July 2014 AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT
(To view Author Spotlight archives, Click here)
SPECIAL NOTE: This month, Pamela has agreed to give away a digital copy of her book, Mr Right Goes Wrong, to one of my lucky newsletter subscribers.
Check out my CONTEST page for details.
WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
PM: I grew up in Oklahoma, but I moved around a lot since then. I have a master's degree in Library Science from University of Missouri. I was a librarian for many years before my writing career took center stage. I've been lucky enough to have two great husbands. Mr. Morsi died in 1996. I married Bill in 2001. The combined family is large enough to make us almost eligible for our own reality television program. Fortunately everybody is out on their own, except my mentally handicapped daughter who still lives with us.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer?
PM: I went into a seriously blue mood on my 37th birthday. I thought my life was over and I'd made the wrong choices. I was in a fetal position on the bed when my husband came in and asked me what was wrong. I told him that I could have been a writer. I could have been a writer…if I hadn't married him and had the kids and owed a mortgage…blah blah. It wasn't pretty, but he was sympathetic. He bought me a computer and set it up in the corner of our bedroom. He said, "You can't quit your job. But I can do the cooking and the kids can help me with the house. You have every night and every weekend. Write your 'blankety-blank book' or shut the 'blank' up about it!" So basically at that point, I had no other choice.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
PM: I had no idea what I was doing or how long it might take. I had never met a writer, never attended a course, never read a how-to. I just started. I honestly didn't think about publication because I never really believed that I would actually finish a book. I was sure that like cross-stitch projects and macrobiotic cookery, I'd get distracted and find the partial manuscript in the bottom of a desk drawer ten years later. But that wasn't what happened. I kept working on it. So much so that my hubby moved the computer into the dining room so that he could sleep. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And one day I realized that I could bring it all to a conclusion. So I did. It wasn't until that point that I said, "ya know, maybe somebody somewhere might publish this."
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
PM: I sold that very first book. It's still out there for sale. The publisher titled it HEAVEN SENT, which I guess it was for me. I think my published count now is about 30, but I'm not sure. I've had a lot of proposals rejected over the years, but I have only one completed story that never made it to publication, It was a contemporary that I wanted to write when I was in the middle of my historical career. I've done a lot of that. Writing stuff just because I wanted to. I've been lucky that only one of them got tossed.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
PM: It was a little convoluted. Not the best call story. People, the agent, editor etc., assumed I understood a lot more of what was happening than I did. It was a negotiation and the reality that I had sold was sort of eked out in a number of calls. So I kind of missed the big moment.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
PM: It totally changed the trajectory of my life. Within two years of publication of my first book, I was able to write full-time. Which made it possible to be home for my handicapped daughter after school and later to care for my husband when he became ill. I could set my own schedule and I made enough money to support my family. Neither of those things would have been true as a librarian.
WG: What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
PM: I imagined it to be a lot more fun and glamorous that it actually is. It's mostly a lot of alone time and stressful deadlines. I love my stories when they are done or even when they are going well. But a lot of this career is work undone and concepts you love that are hard to get into words that do them justice. At least once a week you'll catch me sighing over the wish that I could be better at this than I am.
WG: What about your writing process? Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
PM: I work better in the mornings. Somehow it's quieter. But when it's getting close to deadline, anytime is the right time. None of my days are typical. I'm very unstructured. It's probably a miracle that I write anything.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
PM: I write one book a year. That's been the deal I made with myself a decade ago. It's not that I don't understand that putting more books out there faster is very good for career building. I get that. But life is short enough as it is. So as far as goals go, I try to spend my time on stories that genuinely interest me. And I try to take up new writing challenges with each book. Some of them will be obvious to the reader, like narrative mixing or parallel storylines. Some are just doing characters that I can't easily fit into. It's important to me to compete only with myself. And it's important to improve my craft. Writing workshops don't work for me. I learn by doing it hands on.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
PM: No. I don't want any distractions at all.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
PM: Some. I certainly have a set up in mind when I start, but typically I don't know where it's going. I am an organic writer. So I don't start out with a plan or a theme or sometimes much of an idea. That is clearly not the best way to try to do this. Planning, organization that's the way to go. But unfortunately, I can't go that way. I do it very unstructured and haphazard and very slowly. But it works for me. When I finish my first draft, basically all that's left is proofreading. It's a very finished process but it's not a particularly efficient one.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
PM: I've started in nearly every possible way (see goals above). I've begun with only one character in mind. I've started with only a conflict to resolve. I've started with only a setting. I've even written one (actually signed a contract) based solely on a catchy title. Changing up the process, even in little ways, will keep your stories from straying into sameness. Or at least I hope it will.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
PM: I think the themes of our lives recur and recur and recur, even when we have no intention of beating that dead horse one more time. Maybe once we resolve something in ourselves, it can disappear in our writing. I'll let you know if I manage to resolve anything.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
PM: I am very interested in people and their stories. And I have the good fortune of being a bit of an empath. People feel safe talking to me. This has been true basically from childhood. So I've been the recipient of a lot of personal stories and along with that some insight into human nature. I think this helps me write believable characters behaving in familiar circumstances.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
PM: I don't know if you'd call this a lifestyle conflict, but I do have Multiple Sclerosis. It doesn't stop me from writing, but it does force me to be more careful about sitting long hours at a desk. And it helps to keep me clear on the priorities. I am writing because I want to write novels. Not because I want to tour around for promo or spend my day blogging. I do some of that, but I am cognizant that I need to save my stamina for the books that are still in my head.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
PM: Don't do it like me, if you can avoid it in anyway. Maybe don't do it like anybody. We are all unique in our approach and vision. It's natural that our processes would be just as diverse. For the long term, you have to find the way that works best for you.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
PM: I read a lot of regency historicals. That may be because there are a lot of those out there, but also because some of my favorite authors write them. I also love women's fiction. I'm a sucker for any unique perspective in historical. In high school we went through a Gone with the Wind phase where all the girls were deciding they were either Scarlets or Melanies. I proclaimed myself to be more like Trashy Emmy Slattery. Her perspective might have made a very good story.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
PM: I have a couple of sci-fi ideas that I've kicked around for a few years. And a great set up for a mystery series. I seriously doubt that I will do either. But I never say never.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
PM: Go for it. Not everybody has the heart and the talent to write. If you have these and don't use them, you not only cheat yourself, you cheat the rest of us. What you write is uniquely yours and if you don't do it, it doesn't get written. So get busy.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
PM: I guess what I've figured out is that while it would be great to have a big NYTimes Bestseller and make gobs of money and have a million followers drooling after your work, the writer's life is not about that. A writer's life is spent sort of one-on-one with the empty page. What you put there is the only thing that matters. And it's got to matter to you first.
