Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I'm 43 and a single mom of two sons, one who's 21 and one who's almost 18. I've worked most of my life (after wasting too much time in grad school) as a journalist and columnist and became the first woman editor of two different papers. I've gotten to do a lot of exciting, unusual things for that reason. But I've always loved romance novels and have wanted to write fiction since I was about 10 years old. I read romance as a teen (Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers) and loved them.
I lived in Europe between the ages of 17-20, specifically in Denmark. I love that country and hope to return one day. I learned to speak Danish fluently and discovered that I love foreign languages. I studied nine, but am only fluent in a couple. Words are like toys for me and the more languages the better. I got to travel extensively around Europe when I was there and miss it very much.
If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
Ooooh, that's hard! Why is it hard? Because - I'm being completely honest - I really want to sleep with all of my heroes. How can I pick only one? At the very least I have to be Sophie (Unlawful Contact), Tessa (Hard Evidence), Kara (Extreme Exposure) and Annie (Surrender) and Bethie (Ride the Fire). It wouldn't mind being Cassie, either (Sweet Release).
What's your favorite genre to read?
Historicals - by far. I used to read only historicals until I started writing romantic suspense. Then I felt obliged to crack a few of those open. I love JD Robb and Tara Janzen when it comes to romantic suspense. But historicals are my favorite genre. I don't read paranormals, except for a few authors.
The trouble with historicals is that there are so few historical titles put out these days, and so many of them are Regencies, which I don't like. (I guess I'm a picky reader.) I like historical depth and action, and ballrooms just don't do it for me. Perhaps I tired of them as a teenager.
Also I think political correctness really hurt historicals, so that the stories often feel blunted. But when I find a good historical, I grab it with both hands and don't let go.
Who or what influences you when you write?
Everything influences me. A bad day at the newspaper can stick with me all weekend (I work a four-day week and have three-day weekends). Health issues can impact my writing. A good movie, a good book, a new music CD often inspire me. Music is a huge thing. I have an ever-evolving playlist for every book I write. (I have the lists posted on my website, www.pamelaclare.com.)
Also, I'm a very "scent-oriented" person - my sense of smell is extremely sensitive - so I like to wear lavender or musk or ambergris or some scent that reminds me of the characters. And, yes, it's different from book to book, though the historicals are mostly lavender (which I'm sure some reader out there hates). :)
I love historical research. My college degree was in classical archaeology, and I love the historical research that goes into historical novels. Anything that puts me in the time and place of my characters feeds my writing. Antiques, artifacts, old maps, photos, drawings, diaries, letters - all of these things feed my Muse.
For my historicals, I always start with the research, and the characters blossom out of that. Then the story flows from the characters. The plot depends entirely on who they are and what they believe/fear/think/want.
I guess in the end, what inspires me most is my characters. Once I know the source of their inner pain and fear, then I know exactly who they are. Then I love them and I'm so keyed in to them that I just want to tell their story.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
Mostly, I procrastinate. I waste waaaay too much time online or worrying about the laundry that wasn't important yesterday but which has suddenly taken on as much significance as peace in the Middle East.
But typically I get up, take a shower, make or buy a triple grande vanilla latte, then sit down and try to focus for 16 hours at a stretch. My entire three-day weekend is given to writing, apart from the odd trip to the grocery store, that laundry I mentioned and catching up on sleep.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
God, I wish I knew. I'm a perfectionist - truly, I can't write the next word until I like the one before it. I will spend hours - and I'm not exaggerating - on a single sentence. I spent a week on the last two paragraphs of Surrender.
Writer's block for me tends to be a shutdown caused either by stress (about life, the paper, my kids) or by doubt in myself (I'm an idiot, who reads my books anyway, why did I think I could write good books) or an inability to get past my own perfectionist hangup.
The best thing I can do is stop writing, step away from it and just do something else.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
On April 1, Unlawful Contact will be out. This book is part of the I-Team series and tell's Sophie's story. I'm very excited about it. It took me a full year - yes, an entire year - to write this book. I swear it did brain damage. But I think it's exciting and very suspenseful. Readers will have to wait until almost the last page to see how it works out.
