by Bob Grawey
When fiction author Pam Leonard began writing her second book, “Where Echoes Die,” she knew she needed more preparation than merely developing believable characters and a gripping plot line.
Her main character, Zoe Lawrence, a physician in training, used to be a cop and is drawn into a case that involves a serial killer.
For the author to get a feel for the part of Lawrence’s character where she used a gun, Leonard enrolled in a class to get a gun permit with the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office.
“There was a lot of gun play in my second book,” Leonard says, “and I know nothing about guns. I thought I’d call the sheriff to see if he could direct me to resources. I went in knowing nothing and now I know a lot about guns and I have a permit to carry one.”
Leonard added that she wanted to know as much about guns as she could, including how one is loaded, how a gun is fired and what can go wrong in handling a gun.
Sherburne County Deputy Training Sgt. Jason Volkers and classification Sgt. Tom Zerwas trained the Haven Township author.
“I really wanted to learn the cop lingo involved with it, too,” Leonard says of her gun training. “It was really fun to hear the deputies talk about different situations you might find yourself in.”
The experience had such an impact on Leonard, that she chose to use her actual target in qualifying for the gun permit as the artwork for the front cover of her book.
Zoe Lawrence is the main character in Leonard’s first book “Death’s in Perfect Witness” and in this sequel, her troubled past resurfaces. She is forced to deal with it in action that starts in Minneapolis and moves to the Boundary Waters, but wht is a 15-year-old’s life at stake?
Most anyone can come up with a promising plot line, but how does one actually put a fiction story together that keeps the reader turning the pages?
Leonard says her process began a year before she ever wrote the first word to her psychological mystery thriller.
“That entire first year I spent developing characters,” Leonard explains. “I really dissected everything about them, so when it was time to write, it really kind of flowed.”
For one character, Leonard says she prepared by studying philosophy and theology to get into the right frame of mind for that person. It was also the source of one of the themes that ran through the book.
With a rough plot line in mind, Leonard says she allowed her characters to lead her in the direction the story should go.
“Sometimes when I’m writing,” Leonard reveals, “I almost feel I’m watching my characters in a movie, so I’m writing it down that way. I like to narrate as if I’m eavesdropping on their thoughts.”
The author does not worry about getting it right on the first draft. Instead, Leonard sets her manuscript aside for weeks, even months, before she re-reads it.
“It was a fun exercise,” Leonard says. “On one hand you see things that just stink and say, ‘That’s just got to come out.’ On the other hand, you go, ‘Holy cow! I don’t remember writing that.’”
Another thing Leonard discovered was that the themes in her book naturally emerged as she read through her work with fresh eyes.
During self-editing, she then reinforced those themes by placing meaningful, well-hidden clues throughout the book.
She also made sure that, what she calls, her red herrings were present and made sense to the story, and that everything tied together at the end of the book.
Leonard says she has no training in writing a book of any kind.
She has, however, read many fiction books and picked apart her favorite authors to discover how and why they wrote as they did in delivering a story.
“How do they put dialogue together? How do they create suspense? How do they do their pacing? Whenever I get bogged down, it’s usually with the pacing,” Leonard says, “so I’ll go back and read my favorite authors to get that rhythm back again and start writing.”
Her first book, which was a Midwest Book Award finalist, took nine months to complete the first draft and do a lot of editing, she says. This second book took six months to finish the first draft and another four months to edit.
Both of Leonard’s books can be purchased at Barnes & Noble in St. Cloud and at Reading Frenzy BookShop in Zimmerman.
They can also be purchased online at www.amazon.com and at www.barnesandnoble.com.
Leonard will also appear at a book signing event co-sponsored by Reading Frenzy and Papa’s Italian restaurant in Zimmerman Monday, July 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
It is a ticketed event that includes a full meal at Papa’s Italian and a free copy of “Where Echoes Die.” The cost is $25.
For more information on the booksigning event, call 763-856-3736.