WG: Rejections, less than stellar reviews and notes from unhappy readers are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
PM: Literary criticism is by definition critical. And these days it's almost fashionable to be snarky and superior when anonymously judging other people's work. Truthfully, I am very thin-skinned and I've cried buckets of tears over the years. The unkind words always ring so much more loudly to me than any praise. I don't think there is any easy way to deal with it. I avoid reviews like the plague. And I never write them if I can't say something good.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?
PM: I've pretty much ignored all wisdom, conventional or otherwise.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
PM: The best thing is when I can't find a story I want to read, I can make one up to suit me. The worst is marketing, promotion, hype…etc.
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
PM: I like movies. And live music performance, mostly folk and bluegrass, but I'll do classical and rock, too. I have great friends and I love to have them over in big groups or couples dinners. A nice glass of wine. Chocolate.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
PM: A writer. (Like Jo in Little Women)
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
PM: This is a tough question. I feel like, with all the book signings and presentations I've given and all the information on the internet about me, that I'm very much out there, almost exposed. I would be surprised that there are any surprises about me.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
PM: I love the Brit mysteries. Maybe it's the accents or the locales. But they do great TV. The plots are very "thinky" and I am often surprised. The U.S. ones are getting better all the time. Still, they rely a lot more on violence. And I can usually figure out the storyline and whodonit early.
Movie-wise, I like the off-beat. Indies and art films will get me driving across town to sit in a dingy basement theater. I also see a lot of foreign films, although I have to space that out because of how intensely I have to watch while reading the subtitles. My daughter loves the chick-flicks, so we see all of those that are not R-rated And we see all the kidflicks. Basically, we go to the movies a lot. Which probably explains my addiction to popcorn.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
PM: A great quote for those interested in a writing career comes from the mouth of the character Elizabeth Imbrie in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. "Belts will be worn tighter this year."
PM: My latest is called Mr.Right Goes Wrong. The tagline is Mazy always falls for the bad boys. This time Eli's determined to be the worst guy to ever steal her heart. It's a bit of a funny twist for me. My heroes are always such solid, dependable men. Men that can be trusted. For me it's usually a question of the heroine's journey to trust. I had some fun with this one, turning that around. Eli is a wonderful man, pretending to be a jerk, because he loves Mazy and in his experience, Mazy seems to want a jerk. It was a real challenge to have the hero doing crappy, dirtbag, unexceptable things with enough motivation that the reader lets him get away with it. Author's note: all of the crappy, dirtbag, unexceptable things are pretty innocent. No anger, no violence, nothing icky or scary.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
PM: I am not one of those women who always pick the wrong guy. Even in my teens, I never went for the guy my parents didn't like. But so many women do. And I have been fascinated with that for years. Why would a woman, who is smart in every other way, make such bad decisions about men. Yes, I know they are cute, but nice guys are cute, too. So I looked into the psychology of that (skimmed the surface only) and decided that I would write my own version of the "bad boy book". Where the hero is pretending and the heroine is recovering.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
PM: The research on this was a hoot. Well, the psychology was serious and as complicated as human always are. But I did a lot of reading rant blogs by women angry at their boyfriends. I also talked to friends and family about "the worse date you ever had" kind of thing. Stories I heard, you couldn't write in books, nobody would believe it! I even considered doing a "worst date of your life" contest to promote the release. But I thought the better of that. I can look back on my worst date and laugh. Not everybody is at the laughing place yet. I wanted the book to be fun and frothy, but as always, serious elements are part of every book I write. So while I think readers will laugh and shake their heads, I also hope that it makes them think about change and how nothing about our attitude and approach to the world is set in stone. Even bad choices can be overcome and bad habits exist to be broken.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
PM: I have started work on a story that I've been kicking around for several years. I don't really talk about work in progress. Part of what pushes me to write the story is the need to get it out there. When I discuss it, it's like releasing a pressure valve, the urgency lessens. So I try not to talk, just to write.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
PM: There's an email link on my website: pamelamorsi.com. I'm also on Twitter and Facebook, Goodreads, I am out there. And I love to hear from readers. It's the feedback that makes it all seem real.
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!