Friday, October 20, 2006

Pamela Clare GuestBlog: Real Heroes


Pamela Clare is an award-winning investigative journalist, mom, and novelist. How she finds time to do all she does -- and do it so well -- is beyond me.

She's warm and witty, and has been incredibly brave in ferreting out the truth in many of the news stories she's published, yet acts as if being threatened by ticked-off ne'er-do-wells is no thang.

Bellas, welcome a woman who writes fresh Old School historicals -- and writes contemporaries just as deftly. And she's talking today about a topic I'm quite fond of. Miss Pamela, speak on it...

Buongiorno, Bellas!

I have a very personal story I'd like to share with you --
and then a couple of questions.

First the story: Late on August 24, 1987, I was home alone with my 9-month-old baby boy and had just gone to bed, when two men with switchblades broke into my apartment. I heard them outside before they got in and managed to call 911.


Two police officers, Lt. Tim McGraw and Sgt. Gary Arai, arrived just in time to stop my attackers from raping me at knifepoint. They faced down two very violent criminals to save me and my baby even though they knew nothing about us.

When I wrote my most recent contemporary romansuspenseence, "Hard Evidence," I dedicated it to Tim and Gary. The book focuses on human trafficking, and Julian Darcangelo, the hero, is a former undercover FBI agent working with Denver police to catch a trafficking kingpin. Given the strong police angle of the story, it seemed right to honor the two law-enforcement officers who'd saved my life.

On the book's release date, I met with them for lunch to give them each a signed copy. I was shaking so hard when I signed their books that I almost couldn't write, and it took everything I had not to cry. "You are the real heroes," I told them.

Yes, I was rescued, and nothing I can ever say or do will be thanks enough.

Now, I'll confess that I'm a sucker for a strong alpha male. Aren't we all? But more than that, I love a protective man who's capable of rescuing his woman and who saves her at least once in the story.


I love smart, strong heroines, but I don't like it if they're so invincibly strong that the hero has nothing to do but follow them around giving them great sex. (That's probably one reason why I also write historicals.)

So here's my first question:

How do you define heroic?

My second question spins off of the character of Julian. Having spent his life fighting the horrid crime of sex trafficking, he's seen everything. His work in law enforcement has left him with deep emotional scars. Writing Julian was pure bliss because he was so strong and so profoundly hurt. I had, and still have a terrible crush on him.

In honor of Julian, here's the second question:

What's so darn sexy about a strong, wounded hero?


Visit Pamela Clare at PamelaClare.com for an excerpt from Hard Evidence.


66 comments:

Stacy~ said...

Hi Pamela. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Thank God you kept your head and were able to call for help, which prevented something truly horrific from happening. And also thank God that Tim and Gary were on the scene. They truly are heroes. I started crying when you mentioned your dedication to them. How wonderful you still keep in touch, and have been able to honor these men in some way that also means a lot to you.

Heroic to me is an act of selflessness, where no matter how afraid you are, you are doing something, someimes something really scary or potentially dangerous or at the very least, out of your comfort zone, solely to help another person. It's not about glory or recognition or money, it's about trying to make the world a better place and by sacrificing some part of yourself to do it. If someone needs help, whether it was in your situation, or a person needing CPR, or about adopting a child who needs a home, there is a hero there to make it better without any thought to themselves, only to the one who needs help. God bless those who've chosen a career that needs heroes.

Tortured heroes are so appealing to women, I think, because there is such a nurturing side to us, one that wants to "make it all better". We want to be the woman who gets past his defenses and find the good man that is there, because he is someone who deserves love, no matter what he's seen or if he believes he can't be happy because of it. Maybe in our own way, we want to save him from himself, but what it's really about is letting someone know their worth.

What a thought-provoking subject, one I could go on and on about. I look forward to more of the discussion. Morning Bellas! Miss you guys :)

Julie in Ohio said...

Welcome, Pamela!! WOW, what an amazing story. I am so glad that you and your baby weren't hurt.

To me, someone being heroic means doing something selflessly and unconditionally. That could include police officers and firemen or just someone in the right place at the right time.

As for the alpha hero, I just like a big strong man. Someone who knows what he wants and doesn't take "no" for an answer.
I'm with Stacy when she says that it's the nurturing in us that wants to mend their tortured souls.
I want a heroine that can hold her own with an alpha but at the same time is female. I want the hero to sweep her off her feet...literally. :o)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Pamela! Welcome; we're happy you're here.

I find people who share their stories about rape, sexual abuse, survival of horrible illnesses, struggle with depression, etc., to be very heroic. There's often such shame attached to going through those things -- as if they were the survivors' faults in the first place -- and daring to speak about them openly is incredibly brave.

Now, it's no shockah here to anyone if I say I love the alpha who rescues the heroine physically in some way. I think it's how men can show their nurturing sides, how they've been socialized to be able to do it. I also just love the idea of somebody else figuring things out and making the right decisions for a change. It's fiction, escapist fantasy. I don't feel less an ardent Feminist because I like to read about large, braw men. I also think there's strength in women allowing men to show their alpha, protective sides, to nurturing a part of them they're comfortable with.

In real life, I always tended to stay away from the guys who seemed to have the tortured thing going on. Too unhealthy, and their alpha sides were always too scary.

Anywayz, looking forward to talking with you today, Pamela. Are you still snowed in in CO?

Playground Monitor said...

Someone (and I could probably Google and find who) said that a hero is someone w ho does something he or she is afraid to do and you can't be courageous unless you're scared. It's that willingness to take a deep breath, tamp down the fear and forge ahead that makes a hero. It may be something as frightening as Pamela's attack or merely being willing to say "I love you." But it's heroic all the same.

Stong, wounded heroes are sexy because they're wounded and they overcome. We tend to think of men as always being rough and tough and when we see that chink in their armor, they become a little more endearing. And if they're drop-dead gorgeous it doesn't hurt either. ;-)

I was just reading on the internet about a high school classmate of mine who is a pediatrician at the University of Minnesota. On a medical trip to Uganda, she came across a set of coinjoined twin girls. She arranged to bring them back to the US, get separation surgery for them and she's adopted them as a single mom. That's pretty heroic in my book too.

