February 11, 2011
Author Interview: PAMELA SAMUELS YOUNG
Hi Pamela! Welcome back to Psychotic State Book Reviews! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.
I just finished Murder on the Down Low (absolutely phenomenal!) and, like your thriller Buying Time, it left me thinking long after I had read the last page. What made you decide to write a book about murders of African American men on the “down low”?
PSY: The Oprah show gets credit for Murder on the Down Low. I can still remember the day I watched in stunned silence as Oprah interviewed JL King, the author of On the Down Low. He boldly professed to sleeping with men, but at the same time, claimed that he was heterosexual. His shocking revelations about the secret world of men on the “down low” really shook me up. The very next day while I was driving to work, the plot for Murder on the Down Low came to me: What if a number of attractive, successful African-African men were being gunned down on the streets of L.A. and no one knew why?
How do you get most of your novels’ ideas? Are they inspired by true events, a la Law & Order, do they come to you in dreams or in the shower (my own personal favorite) or have you made a pact with a literary devil?
PSY: My story ideas either come to me out of nowhere or are spurred by something I’ve heard or read. The best ideas usually hit me while I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll rack my brain for days trying to come up with a twist for a particular scene, and nine times out of ten, my light bulb moment will happen while I’m in my car stuck in rush-hour traffic.
You have a busy legal career in your “other” life. How do you juggle the demands of the legal profession with the often solitary and intensive life of a writer?
PSY: Balancing my law practice, my writing career and my family life isn’t always easy. It requires a lot of organization, lack of sleep and sacrifice. I’ve also learned to prioritize and say “no” if I really don’t have the time. Luckily, I have an extremely supportive husband who never complains about me writing all weekend or going away for an entire week to write. My husband frequently joins me on the road when I’m out promoting my books and is my biggest supporter next to my mother.
Your legal expertise is very evident in Murder on the Down Low ; the benefit of your legal background is evident. Did you base any characters from the book, or your other books, on real people?
PSY: I actually know a guy who’s a lot like Dre. I had a lot of fun fleshing out Dre’s character. Although he’s a “bad guy,” he has a good guy’s soul. He’s also a man’s man with his own set of ethics. While you may not agree with the life he’s leading, there’s something about the person he is inside that makes you want to like him.
Who was your favorite character in Murder on the Down Low and why?
PSY: Without a doubt, my favorite character is Special. She’s savvy, street smart, and sexy and more often than not she goes with her emotions no matter what the consequences. That makes her both challenging and fun to write.
Being a female author of a genre that used to be fairly reserved for men is quite an accomplishment but you have created a series of books that features strong African American heroines and a stand-alone book featuring an African American hero. Did you think current fiction was lacking with such strong and determined minority characters?
PSY: Yes! When I finished law school, I developed a passion for reading legal thrillers. But I never saw women or people of color depicted as attorneys in any of the books I read. I would close the novels feeling satisfied with the story, but disappointed about the lack of diversity of the characters. One day, I decided that I would write the kind of characters that I wanted to see. In the process, I discovered my passion. At the time, I was an associate at a large corporate law firm in Los Angeles. Despite the demands of my law practice, I somehow managed to get up at four in the morning to squeeze in a couple of hours of writing before work. I wrote all weekend, in hotels, in airports, whenever and wherever I could find the time. I never really had a true passion in my life until I discovered mystery writing. I’m currently practicing law as an in-house employment attorney for a large corporation, yet I’ve still managed to publish four books in the last five years. Nothing short of passion made that possible.
Your books have a strong element of faith in them, without being classified as Christian fiction. Does faith play an important part in your life?
PSY: Absolutely! It’s my faith that keeps me afloat with everything on my plate. I’m fortunate that my parents stressed faith in God, hard work and education as I was growing up. Those very important elements of my life are responsible for everything I have achieved.
As a motivational speaker in your (sure to be limited!) spare time, what advice would you give to a struggling author who toils at a day job?
PSY: Don’t let rejection stop you. When I started my first novel, I understood that most successful writers experienced years of rejection. John Grisham, for instance, continued to practice law while writing his first few novels. He received 45 rejection letters and self-published his first book, A Time to Kill, because people told him no one wanted to read about lawyers. How wrong they were! So whether your goal is to write a book, go back to school, or start your own business, never give up on your dream!
Do you have time to read yourself? If so, what authors do you enjoy reading?