I post frequent excerpts on my blog -pamelaclare.blogspot.com - so everyone can poke around in the archives for the excerpts and watch for other books that way, too. I tend to post snippets of what I'm writing, as well.
Sophie is one of the original Three Musketeers of the I-Team series (Kara, Tessa, Sophie), which was originally just three books but is turning into it's own thang. She's in the middle of reporting on issues related to women in prison, when one of the women she's been reporting on, a young mother, disappears with her baby. Then Sophie gets a phone call from the Colorado State Penitentiary that an inmate there - Marc Hunter - has information that could help her find this missing mother. What she doesn't know is that Marc Hunter is going to use her as a hostage to escape prison so that he can find this missing mother, who just happens to be his little sister.
The story focuses on Marc and Sophie, who have a shared past, and on their hunt for Marc's sister. Why did she disappear? Who's after her? And what terrible secret does she hold?
Please tell us what you have planned next?
Right now I'm working on my next historical, the sequel to Surrender, titled Untamed. It's part of the MacKinnon's Rangers series and tells Morgan's story and that of Amalie, the French Metis woman he meets when taken captive by the French. I just started it and hope to have it done in time for a late 2008 release, but given the speed with which I write - my progress is sadly measured in geological time - I can't say for sure when I'll be done with it. I'm on Chapter 6 out of about 30.
After that, I'll write Kat's story - the next in the I-Team series - and then I'll write the last book of the MacKinnon Ranger's series and tell Connor's story.
In 5 years, where do you see yourself? In general and in you're writing career.
By then I'll be a New York Times bestseller and will have written a few straight historical novels and perhaps my first straight thriller, which I hope to make into a movie myself, even if I have to shoot it using my parents' old video camera. I really have a love of movies and I think very visually when I write. It's my dream to make at least that one thrilled (based on a reoccurring nightmare I had for years) into a movie. I want other people to experience that nightmare, darn it!
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
I love the tortured alpha male, the man who has perhaps made mistakes or been badly hurt in the past but who is so strong he doesn't even feel his own suffering - until the heroine opens him up and helps him heal.
I love strong, protective men who know who they are, who are sure of their beliefs and aren't afraid to stand up for them.
I love men who fit the warrior mold - men who sacrifice on behalf of their communities so that those who are weaker than they are can live protected, safe lives.
Also, they must be sexually passionate. Hey, I'm single and still young-ish, so that's important.
If you're asking which of my heroes are my favorites, I'd have to say: Marc (UnlawfulContact), Julian (HardEvidence), Iain (Surrender), Nicholas (Ride the Fire).
In the real world, the two police officers who saved my life one night when I was attacked in my home by two knife-wielding rapist-wannabes are true heroes. They ran across a field, guns drawn, to try to get to me in time. I dedicated Hard Evidence to them. The attack is acknowledged in the plot of Extreme Exposure.
What do you do for inspiration?
I read historical texts, visit historical places, travel, watch documentaries about historical events and people. My contemporary romantic suspense novels are inspired mostly by real life investigations I've done over the years, which are then fictionalized, some more than others.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
I really want to write straight historicals. Just plain historical fiction. That's a big goal of mine. It's not that there's anything wrong with writing romance, but it would be nice to focus on the history without having to worry about the conventions of romance - happy ending, is it too graphic and violent, not enough romance, etc.
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
Both. If I didn't have a deadline, I'd fuss over a book for years. But sometimes the pressure of knowing I must write makes it hard to write. I've now missed so many deadlines - by months and even years - that my publishers pretty much know I'll tell them when I have a book for them. Still, I try to stick by some schedule. A chapter a weekend is my goal. You'd think it wouldn't be hard, but this past weekend I wrote fewer than 2,000 words.
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
I've worked as a professional writer since I was 20. That's when I became a reporter. I started writing Sweet Release in 1994, finished it seven years later, then got an agent. She submitted it, and it sold within nine months.