Welcome Pamela! I'm with the others -- my eyes were leaking when I read about the dedication.

Marilyn

Ann Christopher said...

Hi Pamela and Michelle--

Wow, Pamela. What an experience. Thank God for Tim and Gary.

Strong, wounded heroes--I agree with Playgound Monitor and Maya Angelou--she said courage is the greatest virtue because you can't practice the other virtues if you're not courageous. Heroic to me means the person has courage--s/he does the right thing even when s/he's scared and even when it's not the EASY thing.

Wounded heroes appeal to our nurturing instinct. We want to save them and we want them to need us. But we still want them to be strong enough to rescue US, if need be. Of course, we'll all be rescuing ourselves, right? :)

Great post,
Ann

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Stacy, Julie, Michelle, Playground Monitor and Ann --

Thanks for the warm welcome! And thanks, too, for your thoughts surrounding the dedication in the book. Truly, it was one of the most moving moments in my life to give those books to them.

It's so wonderful to be here with you today. I was looking forward to this morning all night -- like it was Christmas or something. :-)

I agree that selflessness and self-sacrifice are the hallmarks of heroism. I've always felt that heroism means putting the needs of those weaker, more vulnerable or in greater need than yourself ahead of your own. In the American Indian world, to which I have close ties, I've heard people define the term "warrior" to mean a person (sometimes a woman) who makes it habit to see that the needs of everyone in his community are met. So while it might mean rescuing a woman from an attacker, it might also mean shoveling snow off the sidewalk of the old man next door.

There are so many ways for a man to show he cares, so many ways for a man to share his strength.

Michelle, you know I've been a columnist for 14 years, during which time I've written about women's issues probably more than any other topic. I'm considered to be very much a feminist around here. For me, the fantasy you describe is SO appealing because it's nice to read about a situation in which a man does SOMETHING to help the heroine. I don't want to read stories with kick-butt heroines because I get to do enough of that myself. I'm not worried about being empowered; I'm worried about being overwhelmed. So reading about a man who steps in, intervenes, and takes the burden of risk, danger, debt -- whatever it is -- on HIS shoulders is so relaxing and satisfying! (I am a single mom, after all.)

When it comes to wounded heroes, I think you had a great answer, Stacy. And if men can be heroes because of their physical strength, then isn't it possible for a woman to "rescue" a man through her desire to heal? I think of that as a uniquely feminine sort of strength (not that men don't also possess that quality...).

For me part of the enjoyment of romance novels is the exploration of balancing male and female while allowing the sexes to be different. For me feminism has never meant that I want to give up what's special about being a woman.

Michelle, the snow is mostly melted except on the high peaks. It's very pretty here this time of year. Today it's probably going to get warm -- lots of sunshine and endless blue sky.

Pamela Clare said...

Woohoo! I feel like celebrating. After no fewer than 20 attempts to post, I got a reply up! Let's see if I can do it again...

Ann, I love what Maya Angelou said. I love her writing and her perspective. What a wonderful way to look at it!

And, Ann, I'm almost finished reading your book, TROUBLE. I've really enjoyed it and am looking forward to Mike and Dara getting their well-deserved HEA.

Marilyn, I love what you wrote about the "chink in the armour." I suppose when we see vulnerability in a strong man, he becomes even more endearing -- and, as you say, if he's hot, it doesn't hurt. ;-)

Sometimes it's our vulnerabilities and flaws that shape us into truly human beings. I know that when I write the most important thing for me to understand is my characters fears. I don't mean little stuff like being afraid of spiders; I mean primal fears that strip us down and force us to our knees. That's how I connect to my characters emotionally, probably because I've been THAT afraid.

And what did I do? I screamed like Fay Wray. I've always felt bad about that. But Tim reminded me that I had hidden my baby in the back and forced myself to go to the front of the apartment where the men were breaking in because I didn't want them to find my boy. Tim said, "You had a baby with you. What you did was courageous in my book." That made me feel better.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

So, Pamela. In your preface to Hard Evidence (that name, that name) you mention an officer of the law w/ the same last name as your hero, Darcangelo. sigh.

Is the real life guy dreamy? Do you meet a lot of cute guys in your work and when you're researching? I ask this because, well, I love to hear about gorgeous men, and I meet mostly women in my line of work.

You don't need to say it, I know I'm pathetically sophomoric and have a penchant for talking about guys like I'm a 16 year old girl.

God, mid-life crisis is awesome!

Pamela Clare said...

I'm with you, Michelle! I'm more "boy crazy" — well, and sex crazy — at 42 than I was at 18. And, yes, Julian does pack some hard evidence in the book. YUM!

The real Darcangelo is a handsome, sweet guy who is himself a writer, journalist and a friend. The day I met him, I said, "I'm going to use your name in a novel." He's six feet tall, and, like my character Julian, he has blue and eyes and very dark hair that used to be as long as mine. He has a great sense of humor, a strong sense of ethics and was generous enough to let me steal his name.

As for your question, Michelle, in journalism, I meet the whole range of people. But one thing I meet a lot of is WEIRD people. I have met some sexy guys via journalism. But I've also had distinctly un-sexy guys hold guns on me (twice) and everything else you can imagine... Journalism is bizarre work, because, like police officers, journalists see people at their most vulnerable, at their most bizarre, and at their very worst. I've interviewed rape victims, a drug kingpin, actors, rock stars, politicians, lying CEOs, Holocaust survivors, etc.

One thing: Journalism never gets boring! :-)

Playground Monitor said...

Mid-life crisis? You're not old enough to have a mid-life crisis. But I can tell you all about it cause my husband, bless him, has had about one a year since he turend 50. I'm waiting for this year's. :grin:

Wanna know the difference between male and female mid-life crisis? Find out here.

Marilyn

joelle said...

