TATTOOED: Pamela Callow Writes Another Smart, Sexy Legal Thriller
Recently, I sat down with Pamela Callow to talk about TATTOOED, the latest release in her wildly successful Kate Lange series.
MK: The response to book three has been fantastic. What was your inspiration for Tattooed? I remember that DAMAGED, the first book in the series, was based on a criminal case.
PC: TATTOOED had multiple sources of inspiration. I’ve always had a fascination with forensic anthropology, so this book has a cold case in which the victim is discovered in a peat bog, partially mummified. I’ve also been intrigued by the mainstreaming of the tattoo culture, so this book introduces a celebrity tattoo artist who is a long-ago nemesis of lawyer Kate Lange, the series lead. Finally, I wanted to explore death in its many entities, so Kate’s client is a woman dying of ALS who seeks to overturn the law criminalizing assisted suicide – but she is also the mother of the tattoo artist, who becomes a prime murder suspect in the cold case investigation.
MK: I was blown away by the amount of research you must have done. Everything from the spider prison tattoo to the blackflies in the excavation at the bog. I think your attention to detail makes the writing so powerful and the scenes so compelling.
PC: Thank you! I believe that suspense readers choose the genre because it is gritty and authentic, so I work hard at ensuring I am as accurate as possible. Plus, it makes the scenes much easier to create. What I love about the research component of writing my thrillers is that I get to meet so many interesting people. For TATTOOED, I interviewed a forensic anthropologist, a medical examiner, a police detective, and, of course, a tattoo artist. The range of research was broad, covering areas as diverse as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the composition of peat bogs in Nova Scotia, World War II-era revolver mechanics, and Japanese tattoo designs
. MK: You told me once in an earlier interview that you were "comfortable conducting primary research and interviewing people." I wonder if you spent time with a forensic anthropologist for TATTOOED? I loved reading about the "grid," and I wondered if you actually did some work in the field?
PC: I interviewed a wonderful forensic anthropologist who guided me through the excavation process. I did not have an opportunity to work in the field, but I tramped around bogs and took photos, figuring out TATTOOED’s crime scene. If you had been there, you would have heard me asking my husband, “so, do you think you could hide a body in there?” Then I sent those photos to the forensic anthropologist along with the scenario I wanted to create. She helped me with the details of how an excavation would be conducted. I have seen actual archeological digs, so I was familiar with the process.
MK: Kate is such a wonderful character; brave, confident, "compelled to fight for what is right." How is her character growing and developing over the series?
PC: Kate has seen her share of the dark side of life, beginning at the age of twelve when her father was convicted of fraud. But the real tragedy in her life occurred five years later, when she was behind the wheel of her mother’s car and crashed it, killing her younger sister. In DAMAGED, she finally has a chance at success when she lands a job at a high-powered law firm. But she realizes over the course of the series that success does not necessarily equate with happiness. Kate has learned some tough lessons about trust, love, truth and justice. But for every curve ball that life has thrown her – including fighting a serial killer and saving a man wrongfully accused of murdering his ex-wife – she has hung on by her fingernails. She digs deep and I think that is what makes Kate compelling.
MK: Were you always interested in "revenge" as a theme? Or did the plot come first and the theme emerged gradually?
PC: The question I wanted to explore in TATTOOED was how Kate would react when the power to kill was in her hands. I knew she would need a very strong motive to experience the urge to kill someone, and that was provided by the plot. Over the course of TATTOOED, she discovers some terrible secrets – old and new – and a betrayal that puts her in the crosshairs of a sadistic killer. And then she ends up in the position of being able to exact revenge…
MK: Will you be signing at Book Expo again in Manhattan? I know you enjoyed it the last time. And I hear you're planning a signing at the Carlton in Halifax?
PC: Yes, I am attending Book Expo America on June 5th and 6th, where I will be signing TATTOOED and the International Thriller Writers’ THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER anthology, edited by the fabulous Sandra Brown. And I’m very excited about my launch party for TATTOOED at The Carleton in Halifax. I can’t wait to celebrate this release with my readers, friends and family. Details of all my upcoming events and signings are 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