November 2nd, 2018
I asked Patt where she would like to chat:
The noise from the round-a-bout, stops you in your tracks. Looking around, you see
drivers positioning for an orderly entrance. Shrugging, you pull open the coffee shop door. Though it’s a chain, this shop had an intimate atmosphere with its quiet music and collection of variable seating. Stopping before the gas fireplace, you use the action of warming your backside to take a cursory look at the seated customers. You’re there to meet Laura Mae. Up to now you had only communicated through email, but today the meeting is for the actual interview. Going up to the counter with a sufficiently toasted rear, you order a large latte, hoping all the while someone would come up and ask if you were “Patt.”
Politely, you thank the waitress for the hazelnut latte you settled for because it wasn’t the right season for gingerbread and turn around. Sitting by herself is a woman of indeterminate age, pen and unopened notebook before her on the table. Even though it’s comfortably warm, she is still wearing her coat which makes you think she might be unsure about staying. Your eyes meet, and she smiles. Smiling in return, you take a chance that this is Laura Mae, and walk up to introduce yourself.
“Hello, my name is Patt. Are you Laura?”
Standing with her hand out, “Yes, I am. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
Your smile broadens as you shake her hand, then you both sit down. “And you! I hope you didn’t wait too long?”
“Not at all. Watching the cars maneuver the round-a-bout has been entertaining. In fact, I thought there was going to be an accident just before you came in.”
“I know, I heard it, but I didn’t see…”
Laura Mae: Hello Patt! How are you today?
P. A. O’Neil: I’m fine, Laura, thank you for speaking with me today.
L: No, thank you! So what have you been up to today? Get any writing done, or gearing up for NaNoWriMo?
P: This past week I made half a dozen short story submissions, received a couple of rejections, received a story back from my editor to add to the rotation, received notice of an acceptance for an anthology, and started another short story in a new genre. As for NaNoWriMo, yes and no. I don’t participate in the normal sense, writing a complete story of 50k words in 30 days. I am though going to take this time to edit the novel I wrote two years ago. I figure this is an excellent time to share in the camaraderie as well as the excitement.
L: Holy moley! You have a lot going on girl! How do you do it all? I’m overwhelmed just by thinking of all that!
P: My productive time is anywhere between 11 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday. I treat my writing as a job, so unless I have something else schedule at that time, like my day job or an appointment, I can be found in front of the computer doing something writing related. I don’t work on the computer on weekends out of respect for my husband, those are his days off and I don’t know what I’m going to do when he retires, but it helps to keep things fresh.
L: Like a well-oiled machine! I love it! What do you think started your love of writing?
P: It’s not so much writing as it is storytelling, writing is just a vehicle. I have created other worlds and situations since I was a young child. High school Creative Writing class set me on a path that I took into college. As a freshman, I wrote a radio play which was produced by the class.
L: That’s so cool! What do you mostly write about? Fantasy, non-fiction, romance, ect?
P: Everything really, but mostly what some refer to as Speculative. I take a story of a regular genre, say Romance or History, and give it a twist.
L: I like that idea. I bet you come up with some really awesome concepts! I know you have published a lot, Patt, but do you think you could tell me what your most prized one is? And why?
P: The three that presently have the most meaning are “Witness Testimony” from the Relationship Add Vice anthology, “Trixie Neumann, I Want to be a Princess” from the Inner Circle Writers’ Group Anthology: Windows, and “Georgia, 1966” which was featured on the website for Spillwords Press aka Spillwords.com.
The first reads like a Romance between two adults who meet on a vacation, but it turns dark fast. It was the first story I wrote with deep emotion. The second is meaningful to me because the character is dear to my heart. Trixie is a combination of a woman my father used to work with and a little bit of myself. Lastly, the one on the website was based on a true story, a personal experience my mother, her sister, and their mother actually had. It was probably the hardest story to write so far because it involved real people, so even though I wanted to capture their personalities to make the tale feel real, I didn’t want to capture enough to cause anyone living any discomfort or embarrassment. Fortunately, the surviving member of the trio loved the tale and gave me full permission to have it published.
