By Shannon Kirk
Spotlight could mean, YEAH! Look at me! I’m a star. But this is Murderers’ Row. Spotlight on the Row means Hot Seat, as in uncomfortable interrogation by a barely sane detective, the lunatic investigator who is hanging on for dear life. Spotlight here means the subject is in a windowless room with a one-way mirror and is suffering severe sleep deprivation. The questions make no sense, the subject is being framed, set up, and the screwball lunatic detective just knocked the subject’s last inch of warm Dixie-cup Coke to the ground—for fun. No comfort afforded. No salvation. No pack o’ smokes. No legal assistance. Asthma inhaler? Tough shit. Wheeze.
Fine, maybe we’re not that harsh. We don’t haze debuts.
But this interview may wind up being not a typical author interview.
Today we’re talking to Pam Wechsler. Wechsler is a do-not-F-with-her LEGIT crime writer. First off, she grew up on Boston, which is street cred enough. Then she went to Boston University School of Law, moving on to spend several years as a criminal prosecutor at the local, state, and oh, cherry on top, FEDERAL level. Then, because that wasn’t street cred enough for Ms. Wechsler, she moved to Los Angeles, where she spent seven years as a legal consultant and WRITER (HELLO!) for: Law and Order; Law and Order: Criminal Intent; Law and Order: Trial by Jury; Conviction; and Canterbury’s Law. (Jimmy—that’s the IT guy living in my head—how do I insert a sound clip of that infamous *dun *dun at each Law & Order scene change?)
Wait. It gets better. There’s more street cred.
Around 2011, Wechsler moved back to Boston for family reasons and became a Middlesex country prosecutor again. This was a pretty hardcore move since, newsflash, working on a T.V. set in summer-all-the-time L.A. is objectively, no argument the other way, better than toiling in a blizzard-prone Boston courtroom.
Not to worry. This story has a happy ending.
Thankfully, around 2013, Wechsler got a call (Note to self: Figure out what I’m doing wrong to not get these types of calls). A producer for the movie The Judge needed her on his New England set as a legal advisor. This is where she met Billy Bob Thornton.
Where is this going?
She met the actor who did that amazing monologue about perfection in Friday Night Lights? The one who used to be married to Angel-Freakin-Lina-Jolie-Pitt?
Turns out, Billy Bob Thornton is awesome. Did you know he has an Academy Award for WRITING? He wrote Sling Blade. Anyway, while on set, Billy Bob prodded Wechsler to write a book. So after The Judge wrapped up, instead of returning to the courtroom, Wechsler heeded his advice and gave herself a year to write and sell a novel.
Good thing she set this as her goal, because not only did she meet it, she exceeded it: Wechsler got a three-book deal and now writes full time. As for giving herself a year to write and not work, Wechsler said, “[It was] kind of crazy in retrospect, but the motivation I needed, because if it didn’t work out, I’d have go back to practicing law.”
Amen to that.
Wechsler is still living in Boston, but in addition to attending to her three-book deal, she’s consulting for T.V. pilots. If any go to series, Boston can bid her a fair toodaloo.
Wechsler’s debut, Mission Hill, drops May 3, 2016. It is available for pre-order now. Billy Bob Thornton gave the front cover blurb: “A fantastic series opener―authentic, gritty and romantic. Pam Wechsler delivers a thrill ride, crackling with suspense, wit and style. The story is rich, the characters are complex, and the writing is deft. I can’t wait for the next one.” Wechsler says of Billy Bob Thornton, “He’s been incredibly supportive. A great mentor.”
Billy Bob’s not alone in his praise. Another superstar, Hank Philippi Ryan, sang Mission Hill’s praises as well: “Riveting, suspenseful and heartbreakingly realistic. Pam Wechsler joins the ranks of Boston’s finest with her searing and authentic look inside the prosecution―and at the danger when justice gets personal. Mission Hill is terrific.”
Great blurbs, so what’s it about?
Mission Hill involves Abby Endicott, a super hot-shot Boston prosecutor with a Harvard pedigree. Some might think her job in criminal court is beneath her, but Abby doesn’t. She’s committed and works hard, even if she doesn’t fit the typical stereotype of a hard-knuckle Boston prosecutor. When working a case, you might find her changing into evening gowns in the morgue. Abby is having an affair with a married man, which I suspect is somehow connected to a horrific murder that begins Abby’s gripping nightmare. (I’m not sure if it’s connected, I’m just surmising this from the synopsis).
VERDICT: I’m sold.
Is this enough backstory on Wechsler? Can I get to the questions now?
If you really want to know more about Wechsler and her work in writing for T.V., I suggest you peruse this great 2011 article about her in Bostonia.
What follows are the very worst questions I have actually encountered as a debut author. They’re bad because they are either packed with the interrogator’s judgment or they’re impossible to answer. After that is a series of questions that mostly have nothing at all to do with writing. Let’s see how Wechsler’s responses stack up against the correct answers in both categories.
Before we begin. A word of gratitude for Wechsler who suffered through these questions and answered them with grace and humor like a champ.
