Required Reading

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Buying Time" by Pamela Samuels Young Interview

An Interview with Pamela Samuels Young, Author of “Buying Time”.

We are fortunate to have Ms. Young take the time away from both her law career and her writing to answer a few questions.

1.) Looking at your Bio, you seem highly successful in your law career. Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
The idea for Buying Time came to me while chatting with a friend at a party. I knew he was in the insurance business, but when he explained that he was a viatical broker, I started asking lots of questions because I’d never heard of the viatical industry. When he finished explaining how he brokers the insurance policies of terminally ill patients, I knew there was a thriller in there someone. On the ride home, I thought to myself: What if a disbarred lawyer stumbles into the viatical business and his clients start dying before their time and he becomes the prime murder suspect? The rest is history.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
My story ideas either come to me out of nowhere or are spurred by something I’ve heard or read. The best ideas usually hit me while I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll rack my brain for days trying to come up with a twist for a particular scene, and nine times out of ten, my light bulb moment will happen while I’m in my car stuck in rush-hour traffic.

3.) Is your process to outline and then fill in the blanks or just sit down and start to tell a story or ?
I will spend anywhere from a few weeks to as long as three months outlining a book before I sit down to write. I also mull over my story quite a bit. I'm thinking about it in the shower, while I'm standing in line at the grocery store, and during my 45-minute commute to work. Even during the outlining stage, I can almost see each chapter as if it were a scene in a movie. Only after I have a completed outline do I start writing. And when I write, I go from page one to the last page without doing much editing along the way. For me, it's psychologically motivating to complete that first draft, even if it's so bad I'd never dare show it to anyone. Once I have a first draft, then the real writing starts. I revise, and revise and revise some more. That process can last six months or more.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?
Dre is definitely my favorite character. Although he’s a “bad guy,” he has a good guy’s soul. He’s also a man’s man with his own set of ethics. While you may not agree with the life he’s leading, there’s something about the person he is inside that makes you want to like him.

5.) What do you like the most about writing?
I like imagining characters in my head and seeing them come to life. I also like the solitary nature of writing. It’s just me, my laptop and my imaginary characters.

6.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
One of the most helpful writing classes I took was a one-day workshop at the UCLA Writers Program in Los Angeles. The instructor urged the class to outline a novel in their genre. That was a great idea. I outlined John Grisham’s The Firm. Taking the book apart chapter by chapter helped me learn a great deal about story structure. From there, I began regularly dissecting the books that I read. I studied the dialogue, the action, the description, the length of the chapters, how the authors opened and closed each chapter. I asked myself: Why did I race through this book at lightning speed?

After structurally dissecting several books, I came up with four techniques that I apply to each of my novels: 1) begin the book with something explosive that will immediately grab readers’ attention and pull them into the story; 2) hook readers at the end of the every chapter so that they are dying to know what happens next; 3) keep the chapters short, which makes readers feel as if they’re moving through the book at a faster pace than they really are; and 4) read the finished manuscript into a tape recorder and listen to the story as if it were a book on tape (editing while listening). It’s amazing the kinds of writing flaws that you can “hear” but not “see”. These techniques have helped me create novels that I’m proud to say are consistently described as page turners.

7.) Who is your favorite author and why?
I enjoy way too many writers to pick just one! These days, I’m an avid reader of mysteries. My favorite writers in the mystery genre include Walter Mosley, Greg Iles, Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, James Patterson, Valerie Wilson Wesley, and John Grisham. I love a good plot and I think all of these writers write very entertaining novels. I also enjoy women’s fiction and I'll buy anything Terry McMillan decides to write.

8.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
First, master your craft! Take the time to study writing the same way you would study any other profession. Also, read like a writer. When you read a book you enjoy, study the author’s writing style and the book’s story structure. Ask yourself why the book was a great read.

Second, don’t let rejection keep you from pursuing your dream. Most successful authors experienced years of rejection. John Grisham, for instance, received 45 rejection letters and self-published A Time to Kill because people told him no one wanted to read about lawyers. How wrong they were! So if you think you have a marketable book, don’t give up on your dream.

Pamela, thank you so much for your insightful remarks. I hope my readers got as much out of it as I did. As a fledgling author, I am profoundly grateful for the insight I get by interviewing a successful novelist. I will attempt emulation of the answers particularly, in question number six.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice post - great advice from what looks like a talented person. And gorgeous too!

Thanks Bill!