Tuesday, 4 June 2013

It's Not What You Know . . .

With much pleasure I present Scottish born, multi lingual, multi talented, multi published, the much travelled --  the funny -- the charming --


who proves:  It’s not what you know …


Whenever I’m wrangling a new plot, the concept of ‘write about what you know’ tends to crop up.


Sometimes, rarely (!), a book just happens. This was the case with my first book to be published, Tomorrow’s Anecdote, which is semi-autobiographical. This book had a cathartic urgency to be written. I didn’t actively decide to set a book against the backdrop of 1980s journalism. It simply appeared on my screen. I needed to get the memory of those turbulent times out of my system, and I feel better for it.



Other titles involved some planning. As a student, I did some research for a thesis on the theory of comedy in 17th-century Spanish interludes. Obscure, but fascinating. I always knew I’d love to work the topic into a book, and on a trip to Loch Lomond some years ago, the character of Alexandra Milton, archivist, popped into my head. Dark Interlude, my forthcoming title with Muse, was great fun re-researching, and fans of authentic detail will be happy to know I ran it past my former supervisor to make sure I hadn’t done anything silly. He liked the blend of fact and fiction. All good.


Every so often I plunge into the new. Half Life, inspired a trip to Tromsø, required researching into particle physics and pre-war Nazis. I do like a challenge, but of course, I cheated. My professor husband is an expert in both. I warmed to the concept of using an in-house consultant. After all, I’m finally going to run out of topics with which I am conversant, surely?


Inspired by family holiday to Montenegro, I got it into my head to write a fantasy series. I do read a good deal of already (such as the Edge Chronicles, for example), but I’d never tried my hand at writing for this audience myself. After fierce scribbling, I came up with Legends of Liria and the main thrust of the story, partially based on the country’s melodramatic past. A desperate bid to outwit the dastardly Kurova Grax and her evil dynasty.


The film ‘Prince of Persia’ was all the rage at the time, and I decided to redress the balance, and have not one, but two strong female leads. The prince is agile and athletic – an expert in parkour (nicknamed PK!) – so what would the girls do? My daughter provided the answer. For many years, she attended a local theatre group called the Dream Factory where she specialised in aerial skills.

Think Cirque du Soleil, and you’ll know the sort of thing: aerial silks, trapeze, aerial hoops (cerceaux), ropes …


In addition, the advanced workshops did spinning fire poi, flags, quickfire skipping from Double Dutch to … well, you get the drift.


Again, I needed to bring in the expertise. I can’t climb a rope without giggling. I dangle at the bottom, spinning in slow, embarrassing circles. In fact, I’ve no incentive to climb, for I have no head for heights. I did a little bit of gymnastics at school, but the PE teachers banned us. Ridiculous, I know. In their minds, one did hockey or nothing. In fact, I hid in the cloakrooms doing my Latin homework, but that’s another story.



Back in Liria, Svila is queen of the air, while the younger Petra is dextrous –
fire poi, juggling, sleight of hand, diabolo … They are entertaining to write about – for between them, they can do just about anything, and with style. It seems plausible to me that with their talents, they can outwit the most dastardly enemy.


So, yes. I admit my knowledge of such skills is vicarious, but I do know something of the practicalities because I was one of the many volunteer parents at Dream Factory productions. We had quite a checklist: ice packs for sprains, giant plasters for silk burns, kitchen towels for nose bleeds (I wasn’t keen on those), liquid bandaid for cuts, tape for twisted fingers. On top of the first-aid, we also had to think quickly to fix hairdos that collapsed when the performer was upside-down, find safety pins to repair costumes that got ripped and tangled in the trapeze, ensure the younger ones didn’t sneak in chewy sweets or fizzy drinks … All great fun.


But at end of the day, I have never climbed a silk. But I have to admit, it was enlightening to interrogate daughter for every last detail. How do you create a footlock? What do you do if you feel yourself slipping? How much upper body strength do you really need? Why does it help to have strong hands? Why are oversplits better? Is flexibility a good thing?


