A Conversation with ‘Saving Grace’ Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Pamela Fagan HutchinsPamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning mysterious women’s fiction and relationship humor books, and holds nothing back.  She is known for “having it all” which really means she has a little too much of everything, but loves it: writer, mediocre endurance athlete (triathlon, marathons), wife, mom of an ADHD & Asperger’s son, five kids/step-kids, business owner, recovering employment attorney and human resources executive, investigator, consultant, and musician.  Pamela lives with her husband Eric and two high school-aged kids, plus 200 pounds of pets in Houston. Their hearts are still in St. Croix, USVI, along with those of their three oldest offspring.

Her latest book is the mystery/women’s fiction, Saving Grace.

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Saving GraceQ: Thank you for this interview, Pamela. Can you tell us what your latest book, Saving Grace, is all about?

Thank you! Saving Grace is the story of Katie Connell, a Texas attorney whose life is one train wreck after another: too many Bloody Marys, a client who’s the Vanilla Ice of the NBA, and a thing for a Heathcliff-like co-worker. She takes refuge from it all on the island of St. Marcos, where she plans to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents. But she trades one set of problems for another when she is bewitched by the voodoo spirit Annalise in an abandoned rainforest house and, as worlds collide, finds herself reluctantly donning her lawyer clothes again to defend her new friend Ava, who is accused of stabbing her very married Senator-boyfriend.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

First, there’s Katie. Oh, Katie, Katie, Katie. She’s the main character, a 30-something lawyer who vacuums her rugs backwards and is as much a danger to herself as the bad guys.

Nick is the object of her unreturned affections, an investigator in Dallas with a penchant for surf boards and bass guitars.

Ava is an island seductress who convinces Katie to become her new best friend and a second for her vocal duo.

Rashidi John befriends Katie when he introduces her to the jumbie house Annalise on one of his popular-with-the-ladies rainforest botany tours.

And then there’s Annalise, a giant abandoned house in the rainforest who shows her magical side to a chosen few, and, boy does she ever choose Katie.

Q: Do you ten­d to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I steal most of my characters from people whose big imprints on life inspire my creativity. But if fiction is life without the boring parts, my fictional characters are those people without them either. Their fictional bads are badder and their crazies are crazier.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I am a planner and a plotter, but the novel takes me wherever it ultimately wants to go. Kind of like my kids do, in real life. In Saving Grace, a character named Zane McMillan shows up who wreaked havoc on my carefully constructed outline. I had a heck of a time keeping him from hijacking the whole book. I love it when that happens.

Q: Your book is set in the Virgin Islands.  Can you tell us why you chose this area in particular?

The islands are magical. I lived on St. Croix for six years, and the people and the places just burned into my brain and my heart. I had no choice in the matter: Saving Grace set itself there.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

The island setting, and the rainforest jumbie house Annalise in particular, are pivotal to the story. In the islands, Katie can embrace the magic in herself and the world around her, whereas she is much too pragmatic for that kind of nonsense back in Texas.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Katie is throwing caution and common sense to the wind and is about to make an offer to purchase a half-finished abandoned house in the rainforest because she believes she and the jumbie spirit offer each other a chance at mutual salvation.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Sure, here’s one I really like:

We had hiked for nearly two hours when Rashidi gave us a hydration break and announced that we were nearing the turnaround point, which would be a special treat: a modern ruin. As we leaned on smooth kapok trees and sucked on our Lululemon water bottles, Rashidi explained that a bad man, a thief, had built a beautiful mansion in paradise ten years before, named her Annalise, and then left her forsaken and half-complete. No one had ever finished her and the rainforest had moved fast to claim her. Wild horses roamed her halls, colonies of bats filled her eaves, and who knows what lived below her in the depths of her cisterns. We would eat our lunch there, then turn back for the hike down.

When the forest parted to reveal Annalise, we all drew in a breath. She was amazing: tall, austere, and a bit frightening. Our group tensed with anticipation. It was like the first day of the annual Parade of Homes, where people stood in lines for the chance to tour the crème de la crème of Dallas real estate, except way better. We were visiting a mysterious mansion with a romantic history in a tropical rainforest. Ooh là là.

Graceful flamboyant trees, fragrant white-flowered frangipanis, and grand pillars marked the entrance to her gateless drive. On each side of the overgrown road, Rashidi pointed out papaya stalks, soursop, and mahogany trees. The fragrance was pungent, the air drunk with fermenting mangos and ripening guava, all subtly undercut by the aroma of bay leaves. It was a surreal orchard, its orphaned fruit unpicked, the air heavy and still, bees and insects the only thing stirring besides our band of turistas. Overhead, the branches met in the middle of the road and were covered in the trailing pink flowers I’d admired the day before, which Rashidi called pink trumpet vines. The sun shone through the canopy in narrow beams and lit our dim path.

