Friday, April 23, 2010

Pat Bertram: Daughter Am I

Pat Bertram, author of Daughter Am I, is a native of Colorado and except for a brief stay in the north woods of Wisconsin, lived there all her life. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is her third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Pat, it's a pleasure to have you here.
What do you mean by "novels that can't easily be slotted into a genre"?

All of my novels have elements of intrigue, adventure, mystery, suspense, romance, history, and some have a touch of science fiction. A Spark of Heavenly Fire, for example, is the story of people who become extraordinary during a time of horror -- a bioengineered disease is decimating the population of Colorado, and the entire state is quarantined. One character is obsessed with finding out who created the disease, one couple tries to escape, one woman does what she can to help the survivors. And a thread of romance connects all the stories. All these different stories entwined into one makes it difficult to settle on a single genre. A Spark of Heavenly Fire is being sold as mystery/crime, but it could just as easily be mainstream or a thriller.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

My only goal is to write the stories I want to read. If my books do have a message, it’s that nothing is as it seems. We are not necessarily who we think we are, history did not necessarily happen the way we think it did, and what we see is not necessarily the truth. But all that is more of a side effect. Mostly I just want to write good stories with good characters.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I don’t have any specific technique, though I do fill in a timeline as I write to make sure that the events happen in a realistic framework. When I first started writing, I never had weekends or holidays in the story, just one long string of weekdays, so a timeline is very important. The timeline also serves as a brief outline of what I have written so that I can see the story at a glance. Besides the timeline, I use a theme to stay on track. If I’m not sure of the efficacy of a character trait or plot point, I check it against the theme. If the trait or plot point helps prove the theme, I keep it, otherwise I look for a stronger way of tying the ideas to the theme. I’ve found that a theme helps keep a story (and me) focused.

Briefly tell us about your latest book, Daughter Am I.

Daughter Am I is the story of a young woman who inherits a farm from murdered grandparents she never knew she had. Since her father won’t talk about them or explain why he told her they were dead, she sets out on a journey to discover who those grandparents were and why someone killed them. Armed with a little black address book she found in a secret room in the farmhouse, she travels halfway across the country talking to people who knew her grandfather. Through the stories those feisty octogenarians tell, she learns the truth about her grandparents and herself.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Because I’ve mostly lived in the shadow of mountains, mountains always shadow my writing.
How fortunate.

How do you promote yourself online and off?

I have not done much offline promotion. I’ve been doing my promotion online -- Facebook, of course. Twitter, though to be honest, I haven’t quite figured out how to use it to my benefit. I blog. I hold writing discussions, both on Facebook and I try to put in an appearance on Goodreads. I’m not sure how effective any of these sites are as a promotion tool, but they are a start. Eventually I hope to find a way to get vast numbers of people interested in my books, but so far I haven’t hit on the right method of promotion. I’ve heard that if your book hasn’t caught on in six weeks it never will find a readership. I’ve also heard that it takes three years for a book to find its readership. I’m hoping it’s the latter.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I have a website -- where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my books, and my events on a daily basis is by way of Bertram’s Blog.

All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, and Smashwords. Smashwords is great -- the books are available in all ebook formats, including Kindle, and you can download the first 30% free.

Pat, thanks for the interview,  and I wish you well on all endeavors. By the way, the cover is gorgeous. I'm certain that it will be in the finals in the next Whitfield Cover Award contest.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Susan. I'll be sure to spread the word!

Edward G. Talbot said...

I've read one of Pat's books - More deaths than one - and it was very good. I chose that one because the plot intrigued me the most, and I wasn't disappointed. The most notable thing, though was the writing style - very tight. It takes a lot of editing and commitment to get a book to that point - most authors/editors simply are not that rigorous. And it makes a difference, as the reader NEVER stumbles over language in the book.

