Saturday, 16 January 2016


Flurries Unlimited was fortunate enough to sit down with up and coming suspense/horror author, P.M. Prior, for a one on one chat about her work, writing plans and busy schedule juggling career and family.  This is what we talked about...

FU: I've just read The Basement and I have to say it was a non-stop thrill ride that's done phenomenally well.  It was at number one in two categories on Amazon for over two weeks and you had an author rank of #30, all from a debut short story. You must be thrilled.  To what do you attribute your amazing success?

PMP: Thank you. I have to say that the key to The Basement was working closely with my wonderful editor, D.P. Prior, on re-drafting again and again. So often writers just want to put their work right out there as soon as the editor sends it back. That is such a mistake. First, editors are not proofreaders. Second, because they have a professional distance from the story, editors can impart extremely valuable advice on timing, pace and milking each scene for all the drama it's worth. They can also tell you what's missing, what's not working and what you can expand upon to maximize reader understanding and enjoyment. So, you need to take what they say seriously. A good editor his worth his/her weight in gold--and by good, I don't mean that s/he tells you what you want to hear .

FU:  Meaning?

PMP:  Every writer believes they've produced a masterpiece in the first go. Friends and family always will say how brilliant it is, but that is almost never the truth.  They're too worried about hurting your feelings. The comments I got back on the first iteration of The Basement were absolutely brutal. Honest, but brutal.

FU:  In what way?

PMP:  You name it.  Too much telling. Not enough showing. Trying to be too literary. Not being literary enough. Not enough information. Assuming too much. Not giving enough for the reader to identify with the character.  Lack of clarity. Being too safe. Not pushing out of my comfort zone. There were a lot of problems. It needed extensive revision. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I did it.  Over and over again, I might add.

FU:  Just how many drafts were there?

PMP:  In total? Seven, I think. It certainly wasn't a masterpiece on the first go.

FU:  That must have been awful.

PMP: Awful isn't the right word. Frustrating, painful and arduous are closer.  But it was also extremely rewarding. It made me a better writer and I am very proud of The Basement, much more so than any of my academic publications.  That said, being a researcher prepared me very well for this process.

FU:  How? I mean, it obviously taught you how to write for publication but aren't fiction and non-fiction light years apart?

PMP:  Yes, most definitely.  Drama and characterization or even being interesting don't enter into academic writing, so they are completely different beasts. But what I mean is that writing for peer-reviewed academic journals prepared me for harsh criticism.

FU:  In what way?

PMP: Well to get published in one of those journals, your paper is read not only by an editor but also by three other experts in your specific subject--like discrimination in criminal sentences or police use of deadly force.  Each expert gives you a no-holds-barred report about what is good and what is bad about your paper.  Then the editor cobbles them all together and makes a decision about what s/he is going to do with your paper.  For the best journals, over 95% of papers get what's known as a "reject" at this stage.

FU: Meaning they won't publish you?

PMP: Right. The next possibility is what everyone hopes for: "Revise and Re-submit."  That means they tell you to make changes and if you make those changes to the satisfaction of the reviewers, they might publish your piece.

FU:  Might? So they can still reject you after you've made their changes?

PMP:  Yep.  Once, I went through three rounds of "Revise and Re-submit" at the world's top criminology journal only to get a "Reject" after the last one.

FU:  That must have really sucked.

PMP:  It did.  But, it also prepared me to take harsh criticism, accept it and work through it.  It didn't really faze me to get harsh criticism on the first draft of The Basement because I was so used to that sort of thing from academia.  I just went with it.

FU: And created an outstanding piece of fiction as a result.

PMP:  Thank you.

FU:  So what inspired you for that story?  I don't imagine you encountered many serial killers in academia.

PMP: No, not many there. But I did when I worked in the Department of Corrections. Actually, I have always been a big Thomas Harris fan.  I wanted to write something on par with Silence of the Lambs--which is a great film but an even better book. That was a big inspiration.

FU:  But Agent Chapel is no knock-off of Agent Starling.  She's really sarcastic and catty with those internal thoughts of hers.  I nearly busted a gut when I read that bit about the Kardashians...and also Jevington being a porn star.

PMP:  That's one of the areas where my editor helped me the most.  He said I was being too safe and not letting Chapel be a real character with a real personality.  He suggested giving her those thoughts that we all have but would never dare voice. So I did.

FU:  And it worked brilliantly too. That really lulled me into a false sense of security. I didn't see the horror coming at all.  You really turned it on a dime.

PMP:  I thank my editor for that too.

FU:  So what are you doing as a follow up?

PMP: Well, I've just released The House.  This is a psychological thriller. My main character, Prue, is basically teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown.  They find a DIY special that is meant to be her refuge.  It turns out to be anything but.

FU: And did you go through seven edits on that one too?

PMP:  Thankfully only three.

FU: I understand that Prue has a bit more in common with you than Chapel did.

PMP:  I don't know about that.  I'm pretty no-nonsense and don't think I'm currently on the edge of a nervous breakdown. LOL!  But I know what you mean.  Prue is an academic, so I could really bring her experiences to life based upon things I saw firsthand.

FU:  And what's next on your plate?

PMP:  Well, I'm still working on the full length novel, The Lake Car, of which The Basement was an excerpt. I also have a new novella in the works called Cyberbully.  It basically deals with someone who loves to abuse the Internet and the other people on it, but finds someone who bites back much
harder than one would ever expect.

FU:  That sounds like a lot! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us.

PMP:  It was my pleasure!

No comments:

Post a Comment