Today I’m interviewing author P.D. Singer who has written one of my favourite books this year, The Rare Event.
Hi Pam. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on the site. I have long been an admirer of your books and it was wonderful to finally meet you at GRL 2012 and find out that you are just as I imagined – a wonderful strategic thinker where it comes to writing and books, as well as a lot of fun.
Why don’t we start by having you tell us something about Pam that we wouldn’t know. Are you a secret gamer? Something else?
Thank you for the kind assessment, Wave. I enjoyed our chat at GayRomLit, too.
I think of myself as a pretty open book, so this is hard. Little chunks of myself find their way into the stories, so my inherent geekiness, iffy skills on skis, and tendency to injure myself in the kitchen while preparing moderately complicated food are all in the stories for people to see, if not recognize as me.
Something not so obvious is that I tend to plunge myself into a new interest, which dominates my life for two or three years, and then I pick up a new obsession. Organic gardening, sewing, and playing offbeat instruments like the bassoon have had their obsession time. I thought writing was going to be like that, but it stuck.
For you, what is the best part about being published and what is the worst?
The best part is that my creation is no longer ephemeral: Look! It’s right there on the shelf, and I did it and I’m proud of it! And someone read it and liked it! Food gets eaten, the clothes get outgrown, the notes from the bassoon die away (thank G-d), but the book lasts.
The worst part is that now the words are fixed. I’m not able to go back and fix the typo that only just now, after the book’s been out three months, leaps off the page at me. Re-releasing the first three Mountain books was a huge relief on that score, heh.
Are you ever afraid that you may not be able to meet your fans’ expectations whenever you release a new book?
I’m still a little dazed at having fans, actually, so my relief is more that anyone considers that I’ve met their expectations at all. But yes, every release is a fresh chance to grow an ulcer.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a writer? In real life? Is there a difference between P.D. Singer the writer and Pam the person?
My biggest challenge as a writer is to quit tweaking and send the manuscript out already. Having deadlines to meet has been a huge assistance with moving on. Eternal tweaking may be an extension of my performance anxiety. I’m a terrific ensemble player and a horrible soloist. Being an author is essentially being a soloist, although I have a really incredible back-up group of betas.
My biggest challenge in RL is raising my kids. I want to keep them from making the kinds of mistakes that apparently one must make in order to learn from.
Writing is very individual as well as a lonely profession. How do you deal with the isolation for long periods that are necessary to actually write a new story?
I’d be a reasonably good hermit, so my bigger problem has been to get some isolation! Two kids and a husband versus the need for quiet has made for some really strange sleeping habits. However, instant messaging and email prevent total isolation—my friends and I can chat slow-mo while I’m writing.
What drives you?
I set myself a challenge that has to be met in the course of the story. With Fire on the Mountain, the internal challenge was to write a book where the POV character was consistent from beginning to end. The challenges vary from “use a particular word in this drabble” to “make a beginning that meets up coherently with an end that’s set in stone.” If I don’t meet the challenge, the story doesn’t see the light of day.
What’s the biggest misconception about P.D. Singer the writer?
That I look like a young Lauren Bacall, and have WC Field’s sense of humor. The reality is that I look like an old WC Fields and have a questionable sense of humor.
You currently have a couple of series: The Mountain and On Call in addition to your standalone books. What is the key for an author in deciding whether a standalone book will eventually become part of a series? Is having a built-in fan base part of the reason? Is it because you realize that the story arc can’t possibly be completed in one book?
It’s probably awful to admit that I like torturing my characters, but I do, and it’s so convenient to do it with characters I already know. I can hit them in more tender spots, because I know where those spots are.
Jake and Kurt have a third book featuring them, because Jake had some lingering issues preventing a final HEA. Look for some resolution there in Blood on the Mountain, which is due from Dreamspinner on Dec. 14th. For Return to the Mountain, I needed some people in the financial business, so I brought back Ricky and another character from The Rare Event. They dovetailed with Gary and Seth’s novel, Return to the Mountain. Expect a March release date for Return.
Sometimes the characters keep coming back with more ideas, which is why Keith and Dante have a series of shorts, including one where they have cameo roles. They were the perfect characters to answer two publisher’s calls after I really thought I was done with them.
Your upcoming release is Blood on the Mountain which will hit in early December. What can you tell us about this book that’s not in the blurb?
Quite a lot of the story hinges on a game of strip-archery. And there are bees!
As you are aware (because I told you many times) my favourite P.D. Singer book is The Rare Event. What was the genesis of this story? I understand that you put everything on hold in your life for a year to research and write this story. Why was it so important to you?
