Ella: Tell us about your passion for writing. Why do you write? What drives you? What impact do you want your book to make on the readers?
I definitely have a passion for writing. Nothing else could explain my willingness to sit in front of my computer for ten hours a day or my eagerness to rise at four in the morning to write before going to work. I enjoy creating characters and putting them in precarious situations. I want readers to get wrapped up in the mysteries I create, to love, hate and root for my characters, and to close each book and feel as if they got their money’s worth.
Ella: A Legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time. Finish this sentence: My writing offers the following legacy to future readers…
I want to help destroy the publishing industry’s belief that only African American readers will read stories with African American characters. People who love mysteries want a compelling story. My primary goal is to write entertaining thrillers with diverse characters and a storyline that keeps readers turning the page.
Ella: Pamela, introduce us to your book., In Murder on the Down Low.
In Murder on the Down Low, a string of successful, attractive African-American men are being gunned down on the streets of L.A. and no one knows why? When a shocking revelation connects the baffling murders to a contentious wrongful death lawsuit, the deadly scandal erupts into a tale of lust, lies and vengeance.
Ella: What inspired you to write this story?
I have a crystal clear recollection of exactly when the idea for Murder on the Down Low came to me. I was watching an Oprah show featuring J.L. King, author of On the Down Low. I was completely stunned as I listened to his insider’s account of the mindset of men on the down low, who are guys (many of them married) who profess to be straight but have sex with other men. My emotions during that sixty-minute program went from shock to anger to fear. I was driving to work the next day, still disturbed by the show when a thought came to me. What if a serial killer was targeting some of L.A.’s most prominent family men who weren’t quite what they appeared to be? Within 24 hours, I had sketched out the basic plot for Murder on the Down Low.
Ella: What major issues in today’s society have you addressed in the book?
Murder on the Down Low gave me an opportunity to both entertain and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. While African-American and Latina women make up only 24% of the female population in the United States, we account for more than 80% of the total AIDS diagnoses for women, according to the latest statistics published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. I wanted to communicate to women that in order to change these disturbing statistics, we must take responsibility for our own bodies.
Ella: How difficult was it to complete the novel?
I still practice law, so it’s always difficult to find time to write, but I found the plot for Murder on the Down Low so compelling that I made the time. Sometimes I got up to write before work and sometimes I wrote late at night. I wrote on weekends when I wasn’t on the road promoting my other novels. Whenever I had vacation time, I used the entire week to barricade myself in my timeshare to write. I’m lucky that my husband is so supportive. When we first got married five years ago, he didn’t know how to cook. He’s now learned to prepare quite a few tasty dishes since I rarely have time to make a home-cooked meal.
Ella: Did you self-publish? How difficult was it to find a publisher to pick up your novel?
While my first two novels, Every Reasonable Doubt and In Firm Pursuit, were published by Harlequin, I was forced to self-publish Murder on the Down Low after my agent wasn’t able to sell it. I really didn’t want to self-publish, but I wasn’t about to sit on the sidelines and accept the publishing industry’s view that there isn’t a large market for the type of book I’m writing. They’re wrong.
Self-publishing Murder on the Down Low was definitely the right decision for me. The book has received tremendous praise from readers, particularly book club members. My decision to self-publish was further validated when Murder on the Down Low was selected as an Editor’s Pick by the Black Expressions Book Club. Just recently, Murder on the Down Low was a finalist for the 2009 African American Literary Awards in the mystery category alongside, two incredibly talented writers I have long admired: Walter Mosley and Tananarive Due.
Ella: Why did you decide to write legal thrillers?
I’m a big fan of legal thrillers, but I got tired of never seeing women or African-Americans depicted as lawyers in the novels that I read. So, I sat down at my computer and started writing the kind of legal thriller that I wanted to read. I wanted a diverse cast of characters and a protagonist who wasn’t always a white male.
Ella: What is your most valuable lesson about the publishing industry?
You need to have faith in your talent to survive in this business. Even the mega-successful writers—e.g., J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and John Grisham, just to name a few—were rejected by multiple publishers. The writers who survive are those who ignore the rejection and just keep writing.
Ella: Share with us your latest news, awards or upcoming book releases.
I’m thrilled that Murder on the Down Low is a finalist for the 2009 African American Literary Awards in the mystery category. I don’t need to win. Just being nominated alongside Walter Mosley and Tananarive Due is honor enough.
I’m extremely excited about the upcoming release of my fourth legal thriller and first stand-alone novel, Buying Time, which goes on sale November 1st. In Buying Time, Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck lawyer who comes to the aid of terminally ill people in desperate need of cash. Waverly finds investors eager to advance his dying clients thousands of dollars—including a hefty broker’s fee for himself—in exchange for rights to their life insurance policies. Once the clients take their last breath, the investors reap a hefty return on their investment. When Waverly’s clients start dying sooner than they should, both Waverly, and a high-powered lawyer who’s bucking to become the next U.S. Attorney General, are unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder.
MURDER ON THE DOWN LOW Publisher: Goldman House Publishing
Publication Date: September 1, 2008
Murder on the Down Low by Pamela Samuels Young
Buy Murder on the Down Low at Amazon.com
Purchase the book.