What first got you interested in the thriller genre?
I first became interested in the thriller genre as a teenager when I read the 1957 Floods of Fear by John and Ward Hawkins serialized in The Saturday Evening Post. Mixing thrill and romance, it inspired me to write a short story at the time, and that story, much changed and expanded, became, many decades later, my first Wild Rose novel, Stranger in the Storm.
Are there any authors you look up to? Are there any authors who have inspired you to write?
I’ve been reading all my life, and I look up to many authors. Most recently I’ve read and admired Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose, Wendall Berry’s Jayber Crowe, and Madeline Miller’s Circe. As far as specific authors who inspired me to write, Jane Austen influenced my love for romance, and the novel I mentioned earlier, Floods of Fear inspired my love of thrillers. What directly inspired Shadows of Doubt was my own early version of this novel, written in the 1980s when I’d taken a year off from teaching. I meant it to be a YA and so the main characters were in high school. But I went back to teaching, and not until I retired did I pull out the old, yellowed, literally cut-and-pasted-on typescript. I re-read it and thought it had possibilities. I rewrote the novel, making the main characters college students and adding the drug dealer elements for stronger drama.
Are there any themes in your latest novel?
A major theme of Shadows of Doubt is the difference between an individual’s perception and reality, which is also a theme of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Emma. In Shadows, Sandy Harris’s widowed mother wants her daughter to marry Bill, whom both have known since his childhood; he’s the son of the mother’s best friend and Mrs. Harris thinks he’d be perfect to replace her deceased husband as the man of the family. She distrusts this new stranger, Jeff, whom Sandy is so suddenly taken with. Without giving the plot too much away, I’ll say the novel shows how a both a mother and daughter can perceive someone’s character in a way that is totally different from the actuality.
What does your writing space look like?
It’s a small room that was once a large bathroom off our screened porch. It provides a space for yoga, a lamp and comfortable chair for reading, filing cabinets, a bookcase, and of course a desk for my computer and printer. Piles of notes and papers fill many empty spaces. It has two windows where I can look out into our yard.
What’s more important to you as you write your books?
Strong characters, mind-blowing plot-twists, or an epic setting? All those elements important and interrelated, but if I have to choose, I’ll say strong, vividly imagined characters. My characters are inspired by a combination of movies and novels, pictures in magazines, and perhaps most of all, people I have known. For Shadows, I found a photo of a friend from long ago and thought, Wow, he looks handsome. That’s how I’ll make Jeff look!
What’s the next project on the horizon?
I am working on drafts of two novels. One is historical fiction based on my ancestors who immigrated from Baden to New York in 1850. The other is another thriller-romance, this one about a young writing teacher and her class of adult students, one of whom is, of course, a very attractive young man.
Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?
Three suggestions: 1) Read some good books on writing. My favorite is James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing. He provides great advice about how to work in the backstory and how to keep the reader engaged with tension and drama. 2) Let reader-writer friends read your manuscript and ask for honest comments. 3) Attend writers’ conferences. The talks and panels give valuable information, you can find helpful contacts, and if you have a draft ready, sign up for a critique from or pitch to a professional. It’s worth the investment.
Former grade school bully and, later, amateur drug dealer Jeff Hudson turns his life around and is pursuing a degree in agriculture. His future, as well as a budding relationship with fellow student Sandy Harris, is threatened when a former dealer threatens to expose Jeff’s past to university authorities if he doesn’t rejoin the ring.
Realizing that Jeff is no longer an angry, misunderstood boy, Sandy must take a stand against her family and friends who swear he is no good and will only cause her unhappiness. Together, can they escape the past in order to forge a future?
“Sandy—I need to tell you something about him.”
“I don’t want to hear it. You’d better take me home.”
Bill abruptly turned around in a parking lot he was passing and headed back toward her house. His expression was grim, almost angry. “I’d be better for you, Sandy. Your mother thinks so, too.”
Anger replaced her anxiety. “How do you know what my mother thinks? I hope you and she didn’t discuss this!”
“Just a little, last night before you came downstairs. She didn’t say much, but I could tell how she felt.” He pulled up in front of her house. “We both worry about you with Jeff. It’s not just that we think this won’t last…”
“Why else should you worry?”
Bill hesitated. “For one thing, he has a temper. He may physically hurt you. Remember how he was even as a kid.”
Her anger notched up higher. He was sounding just like her mother, expressing unfounded, outdated fears. “It was years ago that he got in those fights. He’s not like that now. I’m sorry, Bill, but I think it would be better if you and I don’t see each other for a while.” She got out of the car and slammed the door.
Bill started to pull away, then stopped, lowered the window, and called out to her. “Just remember, if you ever need me, I’ll be here.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patricia McAlexander earned a bachelor’s degree from The University of New York at Albany, a master’s from Columbia University, and a doctorate from The University of Wisconsin, Madison, all in English. After moving with her husband to Athens, Georgia, she taught composition and literature at The University of Georgia. Now retired, she has edited local newsletters and enjoys hiking, travel, and photography. But most of all she enjoys writing novels. Her thriller-romance “Stranger in the Storm” was released by Wild Rose in June 2020.
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