A young woman in historic slave garb was standing on the front steps, peering at us from under the hand that shaded her eyes, her gingham skirt whipping in the breeze. She looked familiar. As we came closer, she turned and walked back inside. I turned to ask Rashidi if we were going to tour the inside of the house, but he was talking to a skeletally thin New Yorker who wanted details on the mileage and elevation gain of our hike for her Garmin.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I’m in a perpetual state of writer’s block, or recovery from it. The first thing I do when I feel it coming on is change locations or go outside. If I can’t nip it in the bud, I talk it out with my husband/muse. If it persists, I force myself to write something else — anything to keep me writing. I am a big believer that creativity happens when you’re putting in the work. I had a huge episode of block while writing the sequel to Saving Grace. It took me two months of other writing before the block broke and I could get back to the islands.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I’d love to say I’d run six miles or snuggle in the front of the fire with my husband, but it’s a lie. If I had an extra hour, I’d keep writing, but I’d at least play footsie (very vigorously) with him on the couch while I did it.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

I wish I had written Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, because of the characters: unforgettable, flawed, and larger than life. Gus and Woodrow, oh, how I love thee.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

More than ever, a fiction author must be fearless and relentless. The number of books published a year is growing exponentially, and you can’t just write yours and hope someone else will sell it for you. You need a marketing plan and an entrepreneurial spirit. It doesn’t hurt if you have a lot of support, too.

Read-a-Chapter: Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the mystery, women’s fiction, Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Enjoy!

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Saving Grace

Click on cover to purchase at Amazon!

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Skipjack Publishing (September 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0988234807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0988234802

If you’re at all inclined to be swept away to the islands to fall in love with a rainforest jumbie house and a Texas attorney who is as much a danger to herself as the island bad guys, then dive headfirst with Katie Connell into Saving Grace.

Katie escapes professional humiliation, a broken heart, and her Bloody Mary-habit when she runs to the island of St. Marcos to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents. But she trades one set of problems for another when she is bewitched by the voodoo spirit Annalise in an abandoned rainforest house and, as worlds collide, finds herself reluctantly donning her lawyer clothes again to defend her new friend Ava, who is accused of stabbing her very married Senator-boyfriend.

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Chapter One

Last year sucked, and this one was already worse.

Last year, when my parents died in an “accident” on their Caribbean vacation, I’d been working too hard to listen to my instincts, which were screaming “bullshit” so loud I almost went deaf in my third ear. I was preparing for the biggest case of my career, so I sort of had an excuse that worked for me as long as I showed up for happy hour, but the truth was, I was obsessed with the private investigator assigned to my case.

Nick. Almost-divorced Nick. My new co-worker Nick who sometimes sent out vibes that he wanted to rip my Ann Taylor blouse off with his teeth, when he wasn’t busy ignoring me.

But things had changed.

I’d just gotten the verdict back in my mega-trial, the Burnside wrongful termination case. My firm rarely took plaintiff cases, so I’d taken a big risk with this one—and won Mr. Burnside three million dollars, of which the firm got a third. That was the total opposite of suck.

After my coup at the Dallas courthouse, my paralegal Emily and I headed straight down I-20 to the hotel where our firm was on retreat in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is not on the top ten list for most company getaways, but our senior partner fancied himself a poker player, and loved Cajun food, jazz, and riverboat casinos. The retreat was a great excuse for Gino to indulge in a little Texas Hold ’Em between teambuilding and sensitivity sessions and still come off looking like a helluva guy, but it meant a three and a half hour drive each way. This wasn’t a problem for Emily and me. We bridged both the paralegal-to-attorney gap and the co-worker-to-friend gap with ease, largely because neither of us did Dallas-fancy very well. Or at all.

Emily and I hustled inside for check-in at the Eldorado.

“Do you want a map of the ghost tours?” the front desk clerk asked us, her polyglot Texan-Cajun-Southern accent making tours sound like “turs.”

“Why, thank you kindly, but no thanks,” Emily drawled. In the ten years since she’d left, she still hadn’t shaken Amarillo from her voice or given up barrel-racing horses.

I didn’t believe in hocus pocus, either, but I wasn’t a fan of casinos, which reeked of cigarette smoke and desperation. “Do y’all have karaoke or anything else but casinos onsite?”

“Yes, ma’am, we have a rooftop bar with karaoke, pool tables, and that kind of thing.” The girl swiped at her bangs, then swung her head to put them back in the same place they’d been.

“That sounds more like it,” I said to Emily.

“Karaoke,” she said. “Again.” She rolled her eyes. “Only if we can do tradesies halfway. I want to play blackjack.”