So, Legends of Liria began to take shape, and my two heroines explore new challenges in each title, hopefully with a level of realism that will make the journey so much more exciting for younger readers.


Conclusion? It’s not what you know, but who you know.


Other friends and family members take note. For the next book, I might need your help … You know I won’t be afraid to ask.

Like to learn more about Pamela Kelt?

Follow Pam on Twitter and Facebook. Find out all the latest on her author website and blog. Or why not send her and email ?

Check out author pages on
Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Goodreads and Smashwords.


Tomorrow's Anecdote – Now out on Crooked Cat

Dark Interlude – out 21 June 2013 MuseItUp

Half Life (with Robert J Deeth) – out August 2013 MuseItUp
Ice Trekker – out September 2013 MuseItUp

The Lost Orchid – out soon Bluewood Publishing

The Cloud Pearl (Legends of Liria) – out November 2013 MuseItUp


Rosalie Skinner said...

Hi Pam, Wendy,
Another great post. I love learning more about you and your books! They are so diverse.
The circus tricks are a great addition to a story!

Pat McDermott said...

My, what an eclectic collection of stories you've started, Pam! I love the imaginative variety of topics, and I wish you well with your future writing endeavors. BTW, congrats on your upcoming MuseItUp release! And thank you, Wendy, for featuring this talented lady.

Cheryl said...

I agree not to let ignorance stop you from writing! After all, you can always find a source to interrogate! Sounds like you're doing just fine, Pam!

Wendy said...

Hi Rosalie, I agree, adding relevant circus elements could enrich stories in many genres.

Hi Pat, It's amazing how even the most vivid of imaginations can send an author on the research trail.

Hi Cheryl, 'as source to interrogate' --LoL. We all do that, don't we? Sometime we can be quite subtle in our questioning but at other times we must be blatant.

Wendy said...

Pam, speaking of asking for information, I remember when my dad made a copper plaque on commission. I went to the store and noticed it wasn't in the window or inside anymore, but Dad hadn't been notified of a sale. Very cleverly I questioned the store owner without her knowing of my connection to the artist. She gave me a glowing review of Dad's talent which I've since worked into a story. Also I ordered another plaque, so that she'd have to contact Dad and pay him for the first one. He said something about having his arm in a sling so wouldn't be able to do anymore for her. Devious people, all three of us. haha. Good Title for a book.

Edith Parzefall said...

Way to go, Pamela. Exploring and researching things we aren't too familiar with is far more interesting for writers and readers, I think.

Beth Overmyer said...

I agree about the "who you know." I'm going to use my grandpa for WWII stories. He was a veterinarian in the US Army, 10th Mountain Division (he keeps asking me to write his stories.) And I have a psychiatrist friend who will hopefully answer a few questions for my current WIP.

Best of luck with your books!

Wendy said...

Hi Edith, I agree. Like Pam, I like to learn as I write either by asking questions of experts or researching in books and on line.

Hi Beth, Your grandfather will be a very good source, not only for his knowledge but for his voice. He will have a unique way with expressions from his time. You should be making notes of his quirky sayings now. I wish I had when my g'father was alive.

Pamela Kelt said...

Hi, Rosalie,
Glad you like the aerial skills angle. It's all based on what young people can actually do. They really are amazing to watch, although I did get nervous every time Lauren did the 'drop', where the artist wraps herself in the silk and tumbles, stopping just inches from the floor.

Pamela Kelt said...

Hi, Pat,
Glad you found the time to read the article. It is quite a mix, isn't it? I rather like juggling the styles, if you'll excuse the pun.

Pamela Kelt said...

Hi, Cheryl,
I do like research - although it can get very distracting. It's always good to talk to an expert, too. Lucky me, I have an interesting bunch of friends!

Pamela Kelt said...

Hi, Wendy,
Lovely tale about the plaque. I do tend to work in as many authentic happenings as possible, not consciously, I admit. They just appear!

Pamela Kelt said...

Hi, Beth,
Your grandfather's connection is just invaluable. I'm already looking forward to the book. Oral history is often overlooked.