About a year ago, I had been reading a batch of suspense stories. I had thought of reading a novel by my favorite author, Randy Singer, who specializes in legal suspense. But I felt a need for a break, a breath of fresh air. Well, one of the books just below the one by Singer was a title I won on-line – Thyme For Love by Pamela S. Meyers. That book was exactly what I needed. It kept me guessing on who did it, but I also found it lightened my spirits. (I love suspense, but you could say cozy mysteries are my literary comfort food.)
It is my privilege to interview Pamela Meyers this month. Besides her writing, she's very active with American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) as the Genesis Contest Coordinator. I'll mention that I had sent her the questions a couple of months ago to give her time to write this.
Jeff Reynolds: Welcome to Sleuths and Suspects, Pam. Your web-page states that while your debut novel came out in 2011, your desire to write Christian fiction has been around a while. Can you tell us when you first caught the writing bug, and how you got from there to where you are now?
Pam Meyers: I think the desire to write was in me for many years. When I was 8 I asked for a diary for Christmas which I received and I began recording my daily activities in it – which lasted about a month. I may have stopped making regular entries in the little book, but I still came back to it many times over the years -- now it's a hoot to read.
As an adult I have always journaled, mostly related to my spiritual walk, but it wasn't until I returned to college and entered an accelerated adult program where most of the assignments were written reports that the writing bug really took hold. I took all the writing courses I could and was flabbergasted when my writing prof suggested I pursue writing for publication. It was several years before I focused on fiction, but once I did, I've never looked back. Even then, it took a long time of learning the craft, networking, and growing as a writer in many ways. I like to say that when I began the fiction-writing journey Bill Clinton was in the White House and gas cost $1.15 per gallon.
JR: During that time, you had several articles published. Some of them have great titles: "Snared by the Internet", "Finding Mary", "How I Overcame Grief" and "God Helped Me Forgive." What inspired these, and how did these aid you on your road to the publishing of A Thyme For Love?
PM: All of these articles were based on personal experience. "Snared" appeared in Today's Christian Woman and was about getting caught off guard in the new frontier of social networking. I "met" a man on a chat list and before long our private exchanges went a direction I hadn't expected them to go. I shared that experience through my article to help other women. I wrote the story anonymously and just recently learned from the woman who was Editor of the magazine at the time that my article garnered more reader mail than any had up to that point. That was very humbling to know.
Finding Mary was in Ancestry Magazine, published by Ancestry.Com. The article chronicled the steps I took to find an elusive ancestor I knew existed but could not find anything to document who exactly she was. She turned out to be a sister of my paternal grandmother :-). The "grief" article and the "Forgive" article were both in Victory in Grace Magazine. They are short articles relating how God helped me through some difficult periods of my life. As far as how they aided me on my journey to writing my first contracted story, other than being writing credits I'm not sure they helped. I think developing my fiction writing skills really helped with some of the articles as I incorporated those skills in the anecdotes I included in the articles.
JR: Let me deal with where you are now. In the last two months you've had two new releases. Can you tell us about Love Will Find A Way and Love Finds You In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin?
PM: Love Will Find a Way is the sequel to Thyme for Love. Both are romantic mysteries. When Thyme for Love ended my main characters, April Love and Marc Thorne had finally reconciled after an 8-year separation that had begun when their engagement ended. After April had to turn amateur sleuth to find the real killer of their boss before Marc would be falsely accused, they realized they really did love each other. Now that the mystery was solved, they wanted to start dating as a normal couple. In Love Will Find a Way April's eccentric Aunt Kitty buys her an old Victorian to house her new catering business, but before renovations can be completed it's apparent someone doesn't want April's business to open. She's ready now for Marc to pop "the" question, but too many roadblocks keep cropping up which makes her wonder if they ever will get married.
Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is set in my hometown, a beautiful picturesque small town on the shores of Geneva Lake in southeastern Wisconsin. I have dreamed a long time about setting story there, and when I was given the opportunity to do so, it was a real blessing from God. The story is set in 1933 during the Great Depression--the same year the Riviera Ballroom was opened on the lakeshore. The building still stands today and is featured on the book cover. My characters, Meg Alden and Jack Wallace both work for the Lake Geneva News Tribune, the town's weekly newspaper. Meg aspires to be a news reporter for the paper but, like most in the news biz of that time, her boss believes that news reporting is a man's job. Women should only write society fluff. This creates a lot of conflict because Jack is hired to fill an open reporter position--the position Meg thought should be hers. She doesn't want to fall for Jack but she is. I had a lot of fun researching for the story and writing it. And I learned a lot of things about my hometown I never knew. Through the research I found myself falling in love with my hometown all over again. I could go on and on about the book. It truly is the book of my heart.
