Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning. She is a native of Colorado.
Time to chat with Pat!
What is your latest book?
After my life mate/soul mate died, the only way I could handle my overwhelming grief was to pour it out onto pages of a journal, letters to him, and blog posts. When I discovered how much those blog posts meant to people who had also suffered grievous losses, I compiled my writings into a book about my first year of grief called Grief: The Great Yearning, which has recently been published by Second Wind Publishing. One reviewer said, “This is an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”
Is your recent book part of a series?
I hadn’t planned to write a series on grief, though to be honest, I hadn’t planned to write a book about grief at all. Still, I’ve been continuing to write about grief on my blog, chronicling the steps to acceptance and perhaps renewal, and a compilation of those posts would make a good sequel to Grief: The Great Yearning.
If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
Simply: Grief the Great Yearning and my website address. The title says everything.
What else have you written?
I’ve written four suspense novels:
More Deaths Than One tells the story of Bob Stark who sees his mother’s obituary in the morning paper, which stuns him because he buried her two decades ago before he left the country to live in Southeast Asia. So how can she be dead again?
A Spark of Heavenly Fire tells the story of how Kate Cummings, an ordinary woman, gathered her courage and strength to survive the horror of an unstoppable bioengineered disease let loose on the state of Colorado.
Daughter Am I is the story of a young woman who inherits a farm from her murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born. She becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead.
Light Bringer is the story of a woman who returns to the town where she’d been abandoned as a baby and discovers a secret that is out of this world. Literally.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
Never. When a story flows, when everything is motivated, it makes sense that some ideas, emotions and themes and even dialogue show up that aren’t planned. If the characters are true, it has to happen. I am not saying that the characters do things that I don’t plan. Their actions are completely planned. But some underlying truths could emerge that I didn’t purposely put there.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
Before writing a novel, I need to know the main characters, the beginning of the story, the end of the story, and how I want the characters to develop, but I don’t flesh out the individual scenes until I start writing them. Sometimes I know the title, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the title changes during the writing, sometimes it doesn’t. For example, Light Bringer was always Light Bringer. More Deaths Than One went through several title changes before I stumbled across this snippet from Oscar Wilde’s “Reading Gaol”: He who lives more lives than one, more deaths than one must die.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I do edit as I go along, but not excessively. Since I’m not a writer who can sit down and let the words flow out of me, I have to choose every word I put on the paper, each one building on the last. If I take a wrong turning, I have to go back and find that wrong turning so I can continue building, otherwise the whole project stalls. Most of the editing is done after I’m finished, though.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
Writing is not always about writing. Some authors can sit down and let the words flow and lo! There is a story! Other authors have to think about what they’re doing. So ask yourself, what story do you want to write? Why? What do your characters want? Why? How are they going to get what they want? Who is going to stop them getting what they want?
Every day brings forth new changes and shifts in the world of publishing. Any predictions about the future?
I don’t know enough about technology to predict changes, but I do know that changes and shifts in technology will be reflected in the world of publishing. For example, people will be reading more on their phones, e-books will eventually become multi-media –- comprising video, social networking, and other elements.
How would you define your style of writing?
Concise, colorful, character-driven.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
My life wouldn’t change much. For all practical purposes, I’m invisible now.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
Someone once gave me a year of the internet. I had no interest in the internet, but it turned out to be the best gift I ever received. It changed my life.
Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?
I have never played a practical joke on anyone. I despise practical jokes. The closest I ever came was when I told my little sister that a square meal were things like sandwiches made on square bread.
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
Loyalty, kindness, intelligence.
What music soothes your soul?
Silence. Nothing soothes my soul like silence.
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