After we deposited our bags in our rooms and freshened up, talking to each other on our cell phones the whole time we were apart, we joined our group. All of our co-workers broke into applause as we entered the conference room. News of our victory had preceded us. We curtsied, and I used both arms to do a Vanna White toward Emily. She returned the favor.

“Where’s Nick?” I called out. “Come on up here.”

Nick had left the courtroom when the jury went out to deliberate, so he’d beaten us here. He stood up from a table on the far side of the room, but didn’t join us in front. I gave him a long distance Vanna White anyway.

The applause died down and some of my partners motioned for me to sit with them at a table near the entrance. I joined them and we all got to work writing a mission statement for the firm for the next fifteen minutes. Emily and I had arrived just in time for the first day’s sessions to end.

When we broke, the group stampeded from the hotel to the docked barge that housed the casino. In Louisiana, gambling is only legal “on the water” or on tribal land. On impulse, I walked to the elevator instead of the casino. Just before the doors closed, a hand jammed between them and they bounced apart, and I found myself headed up to the hotel rooms with none other than Nick Kovacs.

“So, Helen, you’re not a gambler either,” he said as the elevator doors closed.

My stomach flipped. Cheesy, yes, but when he was in a good mood, Nick called me Helen—as in Helen of Troy.

I had promised to meet Emily for early blackjack before late karaoke, but he didn’t need to know that. “I have the luck of the Irish,” I said. “Gambling is dangerous for me.”

He responded with dead silence. Each of us looked up, down, sideways, and anywhere but at each other, which was hard, since the elevator was mirrored above a gold handrail and wood paneling. There was a wee bit of tension in the air.

“I heard there’s a pool table at the hotel bar, though, and I’d be up for that,” I offered, throwing myself headlong into the void and holding my breath on the way down.

Dead silence again. Long, dead silence. The ground was going to hurt when I hit it.

Without making eye contact, Nick said, “OK, I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.”

Did he really say he’d meet me there? Just the two of us? Out together? Oh my God, Katie, what have you done?

The elevator doors dinged, and we headed in opposite directions to our rooms. It was too late to back out now.

I moved in a daze. Hyperventilating. Pits sweating. Heart pounding. My outfit was all wrong, so I ditched the Ann Taylor for some jeans, a structured white blouse, and, yes, I admit it, a multi-colored Jessica Simpson handbag and her coordinating orange platform sandals. White works well against my long, wavy red hair, which I unclipped and finger-combed over my shoulders. Not very attorney-like, but that was the point. Besides, I didn’t even like being an attorney, so why would I want to look like one now?

Normally I am Katie Clean, but I settled on a quick brush of my teeth, a French shower, and lipstick. I considered calling Emily to tell her I was no-showing, but I knew she would understand when I explained later. I race-walked to the elevators and cursed them as they stopped on every other floor before the Rooftop Grotto.

Ding. Finally. I stopped to catch my breath. I counted to ten, took one last gulp for courage, and stepped under the dim lights above the stone-topped bar. I stood near a man whose masculinity I could feel pulsing from several feet away. Heat flamed in my cheeks. My engine raced. Just the man I’d come to see.

Nick was of Hungarian descent, and he had his gypsy ancestors to thank for his all-over darkness—eyes, hair, and skin—and sharp cheekbones. He had a muscular ranginess that I loved, but he wasn’t traditionally handsome. His nose was large-ish and crooked from being broken too many times. He’d once told me that a surfboard to the mouth had given him his snaggled front tooth. But he was gorgeous in an undefined way, and I often saw from the quick glances of other women that I wasn’t the only one in the room who noticed.

Now he noticed me. “Hi, Helen.”

“Hi, Paris,” I replied.

He snorted. “Oh, I am definitely not your Paris. Paris was a wimp.”

“Hmmmmm. Menelaus, then?”

“Um, beer.”

“I’m pretty sure there was no one named Beer in the story of Helen of Troy,” I said, sniffing in a faux-superior way.

Nick spoke to the bartender. “St. Pauli Girl.” He finally gave me the Nick grin, and the tension left over from our elevator ride disappeared. “Want one?”

I needed to gulp more than air for courage. “Amstel Light.”

Nick placed the order. The bartender handed Nick two beers beaded with moisture, then shook water from his hands. Nick handed mine to me and I wrapped a napkin around it, lining up the edges with the military precision I adored. Nick sang under his breath, his head bobbing side to side. Honky-tonk Woman.

“I think I like you better in Shreveport than Dallas,” I said.

“Thanks, I think. And I like seeing you happy. I guess it’s been a tough year for you, losing your parents and all. Here’s to that smile,” he said, holding his beer aloft toward me.

The toast almost stopped my heart. He was spot-on about the tough part, but I did better when I kept the subject of my parents buried with them. I clinked his bottle but couldn’t look at him while I did it. “Thanks, Nick, very much.”