PSY: I can usually squeeze in short spurts of reading time right before bed or when I’m traveling. I enjoy reading mysteries. Some of my favorite mystery writers include Walter Mosley, John Grisham and Tami Hoag. I just finished Perfect Alibi by Sheldon Siegel and Deeper Than Dead by Tami Hoag. Loved them both!
What is a normal day in the life of Pamela Samuels Young like?
PSY: Normal? What’s that? When I can, I’ll get in an hour or two of writing early in the morning before work. My work day at the office starts around 8:30 in the morning. It’s usually about six-thirty or seven in the evening before the day ends and it takes me an hour to drive home. If I’m not too tired, I’ll write or revise for a couple of hours in the evening. I do most of my writing over the weekend, unless I’m out promoting my books.
Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
PSY: I’m currently working on Attorney-Client Privilege, the fourth book in the Vernetta Henderson mystery series. In Attorney-Client Privilege, Vernetta squares off against an unscrupulous female attorney in an explosive gender discrimination case that threatens to bring down a corporation. Meantime, Vernetta’s best friend Special, once again finds herself faced with a personal crises that will make you laugh, cry and root for her until the very end.
If you could sit down and have lunch with one person of historical importance, who would it be and why?
PSY: Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a courageous man who made sacrifices that improved the lives of so many people, including me.
And lastly, if you could use one word to describe Murder on the Down Low, what would it be?
PSY: Thought-provoking. I want everyone to think about their own perceptions of HIV once they’re done reading the book. I want people to understand that HIV is not a gay disease. You don’t become infected with HIV because you’re gay, but because you’re available.
Thank you so much, Pamela, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck to you with your current and future projects. I simply cannot wait to have my own copy of Atorney-Client Privilege in my hands! I encourage my readers to pick up Murder on the Down Low, one of the best legal thrillers you will read this year!
A brazen killer is targeting some of L.A.’s most prominent citizens.
The victims are all quintessential family men.
But appearances can be deceiving.
When the baffling murders are linked to a contentious wrongful death lawsuit, two savvy lawyers and a tenacious female detective soon expose a scandalous tale of lust, lies and vengeance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Corporate attorney Pamela Samuels Young has always abided by the philosophy that you create the change you want to see. Fed up with never seeing women or people of color depicted as savvy, hot shot attorneys in the legal thrillers she read, the Compton, California native decided to create her own characters. Despite the demands of a busy legal career, Pamela accomplished her ambitious goal by rising at four in the morning to write before work, dedicating her weekends to writing and even spending her vacation time glued to her laptop for ten or more hours a day. The Essence magazine bestselling author now has four fast-paced legal thrillers to show for her efforts.
Pamela’s debut novel, Every Reasonable Doubt (February 2006), won the Black Expressions Book Club’s Fiction Writing Contest, received an honorable mention in the SEAK Legal Fiction Writing Competition and was a USA Book News Best Books of 2006 finalist in the mystery, suspense and thriller category. Her second novel, In Firm Pursuit (January 2007) was honored by Romantic Times magazine as a finalist for Best African-American Novel of 2007. Murder on the Down Low (September 2008), Pamela’s third release, was an “Editor’s Pick” by Black Expressions magazine and a finalist for the 2009 African-American Literary Awards in the mystery category, and was a USA Book News Best Books of 2009 finalist in the African American fiction category. Pamela then published her first stand-alone novel, Buying Time (November 2009). The Black Caucus of the American Library Association honored Buying Time with its 2010 Fiction Award, calling the book "a captivating, suspenseful thriller." Her short story, Setup, was selected for the 2006 Sisters in Crime anthology, LAndmarked for Murder.
Pamela has achieved a successful writing career while working as Managing Counsel for Labor and Employment Law for a major corporation in Southern California. Prior to that, she served as Employment Law Counsel for Raytheon Company and spent several years with the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, LLP in Los Angeles. A former journalist, Pamela began her broadcasting career as a production assistant at WXYZ-TV in Detroit, where she was quickly promoted to news writer. To escape the brutal Detroit winters, she returned home to Los Angeles and worked at KCBS-TV as a news writer and associate producer..
A former Coro Foundation Fellow, Pamela has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from USC and a master’s degree in broadcasting from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She received her law degree from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and was formerly an adjunct professor at the University of Redlands’ School of Business. Pamela currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is the Fiction Expert for BizyMoms.com.
Pamela is a frequent speaker on the topics of discrimination law, writing and pursuing your passion. She is married and lives in the Los Angeles area. To contact Pamela or to read an excerpt of her books, visit http://www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com/.
Faithful readers, stick around for my review of the impossible-to-put-down Murder on the Down Low . . . coming next week!