Pamela was gracious enough to take my questions this week, and talk a little about her work, and especially the new novel.
MPS: Pamela, your latest novel is Tomorrow's Anecdote. Can you tell us something about it?
PK: It’s a dark, and I hope humorous, newsroom thriller set in the late 1980s when Thatcherism was rampant. It has a mystery element, a hint of very British-style romance and nasty skeletons in the family closet. I’d just been working my way through a bunch of Robert Goddards, and I love the way he weaves epic stories about seemingly normal people and their
MPS: Most historical novels (including your other titles) are set a little further back in history than the Thatcher years. What in particular made you select such recent events?
PK: The ‘retro’ feel is pure chance. I was working as a jobbing provincial journalist in those days, and to be honest, I’d never actually planned to write about them. The memories were too raw. It was such a stressful environment: union tensions in the office, entrenched misogyny, job insecurity … Some months back I got a snippy rejection from an agent for another book, full of waspish comments about too many adjectives, or was it adverbs? They didn’t like books in the first person. Blah blah. For some reason, my ‘stress bucket’ overflowed and I decided to write a book in my own ‘voice’, if you’ll forgive such a writerly expression. For some reason it came to me to set it on the eve of the Great Storm. If I were being fancy, I’d say it was an analogy of how easily a safe existence can be turned upside-down, as well as a metaphor for what Thatcherism, in my view, was doing to the country.
Of course, opening with a storm is gutsy. The story starts with a tree falling onto a car. One reader said she was convinced this had happened to me. It didn’t, thank God, but I saw so many pictures of crushed cars on the fateful morning of October 16, 1987, at work, that the image must have sunk into my subconscious. Oddly enough, when I sent the ms to Crooked Cat, it was exactly 25 years to the day of that event. It was a sign.
MPS: How much research do your books involve?
PK: Yoiks. My one true weakness. I can spend months, years! doing research. Naively, I thought Tomorrow’s Anecdote wouldn’t require as much. More fool me. I had to do a crash course in the history of modern communications technology and how they evolved. Then I turned to 1980s politics, fashion, music, film, cars, national archives … The next book, Dark Interlude, took even more work. I was all right on 17th-century Spanish drama, more or less, (I know it sounds weird, but the main character is an archivist) but it took months to get up to speed on socialism in Scotland in the early 1900s. Boy, did I read some dusty texts, although I secretly love the academic nature of this type of research. I now try to start writing before I’ve finished the research, otherwise I’d never get round to typing those two magic words ‘The End’.
MPS: When I fall in love with a book, invariably it’s when I can get lost in the descriptions – when it becomes real – sound, image, etc. Other people I know skip the descriptions and go straight to the dialogue. As writers, we are fortunate in being able to get lost in worlds we create. What causes you to get lost when you are writing a book?
PK: Do you know, I suspect I’m very old school. I do like a nice description, but with the ‘show not tell’ school of thought, I know I’m not supposed to get carried away. In fact, I spend a lot of time cutting down large tracts of my own stuff to the bare minimum. This is more of technical job. I only ‘lose myself’ in the book when writing dialogue. I particularly love the first clash between the good guys and the bad. Writing your own subtext is such a blast.
MPS: As a reader, I am very much character-driven. What do you do in order to make your characters interesting to readers?
PK: I poke at them until I know every weakness – heroes and villains alike. It’s quite a subtle process to expose goodies and baddies to scenarios where the reader can see subtle changes happening. If characters don’t change, they’re just cardboard cutouts and dull, dull, dull.
MPS: What would you say inspires you the most when you are developing any new story line? People, events, settings, or something else?
PK: Apart from Tomorrow’s Anecdote, my personal therapeutic rant, I’d say settings every time. My first completed book, The Lost Orchid, is actually set in Kenilworth, was inspired by some of lovely, leafy scenery and a classic Gothic mansion just down the road. Dark Interlude is based on my many trips to Scotland. All of my family is now living there, and I get north of the border as often as I can. Other titles are based on travels to Norway, the Czech Republic and Montenegro. My husband’s got a conference in Mexico later this year, and I’m tagging along. He’s already asking me what book that will produce.
MPS: What will you do first when you come to power?
PK: Can I have three wishes? If so, after rubbing my hands with glee, I’d make the National Curriculum less prescriptive and urge research councils and universities to allow academics more intellectual freedom when it comes to research. Next, I’d divert sufficient funds from pointless quangos to ensure that every child of reading age has an e-reader or tablet of their own.
Follow Pamela on Twitter and Facebook. Find out all the latest on my author website and blog. Or why not send an email to email@example.com? Find her author pages on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Goodreads and Smashwords.