Kate: Can you explain your world building process for this book?
Pam: I started DROUGHT with a real-life inspiration for setting: the woods that I spent my summers in, growing up. My family owns a small cabin in the woods of upstate New York, in a pretty isolated area. It’s on a dirt road. You can’t hear any far-away traffic, and even the airplanes overhead are usually too high to hear. It’s just the wind in the trees, the water against the dock, and the other people around the lake. In my imagination, I set the story there, minus of course almost all of the modern conveniences and modern people!
I visited and took photographs of the woods and the lake. I wrote in my book journal about what I saw, heard, tasted, felt. And then, everytime I wrote, I just sat for a moment with my eyes closed and thought about being there.
Now when I visit the area, I feel as if I have stepped right into the world of DROUGHT! It’s a very strange feeling.
Kate: What part/character(s) in this book was the most fun to write? The hardest to write?
Pam: It depended on the day! Sometimes the characters were so cooperative. They’d do what I wanted and they bared their souls to me. Other days they were entirely rebellious and did things I never expected.
I would say that, generally, Asa (a minor character) was the easiest to write, and I have no idea why! Ford (the main love interest) was the hardest—it took a long time before I felt like I knew what was going on in that boy’s brain.
Kate: What was the "spark" that ignited this story idea in your mind?
Pam: There were a number of inspirations for DROUGHT. I think the spark that really pushed it in the right direction was a lecture at my congregation. It was about African-American slave life in Eastern Maryland, and some of the stories made me realize that even people who are brutalized can made their own brutal choices.
Kate: Did your writing process change from writing Candor to Drought? How so?
Pam: DROUGHT took a lot less time to write, at least in calendar years. That was partly because I was under contract for it, I think, but also because I’d learned how to channel my energy and schedule writing time.
Also, with DROUGHT, I always knew it was Ruby’s story. With CANDOR, I ended up switching narrators to Oscar pretty late in the game.
Both books saw utter and complete rewrites, much farther along in the process than I’d like! I am a little afraid that these rewrites may be a part of my process. Darn it.
Kate: What real life experiences did you use as inspiration for Drought?
Pam: I’m glad to say that I have never had to harvest water from living leaves with a pewter cup and spoon! But as I mentioned, I have spent my summers in the same woods, albeit with running water.
Also, I’ve been bullied, both as a pre-teen and again as an adult. I didn’t experience bullying to the extreme we see in DROUGHT. However, I identify with the feeling of powerlessness, and of being trapped, that the victim of bullying experiences. It’s so easy for people to say, “just leave the situation”, but people often have very big reasons for staying in a place where they’re treated badly. Finding a way out takes time and courage. Even a very strong personality can be trapped under the thumb of a bully.
Kate: That is so true. While reading, I did wonder why the Congregants were afraid to leave, but your explanation makes perfect sense. What's next for you in terms of writing?
Pam: I’m in the exhilarating and terrifying stage of sizing up and jumping into a new YA project. It’s a big idea in a big place, and lots of characters are clamoring to join in the story. So I’m trying to give myself space to create and make big mistakes, in hopes that it will all gel into something awesome down the road.
Thank you so much for stopping by Pam!
My Review of Drought