Pat Bertram, Author of A Spark of Heavenly Fire

ASHFbordersmTell us a little about A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

A Spark of Heavenly Fire tells the story of insomniac Kate Cummings who gathers her courage and strength to find new a new life and a new love when all around her people are dying of a bioengineered disease.

What inspired you to write A Spark of Heavenly Fire?

In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I talk (or rather my characters do) about biological weapons, biowarfare, and bioengineered organisms because I thought the reality was more frightening than fiction. For example, The World Health Organization spent years and a heap of money to eradicate smallpox, yet smallpox in ever more virulent forms is stockpiled in labs all around the world. Spooks the heck out of me! I thought it was an important topic, but mainly I wanted to tell the story of ordinary people who become extraordinary in a time of great upheaval.

There is a tremendous comparison between the two women in A Spark of Heavenly Fire. Was this intentional?

Yes, they are both female archetypes, Kate is the mother/nurturer and Pippi is the woman searching for love, and together they drive the story. I wrote the book to prove a quote by Washington Irving: There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. It’s their strength that carries the day in the face of the plague, the atrocities, and the recovery.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

My biggest challenge was finding the beginning of the story. I liked the story, and I kept telling myself that if people could just get through the first fifty pages they would like the story, too. Then one day it dawned on me that the solution of getting readers beyond the less than sparkling beginning was to get rid of the first fifty pages. So I junked those early chapters, wrote a new beginning, and then the real challenge began — finding a publisher. After two hundred rejections, I finally found a publisher who loves the book.

Have you written any other books besides A Spark of Heavenly Fire?

Yes. More Deaths Than One was published by Second Wind Publishing at the same time as A Spark of Heavenly Fire. It’s the story of Bob Stark who sees his mother’s obituary in the morning paper, which stuns him because he buried her two decades ago before he the country to live in Southeast Asia. So he sets out to discover how she be dead again.

Daughter Am I, which was published a few months later than A Spark of Heavenly Fire, was conceived as a way to combine two of my interests at that time — early gangster history and the mythic journey. (You might not recognize the similarity between Daughter Am I and Star Wars or The Wizard of Oz, but all three are based on the same mythic journey template.)

More recently published are Light Bringer, a novel that pieces together ancient myth and modern conspiracy theories to create a chilling look at the world, and Grief: The Great Yearning, a compilation of blog posts and journal entries I wrote after the death of my long-time life mate/soul mate.

Does writing come easy for you?

No. When I sit down to write, my mind goes blank. Other people can write a book a month. They can let the words flow. I have to dredge each word out of my mind. Yet, when my books are finished, there is an inevitability about them as if they were inspired, not perspired (at least it seems that way to me). But I don’t believe that they are “destined.” It’s all the little choices I make along the way that creates the inevitability. When you start writing, you have the entire world to choose from, but as you make choices — genre, setting, characters, plot, etc, etc, it narrows the story world and keeps narrowing it until it seems inevitable. Yet it all comes from the thousands of choices that we made.

What are you writing now?

I have what I facetiously call a work-in-pause since I’m not actually working on it at present – I’ve been doing other things, such as blogging and trying to promote my books. My poor WIP is a whimsically ironic apocalyptic fantasy, which is totally different from anything else I have ever written.

Did you ever write or create a story and afterwards discover that it fit a genre you had never written in before?

I’m not sure that this question fits with what I write. All my novels are basically genreless in that they encompass many genres — suspense, mystery, romance, thriller, bits of science fiction. My publisher released them as mainstream, which is not exactly a genre, but simply a way of classifying the books for the website.

Have you ever created a character who was totally unlike anyone you had ever known, and yet was totally believable?

My characters may not be like anyone I know in real life, they encompass bits of characters I have read in books or seen in movies. Is it possible to write a character totally from scratch? I don’t think so — everything we do and have ever done is part of us, and comes out in the work in some way or another. As for believable characters — that’s for readers to say, not me. (Even as a reader, I don’t really relate to characters. I relate more to stories.)

What advice would you give to new writers?

A book begins with a single word. The thought of writing an entire book intimidates many novice writers, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it’s the only goal. That’s how every book through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book.

Also, writing is not always about writing. Some authors can sit down and let the words flow and lo! There is a story! Other authors have to think about what they’re doing. So ask yourself, what story do you want to write? Why? What do your characters want? Why? How are they going to get what they want? Who is going to stop them getting what they want?

Bertram’s novels on Amazon

Bertram’s novels at Second Wind Publishing

Pat Bertram’s novels are available in all ebook formats at Smashwords. Also, 30% of each novel is available as a free download. Click here to find: Bertram’s novels on Smashwords.

Pat Bertram, Author of “Daughter Am I”

What books would you list as your current favorites?