Pamela, your story reflects how selfless and brave these men are. The real hero will sacrifice his own welfare and safety for others above all. That story was real, but scary and you knew how to behave under those conditions. Your book is fabulous and bravo for your hard work.

Pamela Clare said...

Thanks, Joelle. You're very sweet. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! The characters and the story mean so much to me. I think Julian is the darkest hero I've written, but that makes the happy ending sweeter, at least for me.

And I agree: the real hero puts the lives and wellbeing of others first.

One of the strongest memories I have of that night is seeing these two police officers *running* toward my apartment, guns drawn, to try to reach me in time. I was able to see them through my kitchen window. They had no idea what they were getting into. But they were running straight into it anyway. Their willingness to take the ultimate risk for a stranger touched me so deeply.

*sniff*

Jennifer Y. said...

Welcome! Thank you for sharing your story!

pearl said...

Your story is one that I know you will remember forever, due to the heroic efforts of the two brave men who came to your rescue. That they are modest is a given but your dedication in the novel proves that they would do this again and again.

Pamela Clare said...

Thanks, Jennifer and Pearl.

Yes, Gary and Tim are very modest about this. In fact, at times I think I embarrass them. But I'm going to sing their praises every time I can because I'm alive -- and my children, too -- because of them.

Gary once said, "We were just doing our job. If we hadn't been on that night, someone else would have done it."

And I told him, "The point is that it was YOU who did it."

JEEZ!

I know from staying in touch with them that they, too, will always be affected by that night because they know they made a difference.

Julie in Ohio said...

Pamela, I would like to commend your choice of cover guys. I'm sure Michelle has told you how we worship...er, I mean appreciate Nathan Kamp. :o)

Pamela Clare said...

Mmmm.... Isn't he yummy? And he's a caring, classy guy with some personality, too. Why does he have to be married????

Julie in Ohio said...

Personality? I don't think I've gotten past his abs. :P

I just read the excerpt for Hard Evidence and it sounds great. Did I read that it was a sequel to Extreme Exposure?

Pamela Clare said...

Oh, Julia, I know what you mean! Those abs! Those lips! I think I get stuck on the lips...

Yes, "Hard Evidence" is part of the I-Team series that started with "Extreme Exposure" last year. The series features journalist heroines who are part of the Denver Independent's Investigative Team. There are at least two more books in the series. The next is titled "Unlawful Contact."

"Hard Evidence" tells Tessa's story; if you read "Hard Evidence" you might remember her. :-)

Pamela Clare said...

Oops! I meant to say that if you've read "Extreme Exposure" you might remember her. Brain not connecting with fingers here...

Julie in Ohio said...

Oh, yeah those lips. yum-my!!

I haven't read any of yours yet but I love me a series. So it's off to Amazon for me. :o)

My hubby hates it when I say those words. :P

Pamela Clare said...

Ah, but Julie, scientific studies have shown that women who read romance have more than twice as much sex as women who don't. (I'm not joking.) Your hubby should be driving you to Border or B&N with a rose between his teeth!

;-)

Julie in Ohio said...

LOL, Pamela!
I'll have to let him in on that study when the credit card bill comes in. :o)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Those lips! I think I get stuck on the lips...

Pamela, taken out of context, that's as funny as Connie Brockway today on Squawk Radio excerpting from her first, still unpublished, romance novel.

“He stroked her with relish.”

See what I'm sayin?

So, Pamela. I'm seein an awful lot of you in Tessa. Is she the character closest to you? Is there another you'd say was?

Also, is Julian your dream guy?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Pamela, I've been spouting a slightly diff take on that one: husbands of women who read romance have more/better sex.

Do you remember where you found that specific study, cause I've only found anecdotal evidence.

Pamela Clare said...

Michelle, I will look that study up. A friend of mine, Paul Joannides, cited it in his bestselling guide to sex, titled "The Guide to Getting It On." (An AWESOME sex manual. I was one of the first editors nationwide to review it back in 1996.) And I like how you phrase it: the husbands have more sex than the husbands of women who don't read romance. Perfect!

As for getting stuck on Nathan's lips, I can see how that might sound a bit odd... Odd and appealing. :-)

I'd say Kara from "Extreme Exposure" is the tougher, independent, single-mom parts of me and Tessa is the more girly, romantic part of me. Both are equally driven, but Kara is more analytical and Tessa is more emotional. As for me, I'm both, but it varies moment by moment. :-)

Julie in Ohio said...

True or false, Michelle, it still sounds better than "But, honey, don't you know who that is on the cover?"

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

LOL, JulieO.

I've been bouncing emails with Eric Selinger of RomanceScholar about possibly preparing a paper (hullo, aliterate much, Michelle?) for the Popular Culture conference in April. One of the things he suggested was presenting from our anecdotal evidence here on RBtheBlog, etc., discussing why women read romance, how it empowers them, whether they're visually stimulated by the imagery...and then comparing it with an old study of romance readers which most scholars find fairly skewed and condescending toward readers.

I figure if i take it on, we'll be doing a lot of "what does your husband/partner think" type discussions here. I wonder, could we possibly get our husbands to come here to chat, even anonymously? Or maybe they just love to come on and talk abuot how much romance they're gettin these days.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Pamela, I think I told you this, but when I met him, my husband was a TV political reporter. I have these great memories of hanging out on Friday nights at a little Pennyslvania bar with journalists and photogs from area TV, radio, and print. Those were some of the best times and I really miss hanging with the nutcases because they were all Old School; it was just a different time.

But i realize that they were all writers, or conveyors of images, which must have appealed to me then as now. And it was a bros/sisters-in-arms kind of feel, too.

I guess print stays closest to that feel of "real journalism," which is why I love a good newspaper. I dig Wall Street Journal as well as Boston Globe, cause that just feels like home and has great letters to the editor.

It sounds like you do the Old School journalism thing, too. What are your feelings, frustrations about what's going on in journalism today? How's it changed since you've started.

Pamela Clare said...

OMG! Is there enough room in cyberspace for me to answer that question, Michelle?

