Here with us today is Pamela Fagan Hutchins, an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and best-selling romantic mystery/suspense (Saving Grace, Leaving Annalise) and hilarious nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes?, and others) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. If you like Josie Brown or Janet Evanovich for fiction or Erma Bombeck for nonfiction, you’re going to love Pamela. Pamela’s writing wins a lot of contests. Here are a few: 2010 Winner of the Writers League of Texas Romance Contest, 2011 Winner of the Houston Writers Guild Novel Contest, 2012 Winner of USA Best Books Parenting/Divorce, and 2012 Winner of the Houston Writers Guild Ghost Story Contest. You’ll find a giveaway at the bottom of the page. Welcome, Pamela.
Clearly you’re a lunatic but I like that in a person, being one myself. You write a very funny book. But I know from experience, having once worked for a standup comedian, that people who are professionally funny are not always that way in ‘real life’. Are you that funny, the life of the party, the class clown?
In real life, I am an introvert. I get my energy alone with a book, or writing one. I usually keep just my husband and kids around me. But professionally, well, that’s another story. I’ve always been a performer (hence the lawyer gig), and I do tend to go for the laugh when I’m speaking. Sometimes I get it when I’m not even trying, like the time I was speaking to a crowd of 400 at Texas Tech University. I went to the bathroom and forgot to turn off my wireless microphone. Yeah, that got a laugh. Anyway, the bigger the group, the better I do. As the group gets smaller, the introvert in me comes out again.
How much of Katie is Pamela? Did you ever have a meltdown in court?
Honey, I’m always just a few deep cleansing breaths away from having a meltdown — my hormones are not my friends. While I never had a meltdown in court, I’ve had a few epic meltdowns in the office. It’s really great when it happens though. It scares the pants off people, and after that they treat you like, well, a lunatic, which has its advantages. Seriously, Katie comes from a deep part of me, the insecure part, the recovering alcoholic part, the I-want-to-be-a-princess part. I am a cliff jumper like she is, but I wouldn’t have made the kinds of personal choices she makes. In real life, I married at 25 and had two kids before I was 30 and three stepchildren before I was 40, so I never had that solitary work-centered life that Katie has. I think that creates quite a gap between my alter ego and me.
And the romantic interest in the book (which I won’t get into here, it would be a bit of a spoiler), is that your husband, Eric? Or how much is Eric?
Eric thinks every romantic interest I write is him, not just this series. He once woke up in the middle of the night fists a-swingin’. I said, “What is it? Are you OK?” and flipped on the lights. He just shook his head and said, “I just got through kicking Bart’s ass [Bart being a boyfriend of Katie’s in the series].” I couldn’t help it, I laughed like a hyena. “You know Bart isn’t real, right? And that you aren’t [the love interest we can’t name because it’s a spoiler]?” Here’s the truth: when I first wrote Saving Grace, I did it while Eric was on a long work trip to India and presented it to him on his return as a satirical “story of us,” because he was prodding me to write fiction and writing a spoof of us was easier. It was fun, and very funny, but it had no plot and the characters weren’t believable, which sounds odd because they were really us, but trust me, “us” didn’t work. Over the years I wrote it and rewrote it until the characters became less and less like us and more and more like themselves. Ultimately 90% of the book is fictional. Readers that know us spot the 10% immediately, which is a kick.
I haven’t gotten to book two as I ask this question so forgive me if it is in there. Will Katie get her license in the U.S. Virgin Islands so she can supplement her singing income (and get into more trouble)?
Not in book two of this series, which is called Leaving Annalise. Actually, Katie will eventually get her license and cause trouble in court, but she does it in a series starring another character. In Leaving Annalise, Katie and Ava get an exciting professional opportunity for their singing. Take one guess who messes it all up (and her name ain’t Ava)?
Do you still have your island home or are you 100% settled back in the states?
Thank the Lord, we are finally 100% divested of our beloved but very high maintenance Estate Annaly in the rainforest of St. Croix. That was my dream house. Owning it from afar became a nightmare. Having the economy tank when we needed to sell it didn’t help. Truly, it is the house all our future homes will be measured by, and I’m not sure we’ll ever match it. Many of the stories about the house in the Katie & Annalise books are totally true. The house inspired the books. The only reason I changed the name to Annalise was that I preferred its rhythm.
I have checked out your ‘day job’ website and you are a very accomplished professional. Between that, your publishing company, and your family, how much time are you able to devote to writing?
I am an absolutely fierce prioritizer, for starters. I have whittled my day job down to about 25% of my time, mostly client relations and board of directors kind of stuff, with an occasional client gig thrown in if it’s a command performance. The Houston Writers Guild and the publishing take up another 25%. My personal life and wonderful family (I include the four dogs, 2 ducks, one heifer, and four goats in with the five offspring and world’s greatest husband) get 25%. Writing gets the rest. What’s that, about 75%? Ha. But when I write fiction, I write it obsessively, round the clock, very fast (up to 10,000 words a day), and blocking everything else out, which the kids love because they get away with murder. The rest of the time, I write every day, 1500-2000 words, but often those are short pieces for various e-zines/blogs. Now, Eric and I barter over the fiction schedule, with him saying, “Can we just have one more normal month first, please?” Kinda ironic since he unleashed the fiction demon in the first place.
Given your legal background and your time constraints, are you a very organized writer? A plotter as opposed to a pantster?
