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Interview with Patty G. Henderson
NANCY: When did you know you wanted to write?
PATTY: I guess I would say I was 12 or 13. I came to writing by way of comic books. I was a big comic book fan my favorites were always ones like Batman and Dr. Strange. At some point I decided that I could write a comic book character. Not just write the story, but I could do the drawings too.
NANCY: Oh, you did the drawings too?
PATTY: Yes, I do book cover artwork also. I have been an artist longer than a writer. I drew out a somewhat supernatural character. He was blue and yellow and wore a pendant that he got his powers from. I actually had the audacity to send my little story and my little drawings to DC Comics. Of course I didn’t hear anything from them. After a while, I got tired of checking my mail box and just moved on to different things. So I would have to say that was my major influence, that reading comic books got me interested in writing. That just led into writing short stories.
NANCY: Well you have already answered my next question as to what inspired you to write, obviously it was comic books.
PATTY: Yes, initially, then I started to actually read and discovered Edgar Allen Poe. That led me to mystery and the supernatural genre which is my major love. But my comic book was my very first piece of fiction.
NANCY: Where do your ideas come from? Like 'Brenda Strange', and your other series, the first book is So Dead My Love I believe.
PATTY: Yes, So Dead My Love was actually the very first book that I wrote and was published. Actually, my ideas started again through comic books. After the comic book thing, I got involved with what was generally known back then as a fanzine, I’m talking late 60’s early 70’s, (that’s how long I have been writing). I got involved with a semi-pro fanzine; I started out by writing 'Dark Zodiacs'. What I would do, is take one of the signs of the zodiac and write a very short little snippet, showcasing the darkest supernatural horror aspect of that sign.
NANCY: When you sit down to write, do you have any little quirks, like a certain pencil or something like that? Or do you just pick up what is handy and start writing?
PATTY: The only niggling thing like that that I have is I have to like the flow of the ink onto the paper. Each book is different for me. The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe was basically written on a yellow legal pad. When I am doing a book that way, the flow of the ink is very important. It doesn’t matter what kind of pen, ball point, fountain, or gel, I just have to like the flow. I will use up that pen until there is no ink left and hope I can find another one like it.
I am not superstitious, I don't have to have a particular thing or write in a certain place. I write anywhere and everywhere. My favorite place was Borders Book Store. I don’t write well at home. I know that's very odd and most authors would not understand that. I don't follow the usual writing rules or anything like that. It's really odd, I write and function very well with noise around me, a television on, anyplace like that except in a quiet home, there I don't do well. I know that's odd, but that is how I have written most of my books. I have a hard time concentrating or getting a lot of writing done if I'm sitting in my chair in front of my computer screen, alone in the quiet. It's not conductive to my creativity.
NANCY: You said you wrote The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe on a legal pad...
PATTY: That book came out at a very trying time in my life. My mom passed away. In order to get into the period, because it is a period piece, a historical gothic romance, I would actually bring down a lot of the lights in my house and light some candles to get the feel of 1812. That was one of the few times I did get heavy into the writing of a novel.
NANCY: Do you write all of your books in long hand?
PATTY: No, just The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe and one of the Brenda Strange books. All of my books are split between long hand and computer writing.
NANCY: Now, I am REALLY hoping you say no to this next question, but are you often a character in your books?
PATTY: No, well there is a little bit of every author somewhere in a book, but for me, no. mainly because I try to run as far away from myself as possible. This is sheer entertainment to me, and I don't find myself that interesting or entertaining. I want to create totally new people. Some characters have little pieces of people I know, but none of them are actually real 100% people I know, I like to just make everything up.
NANCY: When you are writing a story and all of a sudden it just stops flowing and there is nothing coming to you, what do you do?
PATTY: I run away from it for a maybe a day, maybe a little longer. I find if I am away from it too much, I begin to lose touch with the story and I lose interest. And if I lose interest, the story is dead, and I am deathly afraid of that happening. I have never let a story die that I have started, I am afraid of ever allowing that to happen When I start a story, I fully intend to finish it. But it does happen often to me, I have actually come to a standstill and don't know if it is because I'm not quite sure where I want to go. I don't ever write from an outline. I do have a general idea of what I want. I write linear, I have to go chapter to chapter. I can't write chapter 1 than I'm somewhere out there writing chapter 30. I can't go on unless I write the next chapter. I have got to follow the story from beginning to end.
NANCY: I've heard it said that sometimes the characters take over the story. Do you find that true when you are writing?
PATTY: I know that authors like to create that kind of mystique and magical feel to this, but no, my characters do not take over. Sometimes I find another character to feature, not the one that I wanted to feature, and I will build that character more. Or sometimes with a secondary or third or fourth character, I might want to throw into the front because they interest me more. Not because they are taking over. Situations do change and I might want to change things around, simply because as I'm writing the story, maybe the one that I thought of just doesn’t fit, or I thought of something better. But it is nothing mystical like the characters are taking over.