I love hanging at the bar with the old guys! I remember one man in particular — a very old school journalist — who invited me to join him at the Denver Press Club (a grungy hole-in-the-wall) after he read a big investigation my team and I had completed. He told me he'd been following my career for a while, even though he and I were on opposite ends of the political spectrum. "You do great stuff. It's all bull, but it's great stuff." And when I ran out of wine, he said, "Pamela, I can see you have a drinking problem. No wine. That's a problem." I adored him!

Some things have changed for the worse. There's less political tolerance and more polarization. So much of what's on TV isn't news but rather entertainment, and most people can't tell the difference any longer. Fewer companies than ever before own a greater percentage of newspapers. Fewer journalists understand their role as a watchdog and are too intent on sucking up to power/money. Nowadays, the impulse on the part of publishers to get reporters to cover things that are pleasing to the paper's advertisers is almost universal. Too many journalists want the cushy life and aren't willing to put in the long hours and scary work necessary for investigative work. Fewer people than ever understand the First Amendment or realize that the press is the only Constitutionally protected profession in the country.

Journalists aren't supposed to have any friends (in government, big business, etc.). We're supposed to be the ones keeping an eye on justice. I'm a purist about that, an absolute idealist and I get very frustrated sometimes. I could tell you stories...

Some things haven't changed. There are still very, very few women in investigative journalism. It's a tough profession, very confrontational and uncomfortable at times. I've tried to train many, many women for this role, and ONE has stuck with it. ONE! When I went to work on my first day at the paper, the sports reporter shook my hand and said, "Welcome to the men's locker room." And that's pretty much what it has been like — except that eventually I became the boss of the locker room. :-)

Long-winded answer, I know. But this is dear to my heart. I was fired for trying to tell the story of a woman inmate who'd gone into labor in her cell, was ignored by the guards (imagine being in labor all night long alone in a prison cell), only to give birth to a dead baby the next day. The paper didn't want me to embarrass the man running the prison because he was a friend of the governor (like I care?). Plus, they said people wouldn't care about the woman because she was an inmate (drug charges). I got really, really angry, spoke my mind, and found myself on the street looking for a job. But I sold that story to another paper less than an hour later and won a state journalism award for it. Now I'm the editor of the paper that had the courage to run that article. (This article is mentioned in "Hard Evidence" and in "Unlawful Contact," which I'm writing now.)

Exposing injustice is what journalism is about. If that's not what reporters are doing, then they might as well become stenographers. Hmph.

Okay, climbing off soap box...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

No, you're in the right place to voice your opinion. I don't do politics here, but I'm a HUGE 1st amendment fan, and very disappointed in how difficult it's become for the media to do the job of simply telling the truth. TV news is sensationalized. I hear the lead stories which usually include something like, "Can your dog's food be poisoning your home's air?" and I cringe and yell: What? Are we not at war? Did any of our troops die today fighting for our nation that you might want to mention?

I often can't get over the restrictions put on the media in the last few years and no one seems to notice or care. So watchdogs try to take the news to the place it might be noticed -- the Inet -- and their credibility somehow is taken down a notch because, really, who believes what they read on the Inet?

I have hope, but am stunned by the nation's willingness to live blissfully in ignorance and forgetful of the whole "nation w/o a free press isn't free" thing.

I guess I see our nation continuing to have the best, most effective media one of the things that makes us the greatest nation on Earth. Like Suz Brockmann says: it's laughable, this thought that anyone or thing can destroy the values we stand for, the liberty and freedom. Our media only keeps those freedoms strong.

Oops. Guess I'll give up the soap box now.

Pamela Clare said...

Michelle, I am SO with you.

Thomas Jefferson, a man we all revere, said that if given the choice between a nation with a government but no free press and a nation with a free press but no government, he'd choose the latter because a free press is the key to freedom. Smart guy, old TJ!

The key is really understanding that we each have a voice and need both to use our voice and to respect the voices of others. That old adage, "I don't agree with what you say, but I'd die for your right to say it" is truly American and patriotic.

Monica Burns said...

OMIGOD!! I have been down and out for a few days, and I come back to read posts from a woman who I KNOW I would absolutely get along with!! Sorry I missed all the fun today, Pamela. Your story with Tim and Gary was awesome. I also find your thoughts on hardcore news media soooo on target. Not to mention the fact that you're a Jefferson fan! Reading your posts was like looking into my own head.

Great posts today, and I see you got your fix of NC and abs JulieO. *grin*

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Monica,

Thanks so much for your kind words. Glad to e-meet you. Good to have another free press advocate out there. :-)

And although we've had a fix of NC, can any woman really get enough of him or his abs?

I think not!

He makes me wish I were belly-button lint.

Stacy~ said...

Great visit Pamela. I hope you stop by again.

Okay, okay, I try to stay away from this topic and sound a little intellectual, but I have some pictures of a sweaty-looking NC on my blog:

www.trelainastarblazer.blogspot.com
Actually it's a link to an add he's in but I can't remember what it is and I'm on my way out the door. Have a great weekend, ladies.

catslady said...

I really enjoyed your topic on free press. I so agree with you and so afraid we're losing our freedoms. Polititians give speeches in rooms of people who are preselected. When the Pres. came to town anyone who had a sign or didn't agree was quarantined to an out of the way location - what the heck.

I also wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book, Surrender!

Pamela Clare said...

Thanks, Stacy. I enjoyed it, too. I'll come check out your sweaty NC pics. How could I not?

When it comes to the appreciation of a fine man not being intellectual enough, I have to say this: The appreciation of fine wines is considered intellectual. So what's wrong with being a connoisseur of men? ;-)

Catslady, you're so right. Even things that seem small to most people -- like segregating protesters -- are a step in the wrong direction. I'm delighted to know you enjoyed SURRENDER. I can't wait to get to the sequel, UNTAMED.

And Michelle, I missed a question earlier. Yes, Julian is probably my ideal guy. Reece from "Extreme Exposure" is pretty ideal, too. But Julian's inner turmoil about the things he's seen and done as an undercover agent is so endearing. Note that both Reece and Julian are idealists who've dedicated their lives to helping others. (Reece is a state senator -- a state senator with actually, real ethics.)

