Interview With Pat Henshaw
What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
Depends on what you mean by “published”. I was hired by the Houston Post in 1970 to work in the morgue (library) and was offered a position as a art review columnist by the features editor. I wrote book and art reviews for them which began my career as a journalist. Subsequently, I wrote reviews for the Houston Chronicle and other newspapers as well as magazines like Publishers Weekly and online publications like All About Romance. While I was doing that, I was writing books and trying to find an agent because that was how people got published then. In 2013, I wrote a fantasy novel, The Vampire’s Food Chain, and because it was possible through Amazon, self-published it. After that I started writing gay romance novels and found a small publisher for my Foothills Pride series and holiday stories. Now JMS Books is publishing my work.
How long do you write each day?
Unlike a lot of authors, I don’t have a set amount of time or a set number of pages as goals every day. As far as fiction writing goes, my day is divided into two parts: writing and rereading. At the beginning of a project, I usually have a scene that I want to get down, so I make my goal getting that scene written. The next day, I reread what I wrote the day before and edit it before I start writing a new scene. On the days when I’m not writing fiction—after I’ve turned in a manuscript or am waiting for edits—I write pieces like these Q&As or blog pieces for book promotions. How long does all of this take? From a few hours to most of the day. It depends on how much needs to be done.
Do you reward yourself for writing, or punish yourself for failing to do so? How?
Yes, I reward—ask Amazon! —but no, I don’t punish. I’m a carrot more than a stick person. While my rewards often involve spending money, they also include window shopping. I’ve been known to tell myself if I finish a certain difficult scene that I’ll give myself a half hour on Uncommon Goods or some other online shopping site. Since one of my lifelong hobbies has been making miniatures, I’ve been known to reward myself by watching a master creator on YouTube put together a project, usually a furnished room box or building. Shopping and watching YouTube are my go-to rewards.
What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
Wasn’t that why pen and paper were invented? I have both by my bedside, in my purse, and scattered around the house. While our daughters like to take notes and make shopping lists on their phones, I’m old fashioned enough that if I wrote a note on my phone, I’d never remember to look for it there when I needed it. So, pen and paper are my trusted resources.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think the most common trap is that writing a book is easy. It’s not easy. Writing the first draft is the easiest part. Many beginning writers think it’s the beginning and the end. Even those who understand writing includes self-editing often forget that the writing part is only half the job—if that. I have a very good friend who wrote a terrific Regency romance and published it to Amazon two years ago. My first question to her was how she was going to market it, to let everyone know it was available. She didn’t know, so I gave her some recommendations that had worked for me. She didn’t do any of them—or anything else—and now wonders why her book didn’t sell. I think her case is common for a lot of new authors. All writers have to promote their books. The well-known authors were once very, very unknown.
How do you select the names of your characters?
A few years ago, my preteen granddaughter took a writing course online. One of the first topics covered was naming characters. The instructor went on a rant-like discussion of properly and improperly assigning names and the difficulties in doing so. In his learned opinion, authors should cull name lists that gave the meaning of the names. The writer should know their character’s core and select a name that reflects that core. Armed with this knowledge from a well-known and respected author, my granddaughter came to me, her grandma who had published an eight book novella Foothills Pride series and who had named a little over a hundred characters in writing it. Turns out I haven’t given character names their required consideration. When a character isn’t naming himself, which happens to me a lot, then I’m slapping whatever name I can think of that starts with a different letter of the alphabet than the other characters’ names I’ve used. So far of the little over one hundred character names I’ve used in fifteen published books and short stories, I’ve duplicated under ten given names.
On a totally different topic, what is your favorite children’s book?
Even though I dearly love Eric Carle, I have to go with Pat the Bunny. First of all, my first name’s Pat, so I have an affinity with all the wonderful things a reader can learn from the instructional text. From playing peek-a-boo with Paul to feeling Daddy’s whiskers and actually getting to pat the bunny, this book has it all for babies. As a first book, it gives a child a first positive experience with books and the joy a reader can experience with one. The book also imprints the idea of slowly gaining knowledge of the world while turning pages. It’s our go-to baby gift. I like to think that I’m Pat the Author.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m writing another Heart/Home novel about a former cop who was wounded in a robbery gone wrong and who is now recuperating in Spindrift, California, a small town on coastal Route 1 near Mendocino. He’s prone to sudden brain glitches that incapacitate him. Worried about him, his parents persuade him to share his house with an artist who’s fresh out of a horrible relationship. As well as writing that book, I’m planning the next Foothills Pride books and a holiday short story. In other words, I’m still writing and loving it.