“Want to play pool?” he asked.

“Let’s do it.”

I was giddy, the sophomore girl out with the senior quarterback. We both loved music, so we talked about genres, bands (his old band, Stingray, and “real” bands), my minor in music at Baylor, and LSD, AKA lead-singer disease. Over a bucket of beers, we swapped stories about high school, and he told me he’d once rescued an injured booby.

“An injured booby?” I asked. “Implants or natural? Eight ball in corner pocket.” I sank it.

He gathered the balls out of the pockets and positioned them in the rack while I ground my cue tip in blue chalk and blew off the excess. “You’re so land-locked. A booby is a bird, Katie.”

I rolled his use of my real name back and forth in my brain, enjoying how it felt.

“I was out surfing, and I found a booby that couldn’t fly. I carried it back home and took care of it until I could set it free.”

“Oh, my gosh! How bad did it smell? Did it peck you? I’ll bet your Mom was thrilled!” I talked fast, in endless exclamation points. Embarrassing. I was a Valley Girl on acid, like Oh-My-Gawd. “It was in shock, so it was calm, but every day it got wilder. I was fourteen, and my mom was happy I wasn’t in my room holding some girl’s real booby, so she was fine with it. It smelled really bad after a few days, though.”

I broke. Balls clacked and ricocheted in every direction, and a striped one tumbled into a side pocket. “Stripes,” I called. “So, your mom had caught you before holding a girl’s booby, huh?”

“Um, I didn’t say that . . .” he said, and stuttered to a stop.

I was more smitten than ever.

“Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” was playing in the background. I hadn’t heard that song in years. It got me thinking. For months, I had been fighting off the urge to slip my arms around Nick’s neck and bite the back of it, but I was aware that most people would consider that inappropriate at work. Pretty small-minded of them, if you asked me. I eyed the large balcony outside the bar and thought that if I could just maneuver Nick out there, maybe I could make it happen.

My chances seemed good enough until one of our colleagues walked in. Tim was of counsel at the firm. “Of counsel” meant he was too old to be called an associate, but he wasn’t a rainmaker. Plus, he wore his pants pulled up an inch too high in the waist. The firm would never make him a partner. Nick and I locked eyes. Until now, we’d been two shortwave radios on the same channel, the signal crackling between us. But now the dial had turned to static and his eyes clouded over. He stiffened and moved subtly away from me.

He hailed Tim up. “Hey, Tim, over here.”

Tim waved to us and walked across the smoky bar. Everything moved in slow motion as he came closer, step by ponderous step. His feet echoed as they hit the floor, reverberating no . . . no . . . no . . . Or maybe I was saying it aloud. I couldn’t tell, but it made no difference.

“Hey, Tim, this is great. Grab a beer; let’s play some pool.”

Oh, please tell me Nick didn’t just invite Tim to hang out with us. He could have given him a short “hey how ya doing have a nice night I was just leaving” shpiel, or anything else for that matter, but no, he had asked Tim to join us.

Tim and Nick looked at me for affirmation.

I entertained a fleeting fantasy in which I executed a perfect side kick to Tim’s gut and he started rolling around on the floor with the dry heaves. What good were the thirteen years of karate my father had insisted on if I couldn’t use it at times like these? “Every woman should be able to defend herself, Katie,” Dad would say as he dropped me off at the dojo.

Maybe this wasn’t technically a physical self-defense moment, but Tim’s arrival had dashed my hopes for the whole neck-bite thing, and all that could have come after it. Wasn’t that reason enough?

I cast out the image. “Actually, Tim, why don’t you take over for me? I was in trial all week, and I’m exhausted. We have an early start tomorrow. It’s the last day of our retreat, the grande finale for the Hailey & Hart team.” I handed my pool cue to Tim.

Tim thought this was a fine idea. It was clear women scared him. If I had hoped for an argument from Nick, though, I didn’t get one. He reverted to his outside-of-work “Katie who?” act.

All I got from him was “Goodnight,” with neither a Helen nor a Katie tacked on.

I grabbed another Amstel Light from the bar for the plod back to my room.

Reprinted with permission from Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. © 2012 by Skipjack Publishing

Legal Thriller Author Chris Shella on new book ‘Reasonable Facsimile’

Chris ShellaAuthor Chris Shella is a graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Texas Law School and started his legal career in Long Island, New York at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. He is admitted to the practice of law in New York, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and North Carolina. Shella is also admitted to the federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Middle District of North Carolina, U.S. District of Columbia, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, the Eastern District of New York, and the Southern District of New York.He is also admitted to the Bar Of The United States Supreme Court. He and his cases have been covered on Court TV, CNN, and in the New York Times, and other media outlets across the globe. He has represented everyone from lawyers to major drug traffickers to a serial killer in Baltimore. His two most famous case are the Vegan Baby Case and his defense of the Duke Lacrosse Case accuser for the alleged murder of her boyfriend.