So I guess I love self-sacrificing, courageous men who fight the good fight on behalf of others. Which brings us back to the question: How do you define heroic?

Please everyone feel free to e-mail me -- pamelaclare at earthlink.net (replace the word at with the symbol and remove the spaces). I don't have a blog yet, but hope to have one soon. Or stop by my website.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

It is an interesting question that we overlooked a bit in favor of chatting about you and your experiences.

I wonder if our term "hero" in romances isn't misleading if our male protagonist doesn't always have to save the day any more. (not my fave scenario, but works for lots of readers).

And the question of heroic is one I ask each writer in the AuthorView: Who's the most heroic person you know. It usually gets going a discussion of what we find admirable about folks in and around our lives.

Suz Brockman says Stephen Cobert is heroic and this is what you said in the AuthorView that went along w/ your "Surrender" feature:

I guess that would have to be Ray James, a man I am blessed to call family, who is a full-blooded Diné spiritual leader now living near the dinetah (Navajoland) in Arizona. He has done so much over the years to help American Indian people with addiction problems and mental-health issues. He has been a source of inspiration and amazing support for me through the years.

Seems he's heroic for helping folks show their own strength in dealing with very difficult issues.

The majority of respondents cite everyday heroes as most admirable.

Pamela Clare said...

I remember answering that question. Yes, Ray James rocks! Truly an everyday hero. He cares so much for the wellbeing of others. Again, that halmark of self-sacrifice.

Sometimes the toughest battles we fight are the ones in our own minds. We know we should do this, but we do that instead. I love playing with that inner conflict in my stories. But Uncle Ray does it in his real life, trying to guide people through it back to their own humanity. He deserves a meddle for giving all of himself to people most people don't even care about.

I can't remember who is was -- some great American literary figure -- said there are only three types of conflict worthy of literature: man against nature; man against man; and man against himself. (I hate that use of the word "man," but whatever. That's what he said.)

Of those three I think the human being in conflict with him or herself is the richest, most poignant and most profound form of conflict and the most worthy of exploration in literature. Julian and NIcholas from "Ride the Fire" are my two most conflicted heroes, both of them hating themselves for different reasons, both feeling unworthy of the tenderness they receive from the heroine. Because their conflict goes so deep, just their struggle to overcome and find love feels heroic to me.

Pamela Clare said...

Sorry for the typos! Someone confiscate my keyboard. That should read "hallmark of self-sacrifice" and "he deserves a medal." OY!

Yes, believe it or not I am a newspaper editor. In my own defense, I'll say I haven't had any coffee yet today.

:-/

Jess said...

Well, I am way late for this party so I'll keep this brief (and fangirlish!).

Pamela, I was recommended to try your historicals by a good friend. I adore American Historicals and they are slim pickings these days, especially the period in which you choose to write. My favorite so far is Ride the Fire but I just finished Surrender and it was a great read. So thanks for writing American Historicals and unique ones at that!

Pamela Clare said...

Better late than never, Jess. I'm glad you joined us.

I'm delighted you enjoyed the books. Of the four historicals I've written, those are my two favorites. I'm going to be working on Morgan MacKinnon's story soon. I love that period of history [the French and Indian War] and American Colonial history in general. There's so little done prior to the Revolution and I could stay there writing that period forever!

Thanks for your comments. :-)

catslady said...

I'll be looking forward to the sequel - Untamed. And Ride the Fire is going to have to be added to my lengthy tbb list :)

Jess said...

Pamela, I have a nosy question for you. I follow several other romance related message boards and I have seen many authors lament the death of the American Historical and how they just really aren't being bought by publishers because they don't sell well.

Do you think you had a harder time selling your AH's than your other books? Do they not sell as well? Personally, I think the entire subgenre could be given a new lease on life if more authors wrote decent books featuring American settings. I know I have personally read a lot of lousy westerns which seem to be the bulk of the AH market.

What do you think? Is there pressure from publishers for authors to write what sells (i.e. Regency Historicals) or do you just write what you like and hope it sells?

Thanks in advance!

Pamela Clare said...

Jess, that's a great question.

All of my historicals are American Colonials. They're all set prior to the Revolution when the "frontier" -- a word normally associated with the Wild West -- was in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Truth is, it WAS harder to sell my first book. Several publishers turned it down with kind little letters saying, "We don't publish American-set historicals." I kept wondering why they didn't. What's so fascinating about English lords? Don't people want an alternative? Those were the questions I had. I personally find the frontier struggle more interesting than ballroom banter or the antics of the ton, but that's me. I love the fusion of cultures, and I love Mother Nature being her own character in the story.

Now, with four American Colonial historicals on the shelves, I know that there ARE lots of readers who want a break from Regencies or Medieval Scotland. They want more variety in historicals in general, and more historicals overall. But of course the market is ruled by what sells because that serves as proof to publishing houses of what people want. Right now paranormals are very strong. Romantic suspense is very strong. Both are bit glutted, but they're both selling well. That's where publishers look.

My historicals do pretty well. Dorchester, the company that publishes them, has been very supportive. My editor there is an angel who really believes in my stories. That means so much to me. I feel really lucky to have landed at Dorchester and to have the opportunity to write what I write. No one is really pushing me to write anything else, because they like what I'm writing.

But readers who want to influence the market need to remember that they vote with their dollars. Want more of something? Then buy it. Don't buy it used or borrow it from a friend or get it used off Amazon. Buy it at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. That way the sale gets tabulated and adds another bean for the bean counters to count. It comes down to math.

People are saying historicals will experience a resurgence (when? I'm ready) and that other sub-genres that are strong now will decline as chick lit has done. But who knows?

My plan as a writer is to write the stories that are inside me to write. I write historicals because I absolutely love history. My degree is in archaeology, and I love it down to the most insignificant detail. I write romantic suspense because my experience as a journalist gives me stories to tell. I try to tell these stories well and not worry about trends. But it is hard, particularly with the Internet, to write without the broader world interfering with your Muse. That's a different topic...