Pat, I think the six week and three year things are just catch-phrases. Barring a mention on Oprah or an endorsement by Stephen King, the key to success is building an audience one book and one reader at a time. Like any other critical mass, you don't know how far away you are until it actually happens.

good luck!

Jerrica Knight-Catania said...

Great interview, Pat and Susan!

Pat, I've yet to pick up one of your books, but I know I MUST! They sound wonderful and I keep hearing such great things about them!

Anonymous said...

Edward, I'm so glad you liked More Deaths Than One, and I am gratified that the writing was so tight -- I wanted every word to count. I think you're right about building an audience one reader and one book at a time. At least, I hope you are!

Jerrica, thank you for stopping by. I know how busy you are with a young one in the house that your visit is doubly appreciated.

Dana Fredsti said...

I love it when authors write the books they want to read - I do the same thing and I don't know why writer would want to do otherwise. Writing's tough enough without writing something you have no interest in.

I LOVE Spark of Heavenly Fire! It's got all the elements I love in a story.

Deborah J said...

I have read all of Pat's books and recommend them highly. I consider them to be MUST reads not only for the intriguing plots and interesting characters, but for the absolute prowess Pat implements in her writing. Pat, you are a true professional and a writer I will always follow.

Deborah J said...
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Suze said...

Great interview, guys! --Suzanne

VA said...

Pat B. I am intrigued by your books. I have it down on my To-be-read list for summer. Good luck with building readership. I know that I trip over new authors all the time and say, "Wow!" So it must be happening to other people too, and I agree that word of mouth is a excellent source for me to try new books.

christinehusom said...

Susan, you have a great site.

All of Pat's books are on my to be read list. All the chapters I've read are very well-written and make me want more.

Wonderful interview.

christinehusom said...

I forgot to mention, that I agree it takes time to build a readership. Six weeks does not sound realistic at all. I'm hoping three years is more accurate!

Anonymous said...

I am delighted you all stopped by to see my interview. And I am even more delighted at the interest you showed in my books. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I loved Daughter Am I, the stories within the main story are very interesting and the characters are unique and entertaining. I agree that Pat's editing is superb. Her writing reads very smoothly and that book was a pleasure to read. I did not want it to end.
Nancy Niles

L.C. Evans said...

Great interview. Thanks. I'm planning to read Pat's books. Good for you, Pat, for writing the type of books you want to read rather than following a trend just to get published.

Kat Sheridan said...

I've read Spark of Heavenly Fire and enjoyed it soooo much! Pat really captures the apocolyptic feel, and I loved all the research and details in it! Looking forward to reading this one!

Olivia Cunning said...

Great interview, Pat! Your plots sound fascinating.

My publicist tells me they'll be focusing promotional efforts in the first three to four months after the release date, and doing little with promotion after that. That doesn't seem like enough time to me. Let me know if you find the magic mix for online promotion. I do think word of mouth is the most effective, but how you get that word of mouth started is somewhat of a mystery.

I wish you great success in your novelist career.

Other Lisa said...

Really enjoyed this interview and Pat's thoughts on writing. Thanks, both of you!

Anonymous said...

Susan, thanks for conducting the interview. Pat is a fine writer and has taken a diverse approach to promoting of her books, which has been instructive to watch as a fellow writer. I enjoyed A Spark of Heavenly Fire very much and look forward to reading more of her books.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hello, ladies! Pat sent me the link to this so I could post it at my Win a Book blog. Susan, if you'd like to send me links, too, I'd love to have them. It's all about connecting books and readers.

Susan Whitfield said...

Susan, thanks for stopping by. We always welcome visitors and promo. Here are links:

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

I've enjoyed all of Pat's books and think it's time for them to be made into films.

aries18 said...

I've read two of Pat's books. They were right up my alley! I love reading books that show how the 'common man' reacts to extraordinary circumstances. She does this type of story telling very well indeed. I'm looking forward to reading Daughter Am I, I've heard so many great things about it.

Great interview. Thanks for bringing it to us.