Pamela Callow is a Canadian thriller writer who wanted to be a vet when she was a kid but was allergic to too many animals. Instead, she decided to study English Literature, become a lawyer, do a Master’s degree in Public Administration, work for an international consulting firm… and then become a thriller writer who has dogs in her books!
PDD: The first three books in your Kate Lange series are coming out over an eighteen-month time span: Damaged in June 2010; Indefensible in January 2011; and Tattooed in June 2012. How many of the books did you have written before you sold the series? What are the difficulties and rewards in having three published books in a year and a half?
DAMAGED was sold based on the full manuscript. I was gratified that it didn’t require much revision. I wrote INDEFENSIBLE in the period of time between accepting the offer from my publisher and DAMAGED’s publication date. I am currently at work on TATTOOED – which was delayed due to my father’s illness – and that will be released in June 2012. Right after I complete TATTOOED, I will dive into my fourth book, which is projected to be released in 2012, as well.
The challenge with writing the second book before the first book was published was simply trying to guess how my readers would react to certain character dynamics, and trying to figure out which direction I should take some story lines. It’s like standing on the edge of a cliff and forcing yourself to jump. You don’t want to disappoint readers who have enjoyed the first book! However, at the end of the day, you have to stay true to the characters you’ve created, and it turns out that my readers have really liked the way I developed the characters in the second book. In fact, it showed me that my instincts are sound.
The rewards of having the first two published so close together is that when my readers would say, “I can’t wait for your next book!” I could relax, knowing another would be out within months. It’s also nice to realize that I’ve had two books published in the past nine months. It makes me feel like I’m developing a body of work.
PDD: You describe Kate as "an everywoman superwoman." Are you saying than any woman who aspires to a successful career as a lawyer has to be a superwoman? How closely does the life of a high-power lawyer in fiction represent what happens in real life?
Actually, that’s not at all what I meant. I’m going to have to clarify that on my website – thanks for bringing it to my attention!
“Everywoman” refers to the lives of most people at Kate’s age: balancing life, careers -- and trying to figure out what makes us happy. “Superwoman” refers to the inner strength that Kate must find. She has to face her worst fears and dig deep to survive in DAMAGED. Being a lawyer is incidental to this. This is about the most elementary part of our human nature: how far would you go to redeem yourself? How far would you go to do the right thing? If your very existence were at stake, would you flee or fight?
PDD: The books are toward the darker end of the thriller scale. How do you get your head into that darker space in order to write and, equally important, how do you get your head out of that space in order to resume ordinary life?
That’s a good question. I think I mine the fear that I have within myself about dark things. All my plot lines are inspired by the news. What I do with my books is take those crimes and remove the psychological distance of reading about it happening to “someone else”. I make it real for my characters, and by doing so, I have to go to some dark places. I do extensive research for my books, and this includes learning about the forensic methodologies employed to solve crime. It also means I read a lot about sociopaths/psychopaths, and the crimes they’ve committed. That is disturbing. I don’t put much violence in my books – it happens off the page – but in order to figure out what my characters have done, I often have to read more than I want to. I’m certainly extremely protective of my children. But I also recognize, after reading many of the psychological analyses of these cases, that there is an element of wrong place/wrong time with these crimes.
Getting out of that dark space can be difficult. I think because I have very busy kids and our home schedule is frenetic, my head gets snapped out of it pretty quickly, whether I like it or not! That being said, I definitely need a breather after finishing one book and going to the next. It’s not easy to do that with my deadlines, but I try to do things that are light, fun. I love watching shows like So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol. I generally find them uplifting and inspiring.
PDD: You're a great support of libraries. What do you think is the biggest danger facing libraries today?
Well, that seems to change on a weekly basis, there’s so much going on in the publishing industry. I think one of the biggest dangers is that governments and/or taxpayers might assume that the advent of e-books will allow them to provide less support to the infrastructure of a library, much like there is a fear that e-books will do away with brick-and-mortar stores. Libraries, however, are evolving and provide resources, programs and opportunity to many people who don’t have resources available to them. They can provide information through books, computers, special programs – to people who are not in the school system. I myself use specialized libraries associated with the medical and law faculties because they provide material that is not easily accessible elsewhere.
For more information about Pamela and her books, visit her web site, Facebook page, and/or Twitter address (@PamelaCallow).