I first encountered Pat Bertram in her role as administrator of the popular Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. Pat is, not surprisingly, an author herself, but her work ranges far beyond the suspense/thriller realm.
Detecting in Pat a kindred spirit I would like to know better, I asked her a few nosey questions …
Pat, why do you write what you write? For example, why did you choose to write A Spark of Heavenly Fire?
A Spark of Heavenly Fire came about because of a Washington Irving quote: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” When I read those words, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?
I didn’t want to write a book about war, which is a common setting for such a character-driven story, so I created the red death, an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease that ravages Colorado. Martial law is declared, rationing is put into effect, and the entire state is quarantined. The world of the red death brings out the best in Kate and some of the characters she comes in contact with while bringing out the worst in others. Most of all, the prism of death and survival reflects what each of the major characters values most. Kate values love. Dee values purpose. Greg values truth. Jeremy values freedom. Pippi, who values nothing, learns to value herself.
Does your fiction reflect your personal values?
My values are the same as my characters — love, truth, purpose, freedom.
Is there a lesson in your fiction you want people to learn?
If there is a message in my fiction, 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.
What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?
I’ll be leaving the world my books, which are words enough, but besides that, this is how I’d like the world to see me: “Pat Bertram has a marvelous ability to write the longest parables in all of literature. She unglues the world as it is perceived and rebuilds it in a wiser and more beautiful way.” — Lazarus Barnhill, author of The Medicine People and Lacey Took a Holiday
How has your background—all the life you’ve lived—influenced your writing?
I always thought I’d be a writer, so when I was twenty-five, I quit a job to write a book about a love that transcended time and physical bonds, told with sensitivity and great wisdom. Unfortunately, I discovered I had no talent for writing and no wisdom, so I gave up writing and focused on reading. All those thousands of books I read seeped into my subconscious and gave me a feel for storytelling, and so when I took up writing again, I had more of an idea of how to tell a story. I just had to learn specific elements of writing fiction, such as show don’t tell.
Two years ago, my life mate/soul mate died, and the only way I could handle my overwhelming grief was to pour it out onto pages of a journal, letters to him, and blog posts. When I discovered how much those blog posts meant to people who had also suffered grievous losses, I compiled my writings into a book about my first year of grief called Grief: The Great Yearning, which has recently been published by Second Wind Publishing. And so, quite by accident, I ended up writing the story of a love that transcended time and physical bonds, told with sensitivity and great wisdom. I just never knew that the story I’d always wanted to write would be mine.
I’m sorry for your loss but awed at the good you’re able to draw from it. How can anyone write authentically about such a profound human experience without having lived it? Now, out of your sorrow you support other mourners. I know you’re a staunch supporter of other writers, too. What made you decide to promote others?
My addiction to blogging. I found a blog template I liked, and when I discovered that I could change the colors, I set up blue, red, orange, green, and purple blogs. Since the blogs were just sitting there, I decided to use them to promote other authors.
My latest discovery on your blog is the purple page titled “Book Marketing Floozy,” which I promptly linked on my Resources page. More than five dozen indexed articles about promoting a book online – what a great contribution! I think you should add “generosity” to your list of personal values. 🙂
I hoped that somehow what goes around would come around and one day my efforts would catapult my books to stardom. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve met a lot of great authors!
I have too – many of them by way of the Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. How did you come to be the administrator of that group?
When A Spark of Heavenly Fire was accepted by Second Wind, I set out to learn all I could about online promotion. Social networking was touted as the premiere way to promote, so I signed up for Facebook, but I had no idea what to do with it. I was searching for groups to join when I happened on the S/T writers group. It had about sixteen members, no administrator, nothing going on, but on the sidebar was a note that said, “Become administrator of this group.” Curious how one became administrator, I clicked on the link, and that was all it took — I became the administrator.
Because so many other authors were joining Facebook at the time, I was able to build up the group to about 2,000 members, and through all the changes Facebook has undergone, I’ve managed to keep the group going. It’s a fun place to hang out and talk about writing without being inundated with promos.
Exactly! A big part of its popularity is the way you keep the main page dedicated to discussions of writing craft and the writing life, without the barrage of “Buy my book!” posts that clog other Facebook groups for writers.
We do offer a place for promotions. Every week I invite the group to the Suspense/Thriller Writers Self-Promotion Extravaganza event on Facebook.
I look forward to that every Saturday. To be honest, at first I expected everybody to go to the Extravaganza just long enough to post his own blurb and ignore everyone else’s. But it has grown into an active, fun exchange of book links, new releases, KDP promotion days for Kindle books, feedback on cover blurbs, book trailers, and cover pictures, and good-humored bragging and whining about reviews and sales. Alas, my own mystery novel is far from the promotion stage. (I’m told I should actually finish writing the thing first!)
Speaking of finishing, here’s the final twist to this interview: What question does no one ever ask, that will force you to stretch yourself to answer, that I would have asked you if I had known what an intriguing answer I’d get?
I’ve never been asked that question before! But . . . here’s my dirty little secret. (Not much in the way of dirty little secrets, I admit, but it’s the only one I have.) I don’t own an ereading device, and I have no intention of getting one until I am forced to. For me, reading has always been a Zen-like experience where I become the book. Not the story. The book. My eyes would be focused on the page. One hand would be grasping the book while the other turned the page, quite mindlessly, I might add. The book might be resting on sternum or stomach, depending on my position. And the story osmosed through my body and into my soul without referencing the words.
As a constant reader, my shelves were always overflowing with books, so periodically I would pass the excess on to my mother. One time, I included Oh, God in a stack of books I gave her, and the language appalled her. I shrugged it off, saying I didn’t notice. That really upset her. “I don’t know which is worse,” she said, “that you would be so blasé as not to be bothered by the words, or so naïve as to not know what they mean.”
I tried to explain to her that I didn’t read words, but that upset her even more. I suppose it does sound weird, but it’s the truth.
Hmm … I’m not sure my mother would understand my relationship with the Text-to-Speech dude who lives inside my Kindle … But never mind that. 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/
All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. Smashwords is great! The books are available in all ebook formats, including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!
Thanks so much, Pat!
Fiction fans, look for Pat Bertram’s books:
- A Spark of Heavenly Fire
- More Deaths Than One
- Light Bringer
- Daughter Am I
Readers of all genres can appreciate her book Grief: The Great Yearning.
And if you’re a writer or reader of mysteries and thrillers, hop on over to the Suspense/Thriller Writers group and enjoy the discussions.
But first, please leave a comment for Pat here. Thanks! – Linda