For an example, in the first Brenda Strange book, her partner Tina was never meant to be around forever, she was going to die. I had the scene all set up and everything. But as I started writing, I realized that I didn’t want it to end that way. So I turned it all around, and in the third Brenda Strange book, The Missing Page, everything that I had decided initially, came out totally different. So, I am the mistress of my entire universe and all my characters. I pull all their strings, and I torture them if I have to.
NANCY: Sweet. I like that in a woman!
NANCY: Let’s say there are no outlets for your books, no stores, no internet. Would you continue to write just for yourself?
PATTY: That’s a very good question. There are times where I just don't feel the pull, my muse is either on vacation, has decided to hibernate, or whatever. I'm not sure, I would probably be writing short stories. I can almost tell you I wouldn't be indulging in a novel. Or, I would do flash fiction, I like that even better.
NANCY: Flash fiction?
PATTY: It is fiction under 1000 words - love it!
NANCY: Any kind of book you would never write?
NANCY: And why is that’
PATTY: It doesn't interest me either on film or in books.
NANCY: Who are your three favorite authors?
PATTY: I have so many; I don't think I could chose just three unless you forced me.
Note: I did force her; I threatened to send Brenda Strange after her.
Sarah Waters, Ellen Hart, and Michael Koryta, are my favorite live and kicking authors.
Note: it really did take Patty a while to come up with three living authors, seems she is really into dead guys and kept bring up their names and rejecting them again. Guys like H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Alan Poe.
NANCY: We covered this a little already, but do you ever outline your story or just write/
PATTY: I have never written an outline for a story. The only time I have ever written an outline, I was submitting my stories to big presses.
I’ll jot down notes and a semi synopsis - just an idea of what the story is and who the characters are. Normally, everything is there, all set up in my head. I'll jot a few things down, then go and write. And I won't write out of sequence.
NANCY: When you are writing, do you edit as you go?
PATTY: I definitely edit as I go. I am a real stickler. Usually when I finish my book, a lot of the major problems are going to be spelling and inconsistencies. It will still be a mess, but it will be a much neater mess.
NANCY: what do you find most challenging about writing a book?
PATTY: Finishing the book.
NANCY: Is that because you want to keep going? Don’t know how to end it? Why?
PATTY: It is because I am a very slow writer. I'm not the kind of writer that sits down and writes every day.
NANCY: Writing sex/love scenes/easy or not?
NANCY: Just not? You don’t like writing them?
PATTY: They're just not easy. I might even take that back. It's not that they're not easy, they are just not for me and the way I write and the way I want to do my books. I just don't feel they are necessary, so I brush them off.
NANCY: Have you taken any formal writing classes?
PATTY: I have not...no.
NANCY: Single or in a relationship?
PATTY: Single. It is just me and my little Lulu, my Calico.
NANCY: I was going to ask about pets, but you already answered that. So are you a morning person or a night owl?
PATTY: I am a night owl, but I am also a morning person. So I sleep very little, in other words.
NANCY: Mac or PC?
PATTY: I use a PC, but LOVE a Mac. I started out with a Mac, and I just loved it. But I had the opportunity to get a PC from my sister, so I did. And I haven’t been able to afford a Mac since.
NANCY: What do you do for relaxation?
PATTY: Oooo…a lot of things. Now that I have a Kindle, I enjoy reading a lot. I enjoy playing handheld video games. I just love the Pok-mon games. I also collect model cars. I am an automobile aficionado. I love cars, old cars from the 30’s and 40’s and from the 50’s and 60’s. I go to car shows. I also sketch; it’s very relaxing for me.
NANCY: What is your favorite meal?
If I go out, I'm probably going to want pizza. If I go to a nice restaurant, probably seafood, lobster or something like that.
NANCY: If someone offered to make you a home cooked meal, what would you want?
PATTY: Meatloaf, nice homemade meatloaf.
NANCY: Are you an accomplished cook or a fast food freak?
PATTY: I don’t cook at all, so it’s all fast food. I DO NOT COOK. Let me tell you a little story. When I lived in my one bedroom apartment, everybody got a big laugh if they went to my kitchen and opened my oven. I had books and paintings in my oven. I had actually disconnected it, because I was afraid of a fire, and used it as storage. So, no, I don’t cook at all.
NANCY: You have a weekend getaway, would you go to the water or to woods.
PATTY: It depends on the mood because I enjoy them both. But to be honest, the very first thought that comes into my head would be the ocean. My big, BIG thing (from my bucket list) that I want to do is go to Maine to the big cliffs overlooking the rushing water and crashing waves, or take a lighthouse tour.
NANCY: If you could have anything at all that you wanted, what would you ask for?
PATTY: My health back.
NANCY: If one of your books was to become a movie, which one would you want it to be?
PATTY: The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe.
NANCY: Do you read your book reviews?
PATTY: That’s funny you asked because there was a review up at Amazon that I didn’t even know was there. Unless a reviewer contacts me and lets me know, or I initiate it by sending a review copy, I don’t keep up with reviews. I find that since I'm self publishing, I can keep track of my sales-by the minute-by the hour-by the day. So I can actually pin point what works, like if I post a trailer, I can see it that has helped sales at all.
NANCY: when you are reading, do you prefer paper or an eBook?
