Friday, April 23, 2010
Pat Bertram, author of Daughter Am I, is a native of Colorado and except for a brief stay in the north woods of Wisconsin, lived there all her life. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is her third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.
Pat, it's a pleasure to have you here.
What do you mean by "novels that can't easily be slotted into a genre"?
All of my novels have elements of intrigue, adventure, mystery, suspense, romance, history, and some have a touch of science fiction. A Spark of Heavenly Fire, for example, is the story of people who become extraordinary during a time of horror -- a bioengineered disease is decimating the population of Colorado, and the entire state is quarantined. One character is obsessed with finding out who created the disease, one couple tries to escape, one woman does what she can to help the survivors. And a thread of romance connects all the stories. All these different stories entwined into one makes it difficult to settle on a single genre. A Spark of Heavenly Fire is being sold as mystery/crime, but it could just as easily be mainstream or a thriller.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
My only goal is to write the stories I want to read. If my books do have a message, it’s that nothing is as it seems. We are not necessarily who we think we are, history did not necessarily happen the way we think it did, and what we see is not necessarily the truth. But all that is more of a side effect. Mostly I just want to write good stories with good characters.
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I don’t have any specific technique, though I do fill in a timeline as I write to make sure that the events happen in a realistic framework. When I first started writing, I never had weekends or holidays in the story, just one long string of weekdays, so a timeline is very important. The timeline also serves as a brief outline of what I have written so that I can see the story at a glance. Besides the timeline, I use a theme to stay on track. If I’m not sure of the efficacy of a character trait or plot point, I check it against the theme. If the trait or plot point helps prove the theme, I keep it, otherwise I look for a stronger way of tying the ideas to the theme. I’ve found that a theme helps keep a story (and me) focused.
Briefly tell us about your latest book, Daughter Am I.
Daughter Am I is the story of a young woman who inherits a farm from murdered grandparents she never knew she had. Since her father won’t talk about them or explain why he told her they were dead, she sets out on a journey to discover who those grandparents were and why someone killed them. Armed with a little black address book she found in a secret room in the farmhouse, she travels halfway across the country talking to people who knew her grandfather. Through the stories those feisty octogenarians tell, she learns the truth about her grandparents and herself.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Because I’ve mostly lived in the shadow of mountains, mountains always shadow my writing.
How do you promote yourself online and off?
I have not done much offline promotion. I’ve been doing my promotion online -- Facebook, of course. Twitter, though to be honest, I haven’t quite figured out how to use it to my benefit. I blog. I hold writing discussions, both on Facebook and Gather.com. I try to put in an appearance on Goodreads. I’m not sure how effective any of these sites are as a promotion tool, but they are a start. Eventually I hope to find a way to get vast numbers of people interested in my books, but so far I haven’t hit on the right method of promotion. I’ve heard that if your book hasn’t caught on in six weeks it never will find a readership. I’ve also heard that it takes three years for a book to find its readership. I’m hoping it’s the latter.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
I have a website -- http://patbertram.com/-- where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my books, and my events on a daily basis is by way of Bertram’s Blog. http://ptbertram.wordpress.com
Pat, thanks for the interview, and I wish you well on all endeavors. By the way, the cover is gorgeous. I'm certain that it will be in the finals in the next Whitfield Cover Award contest.