Chris now resides in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and son.

His latest book is the legal thriller, Reasonable Facsimile.

You can visit his website at www.reasonablefacs.com.

Reasonable FacsimileWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Lulu | Borders

About Reasonable Facsimile

Can Jasper Davis pull himself from his life of loose women, liquor, and general debauchery in enough time to win a murder case and possibly save his own hide ? Jasper Davis is a criminal trial lawyer in Baltimore who has slowly but surely become like the drug dealers and lowlifes he represents. He spends more time with hookers than clients and more time drinking Jack Daniels than studying the law books. Simply put. he is a shade of his former self. In Reasonable Facsimile, Jasper is in the middle of a first degree murder trial when he becomes the suspect in the murder of a DEA agent who was set to testify against his client. Jasper is so far gone on women and liquor he sees his trial skills deteriorate right before his eyes. Jasper is confronted by the situation is he gonna continue to be a reasonable facsimile of a human being or is he gonna become the man he once was.

Interview

Q: Thank you for this interview, Chris. Can you tell us what your latest book, “Reasonable Facsimile”, is all about?

Can Jasper Davis pull himself from his life of loose women, liquor, and general debauchery in enough time to win a murder case and possibly save his own hide ? Jasper Davis is a criminal trial lawyer in Baltimore who has slowly but surely become like the drug dealers and lowlifes he represents. He spend more times with hookers than clients and more time drinking Jack Daniels than studying the lawbooks. Simply put. he is a shade of his former self. In Reasonable Facsimile, Jasper is in the middle of a first degree murder trial when he becomes the suspect in the murder of a DEA agent who was set to testify against his client. Jasper is so far gone on women and liquor he sees his trial skills deteriorate right before his eyes. Jasper is confronted by the situation is he gonna continue to be a reasonable facsimile of a human being or is he gonna become the man he once was.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Jasper is a lawyer who has seen better days and is a shell of a man. He has lost the spark of life and is just trudging along toward the end of his life. His book is his crosssroads. Will Jasper continue on this path or will he choose a real life again.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Well, it more of a mixture. Some characters are total fabrications. Others are a mixture of several people and several different life choices or traits that they have exhibited.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I’m aware of the plot, but not how it will end.

Q: Your book is set in Baltimore, Maryland.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Baltimore is a vibrant city that is living and dying at the same time. As a trial lawyer, I have never seen a courthouse and  its denizens as lively and wild as in Bodymore, Murdaland.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

It does. The trial in the book is based on Maryland Criminal Procedure and the quirks therein. 

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Interestingly enough, that page finds Jasper indulging in an intimate fantasy with dreamgirls.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

PRELUDE: CRACKED BONES

`        The sickening crunch of a tooth being forced out of a jaw by a work boot was audible 50 feet from where it happened. Picture a 6’4 monster strong, malevolent, and angered, raining misery on a small 72 year old man without the strength to defend himself. Blood rolls down the streets in rivulets, coalescing on a bottle cap here and curb there. All of it fleeing the scene of the crime. Like the old man wish he could have. All the while this circus is going on; a throng of 30 + people watch this macabre dance of death. No one is doing anything to stop it. No one is doing anything to call the police. Faces mesmerized by the shattered bones and ruined shell of an old man.  Sounds of agony escape destroyed lips. Mercifully, the coup de grace.  A bullet snuffs out the pain, the agony, and the life of a man. With a laugh, the assailant puts away the gun, hails a hack and leaves the old man as an obscene monument to the end of life. Linwood White is dead. A murderer has fled the scene. Baltimore street justice or a reasonable facsimile?

Thank you so much for this interview, Chris.  We wish you much success!

Guest Blogger Joshua Graham: ‘Write What You Know’

We have a special guest today!  Joshua Graham, author of the suspense thriller, Beyond Justice (Dawn Treader Press), is here with us to share a few writing tips!

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

by Joshua Graham

It’s one of the basic guidelines (I don’t like rules, when it comes to creative work) of writing.  That’s why lawyers like Linda Fairstein and John Grisham write legal thrillers.  It’s why so many of Dean Koontz’s books are set in Orange County, CA.   With firsthand knowledged and experience, authors can write with authenticity.

Does that mean writers can only use subject matter in fields in which they’ve worked, places they’ve lived in or visited?  Absolutely not.  But does it help?  Of course!

My book BEYOND JUSTICE is set in San Diego, known as “America’s Finest City.”  It’s a gorgeous part of the country with near perfect weather all year round.  Friends from the Pacific Northwest hate it when I complain about the occasional cloudy day (Sorry, we’re all kind of spoiled, I know.)  Over a decade ago, my brother first invited me and my wife to come out to San Diego for a visit from Brooklyn, NY,  and we fell in love with the place.