L: Very cool! I see you base a lot of your characters from people in real life! I like when that happens! Now Patt, do you have a personal favorite literary character from books you’ve read?
P: Yes, indeed! My favorite character, ever, is Dr. John H. Watson. Even though he is portrayed as the “second banana” in the Sherlock Holmes’ tales, I like him because he represents the reader in the tales. Sometimes as the narrator, other times just a character, but because he is intelligent, wounded, resourceful, and optimistic, he is the perfect bookend to the SH character as Arthur Conan Doyle intended to portray him. His “ordinariness” makes Holmes all the more sharper, rude, curious, and successful. He allows for the reader to not only be memorized by Holmes, but because often SH over-thinks the problem and Watson provides the simplistic solution, allows the reader a feeling of accomplishment when the story is finished.
L: Great answer! I can see why you would like him. Much more simplistic than Holmes making us attach to him more as a person. Love it! Is the Sherlock Homes your favorite series then? Or do you have different favorite as far as books go?
P: I’ll read anything based on Sherlock Holmes, but I have other series that I follow(ed) and a book or two that I will reread every few years. The series are The Dresden Files, but I have also read all six books each of the Dune and the Earthsea series. The two books I must have on my shelf, even to the point of my searching for the exact cover copy of the one I had when I first became intrigued, are Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott and the other Sing to Me of Dreams by Kathryn Lynn Davis.
L: Lovely! That’s so great! What would you say is your favorite part about writing? AND you’re least favorite?
P: The favorite part is when the story is so vivid in your mind that it practically writes itself. The characters “talk” to you making it easier to capture their feelings and expressions. The least is the waiting. I could say it is the self-editing, but waiting for Beta readers to give comment, for the editor to return story (fortunately, my editor is pretty swift), answers for submissions, and once a story is accepted–waiting for the release date. I could’ve said the rejections or as I like to think of them as declinations because they can sting, but this is a business and I look at it that I just didn’t make the sale.
L: I’ve heard about characters talking to you. Sadly, that’s never happened to me. Not yet anyways! But yes, I agree that waiting, waiting, waiting is the worst part! Even if it’s good or bad news! So you mentioned that you have self-published, which is so awesome by the way! But can you tell me why you decided to do self-publishing over traditional?
P: I am a short story writer, but all of my publishers have been independent operations. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my novel yet. “Finding Jane” might end up being self-published or offered to an independent. I kind of did things backwards. I hadn’t written anything in a good thirty years, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have stories in my head, and about two years ago I sat down and wrote a novel. After that, I didn’t know what to do with it, so some FB friends who were authors suggested I join some writing groups. There they challenged me to sharpen my skills by writing small pieces and offering them for publication. My first story accepted was published exactly a year ago in October 2017. Since then I have had fourteen stories accepted, some still awaiting release, and I have never looked back. I never forgot “Finding Jane”, so this November, I’m spending my NaNoWriMo time retyping the entire story, editing it as I go. Who knows, I might have something worth publishing in the end?
L: Very cool! Good luck with that, too! Do you have any favorite writing tropes or ones you wish they would have more of in books?
P: No, not really. I think that is because I write in so many different base genres. I have done modern westerns, romance, paranormal, comedy, thriller, and mystery. I did discover recently that “death” plays a minor character in most of my stories. Not often in a negative sense, sometimes it is just a reason for the characters to be in the scene. I chalk it up to being just another station on the train of life.
L: Interesting. Death being a character, very cool! So no favorite, but how about least favorite?
P: Probably intentionally cruel or criminal ones. After my love of SH stories, that must sound silly. I know there are bad people, as there are good, but it’s what motivates a person to do a bad thing that I can understand in relation to the overall experience. But stories where people are intentionally mean, raping their family members, neglecting children and animals, killing just for the thrill–yeah, I’ll pass on reading stories like these. I’ve got better things to do with my time.
