One of the aspects of this year’s Staying in with… feature that I am really enjoying is the chance to encounter books that wouldn’t usually come across my radar. Today is one such book from Pamela Fagan Hutchins and I’m very pleased to welcome Pamela along to tell me more about her writing.
Staying in with Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Pamela. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought Bombshell, Linda. I picked it because I think shocking suspense, and journeys of self-empowerment are great with a glass of wine and candles in a bubble tub!
(That’s one of my favourite ways to read actually, but I need a sparkling wine, preferably champagne!)
What can we expect from an evening in with Bombshell?
Hmm, expect? I like to surprise you :-). Well, maybe a few hints. First, Bombshell is a romantic mystery with a few sexy bits.
(So, a fairly ordinary story then!)
Your second hint about what to expect: Ava is easy to love and hard to write. A few years ago, I wrote three novels about a late-blooming woman named Katie Connell with a sexy, sassy best friend, Ava. Katie isn’t a prude, but next to Ava she might as well be. Three Katie novels later, readers had been asking for more AVA. And I was terrified to write her.
Oversexed Ava. Non-monogamous Ava. To write a trilogy of mysteries starring her without dealing with these truths of her personality and life would be inauthentic, yet these are the two of the qualities I am least comfortable exploring. I’m just not a Fifty Shades of Grey type of author or reader, even though I don’t think I’m a Pollyanna. I just have personal preferences as to what I enjoy exploring in fiction.
(I’m quite glad to hear that Pamela!)
So I’ve wrestled with how to write Ava’s point of view for the last few years. She should have been easier, since she’s based on my best friend Natalie, from my nearly ten years on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The translation from person to page, though, is not a straight line. I launched into her first story only to find myself struggling with my own health issues and putting the manuscript down for a few months.
I was relieved to stop. *Sigh*
I picked it up against a few months later, and wrote this piece about my writing experience:
I’m eighty pages into Bombshell. In the first seventy pages, I channeled Ava without having to confront her sexuality with direct behavior. Heck, the only times I’ve written sex scenes, they were love scenes, and I could turn to experiences I am familiar with. Not with Ava, not in her life at the time I am writing about. Love has nothing to do with the scenes I need to write.
It’s not that I don’t know how to write sex or think it doesn’t belong in books. When it’s important to the development of the character or the plot/storyline, sex belongs in a book, at a level of disclosure appropriate to the POV character. Which means, for Ava, a lot more disclosure for me than before. And if I am going to write sex, I not only have to have a compelling reason for it, I have to write it well. I have to write good sex, from Ava’s perspective. Good sex is, well, good, and I am lucky in that regard personally, but that just isn’t the same as what it is for Ava. So I have to come up with unique good sex outside my experience and my comfort zone.
Finally, that moment came when to continue to keep Ava out sexual situations was no longer possible, if I was going to be true to her point of view.
So I trudged up to my writing tent in my knee high snake boots and some really attractive gray yoga pants that ended at the top of my boots. I’d jammed a straw cowboy hat on over my wet hair and thrown on a t-shirt promoting tiny Burton, Texas. Our two draft cross horses were munching sweet alfalfa from a round bale, eying me and lazily swishing their tails. Three dogs dug their sleeping spots and settled at my feet in a cloud of dust.
I didn’t look like a woman about to get her sexy on, that was for sure, and I didn’t feel like one either.
I closed my eyes and pictured Ava. Within seconds, I am on the island of St. Marcos, at a party on the patio of a gorgeous home, the silky night air caressing my skin, the stars winking at me from above. In this scene Ava’s the date of a wealthy, mysterious man (just her type!) who’s a partner in the business she’s just gone to work with.
There’s been a murder, maybe two. Someone is stalking her, or maybe not. Not everything seems kosher with her new employer, or maybe it is. She’s struggling as a single mom and only child of aging parents. And, she’s trying to convince herself that she’s not in love with another man who she’s just dumped. So she’s throwing herself into a new relationship, or, relationships—this is Ava, after all.
The evening unfolds, ripe with sinister elements, suspense, and night blooming jasmine, and suddenly I can see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, and touch it, as if I’m Ava instead of Pamela. She makes choices, says things, does things, that I have no experience with, yet they flow from my fingertips as if it’s all happening around me and to me, because of me.
And I don’t even have the grace to blush.
When I’d finished the scene, I looked up. The horses had come to the fence nearest me. They were watching me, curious. I wondered if they’d sensed my departure from my body, the temporary takeover staged by Ava. They’re empathic like that, and after a few moments, they resumed eating, and I realized, yes, they probably knew better than I what just happened.
Time and many, many more words will tell whether or not this scene will stay in the book as is or whether it will get a substantial toning down or be cut altogether. Maybe we’ll close the door and not be a voyeur to Ava’s private life. Sometimes as a writer, though, it’s not about what makes the final cut, but about writing it true, understanding your character, and letting the chips fall where they may later.
Yesterday, I wrote Ava true. And I think I need a cold shower
(I love this Pamela. I’m sure I’d be hopeless at writing a steamy scene! What happened?)
The scene stayed in the book. My content editor loved it. My betas said it got them hot under the collar. And it is true to Ava, whose personal experiences make her uniquely her, which is what mattered most to me.
(I think it’s fascinating when characters simply take over and almost force writers to create their scenes.)
What else have you brought along and why?
This should be a treat. Put down that wine glass and break out the blender. Ava’s drink of choice is a rum Painkiller. So crank up the Rihanna—I recommend “Umbrella” or “Please Don’t Stop the Music”—and make sure your candle is coconut scented, because Ava’s taking us to the Caribbean with her tonight.
(Oh! I love a good cocktail…)
Mix 2 parts orange juice, 2 parts pineapple juice, 1 part Coco Lopez, and 1 part rum in a blender. Serve over ice sprinkled with nutmeg. Drink at your own risk. You’re welcome.
I love Ava’s cocktail Pamela. Thanks so much for bringing the ingredients to make it. Thank you for staying in with me to introduce Bombshell. I understand that by clicking this Bombshell, Linda’s Book Bag readers can get a free copy too, before going on to read the rest of the books in the series.
Ava dreams of building a better life for her daughter through her island pop songs. Her new temp job leads to a once-in-a-lifetime shot at a record deal, but before she can pack her bags for New York, she discovers a dead body outside her office building. Horrified, Ava recognizes the murdered sex worker as her childhood friend.
The single mother finds herself torn between pursuing her life’s passion or justice for her murdered friend. When another friend is killed, she worries the deaths are connected to a shared trauma that she’s been running from her whole life. After dumping her cop boyfriend, she realizes the pain she keeps locked inside could be sabotaging her shot at lasting love.
Before Ava can move on to a bright future in music, she must confront the truth behind her dark past to catch the murderer or she’ll be next on his kill list.
About Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes overly long e-mails, award-winning and best-selling romantic mysteries, and hilarious nonfiction from deep in the heart of Nowheresville, Texas and way up in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship as well as long hikes with her hunky husband and pack of rescue dogs, riding her gigantic horses, experimenting with her Keurig, and traveling in the Bookmobile.