INTERVIEW WITH PAMELA JAMES AND MERRY STAHEL

              JULY 10, 2002

     PAMELA JAMES

       MERRY STAHEL

From all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

MS: Yes. It's not finished, that's why I can't say which one it is. LOL
PJ: I love all the books I've written, but because I am a cross-stitcher, I'd have to say the book coming out this Fall is the one that has my heart so far...but in the future, who knows?

At what point in time did you realize that writing was "the thing for you"?

MS: When I was eight years old and wrote the play my teacher used for our summer production. (Any resemblance to the story of Daniel Boone's daughter's kidnapping by Indians was purely intentional). After that, I took every chance I could to write. Bad poetry, stupid limericks, short stories, song lyrics and so on. I graduated to newspaper articles and columns, and I even edited newsletters for years.
PJ: I realized I liked creating stories and characters as soon as I read my first Nancy Drew and knew I could escape into a whole fictional world. So probably, around the age of nine.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?

MS: Write. And when you're done, write some more. Keep writing. Don't talk about it. Just do it.
PJ: The only advice I can give is to WRITE because that is what really counts, adding up the word count, the pages, and doing the writing daily.

What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

MS: Um...I don't watch much TV...I'd rather read mysteries. I like being more involved than television can usually manage. Although, I did like AMERICAN DREAMER. It was a cute premise.
PJ: My all time favorite mystery movie has to be MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. But lately I also loved A MURDER OF CROWS and A PERFECT MURDER.

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

MS: Alistair MacLean, Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, Mary Stewart, Helen MacInnes, Tony Hillerman, Ted Morgan, Nora Roberts, Isaac Asimov, Diane Carey, Lillian Schlissel, J.K. Rowling, Madeline L'Engle, A.A. Milne, Cynthia Voight, Scott Rice, Madeleine Brent, Janet Evanovich, Beverly Barton, Candace Irvin, Linda Howard, Merline Lovelace, Martha Hix, Arnette Lamb, the list goes on and on and on...
PJ: I do read a lot of other authors. Joanne Pence, Brenda Joyce, Jonnie Jacobs, Nancy Bell and Nancy Atherton come to mind, along with Kay Hooper.

Do you normally do a lot of research when writing a book?

MS: Depends on the book. Some books come easily because I'm writing what I know, others need research to perk up certain parts.
PJ: We've had to do research for our book, but it all depends on the story line. Merry is a quilter and I'm a stitcher, so some story lines are much easier for plotting than others.

What other types of jobs have you had?

MS: Wormsitter, motel maid, waitress, secretary, receptionist, visual merchandising assistant, bookstore assistant, commissioned sales, fabric store manager, and editor of my own magazine.
PJ: I've worked as kitchen help, receptionist, waitress, and at the public library, just to name a few.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

MS: Yes.
PJ: YES! Conventions and signings are a must. For ten years, I arranged book-signings at the Parsons Public Library. I met some great authors, among them, Nancy Pickard, Monette Cummings, Jean Hager, Max McCoy.

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

MS: My tastes evolved as I got older but I always had my own style and really wrote for my own amusement more than anything. Martha Hix mentored me and encouraged me. She told me I have "the magic" to write.
PJ: The late Monette Cummings influenced me. She was my mentor for ten years and my friend for fourteen. I miss her terribly every single day. Monette led me to write mysteries when she said write what you read and write what you know. Or KNOW what you write.

What led you to write mysteries?

MS: My co-author. She was my assistant editor and someone asked her to do a book, and she asked me if I'd like to try co-authoring with her. She thought we'd do it well together. We got the book almost finished when the editor who asked for it quit editing altogether and orphaned our book. We decided to finish it and shop it around. That got very frustrating. Finally we found a publisher and the rest is history.
PJ: I write mysteries because I love to read them. What led me to writing in the cozy genre was easy, they are my favorite to read. I like to challenge myself and creating a whole series and town of characters does that for me.

Do you read reviews of your books?

MS: Yes.
PJ: I do read reviews of my books.

How would you like to be remembered?

MS: As someone who always tried to do right.
PJ: I would like to be remembered as a kind and caring author and person. One who helps others and stands by her principles.

What do you believe is the highlight of your writing career so far?

MS: Hmmm....opening my box of books and seeing my name on them.

PJ: The hightlight for me was twofold. Seeing my name on the cover of the book and the first sale. It really validated that I was finally an author.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

MS: I simply know I must write every day at some point. Sometimes I can sit down and write 34 pages in 4 hours and other times, it's a struggle to get 3 pages out in a day. But I do it every day.

PJ: I do have a writing schedule. I write every afternoon from after lunch until four. Iif I need to, I go back later and write some more at night, after all else is done.

How did you get started in writing?

MS: I've been writing since I was a kid. That school play in second grade was like opening a whole new world. I could MAKE UP MY OWN STORIES! People would read them! People gave me praise! They clapped at the end! I was thrilled. I wanted to do this forever. Of course, life happened then. I never STOPPED writing, but for a long time, I didn't make it a priority, either.
PJ: I got started by writing poetry and joining writing groups where they made you produce something.

How do you come up with plots?

MS: Pamela and I made up a town, and the characters we wanted in it. After that, we winged it. Seriously. We'd each write three chapters, leave a cliff hanger, and NOT TELL the other one where it was going. We each had to figure it out for ourselves. We had a lot of fun doing that. In the process, we discovered Pamela does well at plot and pacing and I do well at characterization.
PJ: Coming up with plots is easy. I play the "what if" game and then turn it all upside down. Sort of like making a pineapple upside-down cake. <grin>.

