I am thrilled to host the multi-talented, multi-faceted Pamela Clare today. I met Pamela at RomCon last July -I encourage you to read the recap. Pamela joins us today to celebrate the release of Breaking Point - the fifth book of the I-Team Series. Although I had not read the preceding four books, I read BREAKING POINT as a stand alone book. I posted my review here.
Then, when I was 15, something extraordinary happened. I discovered romance novels. The first romance I ever read was The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss, followed soon after by Shanna and Rosemary Rogers’ Sweet, Savage Love. I gave up depressing intellectual classics for stories that made my heart beat faster — tales of bravery, passion, and love. I found that I preferred happy endings to sad ones, no matter how artsy or intellectual they were.
Kim: Yet you have received stellar reviews for delivering both historical and contemporary tales of bravey, passion, and love. Some consider you the new classic in romantic suspense. How do you respond to cynicism about romance is not "real books"?
Pamela: There are a lot of levels to this, so bear with me...
People who say that generally haven’t read a single romance novel, but are parroting what they’ve heard others say. Like any kind of literature, romantic fiction runs the gamut from excellent to awful. But just because a book is considered a romance novel doesn’t mean that it’s automatically devoid of substance. If you look at people’s lives, the things that ultimately matter most to them — what they think about on their death beds — are the relationships with their spouses, children, and friends. And that’s what romance novels focus on — the most important relationships in a person’s life.
I also think the bias against romantic fiction stems in large part from the fact that it’s written by women for women. Women’s literary interests have often been dismissed as inferior to the Great Works that men write and read. That’s nothing more than sexism playing itself out in the literary sphere. I have yet to see the same disrespect leveled at a man who writes science fiction or thrillers that I see routinely directed at romance writers.
Also, we live in an age of cynicism where nothing is hated quite so much as a happy ending. I don’t understand this, because few people would choose misery for themselves if given the chance, and yet a story that ends with the protagonists being safe and happy is considered simplistic.
But I decided long ago — even before I was published — that I would be “out” and proud of what I do. And I am. People who try to slam romantic fiction find themselves getting nowhere with me.
| Københaven, Denmark|
I had the good fortune of becoming an exchange student during my senior year of high school and went to Denmark. I lived in 200-year-old thatch-roofed farm house with a host family that became a true family for me. I fell in love with the small Scandinavian country and stayed for almost three years, traveling throughout Europe and learning to speak Danish fluently. My time visiting European castles and cathedrals awakened in me a love of history. Those memories are among my most precious.
Kim: Tell us about your favorite Danish place, food, and saying.
Pamela: My favorite Danish place... That’s tough! I suppose I’d say Rådhuspladsen in the heart of downtown København (Copenhagen). I’ve always felt that I could feel the beating heart of the country beneath my feet while standing there. I lived about five minutes away from there at one point and I never got tired of hearing the bells chime at noon. A close second would be the gardens and lake at Sorø Akademi, where I went to school my senior year. The gardens are breathtaking during the spring and very expansive, and the lake has swans. I used to sit there and just watch them glide by. I also used to run around the lake every day — it’s 10km — so it was very much home for me.
|Bull and Dragon Fountain in Rådhuspladsen |
Favorite food... Just one?!? Our word “smorgasbord” is a mispronunciation of the Danish term “smørbrød” — a kind of buffet of toppings for open-faced sandwiches. And, of course, Denmark is known for pastries. I have to say that the pastries are probably my favorite. I love a good smørbrød lunch, but the pastries (which are nothing like what we call Danishes) are to die for. My faves: te birkes (a kind of croissant with marcipan in the bottom); tre stemmer (tree trunks — marcipan rolls with chocolate and kind of a truffle filling); Napolean’s huer (Napolean’s hat — looks like a tricorn with the bottom dipped in chocolate and the “hat” part filled with marcipan). I love marcipan! Also, the rice pudding they eat on Christmas Eve is very tasty.
Favorite saying... “Det er ikke størelsen, det er gørelsen.” Which translates to: “It’s not the size, it’s what you do with it.” Or on the serious side, just the words “Dejlige Danmark,” which means simply “wonderful Denmark.” It really is a beautiful country full of good-hearted, caring people. I miss it every day of my life. Fortunately, I still have good friends there.
Although I did work on a master’s degree in archeology and later art history, I realized that I was using the university to avoid the challenge of building the career I truly wanted — that of a fiction author. I dropped out of graduate school and went to work for a newspaper and held almost every position in the newsroom before becoming the paper’s first woman editor. Over the years, I’ve won numerous awards for my work as a columnist and investigative journalist, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service and the Society for Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award.
Kim: Congratulations on your accomplishment! How did this experience prepare you for publishing in the romance genre?
