Wednesday, March 23, 2016

An Interview with Patricia Fry

INTERVIEW WITH PATRICIA FRY:
By Pamela James

MM: Patricia, give us the backstory on your writing career?
I started writing for publication in 1973. My dream for several years prior was to write articles for magazines. I read writing-related magazines and learned early-on the importance of writing about what you know and studying the magazines you want to write for. So, when I had the time and space to start my writing in earnest, I surveyed my areas of knowledge.

We were involved in horses as a family at the time and we subscribed to a few horse-related magazines. So my first articles were about horses and their care. Over time, I also wrote for magazines related to other pets, cats in particular, as well as business, relationships, travel, spiritual, women’s, health, and others. My first book was on horse care and it was published by a New York publisher, A.S. Barnes in 1978.

In 1983, I established my own publishing company to produce a significant, comprehensive history of the Ojai Valley, California. This part-time writing hobby actually developed over the years into a viable career and I currently have 54 published books, including 13 in my fun and frivolous Klepto Cat Mystery series.

MM: Where is your favorite place to write?
On the deck at a luxury beach house overlooking the ocean. But that’s been a rare occasion. I’m most comfortable creating from my recently remodeled office in my home surrounded by things meaningful to me—my cats (there’s one in my lap as I type), pictures of my family (which involves 5 generations from 94 years to 1), some of my bird photography, and framed book covers from the Klepto Cat Mystery series.

MM: Tell us about your cat series?
Three years ago in June, I decided to give myself a special birthday present—the gift of time and space to try writing fiction. I knew that my first book would be a light mystery (cozy) and that it would involve cats. And the Klepto Cat Mystery series was born. Yes, I’ve produced 13 books in a little over 3 years.

Rags is an ordinary cat with a most unusual habit—he can’t keep his paws off other people’s things. Often, the items he takes become clues in the current mystery. Rags lives with veterinarians, Savannah and Michael Ivey, in Northern California. He has many human and cat friends and acquaintances and lives a rather rich life, involving escaping into the forbidden outdoor world and traveling with his family to interesting places where he makes fascinating discoveries. He has been instrumental in finding cats that had been catnapped, he was an eye-witness to a murder and he even pawed the killer in a lineup. He has ridden a horse. He even rode a bus once by himself. He has also been featured in a documentary—of course a mystery developed during the filming of it one stormy night.

Rags and his feline friends are cats and they behave like cats—there are no talking cats in these stories—but Rags’s antics delight readers and charm them back for more and more and more of his adventures.

MM: What is your writing schedule?
Many years ago, it was necessary that I go to work. I missed my writing schedule so much that I became despondent. While on a my meditation walk one day, I realized that I had to find a way to write no matter what else was going on in my life. My mental health depended on it. So I developed the habit of getting up at 4 every morning. I’d write for a few hours, then walk and prepare for work. I wrote an entire book in 8 months on this schedule. (And this was before computers!) That’s when I realized that if I spent that time each morning submitting articles to magazines, I might be able to build my writing business to the point that I could quit the job. And 8 months later, I did just that!

I still start working at 4. I break around 7:30 to pick up around the house and take a walk. I write (and promote my writing) from 9:30 or so until noon, at which time I might run a few errands, ship books, pick up supplies, etc. Then I write for most of the afternoon. When I’m working on a nonfiction book project, I often spend evenings in front of the TV conducting research. And this is my schedule every day—weekends included, unless I’m visiting my 94-year-old mother or playing with some of my adorable great grandchildren. I do have a life outside of writing—but writing still fills most of my time.

I realize that some people have trouble staying on task—motivating themselves to sit and do the writing. I’m at the other end of the spectrum. I often have to make myself leave my office. I’m addicted, I tell you!

MM: Dead or alive what authors and their pets would you invite to a pet party?
J. Allen Boone author of Kinship With All Life and James Herriot—All Creatures Great and Small, etc.

