A conversation with Patricia
Q: What inspired you to write fiction?
Patricia: I think writing stories/fiction was in my genes. When I was in first grade, we learned to read with Dick and Jane stories. I went home and wrote my own story series, named Jean and Jerry. I kept writing fiction through my undergraduate college days. In graduate school and during my college teaching years, I had no time for that kind of writing, but when I retired, I wrote a history of my family. That became the bridge between my academic publications and my old love, fiction, for, though the family history was researched and documented, it took the form of a narrative.
Q: Your novella is both a romance and a thriller. What made you decide on this combination of genres?
Patricia: Those are my two favorite genres. Romantic love is something most of us need and hope for in our lives—look at the themes of songs, movies, literature. Also, romance can involve personal growth, something I’m interested in as a teacher. “Thrillers” involve adventure, suspense, conflict between good and evil forces, and thrill can add to the drama of love. One inspiration for Stranger was a thriller I read as a teenager—The Floods of Fear by John and Ward Hawkins. It was three people caught in a huge flood—a good escaped convict, an evil fellow convict, and a young woman. After reading it, I wrote a short story with similar characters but in a hurricane rather than a flood. Decades later, in my retirement, I found that early story and turned it, with major changes, into Stranger in the Storm.
Q: Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
Patricia: That’s hard to answer because I love them all, even the bad ones. But if I have to choose, I’ll say Janet, who is partially autobiographical. She has earned a masters of fine arts at NYU; I earned a masters in English at Columbia University in New York City. Janet’s parents have a lake house on Great Sacandaga Lake in the foothills of the Adirondacks in upstate New York, where she spent her childhood summers; my parents had a cottage there where we spent our summers. Janet aspires to be a novelist, as, now, so do I (though at a much later stage of my life). Needless to say, I identify with Janet and cheer her in her aspirations.
Q: Why did you choose Great Sacandaga Lake as the setting?
Patricia: I could close my eyes and see scenes of that lake from my childhood—the sights, the sounds, the smells. Setting the story there made the events very real to me—and I think that communicated to many of the novella’s readers. One wrote, “The upstate setting with its big lake, small towns and dairy farms is used effectively to expose and develop the characters.” Another, “The specific detail [of a novel] is what always decides for me. If I am told that something happens at a lake, I want to know what the lake looks like, how the boat is tied to the dock, and so on. Otherwise it’s like a little kid’s drawing that misses all the crucial details. So thank you, Pat, for a proper book.”
Q: Has anything surprised you about your experience as a debut author?
Patricia: Actually, that Stranger in the Storm WAS my debut novel surprised me. Almost two years earlier, my historical fiction Second Wives, about my nineteenth-century ancestors (inspired by the research into my family history), had been accepted by a press, and I thought that would be my debut. As I waited for it to go through the editing process, I wrote Stranger in the Storm, which was accepted by The Wild Rose Press and released in June 2020. Meanwhile, that first press had been sold. Second Wives had languished so long in its editorial queue that I asked for and received my rights back. So Stranger in the Storm was my debut novel after all.
Q: What can we expect from you next?
Patricia: I hope to find a home for that novel about my ancestors. And I am working on another romance that has elements of thrill, this one set where I am living now—in Athens, Georgia.