I hope I answered your question, Jess. I'm going to keep writing American historicals, and hopefully one day it will be the new thang. ;-)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

But it is hard, particularly with the Internet, to write without the broader world interfering with your Muse. That's a different topic...

Pamela, I adore historicals and am glad you write about the period you do. I grew up and lived in PA for many years, so I enjoyed reading about Fort Pitt and my early adult stomping grounds, Philadelphia. I was a huge Rev war nut as a kid, too.

Anywayz, you cannot just toss out that comment above and go on your merry way! I'm an Iner girl, girl!

Kathleen said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us!

I really enjoy your books :)

Pamela Clare said...

LOL!

Well, the Internet has enabled writers and readers to contact one another in a much more direct way -- it used to be snail mail sent via publishers and book signings, folks. And that's great. I love the Internet, but I'm careful about how I used it.

But as we all know, the anonymity provided by the 'Net also enables people to spew without exercising judgement or facing consequences or even being responsible. Find me an author who's selling books who hasn't faced some sort of flaming. It feels like a fist to the gut, even though you know you should ignore it.

Further, the proliferation of review sites gives authors the chance to waste hours searching for reviews -- and either be happy or upset by what they find. Opinions are just opinions, and we all have them. Some are expressed quite rudely. With the Internet, they're available 24/7. So if an author isn't disciplined -- and all authors succumb to this from time to time -- you can waste time and get bummed by reading some negative review written by some anonymous person out in the blogosphere.

Writing requires isolation. It's as simple as that. How can a writer write well if she's worried about what site X says or 2Cute2BNice says on her blog? And yet it's so human to want feedback and to hunt for it.

I learned pretty quickly that if you go hunting, you might find something you don't want to find. And while constructive criticism delivered in a helpful manner can really inspire an author, bashing and ranting don't. These days, most of my time on the 'Net is spent doing research.

Protect the Muse! That's my mantra.

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Kathleen.

Thanks so much! And you're welcome. :-)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I hear ya, Pamela, cause it's my biggest frustration, too. The Inet is the place for cowards to feel powerful. Put your full name on the line, I say, even if you're only choosing to review or write about the best romances so you don't have to say bad stuff. :)

But ya gots to show us the love here, of course, give us our props.

Authors have to know that when they click on my Romance: B(u)y the Book sites they're only gonna get "thoughtful and positive."

And when they come here to hang with the Bellas at RBtheBlog, my girls are always gonna treat em with respect.

What gets me is that the same authors and publishers who cringe when Ms.MeanGrlWithABlog.com trashes them are quick to blurb MsMeanie when she finally deigns to say something civil.

The author is only sending folks back to that site when that's done.

I met a "reviewer" at a conference this year (not a Romantic Times reviewer) who bragged to me that she "wasn't afraid to say when she hates a book, and doesn't pull puches when she says it."

"Congratulations," I said, "that must be very satisfying."

I want you to know that there are some of us who write about romance on the Inet -- not just me -- who make it our business to protect authors and the genre.

:)

Pamela Clare said...

I think your answer to that reviewer was perfect, Michelle. :-D

And that's what I love about your blog and Romance: B(u)y The Book. Both are very positive and welcoming to authors, who, strangely, are people. RBL Romantica is another site that is very author-friendly. Being author-friendly doesn't mean everyone loves every book or adores every author. It doesn't mean being doting fangrrrls. It means that no one is allowed to shred anyone. It means people show basic respect and manners, while sharing their opinions in a conscientious way.

As a journalist, I have a byline, and I can't write without tagging my byline onto my story. I can't publish an opinion column ripping the mayor to shreds without being held publicly accountable for it. So when I see people gettin' mean behind some kind of fake name, I think to myself, "Obviously, you lack the courage of your convictions." To that end, my paper refuses to run anonymous letters to the editor or even letters with pen names. I tell people, "If you have something to say, be courageous enough to stand by it."

Ultimately, every single book ever written will have someone who doesn't like it. (I just met someone who couldn't get into "Lord of the Rings." OMG! It's my fave!) And certainly no author should be telling people what to think of her books or acting rudely toward readers who don't enjoy them. I'm grateful to reviewers who take the time to write thoughtful commentary about my books, even if they're not entirely happy with the stories.

But there's an issue of mutual respect and politeness that at times disappears on the Inet. Ultimately, rudeness serves only to demean the genre -- both those who write romance and those who read romance. Authors should write the best books they can, and readers should read what they enjoy and skip what they don't like. And everyone should be polite.

So three cheers for RomancebytheBlog and Romance: B(u)y the Book for keeping the standard for interaction high.

And just to let you in on the psycho nature of Colorado weather... Since this post started on Friday, we've had bright sunshine and warm temps; rain; snow; sunshine and cold wind; and now sunshine with moderate temps. That's not statewide, but in my front yard. As long as I have my coffee and my fireplace, I'm happy. If the fire gets too hot, I open a window. :-)

Pamela Clare said...

Oh, and I forgot to say that you make a good point about quoting MeanGirl's blog when she says something positive.

My younger brother is an objectivist. He insists that good reviews shouldn't make an author happy and that bad reviews shouldn't make an author sad. In fact, they shouldn't impact an authors emotions at all, he says, because they're entirely subjective. If one believes that every positive review is accurate, then one must also believe that every negative review is accurate.

I dunno about the last part, because I'm not the philosopher that he is. But it's an interesting thought.

catslady said...

I like your brother's pov :)

I also am interested in any books set in PA since I'm from Pgh.

And historicals have always been my favorite books. Besides enjoying a good book - I like to learn a little something along the way and historicals have so much history.

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Catslady,

Does Pgh mean Pittsburgh? If so, I'm so envious! I've always wanted to see that area. That's where RIDE THE FIRE is set.

