Pamela Callow Writes Smart, Sexy, Legal Thrillers
Recently, Pamela Callow took time out of her hectic schedule to talk about her sizzling legal thrillers, her love of the law and why she decided to become a novelist.
Q: Your first book in the series, DAMAGED, received rave reviews from James Rollins, Linwood Barclay and Rick Mofina. Heady stuff for a debut thriller writer?
PC: I was terrified sending my manuscript – as I am such a fan of each of those authors. To learn that they had enjoyed DAMAGED and were willing to give an endorsement was a literal thrill.
Q: I noticed there are two more books planned for the series, with release dates in 2012. Can you give us some hint about what you have in store for Kate Lange?
PC: In TATTOOED (June 2012), the third book, Kate Lange will encounter her alter ego, a tattoo artist whom she knew in high school. I’m very excited about this story, as I’ve been fascinated by the mainstreaming of the tattoo culture. The fourth book is still in development and we’ll have to see where Kate’s head is at the end of TATTOOED. Her romantic life is in a bit of a tangle and she’s still figuring out what makes her happy.
Q: A recent study reveals that thirty percent of women lawyers abandon the law to work in other fields. What keeps Kate Lange involved with her legal career? She seems to be passionately interested in it.
PC: Kate is a survivor. Her father was convicted of fraud when she was twelve. At the age of sixteen, her sister died in a car accident – with Kate at the wheel. She worked at minimum wage jobs to put herself through university, and is a “late bloomer” in terms of her legal career. Because none of it came easy for her, she is very passionate about her legal career -- although her goals have evolved over the books.
At the opening of DAMAGED, her initial goal with her legal career was to be on a fast-track to a corner office, with a judicial appointment down the road. She believed success = respect, and that she could overcome her past this way -- and thus, would finally be happy. By the end of the book, she realizes that her profession can change people’s lives – for better or for worse. She has to dig deep and face her fears.
In INDEFENSIBLE, she agrees to represent Randall Barrett, the managing partner of her firm, on charges of murdering his ex-wife. But she is terrified. She’s never done criminal defense work. She learns the criminal justice ropes from a recovering alcoholic defense lawyer, who teaches her about perception versus reality and the presumption of innocence.
At the end of the day, Kate is compelled to fight for what is right. And realizes that the legal profession can help her do that.
Q: You were a strategy consultant for an international firm and you're currently a member of the Nova Scotia bar. You've had a high-powered, high-profile corporate career. What drew you to the law? And what draws you to writing?
PC: I’ve always been fascinated by criminal justice – maybe because I’ve always played by the rules. When I started law school, I was twenty-one, and one of the youngest students. I know this will date me, but my experience could be easily summed up by the opening lines of the TV legal drama Paper Chase, where actor John Houseman declares, “I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush, and if you survive, you’ll leaving thinking like a lawyer.” One of the greatest skills I learned at law school was analysis, and how to build an argument.
Law school was also defining for me on a personal level. Just before I began my first year of law school, my mother was diagnosed with end-stage colon cancer. She died near the end of my first year. I’d never seen someone suffer like that – especially someone I loved so deeply – and it had a huge impact on my psyche. I learned how to dig deep.
Studying law drew me to social policy, and the impact of our laws on the ordinary person. After I was admitted to the bar, I completed a Master’s degree in Public Administration. I then joined the Strategic Services practice at Andersen Consulting.
While I was working as a strategy consultant, I attended a shower of one of my oldest friends. Her mother asked me about my job. Explaining my job was not always easy – it could seem very abstract and was full of “consulting-speak.” Finally, she just looked at me and said, “Pam, I always thought you’d be a writer.”
I literally had a pain in my heart when she said that. I realized that I’d strayed very far from the path of my younger self– and that fear had held me back.
After I had my first child, my local office closed. It was then that I took the first step of this journey and enrolled in an Adult Education writing class.
My children were young, so I only wrote a little every week, but eventually I knew I wanted to try to make a career of it. Once they started school, I began writing from the minute I dropped them off until I had to pick them up again, five days a week. Four years later, I sold my series.
Q: How do you manage your time? I always think of lawyers jotting down what they do all day long, in 15 minute increments. It sounds a bit grueling and tedious? Is it a constant juggling act?
PC: I’m used to billing my time – as a lawyer, it was every 6 minutes. As a consultant, my firm charged per diems. Knowing that you need to provide value and be productive has carried over into my writing habits. I consider my publisher to be my client, so I try to be disciplined and prioritize my work. It is challenging, though. Being an author means you are running a small company as well as creating the product. With two books released in the space of six months, and two more in the works, it has become quite a juggling act. And sometimes the balls fall.
Q: You're reading from Indefensible at the Canadian Bar Association's Law Day. How have your books been received by the legal community?
Publishing a book is like inviting someone into your soul. It is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support from the legal community. Some of the best reviews have been from fellow lawyers, which is so gratifying – and a huge relief! Out of all my readers, I was most nervous about my peers. But they’ve been incredibly supportive. In fact, not only did the Canadian Bar Association’s Law Day committee invite me to read from INDEFENSIBLE – coincidentally, at the Provincial Courthouse where scenes from the book were set – but they are enacting a mock arraignment of main character Randall Barrett on charges of murder! I’m so excited.
I had actually attended Law Day as a member of the public two years ago to gather information for the jail scenes for INDEFENSIBLE. To think that one of those scenes will be enacted in the same courtroom is quite a thrill. I’m also a guest speaker at the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia’s Annual Lunch. As well, the Nova Scotia Bar Society Record and my law school alumni magazine did a feature about my series last month. As you can see, the support has been wonderful.
Readers can contact Pamela Callow at www.pamelacallow.com.
Dr. Mary Kennedy is a licensed psychologist in private practice in the northeast, and the author of The Talk Radio Mysteries for Penguin. Visit her at www.marykennedy.net