Granted, you don’t have the diversity and “city that never sleeps” spirit of the Big Apple here.  But the tradeoff is more than worthwhile, in my aging opinion.  It’s a great place to raise a family; you have Sea World, the world famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park in your backyard, Disneyland just a stone’s throw away, and beautiful beaches along the coast straight up through Los Angeles County.

You’ve probably read plenty of books set in New York or Los Angeles, with all the grit and tension of those cities infused it’s quite familiar to most readers and movie-goers.  But things that happen in suburbia are generally not as well-known.  For example:  We had the infamous 2002 David Westerfield murder case where a young girl (Danielle Van Dam) was abducted right out of her house and found murdered later by her neighbor.  This happened in the same neighborhood where my friends lived.  It rocked the deceptively peaceful foundations of our quiet and pleasant existence.

For me, “write what you know” also applies to being a husband and father.  When I set out to write BEYOND JUSTICE, I asked myself what my greatest fear was.  That fear was not for myself, but for the suffering of my wife and children.  The opening chapters were perhaps the most difficult chapters I’ve ever had to write because I had to imagine in graphic detail my absolute worst nightmare. Anyone can imagine how terrible a crime like that of the opening pages can be, but these chapters resonate even more deeply with anyone who has a spouse or child.

I’ve written other books and stories that draw upon my experiences in my faith, my previous occupations (a classical musician, an IT professional/executive, etc.,) countries I’ve visited (Egypt, South Africa, Jordan, Israel, Italy, France, Canada.)  All of these contribute to my fiction, and makes it easier to write, but the most important thing is the story.

Writing what you know is a great starting point and I recommend it for all emergent writers.  But don’t limit yourself to these things.  Branch out.  If you want your readers to use their imagination, you as a writer must use yours.

Joshua GrahamJoshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego. Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble. It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer. You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.


Interview with Joshua Graham: ‘My characters dictate where the book will go’


Joshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.   During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego.  Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble.  It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer.  You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Joshua. Can you tell us what your latest book, Beyond Justice, is all about?

Beyond Justice is a story about a man who is falsely accused and convicted for the brutal murder of his wife and daughter and the human struggle for redemption, forgiveness and truth.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Sam Hudson, the protagonist is a attorney at a reputable law firm.  He’s a straight shooter, a bit self-righteous, but overall a likeable person who strives to do right by all people, especially his family who he loves more than life.  His worst fears are not for himself, but rather, the suffering of his wife and children.  And of course, his worst nightmares come true.

Rachel Cheng is Sam’s wet behind the ears defense attorney.  She’s really good at her job, but must deal with a powerful district attorney’s office in trying to get Sam acquitted.   This is by far the most difficult case, emotionally and technically, she’s ever had.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Most of the characters are an amalgam of people I’ve had the honor of knowing, as well as people who have left a less than positive, but memorable impression in my life.  The protagonist’s fears are very personal and ones I’m sure every spouse or parent deals with in their darkest moments.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  I do have an overall feeling of the beginning middle and end (this book is in three acts), but even with mini-outlines, my characters dictate where the book will go.  Within my given parameters, of course.

Q: Your book is set in San Diego.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Write what you know, right?  Plus, we’ve all seen movies and read books set in New York, or Los Angeles.  San Diego is a beautiful part of the country and well deserving of more attention.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely.  For the entire second act setting is everything.  And it’s a place you don’t want to imagine being, but I’m confident you won’t want to close the blinds on the picture window I’ve opened for you.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

69? Not 42?  J  Okay, on page 69, Sam, who has just dodged the bullet and made bail, having been arrested as the primary suspect in the murders of his wife and daughter remains under house arrest. He’s already lost his job, and struggles to pay the medical bills for his 4 year old son, who lies in a coma—the only survivor of the killer’s attack.

Believe it or not, things do get even worse for Sam.  It’s only page 69 out of 430!

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is from the opening chapter, Sam has just returned from an important dinner meeting with a potential client.

…I entered the house, greeted by the sweet scent of Lilac—her favorite candles for those special occasions.  So much more than I deserved, but that was my Jenn.  Never judging, never condemning, she understood how much stress I’d been under and always prescribed the best remedy for such situations.

From the foot of the stairs I saw dimmed light leaking out of the bedroom.  It wasn’t even date night, but I had a pretty good idea what she was thinking.  So before going up, I stopped by the kitchen, filled a pair of glasses with Merlot and set out a little box of chocolates on a breakfast tray—my secret weapon.

