Today we’re joined by Pamela King Cable, author of the chilling Televenge and the heartwarming Southern Fried Women. Her latest, The Sanctum, is a moving coming-of-age story dealing with one of America’s most pressing issues: racism. The novel features King’s usual blend of supernatural elements, mysteries in society and secrets of the heart to create evocative, heart-piercing stories.
How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?
I could get myself in trouble, answering this question. If somebody tells you they’re not writing to make money, they are lying to you. We all want paid for our work. If a painter gets paid for his masterpieces, if a landscaper pockets cash for the curb appeal he adds to his client’s homes, and if a caterer makes a living on the weddings and parties she slaves over, then a writer should get paid for her books that took years to complete and publish.
But if you think the money comes easy, think again. You’re not going to get rich. In fact, keep your job. Writing will not pay your bills. Not for a long time. There’s a balance, and unfortunately it’ll take blood, sweat, and tears to find it. The writing and publishing industry is in desperate need of a major overhaul. Know that up front.
Realize the length of time it takes from finishing the novel to publication is painfully long. Some hip, cool publisher needs to find a way to shorten that time period and pass it on to a few of the old goats in the business. Know that the industry has set itself up as a God to the writer. Twenty-three-year-old New York City editors should not be allowed to judge a writer’s work.
Another warning to the newbie—be aware of the old, worn-out process of retailers returning your unsold books. It’s still the most ridiculous part of this business. Total nonsense. If the Gap can’t return its unsold blue jeans to the Levi Company, why should Barnes & Noble be allowed to return its unsold books to the publisher? This is an antiquated process that needs to stop. Now.
Newbies in this business—get your heads out of the clouds and see the writing world for what it truly is. If after you’ve done that, and you still want to write and publish … then do it with your eyes wide open to one final realization. It takes no less than ten years of writing, rewriting, and learning your craft before you are actually ready to publish.
Now, with all that said … there is no greater sense of accomplishment than leaving a legacy of a hard-earned published book. Nothing greater than that …
From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?
I will refer you to my answer in question one. All of the above are big challenges. But instead of fancy/schmancy writing conferences that charge an arm and a leg, and teach you the same worn-out topics they taught you last year and the year before, let’s stop the madness of empty promises. Promises of editor and literary agent contacts. Do you realize how slim your chances are that those editors and literary agents will even remember your name? We need a Writer’s Convention where round table discussions result in finding real solutions to the serious issues at hand.
The problem is that writing is a solitary business. We all work alone. And we like it that way. But until we confront the current issues and make strides to change them, the publishing world will continue to be run by the big dogs … the Mahogany Row Executives who really don’t give a damn about our issues. Their bottom line is all that matters. In the case of traditional publishing, they got us over a barrel and they know it.
What has inspired you to become a writer?
I write about religion and spirituality with paranormal twists unearthed from my family’s history. I write about my passions, what moves me, what shoots out of me like a rocket. My key inspirational force is my spirituality.
I was born in the South, a coal miner’s granddaughter, but my father escaped the mines, went to college and moved his family to Ohio to work for the rubber companies in 1959. I spent every weekend as a little girl traveling back to the Appalachian Mountains. My memories of my childhood run as strong as a steel-belted radial tire and as deep as an Appalachian swimming hole. As a little girl, I was a transplanted hick in a Yankee schoolroom. I grew up in the North. So my influence comes naturally from both regions. But the dusty roads in the coal towns of the ‘sixties are where my career as a writer was born.
How do you come up with your characters, and how do you make them interesting?
For me, it is within sanctuaries of brick and mortar; places of clapboard and canvas that characters hang ripe for picking. From the primitive church services of the mountain clans to the baptisms and sacraments in cathedrals and synagogues all over the world. From the hardworking men and women who testify in every run-down house of God in America to the charismatic high-dollar high-tech evangelicals televised in today’s megachurches, therein lie stories of unspeakable conflict, the forbidden, and often, the unexplained.
Do you plan on writing any other genres?
Not at all. There’s a mountain of material to cover in Historical Fiction. It’s like a black hole, drawing me in with no end in sight. I have stories in my head that may never see the light of day. There’s so little time allotted to any of us. It would take two lifetimes to get these stories from my head onto the page.
