by Kim Kelly
SIX QUICK WINTER-WARMING THOUGHTS
With Pamela Cook
It’s so lovely to welcome wonderful fellow author Pamela Cook onto my blog today for a little Q&A and book giveaway. Pam and I have been cahooting a bit lately on ways that women can stretch their literary wings and write outside the lines too often imposed upon us by the publishing industry. Here, Pam talks about her latest novel, Cross My Heart, and shares her thoughts on what it means for her to write out her authentic self on the page.
Your latest novel, Cross My Heart, is a such a soulful story about friendship. Tell us a little bit about it, and what inspired you to dig into such deep emotional territory?
Thanks so much, Kim. My previous books all focused primarily on family relationships, with any friendship element on the periphery. I’ve always believed that for women, strong friendships can truly be lifelines and I wanted to honour that by putting a friend relationship at the centre of the story. My closest friend passed away four and half years ago after a terrible battle with motor neurone disease. We had been friends for 40 years, travelled the world together, watched our children grow up together and spent many hours sharing the joys of a beautiful friendship. To say I feel her loss deeply does not capture the level of my grief, so writing about the death of a close friend was also a way for me to process some of those emotions.
Relationships between women feature strongly in your work. What’s the most special thing about female connection for you?
Women connect to each other in completely different ways to women and men. Maybe because we share the same biology and hormones, we empathise with the experiences our friends, mothers and sisters are going through. I know in difficult times in my own life, my circle of women has been there for me and pulled me through. I’m so inspired by the strength I see in women around me who have been through heartache and tragedy and yet have survived and become even stronger.
Women writers are the engine-room of the publishing industry – we are phenomenally creative and giving and sparklingly clever. What’s the deepest delight you take in reading books written by women?
You are so right, Kim! I pretty much read books exclusively by women these days, most of them Australian. I love the way these stories focus on women taking the lead in their lives, often taking back control they may have lost or given away, becoming more empowered by challenging the status quo. I’m seeing this as a real feature of writing by Australian women right now, whether they write contemporary or historical, romance or general fiction. It’s inspiring and definitely something to celebrate. Long may it continue!
Your own work is very original, straight from the heart, and it’s not always easy to fit into a genre box. What words of wisdom do you have for others yearning to tread their own path?
I’ve struggled with the whole box thing for a while now. For years my books were marketed as rural romance but I never felt comfortable with the label because they aren’t romances, they’re stories about women coming to terms with their past and with themselves. All of them have rural settings because that’s the environment I love and draw inspiration from. The whole box thing is really for marketing purposes – so publishers know who to target in advertising and on bookstore shelves. My most recent publishing experience, as an indie author, has confirmed my suspicion that it’s okay to write across genres. Cross My Heart is a contemporary or women’s fiction title but it has elements of mystery and suspense. Feedback from readers has been that they are fine with a mixture of elements. If you’re a traditionally published author, what I would say is to be aware of the boxes and be comfortable with where you are placed, but also know it’s possible to break out of those confines.
What kind of heart country are you going to take us into next with your writing?
I have two projects on the go right now. One is a revision and re-packaging of my second novel Essie’s Way. It was written to a very tight deadline and while I’ve always loved the characters and story, I’m relishing the opportunity to tighten the writing and give it more depth. It has a historical thread which I really enjoyed writing, so there’s another genre boundary I’ve crossed! I’m also writing a new contemporary story about a woman who loses her children to a narcissistic ex-husband and resolves to get them back. Both these books have a mother-daughter thread running through them, and also a grandmother thread, and hopefully will tug at readers’ heartstrings in the best possible way.
So many have had a rough time lately, with all the worry, fear and loss COVID-19 has left in its wake. What’s your warmest thought to help carry us through the winter days to come?
It’s certainly been a worrying time, particularly for the more vulnerable in our society – the elderly, those already living on the breadline and women living in situations of abuse. But we have also seen so much kindness, people reaching out to help and support each other, and it’s been a time where we have been forced to stay home and perhaps reflect on the business of our lives. I hope the kindnesses we have witnessed during this time, to ourselves, each other and the planet continue. My mother is 96 and has lived through world war, depression, becoming a widow at the age of 40 with four children to care for, and losing most of her friends and siblings. Watching the way she has come through all this has taught me that we are stronger than we think we are, and that even when we think we can’t go on, we have the strength deep down inside us to survive and even thrive.
Thank you so much for your beautiful words, Pam.
Reading friends, if you’d like to be in the running to win one of two copies of Cross My Heart, please comment on this blog post or on the Facebook post here – we’d especially love to hear your thoughts on the importance of women’s stories. Two lucky winners will be chosen at 5pm, Friday, 3 July 2020 (Australian addressees only, please).
Pamela Cook is the author of five page-turning women’s fiction novels. Her stories feature flawed but strong women, tangled family relationships and deal with the complications of life. Her latest novel, Cross My Heart, is a haunting story of friendship, guilt and redemption set in the beautiful central west of New South Wales.
Pamela’s previous novels are Blackwattle Lake, Essie’s Way, Close To Home, and The Crossroads. She is the co-host of the exciting new podcasts Writes4Women and Writes4Festivals, and is proud to be a Writer Ambassador for Room To Read, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes literacy and gender equality in developing countries. When she’s not writing, reading or podcasting, Pamela wastes as much time as possible riding her handsome quarter horses, Morocco and Rio.
Find out more about Pamela and all her books here:
Writes4Women Podcast: https://www.writes4women.com/