This is my second interview with author, Pamela Foster. (Full disclosure–she’s one of my best friends.) But she’s also one of the best, funniest, most touching writers I know. The first interview was titled Hog Jowls and Caviar.
This interview, however, takes a slightly more serious tone (though you can’t escape humor with Ms. Foster,) and introduces her beautiful new release, Ridgeline, (Pen-L Publishing, Spring 2014) which I describe as a literary western.
JAN: What is the synopsis of Ridgeline?
PAMELA: Jeremiah Jones set off to fight in the civil war, a boy full of pride and ignorance, seeking glory and to prove his manhood. That boy never returned. Wounded to the depths of his soul, Jeremiah clung to sanity only by holding tight to the memory of Maggie, the girl he’d loved since the first time he saw her in his father’s church. But Maggie had married another.
His soul seeking peace, but his warrior’s heart wanting only battle, Jeremiah’s mind is caught in the middle, between heaven and hell. Though he rides the saddle-preacher circuit, bringing the word of the Lord to all who’ll listen, inside rages the killing beast that war birthed within him. The only ones he can count on are two ghosts; the first two men – but not the last – who tried to stand against him. Tried, and failed.
Cold company indeed, for that long journey home.
JAN: Tell us about your protagonists and how they change in Ridgeline.
PAMELA: Let’s begin with Adeline, a sixteen year old girl who’s in a tough spot. Her parents are dead, she has no way to run the family farm alone, no money to hire out the work, and a nasty cousin of the James boys is determined to marry her. Desperate for a way to support herself without entering a marriage with a man she fears, she is turned away from work in town because the shopkeepers fear Brett James. A fat madam offers a solution that roils Adeline’s stomach and pushes her to escape. A tall man wearing a wide brimmed preacher’s hat and a battered Confederate coat rides into town on a red roan leading a bay mare. Adeline steals the mare and rides into the woods with no immediate plan but to flee James and the fat madam.
Thus begins the journey of Adeline and Jeremiah. Throughout the book Adeline is light to Jeremiah’s darkness. Adeline loves the small joys of life, the light through new spring leaves, the smell of honeysuckle in the Ozark woods, the music of a creek over smooth stones. Over the course of the book, Adeline travels from frightened child to competent woman. She stops looking for escape and confronts her demons head-on.
As for Jeremiah, he walks that ridgeline between light and darkness. After four years of horror with Arkansas’s Third Regiment, he rages against a God he both hates and loves, seeks death and yet yearns for hope. Jeremiah’s growth is much more limited in this first book of The Long Journey Home Series. In the end, he finds his salvation the only way he knows how.
JAN: How did the story of Jeremiah and Adeline come to you?
PAMELA: Ridgeline came to me when a cowboy appeared just as I was falling asleep. His craggy face, his dark hat, a scar that ran through his eyebrow and down one cheek, his image, his presence was clear, and while of course I knew he was a figment of my imagination, he would not leave.
“Go away,” I said. “I don’t write westerns. You have me confused with Velda Brotherton. Go. I need to sleep.”
Well, he did go away. But he came back. Night after night. All through the writing of the second in my Bigfoot series, Bigfoot Mamas, he walked my dreams. Night after night. He showed me a vision of a woman framed in the open door of a cabin, one hip cocked against the frame, looking up the holler at the ridgeline, a thumb-sized blue bottle clutched in her hand.
“Okay,” I said. “How about this, I’ll write a short story about that woman just as soon as I finish the edits on Clueless Gringos in Paradise?”
The cowboy did not smile, he remained right there in my nighttime journeys, began to follow me during the day.
Finally I sat down to write a short story about that woman standing in the cabin door. Except the book refused to be written from that woman’s point of view, insisted that I write from inside the heart and skin of the cowboy. He introduced himself as Jeremiah and my western series began.
JAN: What are you working on now?
PAMELA: I’m writing The Rainmaker which is the second in The Long Journey Home Series and editing Noisy Creek which is set in the same town as Redneck Goddess. It’s a challenge going between the two books, jumping from 1871 to contemporary South Georgia fries my brain by the end of the day. I yearn for the days when I could immerse myself in one book. No promotion, no editing, just pure writing. Of course, I still miss the days when Coca-Cola came in glass bottles and I thought Hostess cupcakes were a healthy breakfast. Yearn all I want for simpler times, the reality of being a published writer is a balancing act between writing, editing, and marketing. I love the reality, but boy, oh, boy that hard black frosting with the curlicue squiggles was good.
JAN: What advice would you give new writers?
PAMELA: Write every day. Immerse yourself in your writing, in your story, in your character. Writing is your mission, your job, your duty. Don’t let anyone or anything tell you different. Never say, “I’m trying to write a book.” Trying is an excuse for failure. Write the book. Say to yourself , “I am a writer.”
When you believe your own proclamation, find a good critique group. Don’t stop looking until you find the one that fits you. Don’t’ search for the group with the gentlest people and avoid any that rob you of your motivation. Find the group that makes you a better writer. And write. Just write.
JAN: Do you have a favorite “baby?” In other words, do you have a favorite (so far) of the books you’ve had published?
PAMELA: My favorite is Ridgeline, but my latest book is always my favorite. And I think that’s how it should be if I’m growing as writer. I hope that’s how it always will be.
BOOKS BY PAMELA FOSTER: