Almost Home is different than your previous two novels. Where did you get the idea?
Pam: Almost Home is the culmination of a vision I’ve had for more than a decade. The idea arose when I was still living in Europe in the mid-nineties. I was traveling through Spain with two friends, one Polish and one American. One night as we were lying awake in our hotel room talking, I began mapping out a story of a young woman whose boyfriend had died mysteriously years earlier when they were students at Cambridge. Many former Cambridge students, myself included, seemed to have complex relationships with the alma mater where they had enjoyed such deeply passionate experiences, and the death I envisioned was on some level a metaphor for those relationships. I didn’t know then that the young woman’s name was Jordan, or that she would turn out to be a diplomat, like myself at the time.
Almost Home is different in that it represents a change in genre from historical fiction (like my first two novels, The Kommandant’s Girl and The Diplomat’s Wife) to modern suspense. I’m not a big one for labels; I don’t write for a specific genre, I write about the topics that interest me. But I do think Almost Home has many of the same elements as the first two books: a strong female protagonist, romance, international intrigue and adventure plus a historical back story. It similarly shares a common central theme – a young woman, facing extraordinary circumstances, who learns more about herself and her inner strength than she thought possible. Finally, Almost Home is also a passion project, conceived out of the same travels and experiences that affected me and influenced my other books so profoundly. Despite the differing time period, it really is a very similar type of book.
Are you still working as an attorney? And if so, how do you find time to write?
Pam: When I started writing novels eight years ago, I was a first year associate at a large law firm. I wrote from five to seven in the morning. That habit persisted throughout my years at the firm, as well as while I was working as in-house counsel for a company. Last summer I switched jobs and I now teach law school, which I adore. But it is very busy, especially with my one year old son added to the mix. I still strive for early mornings, but have to be more flexible now.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? And when working in such high-stress jobs with the Army and State Department, what made you decide to try writing a novel?
Pam: I always wanted to be a novelist; I was one of those kids who was always scribbling stories and showing them to anyone who would look. When I worked at The Pentagon in Washington and for the State Department in Europe I was forever trying to write a novel, but never quite got off the ground. The turning point for me was 9/11 – I had an epiphany that made me realize if I wanted to realize my rock star dream of becoming a novelist, I had to get started in earnest. So I took an evening course at a local university called “Write Your Novel This Year” and went from there.
What writing projects are you working on now?
Pam: The sequel to Almost Home is called Hidden Things and it will be out this July. And I’m working on something next about which I am super-excited. It brings together elements of all of my other books. It’s tentatively called The Anniversary Clock, but it’s really too early to say more beyond that.
Which writers have had the biggest impact on your life and your writing?
Pam: I read a lot of historical fiction growing up: John Jakes, Herman Wouk, Leon Uris to name a few. More recently I’ve enjoyed authors such as Tracy Chevalier, Kate Atkinson and Anita Shreve. There are also some books on writing I really like, such as Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. And of course there were the children’s and young adult authors that made me want to become a writer in the first place: Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, and Beverly Clearly, to name a few.
What is the best book you’ve read this year so far?
Pam: Is Your Mama a Llama? I read it to my son almost every night. Seriously. But if you are asking about adult books, I quite liked The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.
If you could recommend one book that everyone should read, what would it be?
Pam: I think everyone should read what they want…just read!
Thank you so much, Pam, for sending me your book to review – and for taking the time to answer my questions! I look forward to reading Hidden Things.