Pamela Morsi is one of those really neat authors that you just want to hang out with because of her fun sense of humor and thoughtful way of looking at life and books in general. I read one of her contemporary novels many years ago, then had to run out and add everything else she had written to my TBR List. Mrs. Morsi has been writing for a long time, and actually began her career with historical romance novels. In addition, she's won 2 RITA Awards! Grab a cup of wine, then prop your feet up for this enjoyable interview. Merry Christmas Pamela Morsi and thanks for the interview!
As young readers, I've found that we often get called "nerdy" because we enjoy novels. Were you ever made fun of as a kid because you wanted to read more than socialize?
Not really. I did other stuff, too. I played basketball a million hours a year, although shooting hoops in the back yard is not exactly a social activity either. Especially so, when I spent the whole time making up stories in my head! I always loved to read, I can hardly remember when I didn’t. And reading has been the friend who was always there.
What kind of books were you reading?
I was a huge Louisa May Alcott fan. I couldn’t get enough of her and read all of her work (even the really iffy ones) over and over again. I read lots of other writers, too. Laura Ingalls Wilder and Eleanor H. Porter, lots of historicals I guess. I do recall reading one contemporary book over and over again. I can’t remember the author or the title, but the first line was “It started with a pink dress.”
As I got older, I got into Frank Yerby (more historicals, but with sex). I was such a fan of Yerby that I wrote a paper on him in college. My professor thought I was a nut.
What was it like being a librarian, and did you enjoy it?
I loved being a librarian. It was a really busy, intriguing career with lots of interesting people and immediate gratification. I worked in public libraries, a college library, a medical school and ultimately a hospital. It was all good. But I’d always wanted to be a writer, so eventually that’s what I did.
Do you remember what you did with your very first royalty check?
My first royalty check went immediately into savings. I tend to be a thrifty person generally and writing is a boom and bust business. Still, I did spend my Courting Miss Hattie money on the couch that I am currently sitting on.
Once you kicked in your heels and started writing full-time, did you find it easy? How do you handle writer's block?
Writing is never easy. I thought when I was still writing part-time and working in the library, that if I ever wrote full-time I would get much more writing done. It turned out not to be true. I spent most of my commute plotting and when I didn’t have that built in time, I had to build it in elsewhere.
I don’t really get blocked, although some scenes take a lot longer to write than others. I once had a character sitting in a tree for three weeks.
You've been married to the second love of your life since 2001. Has he ever been in any of your novels?
Hmm. Not sure about that. He is exactly the kind of guy I like to write about. He’s open, honest, crazy about me, aka perfect hero. A lot of things I’ve written are things I’ve discovered through him, but you know, he’s my guy. I believe I will just selfishly keep him all for myself.
The very first book I read of yours Red's Honky Tonk Bar and totally fell in love with the reality, humor and romance associated with Red, and the fact that she owned this bar was icing on the cake. In fact, it was written so well that I went to find all your books to add to my collection. What was your inspiration for this novel and how long did it take to write?
I spent about a year on RED’S. And the inspiration was generated from all over the place. So much of the atmosphere came from right around where I live. And I’d heard the good grandmother vs bad grandmother voiced by a four-year-old. But the thing that put it over the top; I was in a local burger place, frequented by middle schoolers. These two very lovely cheerleader types were there with their grandmother. The two girls were the height of fashionable, genteel affluence. Grandma was a wild woman with crazy hair and a tube top. I couldn’t resist.
Which is more difficult to write? Historical or Contemporary Romance?
They each have their own challenges. Writing historical means a willingness to look up detail after detail after detail. But in historical, if you get your language and era norms right, readers have no problem buying into the romance. In contemporary, it’s actually harder to get that suspension of disbelief, or at least with the kind of characters I write. If you write a billionaire and none of your readers have ever met one, they might be able to imagine him as having romantic depths. However, if your character is a car mechanic and all of your readers HAVE met one, they may find it harder to imagine him secretly pining for love. Although I am a great believer in love as the ultimate human leveler. It’s available to everyone without regard to race, creed, color, nationality, economic status, gender, gender preference or disability. It’s for there for everybody and rare enough to be extremely precious.
With 6 kids in the family, how in the world did you get everything done?
Well, the 6 kids is true, but not true enough that I get kudos for it. When I married Mr. Morsi, he already had a four-year-old son. We had our daughter together and that’s who I’ve raised. When I married Bill and he had four grown children. Amazingly enough, all six are fabulous people and I am proud of to be a part of their lives. I’ve just been so lucky all around.
Do you have beta readers who look at your work before it's sent to the publisher?
No, not as yet. This beta readers thing is a relatively new idea and I may go that direction in the future, but I haven’t. I am very protective of my work until I feel that it’s completed. I don’t want anyone’s ideas or opinion to seep into my creative process. I am very unsure of myself, unsure that I can make the stories work, until I do. Bill has been my proofreader for the last ten or so books. He’s very good and I trust him to tell me the truth, which he does.
