ego reappears from her past. And right after that, I’m diving into the fourth book of the Kate Lange series. Both of these books will be released in 2012.

Thanks so much for having me on Word Nerd today!

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