Did you take any classes on how to write?

MS: Not until I was an adult. All my teachers said I had a natural talent for writing. When I decided to really write, I finally took a few workshops in a writer's group and then went to a couple writing conferences, where I took a few more.
PJ: I did take creative writing classes in college and I have taught and taken writing classes most of my adult life. I did summer workshops for children at the local libraries, as well as for adults.

Do you ever get writer's block?

MS: No. I'm always working on something. I keep 3-4 projects going so I can work on something else when I get bogged down. I don't outline - I write by winging it. Occasionally, I run into problems with that. So I just work on something else, until it clears in my mind.
PJ: If I get blocked it's usually because I haven't done something right with my characters or have gotten off track plot-wise. So, I either work on another project and think about the problem later, after giving myself space, or I keep writing until one of the characters makes it work.

What are your hobbies and interests?

MS: Quilting, Reading, Travel, Archeology, The Old West, Camping.
PJ: My hobbies are few. I like oil painting, baking brownies and cross-stitching. I do love to travel when health permits and I love going to car shows and art fairs.

How do you spend your free time?

MS: Any of the above. We travel a lot, and I enjoy poking in museums, archeological digs, zoos, aquariums, tourist traps, ghost towns, you name it, we've probably stopped to see it in our travels.
PJ: My free time is spent with my grandchildren, watching old black and white movies (I am a movie buff) and I like reading more than anything

Do you have a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?

MS: Yes. THANK YOU! THANK YOU for joining me in my little world and reading my book!

PJ: Thank you to all the fans and readers. We are so happy you love our series and hopefully, we can give you many more hours of reading pleasure. If it weren't for you we couldn't do this, so I think of you all every day.

                                         ABOUT THE AUTHORS

                                                                                         PAMELA JAMES

Author Pamela James lives in the Midwest, where she reviews books, interviews authors, kills her houseplants, and waters the cats.  She is the editor of THE WRITERS CANVAS, an online magazine.  James is happily married and the mother of six children and grandmother to six more.
           
James began writing poetry in college, then self-published a collection called AFTERNOON THOUGHTS.  She joined the Kansas Authors Club and became the area Chapter President.  After winning several Honorable Mentions and a Third Place for her poetry, she was dubbed "The Blue Collar Poet Of Southeast Kansas."  James then began another writers' organization, The Parsons Housewife Writers Group.  Her first book, titled THE UNUSED HOUSEWIFE, sits quietly in a hidden drawer, due to her mother's shocked response to "that sex book!"   She continued to write short stories, and was mentored by the late Monette Cummings, who started her on a career of book reviewing.   Later, she began to interview and profile authors for various publications, before turning her hand to plotting murder. 
           
James' credits include bylines in Mystery Scene, The Armchair Detective, Rawhide & Lace, Calico Trails, Old Book Barn Gazette, Romantic Times and Literary Times and many other publications, but finally she thought it was time to pen her true passion…murder…

James thought she had enough plots stored up, tanks to becoming a grandmother and living with teens, so after earning her gray hairs, she decided to stop killing her plants and plot something that might grow.  And so, collaborating with Merry Stahel, they created The Tumblebrook Mysteries.   When not plotting murder, James makes delicious brownies, as long as the directions are on the box, and cross-stitches to keep her hands busy while her mind wanders.  James is a member of several online writing groups and participates in discussions frequently.  THE WRITERS CANVAS can be found at www.stardancerpress.com  and readers and fans can contact James at pjames25us@yahoo.com.

                                                                                           MERRY STAHEL

Author Merry Stahel is the consulting editor of the American Western historical research magazine, CALICO TRAILS, has been happily married for twenty-three years, is Mom's favorite kid and the mother of two wonderful daughters.   

Stahel began writing at the age of eight, when her summer school teacher had each child write a play and hers was chosen to be produced for the parents on PTA night.  Although the names were changed to protect the legends, the play had an uncanny resemblance to the story of Daniel Boone's daughter's kidnapping by Indians.  Over the next few years, Stahel continued telling stories to her younger siblings wrote poetry for other events.  In high school she worked on the school newspaper and had poetry published in the school's literary magazine.  As the wife of a naval officer, she produced newsletters for military wives clubs, and continued doing so for schools, businesses, home owner's organizations, and even an archeological site. 

Finally, she decided to try her hand at writing books.   Unfortunately, the computer kept breaking down.  When it was finally replaced, she discovered the disk which contained her books was corrupted and she'd lost all her work.

She started over at the new duty station on the island of Guam, but a fun job and typhoons took precedence for a while.  When she moved back to the United States, she decided to get serious, joined a writer's organization and began editing their newsletter.   She also connected with writers groups online and finally finished the book which started the whole escapade, along with two others in the series.  Currently, they remain unpublished. 

A publishing company editor asked Pamela James and Stahel to write a cozy mystery for a new line they were considering.  A few months before they completed the book, the requesting editor left the company!   They finished it anyway and A MATCH MADE FOR MURDER is now published by PageFreePublishing.  Its sequel, A MURDER MADE IN PIECES, will be published in July. 

Stahel enjoys traveling, reading, researching history, talking to her friends online at all hours and quilting.  Her eight boxes and one closet full of fabric has been made into fifty-three quilts, only three of which she owns. 
Stahel is a member of Romance Writers of America (and subchapters OutReach and Kiss Of Death), and several online writing groups.  CALICO TRAILS can be viewed at www.stardancerpress.com and Stahel can be contacted at MerryStahel@aol.com