If you were to write and anthology, who would you like to have in it and why?
I’ve actually written in 4 anthologies, all with lovely people. My process doesn’t lend itself well to novellas. It takes me as long to write short as it does to write long.
Your hubby is the Master Chef of the house, so what's up with you and bacon? (lol)
Too funny! Would that I would blog as often as I get stupid analogies from daily life. I always think that it’s important for me to encourage other writers, because other writers encouraged me.
What are you watching on television these days?
Well, it’s basketball season, so I’m mostly watching the San Antonio Spurs. I love Brit TV, especially the mysteries. I don’t know why they seem better than the ones we make here. Maybe less gore and car chases.
Fill in the Blank - Memorizing lyrics is my secret talent.
I used to sing all the time. I don’t sound that good these days, but I still know all the words to all the songs.
Now I know who to call when I forget the words to a song - lol. Do you celebrate Christmas and if so, what has been the most meaningful gift you've ever received?
I do celebrate Christmas, but I’m not sure I can tag a particular gift. I’ve received some lovely things and silly things, some very memorable and some not particularly, but it’s not about gifts really. And with kids around it definitely is better to give than to receive.
Do you and your family do a lot of decorating for the holidays? Does everyone come to your house, or do you go elsewhere?
My daughter loves decorating for Christmas, so even when I’m pressed on deadline, we always fill the house with red and green. We have had some gigantic holiday celebrations in our house. With kids everywhere and a million conversations going on at the same time. We love that. But some years it’s just a few and some years it’s just us. It doesn’t matter the number, it’s always wonderful to be together.
What did you do when you were nominated for a RITA award?
I’ve been nominated nine times and won twice. I mostly fantasize about winning while I’m talking myself into being okay about not winning. We are the product of a very competitive culture. We’re told from childhood that we should go for the gold. It’s important to remind ourselves as writers that we didn’t get into this to win trophies. We write to touch the hearts and lives of readers. Whether that results in big sales or genre accolades is beside the point. Not getting the sales or the accolades does not mean that a book has failed. A book is only a failure if the writer didn’t pour her heart into it.
Wow! Being nominated 9 times is quite an accomplishment! Do you know anyone like Emma in Bitsy's Bait & BBQ, and how did you come up with that title?
All my characters are, in some ways, like me. However, I have never been anyone’s big sister. When I created this character I was sort of imagining if Pearl Buck went to the Ozarks.
Amazingly the title came before the story. I was brainstorming with my editor about the kind of titles that capture the attention of readers. I just threw this one out and she liked it a lot. So I made up a story to go with it. It is my only “ensemble cast” novel. I never actually decided who were the hero and heroine, I just kept writing.
Name 4 of your favorite novels.
Very tough to choose, but I guess I’d have to go with
Alice Sebold, THE LOVELY BONES
Jodi Picoult, MY SISTER’S KEEPER
Susan Elizabeth Phillips, HONEY MOON
Lisa Gregory, THE RAINBOW SEASON
I'm definitely a fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and love her sense of humor. How do you really feel about Reviewers? (lol)
I am grateful that they do what they do. Still, criticism always feels personal, even when it’s not.
You're stranded on an island for 7 days. What 3 items MUST you have?
Coffee, something to read and Bill (cause it’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with).
Do people ever ask you for romantic advice in the grocery store?
People everywhere ask me for all kinds of advice. There is something about me, I’m approachable, I suppose. I’ve had totally strangers unload their sorrows to me between floors on an elevator. I don’t think it’s anything that I do, or that I have any particular wisdom to share, it’s some weird social quirk.
That's pretty awesome! Is there a place you'd like to travel within the next 2 years?
I’ll go anywhere. I’m like a puppy, you open the car door, I’ll jump in.
LOL, I'll have to keep that in mind next time I visit Texas. What's your pet peeve?
I get annoyed at friends who “pray” on their Facebook status. What is that about? Are you thinking God is logging in? It seems to me that it’s between you and God and that I and the entire internet should not be eavesdropping.
What's your favorite food to eat?Mexican. Very convenient preference since I live in San Antonio.
While you're writing, do you give yourself a deadline of what you'd like completed? Who does your research?
Well, for about 20 years, my publisher set my deadlines and I struggled to meet them. I try to be linear, like “if I write 2,000 words for the next 28 days…”, but that doesn’t really work for me. One day I’ll write 5 words and the next day 5,000. I can push myself, but the story sort of happens as it happens.
I do all my own research. That’s the librarian in me. I love all the interesting detail and I have to be careful not to overwhelm my readers with all the neat facts I’ve found.
Will any of the kids be writers?
Maybe. I just want everybody to be happy. Writing makes me happy, but it makes some folks miserable. I try not to make it a bigger deal than it is. I write romance novels. That’s a good thing, but no better than most careers and not as good as many others.
What's next and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’m hoping I will still be right here in front of the computer. I try to live in the now as much as I can, but I still have lots of stories that I want to write. So that stretches out in front of me more as a journey than a goal.