Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Getting to know ... Pamela Kelt

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
My first book to come out was Tomorrow’s Anecdote and it’s a quirky one - part newsroom thriller, part genealogical mystery, part rant, part retro suspense. Three other titles (due out this summer) sit nicely on the historical fiction shelf: Dark Interlude, Half Life and The Lost Orchid – fictional characters (on the whole) set against real-life incidents. Finally, I’ve been developing a sideline in teen fantasy: Ice Trekker and the Legends of Liria series.

What made you choose these genres?
The first book I completed was The Lost Orchid, a tale of botanical shenanigans in 1885 England. I was taking my two dogs for a walk past Guy’s Cliffe, a local beauty spot by the river, complete with picturesque ruin of a Gothic mansion. It’s supposedly, haunted, of course. I had a crummy new boss and suddenly realised I hated my job. I began to develop a story, reading up on the exploits of crazy Scottish plant collectors. I never realised I liked history until I began to research it for myself. Now I’m hooked.

I tried my hand at YA books inspired by the Edge Chronicles. I’ve read them all. It’s harder than it looks, but it does make a lovely change because I don’t have to do that much research. When I get stuck, I can just make something up.

How long does it take you to write a book?
If I don’t get distracted, four or five months. The YA titles maybe two or three.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I like to think I’m disciplined, but it’s becoming increasingly chaotic. I certainly work hard, but I can’t write anything sensible until after 10.30. I am most definitely not a morning person. I became allergic to early mornings when I worked on newspapers. Most mornings, I blast away doing mainly admin/PR until lunch, grab a carb-free bite, walk the dogs, then blast away editing or writing most afternoons. Oddly enough, I often get a surge of ideas around five o’clock, then I crumple in a heap. Weekends are much the same. Recently, I’ve developed a truly shocking habit of ‘just checking my emails’ at 10pm. Fatal.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Some are based on personal experience, but most of the time, my brain starts popping when I actually stop working and take a break. Ice Trekker and Half Life, for instance, very different books, were inspired by a trip to Tromsø, north of the Arctic Circle. Dark Interlude was partly based on my thesis on 17th-century Spanish interludes, mingled in with settings from trips to Scotland. I feel a bit guilty about Dark Interlude, as it’s based on a near revolution in Glasgow – and I hadn’t been to the city at the time! Worse still, I’m from Edinburgh. The cheek!

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Ha! It’s called The Evil Magi of Scrunge, a dark political fantasy. I was 34. A couple of years before that I tried my hand at a locked library mystery (vicious academic found strangled by a chained book), but I never actually finished it.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’ve become a conference groupie. Every time my husband gets an invitation (now that my daughter’s at uni), I wangle my way in and hit the art galleries and culture hot spots while he stoically attends the sessions. I get myself kitted up with a sun visor, sunglasses, map, cash, camera, mobile phone, sensible shoes and a museum pass … and hit the road. I probably look like a deranged lady golfer, but I love it. I think it’s because it takes me back to the glory days of Interrail.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
There were mutinies throughout and after the First World War which were hushed up – never mind the events of Black Friday, when Glasgow was on the brink of revolution. The Red Flag flew in George Square and Churchill sent in the troops. They never told us about that when I was at school.

How many books have you written?
Eight and counting.

Which is your favourite and why?
It has to be Tomorrow’s Anecdote as it’s such a personal tale. Oddly enough, I only wrote it because I’d just received a snippy rejection in the post complaining about adjectives and the agent’s personal dislike of books in the first person. I was so cross, I just let rip. ‘I’m going to write like I want!’ I raged and began to pound at the keyboard, without so much as a plan to start with. When my husband read the first few pages that evening, he was in bits – and he’s a tough critic. ‘Write it like that,’ he urged. ‘As it comes.’ So, I worked on the story, and then it just poured out. When Crooked Cat signed me up, I laughed and cried simultaneously while jumping about the kitchen and playing ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ really loudly on my laptop. The dogs went berserk, too. Now the book’s out there, I’ve found I’ve actually come to terms with quite a difficult chunk of my life. It represents a watershed, professionally and personally. Now, I feel quite fearless – and that’s something from a spotlight-spy creature like me.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Guess what? A writer.

What are you working on now?
I know one shouldn’t edit and write at the same time, buy hey. I’m putting the finishing touches to another YA story, a crazy Regency-style adventure called True Haven. I’m also halfway through Machiavelli’s Acolyte, a blood-stained tale of power and corruption featuring the most charming anti-hero imaginable. I think of it as Dexter meets the Borgias. I love villains, so this time, they’re getting centre stage. And both books are written in the first person. So there.

Author Pamela Kelt’s background is in languages. She took Spanish at the University of Manchester then went on to Oxford to complete an M. Litt thesis on ‘Comic aspects of satirical 17th-century comic interludes’, which was far more interesting than it sounds.

After becoming a technical translator, she moved into copywriting, PR, proofre

ading and teaching English. On a stint in Australia, she landed a sub-editor’s job and entered the world of journalism, especially enjoying page layout and writing features and reviews.

Educational magazines and online publishing followed. Then, one bright day, while walking the dogs, thinking ‘to heck with a career’, she took the plunge into writing for herself. She is now the author of six books for adults, teens and younger readers. Pam writes full time in leafy Kenilworth where she enjoys walking her two daft dogs, watching her windowsill orchids grow and keeping up with the best mystery and adventure stories around.

Dark Interlude – out June 2013 Muse
Half Life (with Robert J Deeth) – out August 2013 Muse
Ice Trekker – out September 2013 Muse
The Lost Orchid – out soon Bluewood Publishing
The Cloud Pearl (Legends of Liria) – out November 2013 Muse

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Flash Fiction Competition
Flash 500 Humour Verse Competition


Pamela Kelt said...

Thanks for the interview. I learned so much!

Pamela Kelt said...

Thanks for the interview. I learned so much!

Nancy Jardine said...

More enjoyable things to learn about you Pamela! And do you know, I thought you only started writing this year! ;-) Just kidding.

Susan Bernhardt said...

This was a great interview, Pam! I enjoyed reading about your interests as well as your writing habits. I also love museums.

Susan Bernhardt

Susan Bernhardt said...

This was a great interview, Pam! I enjoyed reading about your interests as well as your writing habits. I also love museums.

Susan Bernhardt

Rosalie Skinner said...

Great interview, Pam. Congratulations on your new release. Incredible start to your career. May your books never go out of print.

Pamela Kelt said...

Thanks, everyone. It's been so much fun. It's so strange. You plug away at a book that you think will never see the light of day, then, boom. So great to hear the comments. Much appreciated. (And good luck to you all, too.)

Pamela Kelt said...

Thanks, so much. I loved the questions. They really put me on the spot. I sound a bit like Zoe Wanamaker in the midst of a Poirot investigation, with a hint of Harry Potter. Giving away my sources, there. If it's not fun, I stop.