I was so lucky when I was writing that book because the curator at the Fort Pitt Museum actually photocopied the orderly book and three separate soldiers' diaries from the seige of Fort Pitt and sent them to me. He gave me a detailed historical plan of the fort, as well. I was able to incorporate into my story, setting Nicholas and Bethie in the heart of the action.

I love historicals because I get to indulge in history while writing them. No detail is too small for me to fixate upon. What kind of kitchen utensils did they have? What kind of food would be available in the wild in January? What kind of birds existed there in 1763? I love history so much. The best moments in reading are when I feel like I'm right there with them, that I'm living in that time period too.

I like my characters' personalities to reflect their time period, so I try write women and men who think like they would have thought back then, not as they think now after decades of social change/feminism, etc. No proto-feminists trekking through the wilderness demanding rights and kicking butt in my stories, though the heroines are still smart and strong and defend themselves.

I've been told I write "vintage" historicals. I believe Michelle used the term Old School. I'm not entirely sure what people mean when they say that, because to me I'm just writing what I'm writing. But I try to hold on to the epic feel that historicals used to have, as well as some of the "gender facts" of that time period.

Now I wonder... Michelle, can you define Old School? I just curious, because you're not the first person to say that, and I'm too deep into the forest to see the trees.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

When I say Old School (some use caps, some not, but I want to define a certain type of historical) it's basically what you difine: epic; no or very few Feminist reinterpretations of period mores to suit modern sensibilities; impeccable research; romantic to the core in both action and adventure, and the relationship story.

It's fresh because writers and readers aren't tied into the marauding warlord/virgin scenario as the only way to play out fantasies. Old School reader was allowed to enjoy sexual fantasy because the heroine couldn't help but do it so if the ravisher was giving her multi-Os while having his way (or some might consider it raping) her.

That may not have made sense.

Pamela Clare said...

That makes total sense. I appreciate your thoughts. I don't know that I set out to write that way. :-)

I'm a lover of straight historical fiction. I read it voraciously. What I wanted to do when I started writing was to bring authentic research to romantic fiction. I felt that a lot of books were light on the actual research — the so-called wallpaper historicals — and it seemed like a cool idea to mix academic-style research with romance. The sexual/gender roles are part of that.

I know I've skirted the line a few times in my stories when it comes to heroes takin' what they want. For example, here's Iain MacKinnon being a barbarian:

“Do you ken the ancient history of the Highlands, Annie?”

She felt a fluttering in her belly and took an involuntary step backward, afraid but helpless to tear her gaze away from his wine-red nipples or the dark curls of his chest. “Aye.”

His hands dropped to his waist, and quickly he removed his weapons and set them on the table—two pistols and a hunting knife. “Then you’ve heard the stories of Highland lairds and what they did when the woman they wanted was claimed by another.”

She looked into his eyes, wondered why he was saying this. “Aye.”

“What did they do, lass?” He stood before her now, overpowering her with his presence.

“Iain, why… ?” But her words died when his hands moved to the fall of his breeches.

“They took them by force and claimed them for themselves.”
----

Yes, it pushes the line, but that's part of the fantasy. Iain doesn't actually rape her, but he starts the ball rolling without her consent.

People who object to that fantasy will find it in paranormals, too. Werewolf elevator rape, for example. (Very sexy scene, that one.) That's part of why they're so popular, IMHO, is that they enable readers to play with darker fantasies. The heroine is tough and strong and modern, but the hero is über-alpha because he's a vampire, a werewolf or whatever. So she can be as tough and smart as she wants to be, but if he wants her, he takes her and there's not a thing she can do. Same fantasy, but updated for a more feminist sensibilty because the woman doesn't seem passive and the force is excusable because that's how vampires/werewolves/whatever act.

As a "working feminist," i.e., someone who gets to be tough in the real world, I enjoy falling back on the more old-fashioned version of the fantasy. :-)

Jess said...

I just want to comment on negative reviews. While I understand that they are usually not helpful to the author (and if I were an author I would avoid negative reviews of my books like the plague!) they can be very helpful to a reader. Just because I read a review in which the reviewer doesn't like the book doesn't mean I assume that I am not going to like the book too. A good review explains WHY the reviewer didn't like the book and sometimes the issues with the book are ones that would bother me too so I skip it. Other times they aren't problems for me as a reader and I love it anyway.

For instance, on one very popular romance review site there is a glowing review of J. Garwood's The Gift (possibly one of my least favorite romances of all time) and even though the review is glowing had I read the review prior to trying the book I would have been tipped off that it wouldn't have been a book that would work for me. This is the flip side of what I said above but it makes my point.

No, I don't think it is OK for people to be cruel and mean -spirited just for the sake of being so but I do think there is plenty of room for critical reviews of romance novels and honestly, if the books in this genre are not held to the same critical standards that other fiction is held to it will never earn that elusive mainstream respect that so many in the romance world wish it had. JMO!

Pamela, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. I am very grateful to you that you do take so much time, effort and pride in your historicals and that you choose to write in a unique AH period and fill your books with rich historical detail. This particular blog at RbtB has been one of my favorites since I've been dropping in.

Best,

Jess

Ranurgis said...

Wow, you have led a very interesting life, haven't you? I didn't really know much about you when I read and loved "Surrender".

What is heroic? Well, certainly not what most people seem to deem heroic nowadays: being able to play sports well, being touted in newspapers for doing a great acting job, helping a little old lady across the street--unless you're doing it amidst gunfire and are protecting her from being hit. But the latter, even without gunfire, is a good deed. How many people do good deeds these days? So that's a start towards heroism.

For me, being heroic is putting your life in danger without a second thought other than to protect someone else from getting hurt in any way. Fortunately, there are still true heroes out there and I believe there always will be those people who will risk their own lives to help someone. And it isn't always the big strong, muscle-bound athlete who will act in a case like this. Sometimes it's the little nerd who just knows he has to act.

What's so sexy about a strong, wounded hero? I think it's that he'll risk even more wounds of whatever kind in order to help someone who needs the help or who just needs someone to empathize with. I think once you have been hurt, emotionally or physically, you are more likely to be able to understand someone who is not as strong as others expect him or her to be. He has walked in someone else's pinching shoes.