JR: These stories both have the words "Love" and "Find(s)" in the title, but they're different genres. (I won't mention that one of them shares a title with one of my favorite Pablo Cruise songs.) Did you have the luxury of writing one at a time, or were they written more or less simultaneously? If the latter, how did you manage to balance the creation of two unique stories?
PM: I actually had nothing to do with the titles of the books. Love Will Find a Way was a title my editor at OakTara gave the story, and Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is part of the "Love Finds You" line from Summerside Press. They are from different publishers, and are different genres. One has no connection with the other. I had written LFYLG long before I wrote LWFW. I did not have to write them both simultaneously. I would find that difficult to do, although I know that some authors work the way.
JR: Not only do you have two books to market, but at the same time you're also coordinating ACFW's Genesis Contest. How are you managing your time between these various activities?
PM: Well, you see how long it's taken me to complete this interview :-). LWFW was to release in November but, as sometimes happens, the publisher delayed the release date and it ended up coming out just as I was kicking the LFYLG promotion into high gear. And, as you mentioned, I am overseeing the ACFW Genesis writing contest for unpublished writers. Because LFYLG is set in my hometown and we have a specific window of opportunity over the coming summer months to promote the book during Lake Geneva's tourist season, my focus has been nearly 100 percent on that book's promotion. I have scheduled several appearances. I gave a Power Point presentation at the Geneva Lake Museum on April 27th, followed by a signing the next day at a popular gift shop in town, which went very well. I took my two mystery romances with me and sold quite a few of them at the museum event. As a reslt of that weekend, I've been invited to present and sign at several other events in Lake Geneva throughout the summer. I plan to mention my other books and have some with me to sell. Once the major push for the Lake Geneva book is over, I'll focus more on getting the word out about LWFW. The Genesis's biggest time consumer is the first round and that ended May 3. The second round judges are now judging the semi-finalist entries and I will soon be gettinb back into writing some proposals and the first draft for my WIP, a story tht takes the reader further back into the early history of the Lake Geneva area.
JR: Speaking of Genesis, how long have you been working with that contest? Any highlights from your work there? (I'm not sure about lowlights -- it might scare me off from entering it.)
PM: I had been a category coordinator for Genesis for several years prior to taking over as head coordinator last year. I had very big shoes to fill when Camy Tang stepped down as contest coordinator. Last year we had an unprecedented 620 entries and it quickly became apparent that we did not have enough volunteer judges. Every entry requires three judges. I relied a great deal on prayer and the willingness of many volunteers to make themselves available. That was truly the highlight of the year for me, when I came to the end of myself and told God I couldn't do it, and He'd have to take over. He provided and then some. This year we have had a new challenge in that the entire contest is now automated with a new software program our techies built. As with any new software, there have been our share of "bugs," and troubleshooting those has been a huge time-grabber. But the highlight of this year has been the team effort by the category coordinators, the techies and other ACFW staff to get it done. Again, all of it is bathed in prayer.
JR: I'll be honest: sometimes the only way I find to keep encouraged to keep writing is to bury my head in the sand and avoid watching the news. I'm sure I sound like Chicken Little, but it's easy to doubt that things will be stable long enough for me to publish my novel. Is there anything from your experience writing and working with Genesis you can encourage me with? (Sometimes I think I spent too much time bonding with my Uncle Eeyore.)
PM: I agree the news can be very unsettling and I do wonder where we're going to be in another year or two. Will the publishing world look the same or will some of the major players even be around by then? Then I come back to where is God in all this? He is still in control and will be always. He's not surprised by any of the negatives that have happened and I just have to trust in Him. If he wants my books, your books, or anyone's books published, it will happen. There are some fantastic gifted writers around, and He keeps giving us more and more ideas for stories to write. If He wills it for you, it will happen.
JR: Thanks for the time from your very busy schedule. I'll be looking forward to your books.
PM: I've enjoyed it, Jeff. You ask some very good questions. Thought-provoking and challenging.
Jeff to readers: Hope you've been encouraged by this interview with Pam Meyers. How do you find encouragement/motivation to keep on in the slow phase of getting published or in our uncertain times? How do you manage your many hats between writing and non-writing duties? Any other thoughts this interview encouraged?