Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Author Interview: Pamela Samuels Young

Today's interview is with Pamela Samuels Young, author of Buying Time. Be sure to read her guest blog and my review of the book!

Jennifer Walker: What inspired you to write Buying Time? How did it come about?

Pamela Samuels Young: The idea for Buying Time came to me while chatting with a friend at a party. I knew he was in the insurance business, but when he explained that he was a viatical broker, I started asking lots of questions because I’d never heard of the viatical industry. When he finished explaining how he brokers the insurance policies of terminally ill patients, I knew there was a thriller in there somewhere.

Jennifer Walker: Are any of the people or events in the story inspired by real life?

Pamela Samuels Young: In Buying Time, one of my characters, Dre, is a drug dealer. I wanted to create an authentic background story for him, so I found a drug dealer who was willing to talk to me about his business. I actually went to his home and interviewed him. I found him to be a very complex guy. He was bright, articulate and college educated, yet dealing drugs was his chosen profession.

Jennifer Walker: Do you have any hobbies? Tell us about them.

Pamela Samuels Young: Writing legal thrillers is both a hobby and a passion. I still practice law, so there’s not much room in my life for anything else.

Jennifer Walker: What is your background--schooling, experience, etc--that helped you to write Buying Time?

Pamela Samuels Young: I was raised in Compton, California, where my parents still live today. I’m the middle child and I have an older and younger brother. In college, I was set on becoming a newspaper reporter, but somewhere along the way I discovered broadcasting and fell in love. After earning a bachelor’s degree from the USC School of Journalism and a master’s degree in broadcasting at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, I spent six years as a television news writer and associate producer in Detroit and Los Angeles. After getting burned out from writing news stories under the gun every day, I turned in my electric typewriter (there were no computers in the news room back then!) and enrolled in law school at the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve been practicing employment law now for nearly 20 years. My journalism background and legal experience turned out to be the perfect combination for writing legal thrillers.

Jennifer Walker: Did you learn anything or experience anything remarkable during the writing of this book?

Pamela Samuels Young: I guess my most memorable experience was interviewing a real life drug dealer and trying to understand the life choices he made. I have to admit that I was quite nervous being in his home since I assumed he had drugs in the place. I kept thinking, “If the police bust down the door, will they really buy my story about being a writer doing research?”

Jennifer Walker: How did you come to be a writer? Has writing been a life-long passion or a recent development?

Pamela Samuels Young: I’ve always loved reading mysteries, particularly those that involve fascinating legal cases. It bothered me, however, that the legal thrillers I read never depicted women or African-American attorneys. So...I decided to fill the void.

I knew pretty early in life that I wanted to be a writer, having worked on school newspapers in junior high, high school and college. But when I decided to major in journalism at the University of Southern California, I didn’t give much thought to creative writing. At the age of 18, I didn’t have the guts to even consider a career as a novelist. The writers I enjoyed reading – James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Joan Didion – were incredibly talented literary writers. I knew I didn’t have that kind of poetic writing talent. So I pursued a career in journalism and later, earned a law degree. Flash forward several years and I somehow gathered the courage to give creative writing a try.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your family. Are they supportive of your writing?

Pamela Samuels Young: Absolutely! I’ve only been married for five years and still consider myself a newlywed. My husband is my biggest fan and never complains when I decide to head off to Palm Springs or a local hotel for a week of solitary writing. From my parents, to my brothers to my friends and co-workers, I have the most encouraging support system I writer could hope for.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us a little about you. What is your day job? Do you have any hobbies? Pets?

Pamela Samuels Young: I currently work as Managing Counsel for Labor and Employment Law for Toyota. It’s quite a challenge writing my novels and promoting them every weekend while still practicing law. It means writing early in the morning, late at night, weekends, whenever and wherever I can squeeze in the time. With my packed schedule, I really don’t have time for any hobbies. And thank God that I don’t have any pets. I’m sure they’d have grounds to charge me with neglect.

Jennifer Walker: What is your favorite food?

Pamela Samuels Young: Seafood gumbo. I love it!

Jennifer Walker: Where is your favorite place to visit?

Pamela Samuels Young: Absolutely anyplace with a waterfront view. I’m lucky to live in Southern California. In a matter of minutes, I can be at the beach. One day, I’d love to have a writing room with a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Thanks to Pamela Samuels Young for stopping by to talk about Buying Time!

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