PATTY: eBooks. Don't get me wrong, I will always have a fondness for my paper books. I have books everywhere, I'm actually running out of space, but since my Kindle came along, I much prefer a Kindle edition if I can find one.
NANCY: Tell me about your first book, So Dead My Love.
PATTY: I was with Justice House, and they changed the name to Blood Scent, and it was published in 2001 I believe.
NANCY: How did it feel to hold your first published book?
PATTY: Oh, it was an experience. I think every author will tell you that. It was a culmination of everything you’ve dreamed about and everything you’ve hoped for.
NANCY: Right now you are just doing eBooks correct?
PATTY: Yes, I have made the decision that all future books will be eBooks only. Now if there’s a big call for it, I might put out a paper copy.
NANCY: When you put out a paper copy-you can actually hold that in your hands. But you can’t really hold an eBook the same way, so does it feel just as good when one it published?
PATTY: Oh, sure it does.
NANCY: Once you became a published writer, did it change the way you wrote at all?
PATTY: No, not at all.
NANCY: How easy/hard is it to name your characters?
PATTY: That’s the first thing that initiates a story for me, the character and her name immediately, I can't go anywhere without it. And I cannot begin a story without a title. You couldn't even force me to write a thing without a title.
NANCY: From talking to you, I am assuming that the Brenda Strange name came from your comic book roots?
PATTY: The Brenda Strange series is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I wanted to write a haunted house story. I wanted to have a psychic or paranormal/supernatural private investigator. I have a deep love/fascination for Princess Diana, and all of that came together. The name Brenda Strange, I love to play with names. It is a model of Dr. Strange, from the Marvel comic book and the Brenda part is from the old Sunday comic strip. There was one called Brenda Starr, Star Reporter. She was basically a reporter always getting into some kind of trouble. I liked those strips, and so I said, Ok, Brenda Strange. I thought it was cool, thought it blended, had a certain sound to it, a certain mystery and mystique to it.
NANCY: Now her initials, B.S., was that on purpose or purely an accident?
PATTY: Totally an accident, but I think it’s cool.
Something else I want to mention, because a lot of people don't know this, I am such a big Dark Shadows fan. You have to look for it, but in every one of my books, except The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe, there will be, either in somebody's name, the name of a book, or something, is a reference to Dark Shadows. Either a character's name or the real actor/actress’s name, a combo of a first and last name, an address, but there is always something to do with homage to Dark Shadows. Not many people are aware of that.
NANCY: Another question about So Dead My Love. It says that it is the first book in a trilogy. Are you still planning on writing the other two?
PATTY: I have three chapters written in book two, and that is all. But it is one of those books that as we discussed, I allowed to get away from me. And I don’t know. It's lost somewhere in my head and my interest in it is lost too. I don't know if I will ever get back to finish the trilogy. Like I said, I have three chapters written, and they look really good. I don't know, maybe I've lost the allure of writing the vampire stuff, maybe because so much of it is being done now.
NANCY: We talked earlier about you being self published, when did you change and why?
PATTY: Justice House and Barclay Books were terrible experiences, and they really, really soured me. Then I went with Bella Books for Tangled and Dark, and The Missing Page. Things just didn’t work out between myself and Bella Books. At that time, self publishing was just coming into the forefront and more was being done with it. Although it had a great stigma attached to it, I said, 'Why not'. I had So Dead My Love, and I was able to put out MY version of it. That’s why what you see now that it's called Author’s Choice. It, along with the title, had been changed when I was with Justice House. I wrote Ximora, the latest Brenda Strange, and decided to go the self publishing route. I love the freedom and will continue to self publish. I’ll never go contract again, unless one of the big guys, (Random House/St. Martin’s Press) come knocking. Then I might consider it.
NANCY: You mentioned that you edit as you go, do you also have beta readers and editors? Or do you do everything yourself?
PATTY: I used to have a really good beta reader, (of course that was my ex.) but I don’t now. I am very, very careful. I self edit a lot. My products, my books have to be as good, if not better than what the lesbian publishers are putting out. I have editors, but no beta readers. I had a less than satisfactory experience with one beta reader, so I just forgot about them.
I have been through two different editors, because financially, I couldn’t afford my first editor that I had. So a friend of mine, who does editing, did The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe. Overall, I was happy with her work, so I will hopefully continue to use her.
While Patty might not find herself entertaining or interesting, I found both to be true during the interview. We spent a lot of time laughing during this, and I can’t wait to be able to talk with her again.
I would really love to have a sample of her Dark Zodiac writing. Hey, Patty, I am a Taurus…hint, hint…LOL
After talking with Patty, I HAD to order The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe. She was just so enthused about it, I had no choice. I am about half way thru it and I am loving it. By the time I posted this interview, I finished reading The Secret of Lighthouse Pointe. Just a word of caution for’those’ of you who have not read the book yet: you will not be able to put this book down once you?start!!
I also ordered, So Dead My Love, the cover just drew me in and I had to have it. To top this, a friend has a copy of the Justice House version, so I cannot wait to compare the two. While the Justice House cover is cool, hands down, her version is much cooler!