Author Interview: Pam Hillman speaks on her ebook, Claiming Mariah

Yesterday, Pam gave us the chance to get to know her as a writer. Today, we’ll learn more about Pam’s writing and, specifically, about the wonderful characters in her upcoming Jan 2013 ebook release Claiming Mariah .

As we begin this tale, we see Mariah, a young woman who has recently lost her father, battling with his past indiscretions and faced with the consequences of her father’s bad decisions. Where did the idea for Claiming Mariah come from?

Several years ago, I read a novel where a bank robber tosses a sack of stolen money in the back seat of a hand-to-mouth college student’s car. She kept the money and eventually started a very successful business. She justified her actions because she anonymously created a charity to help destitute young women get back on their feet. But, as the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right, and that wasn’t quite right from a Christian’s perspective, was it? I based Claiming Mariah on the following question: “What would a Christian do if they found out their whole livelihood had been based on a lie?” Mariah does the right thing by writing to Slade’s father asking for forgiveness, but the consequences of her actions end up being way more than she bargained for.

You’ve written historical novels set in the West before. Why do you think you gravitate towards this genre and this setting? What is interesting and worth exploring, in your opinion?

I was born and raised on a farm, and from an early age I loved horses and all things western. I was a bit of a tomboy and cut my teeth on Louis L’Amour westerns. Our neighbor’s husband worked in the oil fields of Alaska and was gone months at a time. She’d invite my brother and me over to watch John Wayne movies on Friday nights. We’d have popcorn and soda, or she’d bake a butter cake (the smell of hot butter cake fresh from the oven still makes my mouth water!).

Writing from a Christian worldview, in the back of my mind, I’m always asking, ‘What would a Christian do?’ similar to the WWJD question, I suppose. In my debut novel, Stealing Jake , the men of the town are talking about the street kids and what they would do if they themselves were freezing and starving. Would it be okay to steal to provide food and shelter for their families? That innermost struggle of determining right and wrong makes me think and is worth exploring.

If your book was made into a movie, what actors would you cast?

I pictured a younger Gerard Butler, darker hair, and a day-old scruffy beard playing Slade. And Olivia Wilde would be a good fit for Mariah. Although I have to say I love the model on the cover of Claiming Mariah . Do you suppose she could play Mariah?

For someone debating reading your story, what would you say makes it worth the read? What sets it apart from other historical novels out there?

Some might say the hero doesn’t come across as very heroic to begin with, but he believes he has good reasons for his demands. He quickly softens toward the heroine and her family and eventually lets go of his bitterness. Also, I like readers to see part of the story from an unusual angle, a point of view that shines a light a little off center, and in Claiming Mariah , that light is on Red Harper, a secondary character who plays a pivotal role in the story.

While writing, do you find yourself using your life experiences as fodder for a more realistic novel? If so, describe a few times this takes place within Claiming Mariah.

The account of Yellow, the half-wild tomcat and his precarious beginnings after being born in the woods, is an almost exact retelling of a cat that I befriended several years ago. I had to work for that cat’s trust, just as Mariah earns the trust of both Slade and Yellow in Claiming Mariah .

The entire true-life account of Taming Yellow can be found here:

Do you find it difficult to write a novel, start to finish? Do you have any techniques you follow to ensure you finish?

Writing a novel reminds me of making mud pies as a little girl. You just get in there and have the best time ever playing in the mud, forming pies in the tin pie plates Mama let you borrow from her kitchen. Getting it all out there is fun and exciting. Cleaning it up can be a little daunting, but sticking with it yields great results, and then the final cleanup with my editors is even more thrilling. I use a spreadsheet to plot turning points, starting with the big picture, drilling down to each act, each chapter, then each scene. Then I layer in more texture in my second and third pass. By the time the final draft goes to my editor, I hope the novel has plenty of yummy goodness and not a trace of that mud pie remains!

In the larger sense, what do you hope readers learn from Claiming Mariah ?

I hope readers can learn to let go of bitterness toward someone who has wronged them. But on the flip side, I pray that someone who has committed a wrong would have the courage to offer restitution if God lays it on their heart to do so.

Do you find yourself attached to the characters from Claiming Mariah : Mariah and Slade, in particular? Do you ever struggle to let go, wanting to continue your characters’ story long after the last page? Or do you think their tale has been told?

Once a literary couple has resolved their differences and it’s obvious that they’re going to get their happily-ever-after, I find it easy to close the book on a great big sigh of contentment. However, I’m not opposed to tucking in cameo appearances of happily married folks in subsequent books. Hopefully readers will get the chance to peek into Slade and Mariah’s lives in future books set in Wisdom.

What’s next for you? Do you plan to continue writing historical novels?

Historical romance is my first love, and I have plans to write more novels set in Wisdom, revisiting some of the characters introduced in Claiming Mariah . A couple of characters from Stealing Jake are also clamoring to have their story told, so looks like I’ll be making more mud pies soon.

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 Thanks to Pam for sharing more on Claiming Mariah  with us!
Would you like to learn more about Pam and her writing?
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Tomorrow 12/19, Pam will be back to talk about her second experience with e-book only publishing and her experience as a Digital First author with Tyndale House.