MsFlexie said...

Hi Mistress Clare!

Just wanted to swing by to show some LUV :)

I have to rush off to work now, but look forward to reading these posts later.

HARD EVIDENCE is an AMAZING book!

Hugs,

Lina

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hey, Jess! Always a pleasure when you delurk.

The think I take issue with isn't the idea of negative "reviews." Literary criticism isn't about glowing praise, it's about assessment.

And you've the exact right of it: Reviewers and critics are there for the reader first and foremost.

The same thing that I love about the Inet - the free speech -- is the same thing that stinks about it. In terms of criticizing romance novels, I take exception with "reviewers" who love to read their own writing (in the same way we say someone loves to hear his- or herself talk), feel powerful when they write anonymous, unconstructive trash about the genre.

That's not a review or literary criticism and shouldn't be represented as such. But that would be in a perfect world.

I feel strongly that we who love romance need to support one another -- even in criticism -- and one of those ways is for authors and the industry to recognize the Inet sources that are responsible in their promotion and writing about authors and the industry.

Not just the ones who praise, but those who praise/critique consistently and responsibly. And don't drive traffic to those who don't.

Am I pushing critics like myself and others who spend our time hawking good romance and getting the 'outside' world to take it seriously?

You-flippin-betcha.

rangurgis -- it's always good to have you around cause you get to the heart of the issues. :)

Lina! Hiya! I agree. I'm loving me some Hard Evidence. Ah, Julian.

PAMELA! God, I love that scene, cause it's exactly on the edge (made even edgier by the situation it comes on the heels of, and why the heroine wants it to happen). So wonderful and damn anybody who tries to say women shouldn't fantisize about that.

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Lina-lass! So good to see you.

Everyone, Lina is the one who did my hair and makeup for the photo on this post. She was in Atlanta and helped me get purtied up for the Daphne Award ceremony, where "Extreme Exposure" was a finalist.

And, Michelle, I completely agree with you. I think reviews are one thing; anonymous throat-slitting is something else.

I'm glad you're enjoying Julian. (*sigh*) And I'm thrilled you remember that scene from "Surrender." I adore Iain and his brothers.

OK, now I want to read romance instead of edit news stories. Naughty me!

Loretta said...

I love the cover on Surrender.

Ranurgis said...

Hi, Pamela, I just wanted to say that I'm glad that some writers like you and Sara Donati break the current mode of historical romances to write North American ones.

It used to be very much the opposite. I learned a lot about American history by reading historical romances/novels. Of course, as a Canadian, I'm always glad when they extend, at least a little bit to Canada as "Surrender" did to a certain point--although through the French it was the enemy point of view. I was actually unaware that you also write contemporaries. I must find this one. At any rate, I was glad that you didn't make out Lord Wm. Wentworth, supposed Royal Duke's offspring, to be a total villain--not because we don't want royalty to be cruel but because sometimes we do want villains to have truly redeeming qualities. I was actually wondering if Wentworth is a true historical personnage.

Ranurgis said...

BTW, I just read a bit of your and Michelle's comments on today's journalism and newspapers.

I rarely even look at newspapers anymore. I live in London, ON and our newspaper has been taken over by one in Toronto which is in turn, if I've got it right, owned by a TV station which now owns our TV station. There is less and less local news available anywhere here and you're right, most of the news is presented as entertainment. There is really no depth to it never mind solid and grammatical writing. And on TV, you get a plethora of entertainment news and you wonder if that's the only type of news people think of any more.

And that brings me to the "people's right to know". How odd that it usually pertains to the right to know all the news surrounding gossip, a murder, etc. Things that people just seem to want to know for the "entertainment" value and being able to supply their friends with snippets of gossip. I don't know if I'm correct in this but I definitely feel that if this phrase is in the Constitution, this is not what it meant: to dish the dirt and gore on apolitical subjects.

Since I'm not a journalist nor an American, I'd like to hear what those who are/were both have to say on this topic.

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Ranurgis

Thanks for your posts! Let me see if I can get to all your points.

First, I'm a huge Bruce Cockburn fan. That might not mean anythingto anyone else, but I know it will mean something to you. :-)

As far as historicals go, UNTAMED, the sequel to SURRENDER, has a Metis-French heroine and takes place largely at Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga, which, at the time, was Canadian. I love the North American setting and try hard not to villanize any of the cultures, though the people back then certainly did have their ideas about who the enemy was.

Lord Wm. Wentworth is a figment of my imagination, and I adore him. He's on a three-book character arc, and I hope to give him is own story. (Shhh!)

As for newspapers/news media: The free press was intended to serve as a watchdog against government abuses and against abuses by people in power. Instead it has become an avenue for gossip. Want to know more about Brad and Angelina or Paris Hilton's latest relationship?

Unfortunately, the media is not the only party to blame. All of us -- the reading public -- ARE the media in the sense that our reading choices determine the direction editors take when planning news priorities. How can you run a feel-good story about kids raising money for Katrina victims when there's the latest about JonBenet Ramsey? (I work in Boulder, Colo., and we just recently weathered another GLOBAL storm on the issue of JonBenet, which my paper covered only very lightly because I felt there was no reason to sensationalize it.)

I think there is so much information available out there that people are tuning it out and only reading as much as they can take, mostly related to violence and gossip. It's a frustration of mine and something I don't know how to combat, apart from producing papers that I feel address real issues and giving readers another option.

I don't know if that answered your question....

And, Loretta, thanks! I'm glad you like the cover. Oh, those lips!!!!

Pamela Clare said...

P.S. Ranurgis, I should say that I've had the pleasure of interviewing and meeting Bruce in person. He was here in August and had a copy of EXTREME EXPOSURE, which I sent to him, with him on the bus. I was thrilled -- and suddenly terrified that he might read it. He signed my son's guitar.

Truly a wonderful human being who has lived an amazing life.

Go Canada!