When did you decide to be a writer and why?
In sixth grade I started packing around one of those blue binders. That year I wrote a novel about an eleven year old girl who was never called Bean Pole or Olive Oil, a young woman who always knew the right thing to say, never tripped on the playground and exposed her ratty underpants to the new boy with the curly hair. A fictional girl whose parents loved one another and always had time for their children, whose sister was afflicted with a rare, but curable disease that rendered her silent and kind. . . well, you get the idea.
In the summer between elementary school and junior high, my mother found my novel. She no doubt found it long before then, but it was then that I got the lecture about never revealing family secrets to outsiders. Especially not in writing. Two days later my masterpiece went missing. I got the message and didn’t write again seriously until about six years ago when I was living out of the country and my craving for the English language drove me back to my first love.
Screw family secrets.
What kind of writing do you do?
I write what I most love to read–contemporary fiction about ordinary people winding their way through life’s choices and obstacles. My agent is hawking my latest two novels as women’s fiction. And that’s fine. Frankly, if a press publishes one of my books, they can slap whatever label they want on the cover. But, truly, I write literary fiction. My protagonists are always strong, quirky, confused females, but that doesn’t make my work women’s fiction any more than Patterson writes men’s fiction. I fictionalize the truth, the same as I did when I was a skinny eleven year old packing around that blue binder.
What inspires you to write?
The joy of words. The rhythm that pours from fingertips to computer monitor and becomes a song I didn’t know I carried until that moment when I enter into the music, and, for just a little while, disappear. Or perhaps a better way to explain the muse is that the magic of a story is revealed like a strip tease, one thin veil at time until the tale stands exposed, raw boned and naked, daring me to reveal her exactly as she is, every wrinkle, wart and glory exposed.
Yeah, I know. Big, talk from a Humboldt County redneck. Here’s another, equally true, answer to the question of what inspires me to write.
I write because I don’t want to take Prozac and I puke when I drink.
What are you proudest of in your writing life?
That’s a difficult question.
I have two published books. Redneck Goddess and Bigfoot Blues. You’d think that would make me proud.
I’ve walked to the front of the room at OWFI and OWL and collected awards for short stories and been published in magazines and anthologies. That should make me proud.
I have the discipline to walk into my study every day, sit at the computer and write. That’s a good quality in a writer and something for which I could feel pride.
But, I don’t really feel proud of any of those things.
I can tell you what gives me the most joy in my writing career. Being good at writing and being recognized by other writers for that ability. When, on Thursday night at The Northwest Arkansas Writers’ Workshop, Dusty Richards or Velda Brotherton or Duke Pennell or Greg Camp admire what I’ve read. That’s joy. When a new writer comes to me for advice, and I’m able to help them, just a little, on their writing journey, that makes me happy.
Jen Nipps came up to me at the last OWL conference and told me how much she loved the reading I did on Friday night. Her comment made my month.
So, maybe I’m like Sally Fields. All I really want is for people to like me, to really like me.
What, or who, has been the most helpful to you in your writing?
The NW Arkansas Writer’s Workshop, of course. A good critique group is essential to any writer and I was fortunate to find an excellent band of individuals to help shape my writing. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pen keeps me on track and provides the support of a loving family. We all need that. Some of us are lucky enough to be born into such a family. Some of us marry into the joy of acceptance. I found love and acceptance and truth in four incredible women authors who graciously accepted me into their clan.
What do you usually read? What books are you reading now?
I pack a dozen or so books home from the library every week. Contemporary fiction. Mostly new releases. I love James Lee Burke. You might think I meant to say that I love his writing, but really, I adore the man himself solely because of the joy he gives me through his books. He is a genius.
I just finished reading Boleto by Alyson Hagy, which is stunningly beautiful. I’m fifty pages into Far North by Marcel Theroux, yet another gifted writer.
I read a lot of non-fiction as well, though I confess I often read the first fifty or so pages and then decide I know far more than I ever wanted to know about one particular subject. This week I packed home books about the hunt for Mayan treasure, the life of a CIA operative, and the truth about factory farms. Seriously, I get it. The Mayan’s offered beating hearts to their gods, being a spy is complicated, and poor, wee animals suffer so we can gorge on veal.
Enough with serious issues. I think I’ll read Claire Croxton’s Santorini Sunset. I crave laughter and snark and fun on foreign shores.
Is there anything about your writing that you’re particularly excited about right now?
Well, of course, I’m excited about the release of Bigfoot Blues. I’m delighted with the reviews that are coming in on the book. I think I mentioned how I love praise for my writing.
My kindergarten report card said, “Pamela is painfully shy.” Well, I got over that. It turns out I love public speaking. Imagine that. I’m jazzed about the writing workshop The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pen is teaching at the Fayetteville library and about speaking in November at OWL.
What do you want to be doing ten years from now?
Speaking at the Iowa Writers Workshop about my newest best seller and afterward calling James Lee Burke to let him know how wonderfully the presentation went.