L: I totally understand that! No one has time for that! Where would you say you get most of inspiration from when coming up with all your different stories?
P: Dreams! I have always had very vivid dreams, some of them complete storylines. If a dream hangs with me when I wake up, I will note the basics asap.
L: Yas! Another dreamer! It’s seriously awesome! How many stories do you think you’ve written based on dreams?
P: Written… three dozen or so. Not all of them have been collected in electronic form. Some of these were hand written years ago and have yet to be brought before a Beta/Editor.
L: That’s a lot! Congrats on that! Are there any authors out there that you love? Maybe even learn from?
P: Oh, yes. I have become friends with other short story writers through my FB writing groups. Steve Carr is a master at storytelling. His stories always have a ‘punch you in the gut’ ending. I have cried over his characters before. Gary Bonn is another great. He writes stories in a manner I like to think I do. He drops you in to a scene where action has already taken place, gets you involved with the characters, and then pulls you out of the story making the reader say, “Hey, I want to know more!” I like to think a good short story is written like a good chapter, it makes you want to turn the page to find more. Novel authors I admire are Kathryn Lynn Davis, but I will read just about anything David Stuart Davies, Larry Millett, and Donald Thomas write.
L: I agree! You always have to leave them wanting more! Do you have any musical inspirations? Any songs or genre that gives you that spark?
P: I always have Alternative Music on the radio from a local Seattle station. Even though they repeat their songs every couple of hours, I like it for a couple of reasons. First, there are always stories that can be gleaned from the message or emotion of the songs played. Second, I have a tendency to lose track of time and if I sit down with a specific piece of music, when it plays again the back of my mind give me a nudge to either get up and stretch or leave to do other things.
L: I love alternative! It’s so relaxing. It’s actually what I’m listening to right now! Lol! Alright Patt, since you have done so much already, what could you tell us about aspiring authors/storytellers out there to inspire them?
P: Don’t wait. Don’t wait until you have more time. Don’t wait until you have more money. Don’t wait until the kids are grown or it become more convenient. If you have stories in you, write them. They may not be perfect and you many never offer them for publication, but don’t let them fester and eventually wither away until they are like lost friends. If you want to become a better writer, then read about how to do it right. If you feel a lack of support from your family, then join groups (online or in person) and create a new family to support your dreams and your efforts. Invest in a professional editor if your intention is to publish, it will save embarrassment down the road. Learn to take rejection as part of the business, and yes, writing for publication is a small business and you are its owner. Lastly, don’t forget there are others who were once in your shoes, ask them for help when needed, and there are other starting where you were, offer them help when they ask.
L: Excellent! I love that! All so very true! Thank you so much Patt for chatting with me today!
P: You’re welcome, Laura, it was my pleasure to share the story of my ‘journey’ with you.
P.A. O’Neil is relatively new to writing with the first anniversary for publication of her stories coming in October 2018. Since then her work has been accepted in ten anthologies, two literary journals, and an on-line magazine. She has worked with publishers on four continents, and two of the books made it to best-selling status within hours of their release. Born in in southern California, her family moved to a small town in Washington state when she was twelve. What seemed like a culture shock to some, allowed her to experience what it means to simultaneously be in the minority and the majority. She treasurers her Mexican and Irish ancestry for the rich cultures both heritages allow her to experience and express.
“Well, that closet’s empty.” Carrie set down the armload of dusty boxes and briskly wiped her hands against each other. “What have you got there?”
“What—oh, just a box of letters Mom must’ve written to Dad over the years.”
“Really? I didn’t think your folks were ever separated for any great length of time. I mean, it’s not like he was in the army or anything.”
I patted on the mattress indicating my cousin should sit. “No, but for years their vacation schedules were not compatible, so Mom would take us kids with her leaving Dad behind. This box is full of postcards and letters she sent, so he would feel included.”…