As I climbed the stairs I smiled.  The closer I got, the more I could smell the fragrant candles.  From the crack in the door classical music flowed out:  Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem. Must’ve been writing a love scene.  She always used my classical CDs to set her in the right mood.

A beam of amber light reached through the crack in the doorway into the hallway.  The alarm system beeped.  She must have shut a window.  It had just started to rain and Jenn hated when the curtains got wet.

Kathleen Battle’s angelic voice soared.

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem,
Requiem sempiternam.

Jenn didn’t know a word of Latin.  She just liked the pretty tunes.

I nudged the door open with my foot.

“Honey?”  Caught a glimpse of a silky leg on the bed.  Oh, yes.  I pushed the door open.

Shock ignited every nerve ending in my body like napalm.  The tray fell from my hands.  Crashed to the ground.  Glasses shattered and the red wine bled darkly onto the carpet.

Jenn lay partially naked, face-down, the sheets around her soaked crimson.  Stab wounds scored her entire body.  Blood.  Blood everywhere!

“Jenn!”

I ran to her, turned her over.

She gasped, trying to speak.  Coughed.  Red spittle dripped from the corner of her mouth.  “The kids…”

I took her into my arms.  But her eyes begged me to go check on them.

“You hang on, honey.  With all you’ve got, hang on!”  I reached for my cell phone but it fell out of my belt clip and bounced under the bed.

On my knees now, I groped wildly until I found the cell phone.  Dialed 9-1-1.  Barely remembered what I said, but they were sending someone right away.

Jenn groaned.  Her breaths grew shorter and shorter.

“Bethie… Aaron.”

Her eyes rolled back.

“I’m going.  Hang on, baby.  Please!  You gotta hang on!” I started for the door.  Felt her hand squeeze mine twice:  Love-you.

No.

Tears streamed down my face.  As I began to pull away, she gripped my hand urgently.  For that split second, I knew.  This was the end.  I stumbled back to her.  Gathered her ragdoll body in to my arms.

“Jenn, oh God, Jenn.  Please don’t!”

“Whatever it takes,” she said.  Again, she squeezed my hand twice.  “Mercy, not…sacrifice.”  One last gasp.  She sighed and then fell limp in my arms, her eyes still open.

Holding her tight to my chest, I let out an anguished cry.

All time stopped.  Who would do this?  Why?  Her blood stained my shirt.  Her dying words resonated in my mind.  Then I remembered.  The kids.  I bolted up and ran straight to Bethie’s room.

Bethie’s door was ajar.  If my horror hadn’t been complete, it was now.  I found her exactly like Jenn—face down, blood and gashes covering her body.

Though I tried to cry out, nothing escaped the vice-grip on my throat.  When I turned her over, I felt her arm.  Still warm, but only slightly.  Her eyes were shut, her face wet with blood.

“Bethie!  Oh, sweetie, no!” I whispered, as I wrapped the blanket around her.

I kissed her head.  Held her hand.  Rocked her back and forth. “Come on, baby girl.  Help’s on its way, you hold on,” I said, voice and hands trembling.  She lay there unconscious but breathing.

Aaron.

Gently, I lay Bethie back down then got up and flew across the hall.  To Aaron’s door.  His night light was still on and I saw his outline in the bed.

Oh God, please.

I flipped the switch.

Nothing.

I dashed over to the lamp on his nightstand, nearly slipping on one of his Thomas Train toys on the carpet.  Broken glass crackled under my shoes.

I switched on the lamp on his nightstand.  When I looked down to his bed, my legs nearly gave out.  Aaron was still under his covers, but blood drenched his pillow.  His aluminum baseball bat lay on the floor, dented and bloodied.

Dropping to my knees, I called his name.  Over and over, I called, but he didn’t stir.  This can’t be happening.  It’s got to be a nightmare.  I put my face down into Aaron’s blue Thomas Train blanket and gently rested my ear on his chest.

I felt movement under the blanket.  Breathing.  But slowly—irregular and shallow.

Don’t move his body.  Dammit, where are the paramedics?

I heard something from Bethie’s room and dashed out the door.  Stopping in the middle of the hallway, I clutched the handrail over the stairs.  Thought I heard Aaron crying now.  Or maybe it was the wind.

My eyes darted from one side of the hallway to the other.  Which room?

Faure’s Requiem continued to play, now the In Paradisum movement.

Aeternam habeas requiem.

Something out in front of the house caught my attention.  The police, the paramedics!  Propelled by adrenaline, I crashed through the front door and ran out into the middle my lawn which was slick with rain.  I slipped and fell on my side.

Nobody.  Where were they!

Like a madman, I began screaming at the top of my lungs.  My words echoed emptily into the night.

“Help!  Somebody, please!”

A dog started barking.

“Please, ANYBODY!  HELP!”

Lights flickered on in the surrounding houses.

