Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut book, Stealing Jake, won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family.Contact Pam at her website, http://www.pamhilllman.com.
How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?
I honestly can’t remember how I came up with the exact idea for the pickpocket theme, but it was the old adage of opposites attract. If she’s a thief, he’s a lawman. Okay, she’s a reformed thief…or is she? Livy is short for Olivia, which came from Oliver Twist, so that was my jumping off place.
Tyndale House Publishers used to publish 2 Heartquest anthologies a year. Tyndale has been my dream publisher from the beginning, and I submitted novella proposals several times trying to break in. Stealing Jake (then Stealing Jake’s Heart) was one of those submissions. Tyndale put out guidelines for a Cowboy Christmas anthology, so the story had to involve Christmas and have a historical setting. Stealing Jake didn’t make the cut for the anthology, but I loved the idea so much that I went back to it later and turned it into a full-length novel. It just happened to be the novel my agent and I were shopping when word went out that Tyndale was launching the Digital First Initiative.
Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication? How did you find out and what went through your mind?
I’ve been writing most of my life, but seriously started pursuing publication a little over 15 years ago. I found out about the offer through an email from my agent, Steve Laube. Honestly, at that point, the business side of me kicked in. Old habits are hard to break. I didn’t get the giddy feeling everyone talks about, until Seekerville hosted a first sale party for me and we had over 400 comments. Now, that was fun!
Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I’ve heard some people say there is no such thing as writer’s block, but there are times when I am not productive. Whether that’s because the plot hasn’t gelled, the characters aren’t fleshed out enough, or I ate too many burritos for lunch is debatable. I just read my notes, brainstorm with the Seekers, or write the scene from a different pov, or go online and research something. When all else fails, I write through it, and come back and fix it later.
A romance starts, “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.”
I can build off of that.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
I don’t use a lot of external visuals to get motivated. Most of what I see is in my head. But every so often, I’ll find a picture that speaks to me. I have picture of a grape arbor on my desktop that plays an important part in another manuscript I’ve been working on. I can look at that breezy arbor and imagine all sorts of scenes with my hero and heroine.
Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What's the most difficult part of writing for you?
The most difficult part is digging myself out of the hole you mentioned! I get my characters and my plot into a blackberry briar patch all the time. I know what I want to happen, but realize it’s going to be pretty difficult getting from A to B, and almost impossible to jump to Z.
How do you overcome it?
I wrestle with it for awhile. Plot, brainstorm, research a bit. Try a few rabbit trails. Bring in reinforcements if needed. Eventually, I fight my way out of the briars, scratched and bleeding, dragging my characters with me. But the resulting blackberry cobbler is just as good as I dreamed it would be. And when I get to share it with others, as I have with Stealing Jake, it’s even better!
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?
I write on my laptop at home in the den, or at the dining room table. Sometimes I hole up an empty Sunday school room at church. An attic nook sounds so inviting!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Like many authors, I have a day job, so a typical day is to hit the ground running. Write, check email, do a little ACFW business, go to the day job, check email on my lunch break, then start the whole process over as soon as I’m off work. I have to structure my days off very carefully to get everything done.
Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?
It’s amazing how I can visualize a scene, but when it comes time to write it, getting it down does feel like pulling hair off a caterpillar with a pair of tweezers. But then sometimes I’ll get in the zone with a scene that just flows like a mountain stream, and after an hour or two, I’m amazed at the amount of work I’ve accomplished. So, bottom line, my production is fairly unpredictable!
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
Write every day. Better yet, finish one manuscript and start another one, don’t just keep working on the same manuscript forever and a day.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Find a group of writers who are serious about publication, and stick to them like glue. The Seekers formed in 2005 with the goal of praying all fifteen into publication. We met our goal in May 2011 when I became the last one to receive a contract. We cheer successes, and bemoan failures, then we prop each other up for the next round. Find a group or form one. It might take a while to find just the right fit, but you’ll be glad you did.
When Livy O'Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she's helping to run an orphanage. Now she'll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.