Staccato by Deborah Ledford, The Medicine People by Lazarus Barnhill, Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus Barnhill, Steel Waters by Ken Coffman, Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire by Malcolm R. Campbell, Heart of Hythea by Suzanne Francis. They are all different genres, but all have a few things in common — they are exceptionally well-written, a bit out of the ordinary (by that I mean they are not clones of books already on the market), have great characters I enjoyed spending time with. And the stories moved me.

What genre are your books?

All of my novels have elements of intrigue, adventure, mystery, suspense, romance, history, and some have a touch of science fiction. A Spark of Heavenly Fire, for example, is the story of people who become extraordinary during a time of horror — a bioengineered disease is decimating the population of Colorado, and the entire state is quarantined. One character is obsessed with finding out who created the disease, one couple tries to escape, one woman does what she can to help the survivors. A thread of romance connects all the stories. All these different stories entwined into one makes it difficult to settle on a single genre, though many reviewers call it a thriller, and my publisher, Second Wind Publishing, sells it as mainstream.

What are your favorite genres?

I like to read novels that have it all — mystery, adventure, romance, a touch of strangeness, a bit of truth — but since I can’t find that sort of novel very often, I settle for just about anything. Non-fiction, genre fiction, literary fiction, whatever is at hand.

Any favorite blogs you are following?

I follow the Second Wind Publishing Blog, Joylene Nowell Butler’s Blog, Malcolm Campbell’s Sun Singer’s Travels and about a dozen others.

What do you like to see covered in a blog?

Right now, I pay particular attention to blogs that focus on book promotion because that is my current concern. I also enjoy reading about how people write and how they overcome the problems they encounter.

Do you think you gain sales for your books through blogging?

I know I’ve made a few sales because of blogging, but I don’t think blogs are a particularly good sales tool. I do think blogs are wonderful for connecting with readers once readers have discovered you, they can be a great source for support and suggestions, and they are a way of meeting people who like the same things you do. Mostly though, I just enjoy blogging.

Tell us about your book, “Daughter Am I.”

Daughter Am I is a young woman/old gangster coming-of-age novel.

When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents-grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born-she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians-former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

What similarities if any between your other books and this one?

The unifying theme in all of my books is the perennial question: Who are we? More Deaths Than One suggests we are our memories. A Spark of Heavenly suggests we are the sum total of our experiences and choices. Daughter Am I suggests we are our heritage.

Do you sell or give away your books as an eBook?

My books are all available for sale as ebooks, and the first 30% of each is also available free on Smashwords.

What do you think the most influential change in book publishing will come from?

25% of the total production of books printed by the major publishing companies are pulped, which is an incredible waste, so I think more books will be digitally printed as needed. It makes sense financially, especially if the cost of production goes down. Ultimately, e-books will become the preferred format for “disposable” books from bestselling authors such as James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks, and Harlequin titles–books readers will only read once.

If you could give one tip for aspiring authors, what would that be?

I’ll tell them that a book begins with a single word. Many novice writers get intimidated by the thought of writing an entire book, but all you ever need to write is one word. I know that’s not much of a goal, but in the end, it is the only goal. That’s how every book all through the ages got written — one word at a time. By stringing single words together, you get sentences, then paragraphs, pages, chapters, an entire book. After that, who knows, you might even reach the pinnacle and become a published author. All because you set your goal to write one word.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I have a website — http://patbertram.com — where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my books, and my events on a daily basis is by way of Bertram’s Blog. http://ptbertram.wordpress.com

All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, and Smashwords. Smashwords is great — the books are available in all ebook formats, including Kindle, and you can download the first 30% free.

Pat Bertram, Author of “Daughter Am I”

What is your book about?

When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents-grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born-she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians-former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

What genre is Daughter Am I? Who is your ideal audience?

Daughter Am I is being sold as mainstream, though it could just as easily be considered a mystery. My ideal audience is anyone who loves mysteries, old-time gangsters, and a bit of humor.

Apart from being an author, who are you in relation to your gifts?

I’ve always been creative, and right now I’m focusing that creativity on the internet and promotion. I also have a life-long love of learning. Somehow, between the creativity and the learning, I hope to figure out how to sell a ton of books.

Of all the stories you could have written…why did you choose to write this particular book?

Daughter Am I was the combination of two different stories I wanted to write. I’d read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, and the mythic journey so captured my imagination that I knew I had to write my own quest story. I also liked the idea of telling little-known truths about the mob, and I settled on the story of a young woman going in search of her past. As she listens to stories of old-time gangsters and bootleggers — her mentors and allies — she gradually discovers the truth of her heritage. I’ve always liked stories within stories.

How much of your personal psyche, your struggle and your insecurities are hidden within the characters of this particular story? (Please elaborate)

To be honest, there is less of me in this book than my other novels, but Daughter Am I does reflect two of my struggles: my journey as a writer and my quest for identity, which perhaps come down to the same thing. My hero Mary isn’t a writer, but she does set out on a journey to discover who she is in relation to her unknown grandparents. I think the quest for identity is one of the strongest themes in books because it reflects two stages of life we all go through — adolescence and obsolescence.