Eyes peeked through miniblinds.

No one came out.

I don’t know if I was intelligible at this point.  I was just screaming,  collapsed onto the ground,  on my hands and knees getting drenched in the oily rain.

Just as the crimson beacons of an ambulance flashed around the corner, I buried my face into the grass.  All sound, light, and consciousness imploded into my mind as if it were a black hole.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Joshua.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for the opportunity.  It’s really been a pleasure.  I hope your readers will visit me at www.joshua-graham.com or facebook: www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham .  Trade paperback and Kindle editions are available at Amazon.com, all ebook formats available at Smashwords.com, and for the iPad and iPhone through the iBooks store.

‘Beyond Justice’ Joshua Graham on virtual book tour September & October ’10

Joshua GrahamJoin Joshua Graham, author of the suspense thriller, Beyond Justice (Dawn Treader Press), as he virtually tours the blogosphere September 7 – October 29 ‘10 on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

Joshua Graham grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he lived for the better part of 30 years. He holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree and went on to earn his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. During his time in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD).

Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in San Diego. Several of Graham’s short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press under different pen names.

Beyond Justice is now available in Trade Paperback through Amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble. It’s available at the Kindle store for $2.99 for a limited time, and can be purchased for other ebook readers at Smashwords, and is now available for the iPad and iPhone at the Apple iBooks store.

A member of the Oregon Writers Network, Graham is a graduate of the Master Classes and professional writing workshops held by Dean W. Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Dean and Kris and the entire OWN, have been a major influence in his journey to become a published writer. You can visit his website at www.joshua-graham.com, connect with him on facebook at www.facebook.com/j0shuagraham or twitter at www.twitter.com/j0shuagraham.

Publishers Weekly calls Beyond Justice “…A riveting legal thriller…. breaking new ground with a vengeance… demonically entertaining and surprisingly inspiring.”

To find out where he’ll be appearing on virtual tour, visit his official tour page at Pump Up Your Book here. Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours and online book promotion. Visit their website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

Interview with Pamela Samuels Young, Author of the Legal Thriller “Buying Time”

Pamela Samuels Young is a Los Angeles-area attorney and the author of four legal thrillers. Her latest release, Buying Time, is her first stand-along novel. A former television news writer, Pamela is the Fiction Expert for BizyMoms.com and is on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She is a graduate of USC, Northwestern University, and UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

To contact Pamela or to read an excerpt of her books, visit www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Pamela. Can you tell us what your latest book, Buying Time, is all about?

A: In Buying Time, Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck attorney who provides quick cash to terminally ill patients. His clients, however, must agree to sign over rights to their life insurance policies before they can collect a dime. When Waverly’s clients start dying sooner than they should, he’s the number one suspect. Unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder, Waverly goes on the run—with a determined female prosecutor hot on his trail.

Q: Is this your first novel? If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

A: This is my fourth novel. I now write with a lot more confidence and I’m actually a much faster writer and a better storyteller.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book? Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

A: With four books behind me, the writing part isn’t difficult. What’s hard is finding time to write while still practicing law and promoting my books, which takes up quite a bit of time. Somehow, I manage to get it all done. Fortunately, I’ve never experienced writer’s block. I’m so grateful whenever I have time to write that I’m not about to waste it staring at a blank computer screen. Writing is my job just as much as practicing law. I’d never tell I client that I can’t help them because I have lawyer’s block. So I’d never use writer’s block as an excuse for not writing.

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel? Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

A: Fans have been absolutely wonderful! I have a scrap book with emails from fans who’ve written to tell me how much they enjoyed my books. Their emails are a tremendous source of motivation for me. I attend lots of book club meetings and it’s so weird to hear people talk about my characters as if they’re real people. The conversations get so animated that sometimes I have to stop and remind them that the characters are a figment of my imagination.

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

A: I still practice law, so I’m not able to write every day. Lately, I write early in the morning or on weekends, if I’m not out promoting. I simply squeeze in writing time wherever I can find it.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

A: Reading absolutely relaxes me, especially if it’s a really, really good mystery.

Q: What book changed your life?

A: The book that had the greatest impact on me as a kid was Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land. I can still remember stumbling across a copy of it at my aunt’s house when I was about twelve. It was the first book I can remember reading that had African-American characters and I was thrilled to be reading about people who looked like me. It was also a very gritty and graphic coming of age story. I promptly “borrowed” the book without asking for permission for fear that my aunt would think I was too young to be reading such a sexually graphic book. After that, I developed an insatiable appetite for African-American literary fiction. That led me to Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison and other truly great writers.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

A: Never Give Up!

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

A: . . .that it might look like I have it all together, but sometimes keeping all my balls in the air is really tough.

Thank you for this interview Pamela. I wish you much success on your latest release, Buying Time!