Monday, May 2, 2011

An Interview with My Friend Pamela Clare

It's launch day for Pamela Clare's new I-Team book, BREAKING POINT! First, a little about the book:

Denver journalist Natalie Benoit and Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride find themselves captives of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Working together, they escape through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun. They fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both...

And now...on to the interview!

I've been waiting patiently (okay not so patiently) for the new I-Team book, Breaking Point. I read Extreme Exposure last November (my first book using the Kindle app on my I-Touch) and then I devoured the rest of the series. I am so excited for this new installment. Tell us what to expect in Breaking Point!

Breaking Point has everything the other I-Team books have had — only more of it. I’ve ratcheted up the suspense and danger by sending Natalie, the heroine, to Juárez, Mexico, which is currently the most dangerous place on earth outside a war zone to be a journalist. The stakes are higher in this story than in any of the others. It’s life or death from Chapter 1 through to the climax of the story. Julian, Marc and Gabe each play big roles in the story, as does Joaquin, whom we come to know a bit better. I always wanted to write a book where the situation was so dire that all of the I-Team men had to fight side by side to protect the heroine.

With all the adrenaline and heart-pounding action comes a lot of sensuality between Natalie and the hero, Zach. I’m not sure who your fave I-Team hero is, Marie, but I think Zach will be giving him a run for his money. Zach is probably my most heroic hero, and I can’t wait to share him with you in all his former Navy SEAL, chief deputy U.S. Marshal glory. Jed Hill, that abdominally gifted man on the cover of the book, was my mental model for Zach (which is how he ended up on the cover). So you can imagine how much I enjoyed writing Zach’s scenes. Jed in the head. Yum.

In between it all, there’s a serious storyline about Zach and Natalie and how they fall in love. Both of them have faced their share of grief. They find in each other the one person who truly understands, and their love not only saves their lives it also sets them free to live again.

That’s 400 pages in a nutshell. Kind of a big nutshell.

I love that "Jed in the head." That's a good image to have in the head when writing. What was it about him that appealed to you and made him Zach?

Will it make me seem shallow if I say it was his a-ma-zing body? That’s what it was. I saw a photo of him, bare-torsoed, with just boxing gloves over his shoulder, and I think my heart cracked a few ribs. Thunk! His face is beautiful, too. Put the two together, as Nature has so kindly done in his case, and he was perfect for a former Navy SEAL now “working the line” as a chief deputy U.S. marshal. Why? Well, because. I have it on expert authority (a former U.S. Marshal) that most DUSMs are not hot like Jed. In fact, the cover of my book make this particular former U.S. Marshal, a source for the book, want to return to the job. If that’s what they look like these days, she said in an email, I’m coming out of retirement.

LOL--that's great! You're driving her right out of retirement to go looking for Jed! As a reporter, you must have a stable of experts to call on when researching your books. Can you tell us a little about your research process, and how much of BREAKING POINT is drawn from something you've experienced in your job?

Being a reporter certainly makes it easier to find sources if for no other reason than it’s something I’m used to doing every day. But, yes, I have a lot of established contacts as well. The seed for this story was planted almost 10 years ago when I did an opinion piece on Las Muertas de Juárez—the murdered women of Juárez, Mexico. I was enraged to think that more than 400 women and teenage girls had been the victims of brutal sexual homicides, their bodies dumped in the desert. There are still about 1,000 missing women and girls, most of them trafficked or killed. It’s appalling. Since then, of course, the situation in poor Juárez has gotten much worse. It is now the most dangerous place outside of a war zone to be a journalist. For that reason alone, I knew I had to send a fictional journalist there.

I had a lot of fun researching how people cross the border in secret. I did some research into the culture of narcotraficantes. I researched the flora, fauna and landscape of the Sonoran Desert. Then I picked a route for Zach and Natalie to take which meshed perfectly with other already established characters in the series. I had so much fun with that. It was like playing Oregon Trail or something, except it was Sonoran Manhunt.

What was so strange about writing this book was that terrible things were happening that were eerily echoed or foreshadowed in the story. I would write about someone being killed in a particularly grisly way — and then something very much like that would happen. I shared newslinks with my friend who were reading the story as I wrote it, and it gave us the eeriest feelings sometimes. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book that so closely shadowed what’s happening exactly at this moment.

Whoa, that's amazing. You must've been creeped out by all the coincidence! I love how you bring your work into your books. I know you've been in some scary situations as a reporter. Tell us about the tightest spot you've ever been in and how you brought that anxiety to your books.

Wow. Believe it or not, this is a tough question... Hmm. I’ve had a gun held on me twice. I fell of a mountain and had to self-rescue for a while before the chopper could reach me. That was serious and very painful. There was the time I drove into a coal mine while the drag line was running and tried to take photos before the armed security guards to get me. (I got away with it. Bwahaha!) But the tightest spot...

