Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Q & A with Pamela Samuels Young

November 1st 2009 by Goldman House Publishing
Paperback, 370 pages
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Waverly Shaw is a down-on-his-luck lawyer who stumbles upon a potentially lucrative business just when he's about to hit rock bottom. In his new line of work as a viatical broker, Waverly comes to the rescue of people in desperate need of cash. There's a catch, however, his clients must be terminally ill and willing to sign over rights to their life insurance policies before they receive a dime. Waverly then finds investors to advance them thousands of dollars—including a hefty broker's fee for himself—in exchange for a significant return on their investment once the clients take their last breath. The stakes get higher when Lawrence Erickson, who's bucking to become the next U.S. Attorney General, hires Waverly to broker the insurance policy of his cancer-stricken wife. But Waverly's clients start dying sooner than they should, and Erickson—who has some skeletons of his own to hide—is unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail, and murder. With two determined federal prosecutors hot on his trail, Waverly is on the run, and this time he might need some life insurance.---Goodreads

Q-Please describe Buying Time in your own words.
Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck attorney who provides quick cash to terminally ill patients. His clients, however, must agree to sign over rights to their life insurance policies before they can collect a dime. When Waverly's clients start dying sooner than they should, he’s the number one suspect. Unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder, Waverly goes on the run—with a determined female prosecutor hot on his trail.

Q-What was the easiest and hardest things to write about in Buying Time?
The easiest character to write was Dre. I wanted to make him a good guy despite the bad thing he does for a living. I loved the challenge of doing that and I think I accomplished my goal. The hardest part was the plotting. I had to link the three stories (Waverly’s troubles, Erickson’s search for power, and Angela’s relationship issues) in a believable way. It took lots and lots and lots of rewriting. But here as well, I think I pulled it off.

Q-How much research did you have to do for this book?
I quiet a bit of research on the viatical industry, which included interviewing a viatical broker, reading books and articles about the industry and reading legal decisions handed down in lawsuits involving viatical scams. The most interesting research, however, was for the character Dre, who is a drug dealer. I wanted to create an authentic back story for him, so I found a drug dealer who was willing to talk to me about his business. I actually went to his home and interviewed him. I have to admit that I was quite nervous since I assumed he had drugs in his place. I kept thinking, “If the police happen to conduct a drug raid right this minute, will they really buy my story about being a writer doing research?”

Q-Are any of the characters in this book inspired by real people?
The experiences of Waverly Sloan and Angela Evans, the two main characters in Buying Time, are total figments of my imagination. As noted above, the back story for Dre, who doesn’t fit the mold of your typical drug dealer, is actually based on a real-life person.

Q-What inspired this book?
The idea for Buying Time came to me while chatting with a friend at a party. I knew he was in the insurance business, but when he explained that he was a viatical broker, I started asking lots of questions because I’d never heard of the industry. He explained that a viatical broker helps dying people sell their insurance policies in exchange for cash. Instead of the insurance proceeds going to the deceased’s family after death, they go to the investor who advanced the insured money at a time when they needed it most. By the time he finished explaining how viatical settlements worked, I knew the industry would be a great setting for a legal thriller.

Q-What is your writing process like?
I will spend anywhere from a few weeks to as long as three months outlining a book before I sit down to write. I also mull over my story quite a bit. I'm thinking about it in the shower, while I'm standing in line at the grocery store, and during my 45-minute commute to work. Even during the outlining stage, I can almost see each chapter as if it were a scene in a movie. Only after I have a completed outline do I start writing. And when I write, I go from page one to the last page without doing much editing along the way. For me, it's psychologically motivating to complete that first draft, even if it's so bad I'd never dare show it to anyone. Once I have a first draft, then the real writing starts. I revise, and revise and revise some more. That process can last six months or more.

Q-Were there any scenes that you really liked that didn’t make it in the final copy?
Not a one. In my other books, there was always a chapter or two that didn’t make the cut. But I don’t remember deleting any chapters or scenes in Buying Time.

Q-Have you thought about writing a book in another genre?
Not at all. I really love legal thrillers. I have way more story ideas than I have time to write.

Q-Are you working on anything right now?
The book I’m currently writing is called Attorney-Client Privilege. It’s another Vernetta Henderson mystery and will be the fourth book in the series. (Buying Time is my first stand-alone novel.) In Attorney-Client Privilege, a suspicious death, a missing file and an opposing counsel who'll do anything to win, lead Vernetta on a search for justice—as well as revenge. Assuming I can continue to keep all my balls in the air, Attorney-Client Privilege will be released in Summer 2011.

Q-Is there something about yourself that most people would be surprised to know?
Yes, I like going to bed early! If I could hit the sack every night at eight, I would. But I love getting up early to write. The house is so still and quiet at four in the morning. That’s my favorite time to write.

Q-How long does it take you to write a book?
These days, it takes me about a year to complete a book. It took me three years to complete my first novel, so I’m definitely a lot faster. And I’m still practicing law, mind you. I don’t write every day or even every week. When I can, I’ll take a three-day weekend or a week off and just write for 8-10 hours a day. Somehow, it gets done!

I received this book for review from Pamela Samuels Young and Pump Up Your Book.
Thank you!

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