I started as a pantster. I ended up with weak, unorganized plots. I wasted a lot of time trying to fix pantster books by continuing to do it as a pantster. I can’t believe I ever did it that way, as I am hyper-organized at everything else. Suffice it to say I am 100% converted to being a plotter, and that is what enables me to write so quickly. I have already outlined it and written a detailed synopsis before I type “Once upon a time.” But, hey, when I’m outlining and writing the synopsis, that’s by the seat of my pants. Everybody starts as a pantster somewhere in the process, and we all have to become plotters before we are through, even if it is on a rewrite.
When will we see book three and what is the title?
Book three is called Finding Harmony and it comes out in February of 2014. I am so excited about this book, because, while the Katie & Annalise books each tell an individual story based on events in Katie’s life, all together they tell one over-arching story. Plus, I had so much fun writing Finding Harmony because I got to involve my real-life brother as a plot and research consultant. That was fun. Which just reminded me that I forgot to thank him in the Acknowledgements. Good thing you asked me this question. Thanks for reminding me.
Your YouTube channel shows you are a real outdoors type of person. Is that your biggest stress reliever and what is your favorite activity?
I love to be outside, and yes, outdoor physical activity is a huge stress reliever for me. I love to trail run. Think of it as fast hiking which allows you to cover more ground and see more on a single hike. My feet do not love trail running and I’ve fought plantar’s fasciitis over the last few years, which is a giant bummer. Supposedly, now that I’m back from the insane 60-Cities-in-60-Days book tour via RV that I did last summer, I’m in pre-training to get back in shape for another Half Ironman triathlon. Please do not ask me how that is going. 😉 Eric and I own 20-acres in the middle of nowheresville in the Texas Hill Country, and he has built a running trail on it with his tractor!
Now three things that have nothing to do with writing or your book that everyone gets asked:
- What is your favorite food? I’m from Amarillo, Texas, so it has to be ribeye steak. I spent my 13th birthday at the Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo where if you eat the 72 oz steak and all the trimmings and hold it down for an hour, you get it free. I didn’t come close.
- What is your favorite TV show? We binge on series on Netflix to entertain us while we ride our stationary bicycles. I loved Bones. Right now we are doing the Walking Dead, although I am irritated with the writing. Mostly I just love watching college football (Gig’em Aggies).
- What is your favorite music? I listen mostly to country music, but I love No Doubt, Foo Fighters, and old Foreigner and Journey. Day by day, you’ll find me singing along to George Strait and old Dixie Chicks.
Thank you so much for being here today Pamela, and good luck with your books. Before you go, is there anything else you would like to tell your readers or have them know about you?
Thanks for having me. This was really fun. The only thing I’d add is that I answer every email I get and meet with every group I can, even if it’s via webcam, so don’t hesitate to send me questions or ask me to talk to your writers group or book club. Chances are, I’m going to say yes.
Saving Grace kicks the Katie & Annalise series off with voodoo, laughs, and suspense.
Katie Connell is a high-strung attorney whose sloppy drinking habits and stunted love life collide hilariously during a doomed celebrity case in Dallas. She flees Texas for the Caribbean and escapes professional humiliation, a broken heart, and a wicked Bloody Mary habit, but ends up trading one set of problems for another when she begins to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents on the island of St. Marcos. She’s bewitched by the voodoo spirit of an abandoned house in the rainforest and discovers that she’s as much a danger to herself as the island’s bad guys are.
See why this series won contest after contest.
By now people have pretty much guessed that I like a funny book. Sure a cozy with a touch of humor is great, but sometimes I like a bit more slapstick, a little Lucy and Ethel. SAVING GRACE was a perfect sort of cozy/screwball comedy. It is a very funny book. Not quite sure why, it is also very sad. Katie Connell is a real hot mess. She’s an alcoholic germaphobe with a touch of OCD. At the beginning of the book Katie wins a big trial then goes off to a company spirit building conference (don’t you hate those?) where she gets drunk and professes her love for the company investigator, making a complete ass of herself. Let’s just say, no reciprocity. After that fiasco her paralegal, Emily, and brother, Collin, have an intervention. Katie won’t go to rehab but she will take a break in St. Marcos where she is sure she will stop drinking. Her parents died there a year earlier in a car accident so Katie, who doesn’t believe it was an accident, figures she can dry out and investigate. She drinks on the plane down. So much for rehab. Once there she finds a new BFF, for a week anyway, bar singer Ava. She also finds a house, unfinished, with its own ghost. So of course she puts a bid on it. Which doesn’t get her the house. At the end of the week she is back in Texas and finds herself immediately in court defending a celebrity who has been charged with rape. Katie melts down in court in a scene we haven’t seen the like of since Al Pacino in And Justice For All. None of this sounds funny, does it? But somehow it is. Katie gets a call the house is hers, the bank took her bid after all, so she quits the law practice, sells her condo, and is off to a new life in St. Marcos where the house has to be rehabbed,if not Katie, Ava has been charged with killing her lover, and a whole lot more is going on. You’re gonna love this book. Trust me. And I have to go now because I’m reading the second book, Leaving Annalise. ♥♥♥♥♥
BUY THE BOOKS
Pamela is giving away a paperback copy of LEAVING ANNALISE, the second book in the series. To enter, 1) leave a comment, with your email, and 2) for more chances to win go HERE.