The tightest spot I’ve ever been in was probably when two men with switchblades broke into my house just after midnight one night. I was home alone with my then-9-month-old firstborn. I heard something outside our apartment—hushed voices. Then someone rattled the doorknob to the back door. I went to look and see if someone was there, but there wasn’t. I turned and thought I saw two heads pass my kitchen window. I walked over there and they were gone. Then I called my ex to see if he had tried to come over and had perhaps forgotten his key. I woke him up; he’d been sound asleep in bed.

At that point, someone started beating on the front door and saying, “Open up! Open up!”

I still didn’t get it that these guys were trying to attack me. I remember thinking that they must be a couple of kids playing a prank. But I decided to call 911 anyway, and that decision saved me from being gang-raped at knife point.

During the two minutes I was on the phone with 911 dispatch, the two men circled back around to the kitchen window and beat it in with the handles of their switchblades. I will never forget seeing their faces and seeing that they were HAPPY and turned on that I was afraid. I saw right their in their eyes exactly what they planned to do once they got ahold of me. They were really sure they had me cornered — and they did. They started in through the window, and I felt an urge to run, but my baby was asleep in the back. So I just clenched my fists and forced myself to stand there and NOT run. I didn’t want them to know he was there.

They were all of about eight feet away from me by the time the police arrived. I saw two officers running full tilt toward my apartment. One of them shouted, “Knock it the fuck off, or we’ll blow you away!” And then it was just chaos. By that point I was screaming like a total TSTL non-heroine. The attackers ran. One was caught not far from my apartment and taken into custody that night; the other stole a car and was arrested a week later in Wyoming. I lived in terror that entire week, afraid he’d come back for me.

The two men had raped another woman nine months earlier. Their perverted modus operandi was to try to make the woman afraid before they broke in—terrorize her and then break in and rape her. They managed to terrorize me, but they never touched me.

I had nightmares for years. I would find myself half-asleep reliving the break-in in the middle of the night. I jumped at every sound. When we ordered pizza and the delivery guy knocked on that same front door, I would come out of my skin. Loud noises, stress of any kind, anything startling—it would make me fall apart. I was eventually diagnosed with full-blown PTSD. This was a defining event in my life because I’ve had to fight like hell to come back from it.

A lot of my novels have characters who suffer from PTSD, and there’s a reason for that. I know what it’s like to feel like you simply can’t get over something. And I absolutely know what terror is.

I hope some of that comes through in the books.

Incidentally, the attack scene in EXTREME EXPOSURE draws directly from this experience, though for Kara it was one guy with a gun and for me it was two guys with knives.

I dedicated HARD EVIDENCE to the two officers who saved me that night. We’re still in contact. For them, that night was one of the best nights of their lives because they saved THREE lives—the investigator said rape was the least of what the two had planned—my life, my 9-month-old, and my not-yet-conceived son’s life. For me, it was one of the worst nights of my life, but it could have been a helluva lot worse.

I own guns now. I sleep with a 12-gauge shot gun beside the bed, and I know how to use it.

Holy smokes! I’m glad I didn’t read that before bed last night or I never would’ve slept. What an incredible—and frightening—story! I knew parts of EXTREME EXPOSURE were true life for you, but I had no idea just how close to true that story was. (And people, if you haven’t read Extreme Exposure and the rest of the I-Team books, what are you waiting for??) Okay, taking a Xanax and getting back to our interview… You certainly know your readers are divided firmly into teams based on our favorite heroes: Reece, JULIAN, Marc, Gabe. If you could bring just one I-Team hero home for a wild night, who would you pick and why?

Is there any particular reason Julian’s name is in all caps, Marie? Inquiring journalists notice that sort of obvious thing, you know...

God, I get asked again and again to make this choice, and it’s really impossible. All of them would make fanastic lovers, so picking any one of them would guarantee a mind-blowing night of sex. They all resonate with me emotionally. They all care about the women in their lives. All of them would make me feel safe at night. (Believe it or not, I’m still a very light sleeper as a result of that break-in.) Hmmm. We’re not including Zach here?

OK, I’ll say Julian. But that’s because Zach isn’t there. And now I’m thinking I should have said Gabe. Or Marc. But for now, for just this moment, I’ll say Julian. I think he would blow my mind.

All I can say is poor Reece (and you'll be hearing from our pal Aly, I'm sure!) LOL! On that note, thank you for the wonderful interview and insight into your motivation and research. I wish you'd had a little LESS real-life research. I wish you the best of luck with BREAKING POINT! Looking forward to your visit to book club later this month!

Pamela is giving away a signed copy of BREAKING POINT to one lucky winner today! Tell us which I-Team hero you wouldn't kick out of bed and why to be entered (ooooh, I love a good pun) to win!