MM: 2016 is here. What are you looking forward to and what are your writing plans?
I look forward to adding to the Klepto Cat Mystery series. Even though I’m in my diamond year, I can’t see myself slowing down. The stories in this series seem to pour out of me and I don’t plan to put a lid on them anytime soon. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a new series, though—if I receive the inspiration to do so.
News flash! I just came out with the first Christmas story in the Klepto Cat Mystery series—A Picture-Purrfect Christmas. It’s available at http://amzn.to/1kAI8I2 or http://www.matilijapress.com/Klept-Cat-Mysteries

My “fans” will be pleased to know that I have book 14, Meow for the Money, almost ready to publish and I’m working on book 15. Yes, they’re still coming out as if on a conveyer belt. The first book was published in June of 2013. So they’re being produced at the rate of approximately every two months—or 6 per year.

MM: Be our tour guide and tell us about where you live?
Not only can I be a tour guide, but I can be your historian. I wrote the first and only comprehensive history of the Ojai Valley. This is a small tourist town where big things related to music, tennis, and art take place. Many an author or artist have found their inspiration in this charmed valley and many an actor has settled here craving a peaceful existence away from the big cities. We’re twenty-minutes from the ocean community of Ventura, forty minutes from beautiful Santa Barbara, and far enough away from the big city of Los Angeles for tranquility, but close enough to partake of its more sophisticated offerings.

MM: Now for some fun get to know you questions. What is your favorite meal, dessert, place to vacation, shows to binge, movies, songs and historical character?
I do enjoy a plate of good Mexican food.

If I were to sit down in the afternoon with a cup of tea, I’d relish a piece of berry, peach, or even apple pie to go with it.

I love, love, love, the beach. One of my stories occurred in a beach setting and I so enjoyed diving into the story each day and experiencing the ambiance of the seaside community.

As a family, we often rent a beach house for a week in the summer. One of my favorite things to do—places to be.

As for shows—I like watching the old 30-minute or hour-long Westerns on TV (Gunsmoke, Rifleman, etc.) I’m not a movie fan—don’t like to sit that long (unless it’s in front of the computer writing). But when I do see a movie, I usually enjoy it and vow to do it more often. The last one I saw I enjoyed—twice—“Blended.” I also saw “Gran Tornio” twice.

I melt when I hear music from the ‘50s (my era).
MM: What would you like to say to your readers?
I love you guys!!! As a nonfiction author, I didn’t have fans. At least not in the sense that one collects fans for a fiction series. I so appreciate those of you who are following the Klepto Cat Mystery series and Rags’s antics. I enjoy reading and hearing your comments. It makes my heart sing when I learn that a scene made you smile, cry, feel warm and fuzzy all over, or laugh out loud. That’s music to an author’s ears.

MM: When planning your books. What is the best and worst part of writing them?
Writing a story is certainly a process. There’s the planning stage, then the gathering stage where you collect possible events, occurrences, scenarios, etc. as place-holders in your story. (You might use them or not.) Then comes the massaging process during which you make it all work together—flow into a cohesive and interesting story. Once the story is written, there are (or should be) hours and hours of self-editing to follow. Once I’m satisfied, I turn my manuscripts over to pre-readers—those astute readers I trust to give me honest, critical feedback. After more hours of editing, my book goes to a proof-reader/editor. But I don’t stop there. When I get it back, I go over the story another dozen or so times. That’s why it’s so frustrating and upsetting when a book slips past you with a mistake—but it happens. That’s one of the worst parts of producing a book.

For most authors, the absolute worst part of writing a book for publication is the promotion. It is vital that an author become familiar with the marketing process because no one will buy a book they don’t know exists. I’ve written many, many articles and several books on the topic of book promotion and marketing, yet it’s still a challenge even for me. It takes a lot of time, and involves tons of effort. I can’t say it’s the worst part, but it certainly isn’t the easiest part. I guess the worst part of marketing and promotion is that it takes you away from the best part—writing.

MM: What would your protag tell us about you?
That I’m relentless when it comes to writing and certainly passionate. I also change my mind a lot—not about the big picture, but my characters are never allowed to rest—they’re constantly being molded and massaged and their emotions tampered with.

MM: Is there anyone you would like to thank for their help along the path to your publishing career?
When I started writing, I didn’t know another writer or author. And that was the case until I became involved with Mary Embree in SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network). This organization was formed in order to educate and inform writers with regard to the business side of writing—publishing and promotion. I was executive director for many years. As such, and as the author of many books for authors, I spoke and conducted workshops at writers conferences throughout the US for many years. I have to say that at every single conference, writers club meeting, or a book festival I met other authors who offered a perspective or a resource that I could use.



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