Q&A With Pamela Fagan Hutchins
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Q&A With Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Pamela Fagan Hutchins is the USA Today Bestselling author of crime fiction novels whom I’m doing a Q&A with tonight. According to Pamela’s Amazon page she’s a recovering attorney and investigator. Pamela also writes for Bookouture and Independently.
Q: When in your life did you realize that writing was what you wanted to do with your life?
A: My 3rd grade teacher told my parents I would be a novelist when I grew up. I didn’t agree at the time because I loved to read more than write. In high school I was a champion “ready writer” which was a statewide competition to write essays at prompts. I placed out of all my college “English” and thus didn’t do any more creative writing until my thirties. But it wasn’t until my husband challenged me to identify and fulfill my dreams that I got serious. The first challenge I fulfilled though was running a marathon when I was forty. After that, I wrote my first novel.
Q: Is it fair to say that your time as an attorney and investigator helped inspire the stories and characters you created in your mystery novels?
A: One hundred percent! Although I always gravitated toward mystery/thriller/suspense and crime fiction, my career exposed me to people and stories that stimulated my creativity in that direction. Many of my books feature characters with the law somewhere in their past or present, in some form or fashion, whether it is as an attorney, an investigator, or a detective.
Q: What was it like being an attorney and an investigator?
A: Believe it or not, it was a lot of… writing! Whether it was researching and writing memos and briefs about cases or crafting interrogatory questions or witness questions, or whether it was putting together investigation plans or reports, I wrote reams in my old life. As an attorney, it is somewhat creative as well. You are advocating for a client, which means taking their facts and circumstances and creating a persuasive argument. You can’t make things up, but you do need to put together a “story” within the confines of your view of the law to persuade the reader to your side. But as an investigator, I was a neutral, so that writing was very, very dry and factual. With both jobs, I was driven to figure out what evidence was needed and to uncover it. I would find that my mind always wandered to the “what ifs.” What if… this person had been driven to murder… what if the investigator had been dragged into it and her life was on the line… what if nothing was what it seemed…
Q: What’s your advice to anyone wanting to write great mystery novels? What is your advice to anyone who struggles with writers block?
A: For a great mystery novel, I think the key is a wonderful protagonist who is believable and is driven toward a personal goal that will cause them to solve the underlying mystery, by their own personal reasons, whether they want to or not. You need a “bad guy” who is more than a cardboard cutout and who is driven toward the same goal as the protagonist, in some form or fashion. And you need to surround them with other characters who all have some means, motive, and/or opportunity to commit the crime.
For writers in general, my advice is to be driven, be alive, and be patient. By this I mean that you should always, always be writing. Writing is practice, and it takes a million (or millions) or words written to find your unique storytelling style and voice. Start writing and never stop. Be alive: get out and do the things, explore the places, cultivate the skills and hobbies, experience the travel, get to know the people that will become part of your stories. You should be an expert on the world so that you can write it with authenticity and color. And be patient. Developing your writing and your stories is not a quick process. Aim to spend the time you need to become the best you can be. Now, as to writers block, my solution to that is to put your hands on the keys (or pen, pencil, or recording device) and write something, even if what you planned to write isn’t coming out. Write backstory. Write a letter, a blog post, an email, or a spin-off story. Write a different chapter, an outline, a character study, an alternate ending, a poem, but write something, until what you wanted to write appears on “the page.” If all else fails, go out and do the thing that stimulates that story. It’s okay to take breaks, to live, to sleep, eat, etc., but at the end of the day, writing is done by writing, and you need to do it even if it is just a terrible first draft, so that you have something to edit later. Often I write through block and have rough parts of a story. When I go back through for a second draft, I get another chance to flesh it out or rewrite it. But I don’t let “block” stop me from forward progress. My first drafts are littered with “blah blah fill this in later” or “decide what to do here later” or “dammit how the hell should I know?” And after those… thousands and thousands of words because I do not let it stop me. If you’ve ever read my books, you’ll never, ever be able to tell where I was blocked, worked past it, and filled in the gaps later. ☺
Q: What is your advice to new writers on how to deal with negative feedback whether it’s bad reviews, online trolls and family and friends who are not very supportive of their goals to write?
A: Unless you find that there is a consistent theme to negative feedback that is fixable, ignore it. It is all too easy to derail your creativity by letting in the negative. But if there is a consistent, fixable theme, don’t be so proud that you fail to heed the warnings. You can and should constantly strive to get better at your craft. As for the trolls, always ignore it. We can’t fix humanity or the internet. Their behavior is a reflection on them and our society, not on your work. Whether it is bad reviews or trolls, never, ever, ever engage with or argue with someone about your work or their feedback. Your written work speaks for itself. You can report trolls to the online application you are using, but these days people understand that trolls exist and can separate legitimate reviews from that kind of nonsense anyway. Don’t let them into your emotions or worry about them.
Family and friends will be the very last ones to support your writing goals, nearly always. Why? Because they know you as the person you were before. A teacher. A person to knock back a few drinks with. A daughter. A mom. An electrician. A soldier. Whatever it is… it’s not a writer. To most people, writers are mythical creatures. Names on the cover of an experience they had with a book. How can that possibly be someone they know? I’ve found that family and friends are the last to realize you have (or will) become an author. You’ll have thousands of reviews and be in your third book deal before your cousins realize, “hey, she’s for real.” And that’s okay. You’re not writing for them. You’re writing to write, and you are writing (whether you realize it yet or not) for a very specific audience of readers who will find and enjoy your work. Your family and friends may never be in that group, and that’s okay. They love you and are your daily support and relationships. Your readers will never be that for you. It’s 100% fine for the groups to be separate. In fact, it’s healthy.
Q: If you’re writing a new novel now, can you reveal any details?
A: My current contract is for three Delaney Pace crime thrillers, which are not titled yet. Delaney Pace finds escapes her troubled past in the solitude of work as an ice road trucker until she returns to her hometown—and old job as a deputy investigator—to raise her orphaned niece Kateena in Wyoming. In the first book, Delaney and her partner Leo Palmer chase a very scary serial killer who is threatening women in their town, including Delaney. Right now, I am writing the second book in the series, outlining the third, and sneaking in work on #8 in my Patrick Flint series (Skin and Bones) and #2 in my Jenn Herrington series (Walker Prairie). In 2024, all five of those books will be released, after a big lag for me between then and when my last book came out. 2024 is going to be C-R-A-Z-Y!!!!
Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?
A: Not yet! I co-wrote the screenplay for one, but the movie didn’t ultimately get made. Fingers crossed for Delaney Pace!!