Apart from writing stories, in which direction do you see your career heading and what will you bring to the literary world outside producing new stories.

I’m involved with several writing groups, and I’m developing a following for my blog. I’d like to think I’m bringing generosity of spirit to the literary world by sharing what I’m learning on my seemingly impossible journey to becoming a self-supporting author.

What writer influenced you the most?

My biggest influence was Taylor Caldwell. She told wonderful stories that showed history in the context of fiction, and I’ve tried to do the same. She also used a hundred words when a single sentence would have sufficed, and I’ve tried to do the opposite.

What has been your greatest inner struggle to overcome with relation to your literary career?

My greatest inner struggle is a reluctance to commit to writing. I have a one-track mind — I’m not a multi-tasker by any means! Writing a novel is an all-consuming task, one that takes months, even years to complete, and during that time, I really can’t get involved with other mentally demanding activities. Right now, my focus is the internet, and I would have to cut my time online to a bare minimum in order to free up my mind for writing, and I’m not yet ready to make that change.

What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?

I’ll be leaving the world my books, which are words enough, but besides that, this is how I’d like the world to see me:  “Pat Bertram has a marvelous ability to write the longest parables in all of literature. She unglues the world as it is perceived and rebuilds it in a wiser and more beautiful way.” — Lazarus Barnhill, author of The Medicine People and Lacey Took a Holiday Isn’t that beautiful?

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I have a website — http://patbertram.com — where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my books, and my events on a daily basis is by way of Bertram’s Blog. http://ptbertram.wordpress.com

All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, and Smashwords. Smashwords is great — the books are available in all ebook formats, including Kindle, and you can download the first 30% free.

Pat Bertram, Author of “Daughter Am I”

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Second Wind Publishing liked her style and published four of Bertram’s books: ‘Light Bringer’, ‘Daughter Am I’, ‘More Deaths Than One’, and ‘A Spark of Heavenly Fire.’

What is the main premise of Daughter Am I?

When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents-grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born-she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians-former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

How long did it take you to write it?

I developed the idea for Daughter Am I in a single day, but I had to finish the book I was working on at the time, so I didn’t actually begin writing Daughter Am I until several months after I got the initial idea. It took me a year to write, and then another year to edit.

Who’s your favorite character in it?

That is a hard question! All the octogenarian gangsters in Daughter Am I are my favorites in their own way. There’s Teach, who sells bullets he claims came from the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. There’s Kid Rags, who still works as a forger. There’s Happy, a trigger-happy ex-wheelman for the mob, whose hands shake so much he can barely aim let alone shoot. That’s only three of the octogenarians — there are seven feisty old gangsters all together. Well, six gangsters and one ex-showgirl.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently collaborating on writing a novel online with eight other Second Wind authors. We each write from the POV of a different character, and follow that character throughout the story. In the first story, a little girl’s body was found in the desert, but who killed her? We won’t know until the book is finished! You can find this project at http://rubiconranch.wordpress.com I hope you will check it out!

What is something that surprised you about being an author?

The most surprising part for me is that I know how to write. For many years, my life was shadowed by the sadness of having no innate talent for writing. I’m not being modest — I really couldn’t write anything worth reading. When I decided to write despite that lack, I set out to learn everything I could about developing a readable story. Most of the how-to books confused the heck out of me — the authors would talk about rising conflicts and motivation/reaction units, and I didn’t have a clue what they meant. It’s only recently that I realized I actually know what I’m doing.

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

Intent.

Who designed this cover?

I did! I took the photo while I was out walking one day, and then tweaked the color. I’m pleased with the result.

Which do you use most for writing on, laptop or desktop?

Okay, I admit it: I am a closet pencilphile. Seems silly, I know, in this electronic age, but I write in pencil on loose-leaf paper. There. I’ve outed myself. I feel so much better now.

I am not being contrary. I do have reasons. I have a better mind/writing connection using pencil and paper than I have with a keyboard; a mechanical pencil is easier on my fingers than pen, and paper is easier on my eyes than a computer screen. But I do use a lap top for blog posts and interviews and such.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

For me, fiction writing is largely a matter of thinking, of trying to see the situation, of figuring out the right word or phrase that puts me where I need to be so the words can flow. I can do this better late at night, in bed, clipboard propped against my knees or on a pillow than sitting at a desk. If, as Mel Gibson said, “A movie is like public dreaming,” then novels are like shared dreaming, and where better to dream than in a comfortable bed?

Your favorite quote:

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” — Goethe

Where can your readers stalk you?

I have a website — http://patbertram.com — where I post important information, including the first chapters of each of my books, but the best way to keep up with me, my writing, and my life on a daily basis is by way of Bertram’s Blog. http://ptbertram.wordpress.com

I’m also at Facebook, Good ReadsSquidoo, Twitter

All my books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. Smashwords is great! The books are available in all ebook formats, including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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