Tuesday, November 20, 2012
More Deaths Than One, by Pat Bertram
Pat Bertram's newest mystery novel is entitled "More Deaths Than One". Pat was kind enough to subject herself to an interview about her new novel, about how she writes, and about her website and her blog. For all of you who have gotten this far, enjoy a visit with this successful author.
What is your book More Deaths Than One about?
More Deaths Than One tells the story of Bob Stark who returns to Denver after 18 years in Southeast Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. He attends her new funeral and sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on? And why are two men who appear to be government agents hunting for him? With the help of Kerry Casillas, a baffling young woman Bob meets in a coffee shop, he uncovers the unimaginable truth.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
More Deaths Than One started with an obituary for a stranger that could have been for a friend’s mother. The woman who passed away came from the same city as the friend’s mother, had a similar name, and had two sons about the same age as my friend and his brother. Jokingly, I said, “Maybe this really is your mother.” We had great fun that day trying to figure out how it could be possible for him to be the dead woman’s son. The story we came up with captured my imagination, and so I had no choice but to pursue it.
I know the main characters, I know the beginning of the story, I know the end of the story, and I know how I want the characters to develop, but I don’t flesh out the individual scenes until I start writing them.
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.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
My only goal was to write a book I want to read. If More Deaths Than One does 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 wanted to write a good story with interesting characters and a strong theme.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
The most difficult part about writing any of my novels was finding the words. I am not one of those authors who can sit down and just let the story pour out. I have to dig for every single word.
But More Deaths Than One was difficult for another reason --- I knew the story, just not how to present it. I wanted to show a loner with special gifts, but in the first draft (and the second draft and the third) I had the hero Bob meandering around his world trying to unravel his past all by himself, and it was boring. Did I say boring? It was moribund. The story went nowhere because there was no one for Bob to butt heads with.
In the fourth draft of More Deaths Than One, I gave Bob a love interest, a waitress he met at a coffee shop. (Hey, so it’s been done before. The poor guy spent eighteen years in Southeast Asia, and didn’t know anybody stateside. How else was he supposed to meet someone?) That’s when the story took off. He had someone to butt heads with, someone to ooh and aah over his achievements, someone to be horrified at what had been done to him. And oddly, it made him seem more of a loner.
From that, I learned the importance of writing scenes with more than one character, and yet I still tend to write loner characters.
Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?
Water. I drink lots of water. Writing is a thirsty occupation!
What is your writing process?
Most of the process goes on in my mind. I think about what story I want to tell, who the characters are, what they want, what I want to say, how the story will start and how it will end. When I sit down to write, I read over a bit of what I’ve already written to put me in the right mind frame, then I sit and think. Finally, I put words down on the paper. I keep rewriting those words or cross them out and start over until something clicks, and then I write the scene. It is not a method I would recommend! It takes too long and is too ponderous, but somehow I’ve managed to write four-and-a-half readable novels and one non-fiction book.
What are you working on now?
Rubicon Ranch http://rubiconranch.wordpress.com/ is a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by me and a few other authors of Second Wind Publishing.
Residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.
Who dunnit? No one knows, and we won’t know until the last chapter has been written. You can download the first book in the series free in any ebook format at Smashwords. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/168165
Where can people learn more about 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