If you ever meet Pamela Fagan Hutchins and she seems overly emotional, don't worry. She's just working. The bestselling novelist finds that in order to make her books engaging, in order to make her characters seemingly get up off the page and start walking around, she has to do what she calls "the emotional work."
"I'm working on a rewrite of my next book and ... my critique club said there were a few spots in the book that are flat, that are missing the emotion. In order to put that emotion [on the page], I have to stop and experience it in real life," Hutchins, the current president of the Houston Writers Guild, tells us.
Hutchins, who writes comedic non-fiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too? and How to Screw Up Your Kids) as well as romantic mysteries (Saving Grace, Leaving Annalise, and Finding Harmony) admits she isn't always successful in keeping the emotion from her writing separate from her everyday life. "If it's dark, I'm dark. If it's happy, I'm happy. It's really hard to turn it on and off. And it can be a real problem in my household because we have to talk about real life and then discuss what happening in the book, in the other world that I live in."
"My husband always says, 'Oh, I can't wait for you to start a new book!' And I say, 'Really? You really mean that? Let's talk about the last time we went through this.'"
What She Does: "When I sit down to write I take real life and I remake it into what we wish it was and give that back to people. You start with the truth and say, well, that won't work. You rip that up and start over. It's re-imagining life with more color, with bigger bigs and smaller smalls. Everything is more.
"I find that I do it very much like an artist does with a painting. They start with a sketch and then they go back and they add a layer of paint, they flesh it out a little bit. Ten, 12 [versions] later, they have this beautiful, layered, textured thing. That's what writing is like for me."
Why She Likes It: " I love to write because after months and months of it being painful and frustrating, something just clicks into place and it's just like you wanted it to be. Suddenly it works and there it is. I just can't get that feeling from anything else. The more of it that I do, the better it feels when it happens. When it happens, it's the very best feeling."
What Inspires Her: "I get inspired by my husband, my kids, all the people around me. I'm inspired by the things that happen in everyday life, things that possibly aren't what they seem and how that's going on around us all the time. I like taking an everyday world and messing it up. To me, there's so much possibility in the everyday, in what we do without noticing or thinking."
If Not This, Then What: "Can I get paid to be a professional traveler? Surely that's a gig,"Hutchins laughs. "Actually, my longtime day job was as an employment attorney who did workplace investigations -- basically, who pinched whose butt and why -- and that was kind of fun. I'd go back and do that. I'm lucky if I wasn't doing what I'm doing, I would go back to who pinched whose ass and I'd have fun with it. It is fun, it's just not as much fun as writing.
"But I'd be miserable if I couldn't write, I'm a writer. That's how I express myself. If I'm mad at my husband, he gets a letter."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
If Not Here, Then Where: "We already lived in the dream place when we lived in the Caribbean. My husband and I have a small ranch outside of Brenham. It's our favorite, favorite place in the world because we can get away from everybody and everything. I would be happy as a clam if we moved out there, away from the traffic and the concrete. We call it Nowheresville. So if I couldn't be in Houston, I'd be in the middle of Nowheresville."
What's Next: "I've got the next five or six books planned out, I just need to sit my butt in the chair and do them. Right now I'm working on a book based in Houston. After doing three in the Caribbean, Houston seems an exotic place. It's a romantic mystery. Then I'm starting a spin-off series, based in the Panhandle of Texas. It's the new West. It has the same opportunity for bigger than life characters, like the Caribbean does.
"Then I'll be doing a library tour. I promised my husband that I'd spend some time with him this summer. I did a hundred events last year, that's a lot. The whole family pitched in, literally. They've asked for a break, so we're doing this summer differently."
More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page). Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer