Have you met Pat Bertram? Have you read any of her books? If not, here's your chance to share my conversation with an author who's been a great influence on me as I tried to get published. Please welcome Pat Bertram, author of More Deaths than One, Daughter am I, Light Bringer and more...
Thank you for letting me interview you, Pat. I met you first on gather.com so I count you as one of my first ever e-friends. How did you first get onto the internet?
In 2007, I was given the gift of a year of the internet. After I learned my way around and researched various topics I was interested in, I was at a loss what to do, and I figured that when the year was up, that would be the end of the internet for me. After four months or so, someone told me about The Court TV Search for the Next Great Crime Writer on Gather.com, which I entered. Around that same time, I discovered blogging. (I didn’t even know what a blog was, to tell the truth, but I signed up for one anyway.) And after that, there was no chance of my ever letting go of the internet! I made friends on Gather (you were one of my first, too), joined a writing group on the site and started a group of my own, and I became addicted to blogging.
I started a blog after seeing your various blogs, began to use twitter after reading a twitter story you'd written, and ended up following you to facebook too. I'm not stalking you, honestly, but do you mind being followed around on the internet?
I had no idea I had any impact on anyone, let alone you --- you always seemed so competent at everything you did. And no, I don’t mind being followed around on the internet. I’m quite flattered, actually. I was often lost, without a clue about what to do on the various sites, but I had no problem experimenting (in fact, I enjoyed it), so I learned a lot very quickly. I’m glad my efforts didn’t go to waste.
You are always such an encouragement to other writers, posting excerpts, interviews, character interviews, offering advice, sharing experience... What do you think drives your generosity?
I don’t consider such online activities as generosity, just part of the internet experience. I never quite knew what to do on Facebook, for example --- I don’t like games or sharing cute animal photos or any of the other things that clog the news feed --- so I built up a couple of discussion groups. It gave me a way of interacting with people and besides, I love talking about the whole writing process. As for the interviews and such. Well, that was a fluke. My personal blog is blue, but I figured out how to change the color, so just for fun, I did an orange blog, a green one, a red one, a purple one, and then I had to figure out what to do with all of them. A book blog and an interview blog seemed the obvious use for two of them since I came in contact with so many authors. The interview blog especially has a fairly good rating, and it seems a waste if I don’t have an interview to post, so I keep promoting it.
In the back of my mind, I hoped that all the author karma I’m building up would somehow help catapult my books to stardom, but so far, it hasn’t happened. But that was never the point of promoting authors on my blogs. As I said, that was mostly a fluke.
Your books have a certain kindness in them too, which is part of why I love them. I know you're not a "genre" writer. But how would you characterize your writing?
Sometimes I classify my books as “conspiracy fiction” because some sort of conspiracy helps advance each of the plots. Other times I classify them as “traditional fiction,” the kind of fiction we grew up with before the emphasis on genre became so prevalent. But mostly, I try not to classify them. I think our culture spends too much time classifying things and not enough time just accepting things (and people) for what they are.
And yes, my books do have a certain kindness to them. I hate characters who are adversarial when they should be bonding together to face the real enemy, which so often is just life. I mean, really, do you know of any fictional villain more deadly and horrific than the things life does to us? So my main characters are generally kind to each other, and they pull others into their sphere of kindness.
Do you think the recent push towards writing in a particular genre, sticking to one genre, and following predictable rules about what each novel should contain was good or bad for fiction in general? And what effect do you think the increasing numbers of independent publishers and self-published authors are having on that trend?
I no longer know what is good for fiction in general. Is it better for authors to write a genre book that people will read or to write a great non-genre book that readers don’t get because it doesn’t follow a recognizable genre? For me, personally, the push toward genre has destroyed my love of reading. I do not like genre, but on the other hand, I don’t like literary fiction, either. I like traditional fiction, such as the stories I write, where the style is effortless, the characters real, the themes rich.
Your books are published with Second Wind Publishing. Did you ever consider self-publishing? Why, or why not?
I spent years researching agents and publishers, learning how to write good query letters, and I ended up with about 200 rejections. When it looked as if I’d never find a publisher, I did consider self-publishing, but I never followed through. For once in my life, I wanted to be chosen. Because of my research, I knew how difficult it was to sell books that didn’t immediately capture the imagination of large groups of people, and I wanted someone other than me to believe in the books. Besides, back then --- just a few years ago --- self-publishing wasn’t as acceptable as it was now.
As for how I found Second Wind --- I was wandering around Gather one day, taking a break from sending out queries, when I found the link for Second Wind Publishing on a discussion thread. I didn’t know anything about the company, but since I was sending out queries anyway, I shot one off to the publisher. I had an acceptance within a week. After that, I gave up any thoughts of self-publishing.
What was the best piece of writing advice anyone ever gave you?
The best writing advice I ever received I read in an old book called The Practical Stylist by Sheridan Baker: “Clarity is the first aim; economy the second; grace the third; dignity the fourth. Our writing should be a little strange, a little out of the ordinary, a little beautiful with words and phrases not met everyday, but seeming as right and natural as grass.”
Isn’t that beautiful?
Wow! Yes it is. Thank you Pat, for this interview and for all you do for us.
You’re welcome, Sheila, but I consider you the real hero, the way you comment on everyone’s interviews and excerpts, and offer encouragement. So thank you!
One last thing --- where can people find out more about you and your books?
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 writing, and my life on a daily basis is by way of Bertram’s Blog. http://ptbertram.wordpress.com
All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. Smashwords is great! The books are available in all ebook formats, including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!
I like that about Smashwords--they really do let you try before you buy! And I definitely recommend your books to anyone reading this. (My favorite is Daughter Am I)