What inspired your new novel, The Sanctum?
Late in 2008, and for the next two years, I labored over a new story to give myself a break from the heat and intensity of Televenge. Little did I know of the fierce obsession and passion that would overtake me in writing The Sanctum. Wanting to include the possibility of the paranormal and spirituality from different points of view, I focused on a young girl with fuzzy, red hair who called herself Neeley, and the story began.
This skinny, parentless thirteen-year-old who wore thick eyeglasses and hand-me-down dresses captivated me from page one. Placing my little redheaded girl on a tobacco farm in 1959, and in the caring hands of an elderly African-American male, a rugged individual who wasn’t afraid of his gentle side, I quickly fell in love with them. The novel slowly wrote itself, dragging my heart behind it.
Many of my stories are based on people I’ve known and places I’ve been. History also plays a great part in my work. As a writer it is my desire to transport a reader’s mind—but my ultimate joy is to pierce your heart. When I was a little girl someone in my family taught me respect for all people. He said we were related to the great Martin Luther King since after all, my maiden name is King. I soon realized it wasn’t true, but I never forgot what he said. Later, I discovered blatant prejudice had incubated for decades within my family. My southern grandparents believed wholeheartedly in segregation.
For over a decade I lived near Summerfield, North Carolina, located northwest of Greensboro. This area is historically saturated with horse and tobacco farms, which today still dot the landscape. By chance I discovered James W. Cole (1924-1967) was ordained into the ministry in Summerfield at the Wayside Baptist Church in 1958. He toured as a tent evangelist and broadcast a Sunday morning radio program, becoming an active member of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and eventually the Grand Dragon of North and South Carolina. The man intrigued and appalled me, and since the first part of the book takes place in Summerfield during that time period, I wrote him into the story.
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is located in the recently restored Woolworth’s building in downtown Greensboro, a Woolworth’s that also found its way into my story. As I further studied the Civil Rights Movement, I thought of it in terms of rights for all people. My great grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee, according to our family’s historian. So I then researched the Trail of Tears.
And finally the wolf appeared. An animal that has fascinated me all my life, the wolf is about family and order. It is a subtle character, but a voice to be reckoned with. I studied wolves carefully, and found people who loved the animal enough to create wolf sanctuaries. I spent time on a sanctuary near the town of Bakersville in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a five-hour drive from my home. When I arrived a sign read, The Wolf Sanctum. From that moment I called my novel, The Sanctum.
Have you written other books that have been published?
Southern Fried Women, Satya House Publications, 2010. Beth Hoffman, New York Times Bestselling Author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and Looking For Me, said:
“With a clear Southern voice and a remarkable gift of storytelling, Pamela King Cable has crafted a masterful collection of short stories. In themes ranging from flea markets to coal mine strikes, Southern Fried Women speaks of the wounds, joys, and sacrifices experienced by women who held strong in the winds of adversity and emerged bruised but miraculously unbroken. Each story is as thought provoking as it is beautifully written.”
Televenge, Satya House Publications, 2012. A review in Publisher’s Weekly notes:
“Cable’s unflinching fictional exposé of the dark side of televangelism has a human victim in the person of Andie Oliver. … Cable, a former member of a megachurch, places Andie’s desperate struggle against the oppression of (Reverend) Artury’s church, its brutal inner circle, murderous practices, financial fraud, and (husband) Joe’s abuse. This powerful story, skillfully written and with well-drawn characters, reveals the classic entrapment of vulnerable people in the name of a vengeful god …”
Library Journal wrote:
Televenge is “ … an emotional rollercoaster that ends as intensely as it begins . . . those who commit to Cable’s tome will find themselves captivated and deeply devoted to Andie. Fans of Fannie Flagg and Janet Evanovich will be hooked on this saga of religion, romance, and crime.” Library Journal Editor’s Pick BookExpo America 2012
Do you have a website and a blog? If so where can we find it?
You can find my blog on my website: www.pamelakingcable.com
Twitter: https://Twitter.com/pamelakingcable / @pamelakingcable
To purchase The Sanctum: http://www.amazon.com/Sanctum-Pamela-King-Cable/dp/1938499034/