That's a very unusual path for a writer. Most people have multiple manuscripts lying around. They've written perhaps seven books and finally submit and sell the eighth. I wrote one, sent it to six agents, got signed, and then sold. I felt confident the book would sell because this was what I'd wanted to do all my life. I didn't realize that it wasn't always that easy. Still, when it did sell, I screamed.
What would you like to tell your readers?
I love you! I write these books for you, and I love sharing the stories with you and hearing how they've touched you. Please feel free to drop me a line.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I have to write synopses for my editors, so I write those. They're about 15 pages long and constitute something of an outline. Then I sit down and write. Sometimes I consult the synopsis, but mostly the characters make up the story as they go along. I can't tell you how a story is going to work out until I've written the ending.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
That was Sweet Release, and it came out in March 2003. It's going to be reprinted soon. It's the first book in my first trilogy.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
I may have already answered this, but, yes, I love the research. I've done workshops on doing research. I loved archaeology and might have stayed in academia if I hadn't wanted so very much to write books.
I always do very in-depth research for my books. For Ride the Fire, I even had copies of the soldier's diaries from the siege of Fort Pitt, which makes up a big part of the book. It was amazing to read about their lives in their words and to try to recreate those days in my novel, putting Nicholas, the hero, at the center. For the MacKinnon's Rangers series, I read and reread the journals of Robert Rogers who was the famous Ranger of his day who really launched the Ranger corps.
I do research for the contemps, too. For Unlawful Contact, I learned how to break out of police handcuffs. And because the characters are reporters and I've been an investigative reporter all of my adult life, I've been doing research for those novels for years. I try to put real newsroom experiences into the stories.
As a reporter, I've had a gun pointed at me twice, gotten death threats, done things I shouldn't have done, seen dead people, even seen a kid with his head shot off (the worst thing I've ever seen). I can tell you what happens to brains when they dry on the wall and what it's like to have two men with knives attack you in your home. I also know what it's like to fall off a cliff, break several bones and need to be flown out by helicopter. There's lots of material backed up in my brain for romantic suspense and given that so much of it was scary or painful, believe me, I intend to use it. LOL!
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
My website has excerpts of all of the books I've written, except Unlawful Contact, which I just finished in July. My blog is perhaps the best way to get to know me. I post as often as I can. It's not a blog that's heavily into contests and promo, though I do contests once in a while. It's more just my life as a journalist/novelist/single mom.
Do you ever use real life actors or actresses as how you see your characters when you write?
Adrian Paul as Duncan McLeod has been the model for most of my heroes. I'm sorry, but he's just delicious. I have also used models. I found a delicious Brazilian model who was Marc Hunter for me. I don't keep images of the heroines most of the time or even really think about that. The hero inspires me more than the heroine. But I do have a photo of Sophie Marceau (the French princess in Braveheart) for Amalie in Untamed.
And basically hon anything else you want to share feel more than free to do so :)
I'm left-handed, a Pisces with Cancer rising, and, yes, my hair is naturally curly. I get asked that last one a lot. I once did a talk in a college classroom and when I asked for questions at the end, that's what they asked me. Go figure. Thanks so much for having me! And please feel free to visit me on my blog or via e-mail.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
I don't belong to a critique group. I have a small, trusted cadre of friends, most of whom are not writers, who read my work chapter by chapter and comment. My sister has been doing this since the beginning. She doesn't normally read romance, but she reads my books. I have an author friend who has been my lifeline who reads stuff when I'm feeling really low. But I don't belong to a critique group because I'm too fragile to trust my writing to people I don't know well. And I don't really have time to read their stuff, and that's not fair.
I chose from the beginning not to join a critique group because I knew the first time someone said, "This sucks," I'd want to cry and I'd quit writing.
Protect the Muse!!!
What type of book have you always wanted to write?
I've only ever wanted to write books that creep into people's hearts and become a part of them, even if they don't realize it. I want to write books that touch people's hearts and leave them feeling enriched. I want to write the books you can't forget.