WORST POSSIBLE QUESTIONS FOR A DEBUT AUTHOR
WORST QUESTION #1
Soooooooo, Mission Hill is about a prosecutor who is having an affair with a married man and then there’s a horrific murder that is somehow connected to her? You must be trying to work out some personal issues, right?
Wechsler’s Response: “Everyone has issues they’re trying to work out. But working them out in a novel is not the best way to do it.”
Correct answer: The Main Character could not even begin to deal with my issues, but no, this is fiction, I am not working out any issues here.
JUDGE ENTERS DELIBERATION CHAMBER
Verdict: Wechsler’s response is better than the correct answer. Correct answer will be modified.
WORST QUESTION #2
What are the medically-accurate psychological flaws that motivate the main character?
Wechsler’s Response: “She’s addicted to adrenaline. And, kind of crazy.”
Correct answer: I am not a doctor, I make this shit up.
Verdict: Different answers, but tie.
WORST QUESTION #3
How long, in precise number of days, did it take to write this book?
Wechsler’s Response: “It took me about thirty-five years and four months and two days.”
Correct answer: I have no fucking idea.
Verdict: Since Wechsler made me laugh with her response, she wins this round.
WELL DONE WECHSLER!
Now we enter the part of the interview where Wechsler answers inane questions that mostly have nothing at all to do with writing. Again, we’ll see how she stacks up against the correct answers.
What are your thoughts on air-conditioning?
Wechsler’s Response: “I’m for it.”
Uh oh….this is not going well….
I’ll give her another chance….
Question #1A: But in all situations?
Wechsler’s Response: “No. Sometimes I prefer an overhead fan. But having lived in L.A., I recognize its benefits. And having driven cars that don’t have it, I enjoy it.”
Correct answer: Air-Conditioning is the devil because 99.9% of the time it is set to arctic.
Verdict: Sorry, but Pam, buddy, pal, this one I can’t give you.
Question #2: What are your thoughts on breakfast places that purport to sell egg, bacon, and cheese sandwiches, but they don’t actually cook the bacon to crispy?
Wechsler’s Response: “They’re not my favorite places to have breakfast.”
Correct answer: These places deserve violent insurrection and zombie attacks.
Verdict: I’m going to give this one to Wechsler. She was being measured and smart in her response. She is, after all, a trained trial attorney. But I’m pretty sure in her mind, she was really thinking that these places should suffer some sort of wild revolt. I think I heard a battle-cry in her voice.
Question #3. What about hotels and airlines that charge for WiFi?
Wechsler’s Response: “I will stay at a less luxurious hotel by choice if they don’t charge for WiFi.”
Correct answer: Hotels and airlines that charge for WiFi are rude. I go elsewhere.
Verdict: Ding, ding, ding. This is a match.
Question #4: Thoughts on folks who write articles for authors on all the things NOT to do in writing, the DON’T LIST people?
Wechsler’s Response: “I think it depends on who’s writing it. I don’t have a problem with don’ts because I like to know what other people think, depending on the author. But I don’t necessarily heed their advice.”
Correct answer: They do what they do. I do what I do. Sometimes it’s the same. Sometimes it ain’t.
Verdict: Again, a match!!
Question #5: You’re from Boston. You’ve lived in LA. You’ve traveled around. So you are a legitimate authority on the following question. Please rank the following accents in the order of your favorite to least favorite:
Boston; Canadian; Surfer California; Middle of some Southern Swamp
Wechsler’s Response: In favorite to least favorite order:
Correct Answer: Switch Canada and Boston.
Verdict: It’s alright. I can see why she did what she did here. For penance, check out this Seth Meyers’ faux trailer for Boston Accent:
Question #6: What are your thoughts on swearing in writing?
Wechsler’s Response: “I’m all for it.”
Correct answer: Pro.
Verdict: Exact match.
Wechsler is A-Ok. We’ll let her out of the Hot Seat now and give her the final word.
Last question: What is it that you want this international thriller writer community to know about you?
“I guess what I want people to know about me is that I’d love for them to read my book.”
PAMELA WECHSLER spent over fifteen years working as a criminal prosecutor at the local, state and federal levels. She has served as an assistant district attorney and assistant attorney general in Boston, and she was a trial attorney for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. About ten years ago, Pam moved to Los Angeles to work as a legal consultant and writer for network television shows. Her credits include: Law and Order; Law and Order: Criminal Intent; Law and Order: Trial by Jury; Conviction; and Canterbury’s Law. Pam grew up in the Boston area and is a graduate of Tufts and Boston University School of Law. Currently, she is consulting on television shows, and working on the second Abby Endicott novel.
To learn more about MISSION HILL, click on the cover below:
Shannon Kirk is the award-winning author of the debut psychological thriller, METHOD 15/33 (THE METHOD in UK, NZ, and OZ), which has garnered three starred reviews, won the National Inde Excellence Award for best suspense, and was selected by the School Library Journal as one of the best 17 adult fiction books for teens. METHOD 15/33 has been optioned for a major motion film and has sold into sixteen foreign territories. Ms. Kirk’s second novel (not a thriller), HEAVENS, will be published in June 2016. Read more about Shannon and her books and short stories at www.shannonkirkbooks.com and www.thegoatmancometh.com.
To learn more about METHOD 15/33, click on the cover below: