Interview with Pat Camalliere
How many books have you published?
I’ve written two books, The Mystery at Sag Bridge and The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods. They are both historical mysteries, with a bit of the supernatural, and they are the first books in the Cora Tozzi Historical Mystery Series. Both books have a present-day component featuring an amateur sleuth who uses her historian skills to solve a mystery from the past, which in turn relates to a mystery in the present. My work-in-progress, #3 in the series, will deal with a family of Italian heritage living in the 1950s and a mystery that tracks to the Chicago Outfit.
Under what names do you publish?
I use my own name, but gave this a great deal of thought before coming to that decision. I did go with my nickname, Pat instead of Patricia, because that’s what people call me, I am an informal person, and it’s gender nonspecific, which can be an advantage in attracting readers. I wanted my family and friends to acknowledge me as a novelist. I guess in my head I saw my adult grandson holding up a copy of my book to his daughter and saying, “My grandmother, your great-grandmother, was a writer and wrote this book. It’s a good story—you should read it.”
What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc.
I need to start my mornings relaxed, so I have a leisurely breakfast and read for a while. My time is usually over by about 9 am. Next I find it difficult to work in clutter, be it workspace, home, or mind, so I follow my leisure period with a period of activity. I sort and straighten, answer emails, tidy the house, go to the health club. I try to have this done by 10 am. Then I do research and try to finish that by 11 am or noon.
Then I dig in and write. I usually eat lunch at my desk, and I write until late in the afternoon, sometimes as late as 6 pm to 7 pm. I can recognize when I’m too tired to be productive—the writing suffers and there is no point in going on. I keep at it until I reach this point. Every day. Most of the time I spend between four and six hours in the creative process, and produce as little as 500 or as much as 4000 words.
Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
Since I write mysteries that are influenced by history, there are always plot details that are problematic and I don’t obsess over that. This results in a story, with holes. I define my characters, some in great detail, others not so much, and look for pictures of how I envision them for reference. Then I throw the characters into a situation, ask “what if,” and they tell me what to do. I work off of handwritten daily notes with reference to a larger list of points, checking them off as I either complete them or decide not to use them
After I have ended a chapter, I outline it. This helps me see if I accomplished what I set out to do in the chapter and lets me go back and fix obvious problems right away, as well as providing a handy way to find what I want to edit later. I always read the previous day’s work to set the stage before starting to write again.
How do you promote your books?
We’re all looking for that magic wand that makes people take
a look at our work, but one of the difficulties is that yesterday’s wand doesn’t
work today. I have a web site, and I write a local history blog. Social media
is important but that can be a time-waster, so I limit myself to only Facebook
and a few writer email groups. I belong to a number of writers’ organizations. I
get professional reviewers to kick-start sales. I get a multitude of fan
letters, and ask for readers to put a review on Amazon. I enter a few contests.
I find that I enjoy public speaking, so I have developed lectures on local history, local attractions, and writing, and I take advantage of opportunities to be where people are in the community. This has resulted in great local sales, but I’m still looking for a way to break into the larger market.
Who is your favorite author?
Right now I’m reading a lot of police procedurals and modern-day westerns. I especially like Jo Nesbo, Larry Watson, C. J. Box, Jim Thompson, Ed McBain, Robert Parker. For mysteries I like the English writers like Lynda La Plant and Elizabeth George. I throw in a classic or an epic now and then. I like Ken Follett and Phillip Caputo because their work is never formulaic or predictable. Allan Eckhart and James Alexander Thom write wonderful history of the Midwestern states. And of course I read a lot of books written by friends.
Do you write with pen and paper or a computer?
Computer. You have to develop a manuscript you can share and taking time to do in on paper is a waste of time. I do handwritten notes but even those go on an Excel spreadsheet or into a journal I keep as a Word document. I’m trying Scrivener for my current work-in-progress in an effort to better organize my materials. There is a definite learning curve involved but I think it will be time well spent.