I keep my horizons broad by reading the book from the upper left hand corner of a particular display at the local library, no matter what it is. One visit, the corner book was Lawrence McDonald’s A Colossal Failure of Common Sense, which detailed the collapse of Lehman Brothers. As I read, the sheer horror of the situation started wrapping into a plot, which required a couple of hot guys with relationship problems. The plot as originally envisioned did not resemble the finished story at all, which definitely slowed up completing the book.
My New York beta, Flatiron Mike, was a blessing. He answered nine million off-the-wall questions and never once questioned my sanity. He often gave me some key ideas and sent me off to hunt, which would lead thither and yon. Feeding Elephant’s Child was a big part of writing this book, and my life is richer for it, though my bibliography may be shorter.
One of the things that bothers me about M/M romance is that it has become synonymous with erotica. IMO there is too much emphasis on sex in a large percentage of these books that are supposed to be romances, to the detriment of plot and character development, and the sex becomes the story rather than being there to advance the plot. How important are plot and character development in these stories compared to the amount of sex?
I write what I want to read, and I like plot. I also like sex, so I write a fair amount of that too, but it has to drive the plot, not be the plot. I’m a bit of a bitch to my characters (see “torture”) so I have no problem interrupting the sexytimes with a fight if it’s called for, or fading to black if the characters really want to get it on but I don’t see a reason to have it on page.
Holly Lisle is a huge influence on me, so I will always have a theme and development of story and character to support the theme, even in a short.
As you know I usually ask readers to come up with questions for their favourite authors who are interviewed on the site and here are yours:
T.D. O’Malley would like to know
What is it about M&M romance draws you as a writer?
It started by being repelled by het romance. I can’t stand most of the “heroines” because inevitably they end up doing something that makes me crazy, and I don’t like the cultural baggage. I didn’t read it when I was younger, and my few tries since haven’t left me craving more.
I keep writing it because someone dear to me needs stories about people like himself who get happy endings.
John asks (and I don’t know how you can answer his second question without implicating yourself or Eden)
What’s the difference between a fiddler and a violinist?
Are you as addicted to gay porn as Eden Winters is?
A violinist carries the instrument in a case and a fiddler carries it in a gunny sack. Seriously, it’s a matter of playing style. You have to relax enough to feel the swing in fiddle music. Liquor helps: it’s known as “fiddler’s grease.”
As for the porn. John. Really. Eden and I are sticklers for accuracy. We appreciate all your efforts to improve our knowledge base. It’s research, I tell you! Research!
Cryselle wants to know
What are you planning that isn’t in the Rockies? (Although I do like the Mountains a lot…)
I have about half a novel featuring a professional cyclist and a journalist that was put on the back burner in order to take care of my Mountain
stories. The working title is Spokes, and it’s set partially in Colorado, but the second half of the book is in Italy.
I’m also working on a shifter story, but that’s set in the mountains, so you probably don’t want to hear about it. *wink*
Where do you get your inspiration when writing a book? Does it simply pop into your head, does it form slowly or do you get flashes of ideas from songs or things around that eventually forms into, well.. your books?
That only looks unresponsive—it’s really all of the above. My usual genesis of a story is plot first, characters and romantic problems second.
I have an idea folder of interesting bits whose time or plot has not yet come, and more files with outlines needing to be fleshed out. That library book trick that spawned The Rare Event breeds plot bunnies. So does walking back from lunch—that’s how I met a man who’s outfitting a glider for a world altitude record attempt. I want to build a story around that. While waiting for a bus recently, a young man in hospital scrubs handed me half a plot. It really depends on the plot. Some do grow slowly and veer wildly from my original thoughts.
This particular music video was good for some inspiration and may also shed some light on John’s question about fiddlers. Especially after 3:30, it sheds, um, quite a lot of light.
Now for my last question: What does PD Singer do for fun?
Research! Whether it’s the sort John referred to *wink*, or trying something new. I’m good for anything short of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. Tried and true fun is playing my fiddle at an Irish session.
Thank you, Wave!
Pam, I thought that this interview was over but Billy, one of the boyz in the hot tub, is angry that they didn’t get to ask any questions, so I let them have just one:
Hi Pam, we would like to know what kind of physical qualities you look for in your heroes?
(I think someone is trying out for a spot in your next release)
My MCs have been all over the map, from tall and gaunt to medium height and “cuddly,” with a cluster of the medium-to-tall and toned for their body types. Swinging an axe will do that. But I did just have placements for two moderate-height and slim guys, so you just never know. Participating in some kind of athletics and/or music is a plus. Come on over, we’ll take a nice long look-see and determine if I have a story for you!