Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for August: (8/3) Dianne Freeman (8/10) Daryl Wood Gerber (8/17) E. B. Davis's Review of Granite Oath, James M. Jackson's new novel (8/24) Rose Kerr (8/31) V. M. Burns.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Author Pat Remick

Our guest blogger today is Pat Remick, 2010 President of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime and 2007 winner of the Al Blanchard Award. Like Stacy Juba, one of our earlier guest bloggers, and like Hank Phillippi Ryan, nominated for the Agatha Award for best mystery of 2010, both members of the New England chapter, Pat has journalistic experience.

So, Pat, tell us about yourself.

“It’s All Novel Material”

by Pat Remick

When it comes to life, “it’s all novel material.”

Everything in our pasts, the present and even our futures can be grist for great stories if we simply add imagination and a few “what ifs.” The first seeds of a compelling mystery can stem from a brief experience or observation, a conversation overheard or even a fleeting emotion. Or it might emanate from something life-shattering and overpowering.

If we can harness the ingredients, mix them up a little and convey them in a way that entertains and/or affects someone, we create wonderful fiction. You could say we’re recycling the world around us.

But as many of us know, it’s not always that simple. To paraphrase a saying familiar to many authors, writing fiction is more difficult than real life because fiction has to make sense.

Real crime doesn’t always make sense – which may be one reason that journalists like me often turn to writing mysteries. We need to find the truth and understand horrific events that are not easily explainable.

My first encounter with this cruel reality came on August 24, 1975, when a beautiful blonde newlywed named Deborah Sue Williamson was brutally stabbed 17 times outside her Lubbock, Texas, home. I was a young police beat reporter when the 18-year-old’s murder shocked the West Texas city. My editor vowed there would be a front-page story every day until it was solved. By the time he gave up months later, I knew far too much about the case and the young woman’s history, but no one had discovered a credible motive for her slaying.

More than 35 years later, her murder remains unsolved. And although I did not attempt to write a mystery until relatively recently, her death and the many other tragedies I’ve observed over the years greatly influence my writing today.

I spent decades as a journalist working for newspapers, United Press International, CNN and a variety of other media outlets, as well as co-authoring two professional development books – “21 Things Every Future Engineer Should Know”

and “21 Things Every Home Inspector Should Know.” (link )

What are your present plans for your writing?

These days I primarily work for the City of Portsmouth, NH, as a writer and in other capacities that provide health insurance. A few years ago, I decided it was time to write a novel although I hadn’t written fiction since college. Being a longtime fan, I decided to try a mystery –and possibly exorcise some of the demons from my police beat days. I plunged in by entering the 3-Day Novel Contest (link: ) and wrote 168 pages over a Labor Day weekend. They became the beginnings of a first draft of my Continuous Novel in Progress (CNIP) entitled “Murder Most Municipal.”

Tell us about your involvement with Sisters in Crime

In 2007, I entered a story in the New England Crime Bake Conference’s ( short story contest and won. “Mercy 101” stemmed from being tailgated on NH Route 101 by a teenager in a beater car. As my road rage increased, I wondered what would make someone angry enough to kill over it and a short story was born. (It’s all novel material!)

Winning the Al Blanchard Award led to two years of judging this wonderful short story contest and increased involvement in the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime (, where I’ve met amazing women (and men) who also love the mystery genre. I served as president last year, which also meant co-chairing the 2010 New England Crime Bake with Charlaine Harris as guest of honor and a dedicated group of mystery writers donating endless hours to its success.

And now:

Although I loved the involvement with the mystery community, I’ve stepped away from nearly all commitments this year to concentrate on my own writing and finishing that CNIP.

And with each new story I begin and every day I work on my CNIP, I think about Deborah Sue Williamson and the other victims as I incorporate pieces of their stories into my writing.

Not only is it “all novel material,” I am inordinately grateful that fiction allows me to right wrongs, ensure the killers are caught and guarantee justice for the dead and their families.

Why do you write mysteries?


Ramona said...

I attended last year's Crime Bake. Pat put on a great conference, and the Al Blanchard Award is a real opportunity.

My husband is a longtime journalist, and there is one murder he covered long ago that haunts me. The victim was a child, the killers were older boys from his neighborhood. "Everybody" knew it, but the case was bungled and no one was ever convicted. I still think about that poor kid who died horribly and no one served a day for killing him.

You're right, Pat. It's all material.

Warren Bull said...

Welcome, Pat! I loved your award-winning story. My background as a psychologist has given me lots of material. I think the crimes that effect the investigators provide the best structure for emotionally-moving stories. And there's no doubt that a writer has to give up other interests to concentrate on writing. I recently had a book of short stories published while I wait for someone to accept another of my novels. You might consider that. By all means keep writing.

Pauline Alldred said...

I think it's amazing how much work goes into planning chapter events including Crimebake. I guess that's true for much volunteer work--garden clubs, bird watching, or community work. If a person had to work that long at a day job, he/she would expect overtime pay.

I hope you'll be able to concentrate on your WIP now.

Pat Remick said...

Thanks for your comments everyone! Today I'm working on a short story but I do hope to get back to that WIP very soon -- even if it means giving up some fun things. Thanks also for the Crime Bake comments -- it was a memorable conference, that's for sure!