Pamela: Being a reporter did a lot of wonderful things for me. It taught me to take risks and be brave. Because I worked as an investigative reporter — believe me, I never in a million years envisioned myself in that role — I had to learn to face my own fear. During my years as a reporter I’ve had experiences that most people outside of law enforcement just don’t have. I’ve seen a teenage boy with his head literally shot off. I’ve committed felony trespass multiple times to try to prove that a crime was being committed. I’ve gone head to head with feds. I even stayed in jail as a bogus felony arrest to try to learn more about what it’s like to be behind bars. And doing those things opened my eyes to all kinds of worlds that inspire my fiction.
It taught me to see the world from a bunch of different points of view. I’ve interviewed a former drug lord, rape victims, Holocaust survivors, soldiers, psychopaths, convicts, priests, CEOs, Nobel laureates, rock stars, more politicians than I can stand and lots of everyday people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Give me a few minutes, and I can get almost anyone to open up and tell me all about themselves. The trick is learning to understand where they’re coming from. I think this helps me create emotionally real characters.
Plus I’ve gotten a lot of practice writing on deadline.
Though my ultimate goal was always to write fiction, journalism taught me discipline and helped me improve my writing skills. Little did I know that it was also giving me close-up experience with issues that would later find their way into my I-Team series. The I-Team itself is loosely based on what I call my Dream Team — the best bunch of investigative reporters I’ve ever known.
Kim: For those new to you, tell us about tell us about the I-Team and BREAKING POINT.
Pamela: I hadn’t planned on writing romantic suspense at all. My favorite subgenre is historical romance. But one night I was chatting with my agent about an investigation I was doing at the paper and telling her how a state official had contacted me to warn me that he thought I was in danger and she said, “You ought to write romantic suspense, because you live it.” And I said, “Yeah, except for the ‘romantic’ part.” So that was the beginning.
I began to toy in my mind with the major investigations I’d done over the years and how they might be turned into stories. I decided to create a fictional newspaper (one of my journalist friends and I actually own the incorporation papers on the Denver Independent, just in case we ever become millionaires) and pieced together a team similar to the Dream Team that won the National Journalism Award with me, except that the Dream Team was all male apart from me, and the I-Team is mostly female.
Then I sat down and wrote Extreme Exposure, giggling the entire time both because it was so much fun and because I couldn’t believe anyone would want to read about investigative reporters. I hadn’t read romantic suspense, so I felt like I was driving 90 MPH on a mountain road in the dark. But it worked out pretty well.
BREAKING POINT started with a seed planted several years ago when I wrote about Las Muertas de Juarez — the murdered women of Juarez. In Cd. Juarez, more than 400 women and girls have been found murdered, many of them victims of extreme sexual violence. More than 1,000 are missing. I’m certain they’re either dead, or they’ve been trafficked into the United States and work as sex slaves. The scope of the tragedy is so overwhelming it’s hard even to imagine. If Denver had 400 unsolved murders of women — femicides — and 1,000 or more women missing, the governor would probably call in the national guard. But there the situation continues to get worse.
It’s a gruesome topic, and, as my agent says, these books offer a kind of therapy for me. So I built Natalie’s story around that, bringing her face to face with that evil and adding bits and pieces of other investigations, some of which I opt not to name, for the most action-packed I-Team story to date.
I was able to meet with a former U.S. marshal and her deputy to get insight into how they do their jobs. It was so much fun that I found myself wishing I’d been a marshal instead of a journalist.
Also, Zach, the hero, is a former Navy SEAL as well as a chief deputy U.S. marshal, which enabled me to incorporate a story thread that I personally found very touching and which is based in part on the wartime experiences of someone close to me.
What’s amazing about writing fiction is the fact that you learn and discover things about the real world in the process of writing and relating to your characters. Every book I’ve written has pushed me to grow emotionally and even spiritually, broadening my horizons as I learn to see the world through my characters’ points of view.
Mahalo, Pamela, for joining us at SOS Aloha! I have a special giveaway to celebrate BREAKING POINT. Any ordinary blogger would give away a copy of BREAKING POINT. But most of you know that I am not an ordinary blogger. So today's giveaway is the Zack & Natalie Gift Pack:
- Decorative cross from the French Quarter (Natalie hails from New Orleans).
- Navy Seal logo items from Pearl Harbor (souvenir coin, ID pouch, and window sticker).
To enter the giveaway,
1. Leave a comment about Pamela, the I-Team, Navy Seals, US Marshals, and/or Denmark.
2. This giveaway is open to US residents only but comments are welcome from all readers.
3. Comments are open through Saturday, April 30, 10 pm in Hawaii. I'll announce the winner on Sunday, May 1.
Check out Pamela's blog for a link to Goodread's giveaway of BREAKING POINT.
Kim in Hawaii
Pamela sent me an email this week which I share with you:
I wanted to let you know about a project one of my fellow journalists is working on. Michael de Yoanna is one of the guys who was on my "Dream Team" after which the I-Team is loosely modeled.
He's trying to put together funding for a film about the long road to recovery that returning soldiers face:
Mahalo, Michael, for caring about our soldiers!