Mystery. Intrigue. Danger. Patty Henderson knows these well—at least in the fictional worlds she creates. Her debut novel, The Gift of Deception, a regional romantic suspense set in the Arkansas/Texas area she knows and loves, was released by The Wild Rose Press in June 2008.
Originally from Arkansas and still possessing the flavorful speech patterns of that area, Patty now lives in Houston, Texas where she co-exists with two cats, Gizmo and Zappa. Of her felines friends, she says, “Their names are appropriate, although Gizmo is much more laid back than Zappa, who tends to zip about with no thought to the destruction behind him.”
Patty has been working as a legal secretary for a large law firm the past nine years. Prior to that, she worked for a Circuit Judge in Fort Smith, Arkansas. When not working or writing, she pursues her interest in the metaphysical. She’s currently enrolled in a transvibrational healing class and is planning to study BodyTalk, a form of healing outside the medical field, both of which are interests close to her heart.
Join me as we learn more about Patty and her journey to publication.
Patty’s Journey Begins
•When did you begin writing? Are you one of those writers who was born with a pen in your hand and ideas flitting through your mind, or did your interest develop later?
I began writing as a child. My imagination was vivid and I enjoyed putting it to paper. When I reached junior high I began working on the school newspaper and did so through senior high, also working on the yearbook, both writing and drawing.
After that, family came in to play and my writing was pushed to the back until about 15 years ago when I began taking creative writing courses. At that time I was primarily focused on poetry and didn’t even consider the possibility of writing a novel.
It was 2006 when I picked up a neighborhood newspaper and noted the West Houston Romance Writers of America® (WHRWA) chapter was having their monthly meeting and decided maybe it was time. Once I joined, beginning the book seemed a natural thing to do.
Four of us created a critique group and through months of dissection, completed our focal point we’d pursued with passion. It culminated with the meeting of Lori Graham and her fellow editors at a workshop in San Antonio and my pitching it, somewhat hesitantly, after bombing in a big way with Chris Keesler of Dorchester! That poor man was so kind!
I began writing at the time I did primarily to develop a business opportunity that was close to my heart and one I could do anywhere at any time when I retired. It never occurred to me I would sell my first book but I’m quite confident my retirement is still in the dream stage!
•With a background in journalism and the creative writing classes you’d taken, you had a solid foundation when you embarked on your writing journey. What do you feel were the biggest advantages of having this experience? What aspects of fiction writing did you find you needed to work on, and which did you have nailed?
I knew I could, at the very least, form a reasonable paragraph. However, the thought of writing a novel was a bit overwhelming. I am a slacker when it comes to grammar. I do well with word choices and playing out scenes but I have a weakness, I’m afraid, in structure at times. I can put fantasy to paper, get into the head of the characters, make things happen, but I’m extremely judgmental of myself when it comes to satisfaction of my own work. There’s always a better way to say something. I’m certain.
•Fiction isn’t your only interest. You’ve also written non-fiction. What led you to switch from one to the other, or do you work in both to this day?
I actually do work on both. After publishing my book, which in essence was a dream come true, I took into consideration classes I was taking at the time, meditation, channeling, etc., and took heed there were things I could share to help those not only wanting to write, but pursue other interests they may have. It is all about your inner voice a/k/a your intuition. If we’d only follow it more often our lives would be much more fruitful.
•I understand you’ve had some contest successes. Please tell us about them and what they meant to you.
In 2007, I placed in HeRA’s Show Me the Spark with The Gift of Deception. Only at that time it was titled Dancing with Tadpoles. I also won first place in Mid-Michigan’s Happily Ever After.
•Contest placements weren’t the only things you celebrated that year. You received The Call, or, in your case, The Email. Since you have a background in journalism, please give us the When, Where, What, and How of this incredible moment.
I ambled into work here at the office on June 21, 2007 and I had received an email from Lori Graham of the Wild Rose Press. She had a question about my manuscript. I quickly shot back a clarification and revision and went to lunch, not thinking anything was seriously going to come of it.
When I returned I found the email she’d sent with the offer of a contract! I was stunned, then a bit flabbergasted and then I announced it, quite loudly, to my row mates, my bosses, and anyone else who would listen! We had a celebration at my desk the next day! My husband was stunned, only thinking my writing was a hobby and nothing more. It was quite the surprise!
•I haven’t sold a book, but I hear the firsts can be amazing experiences. First look. First time to hold your novel in your hands. First time you read a review. What struck you the most during the months leading up to your release?
I don’t know if others have felt this way but awaiting the cover of your book is almost like awaiting the birth of your child. What will it look like? Will it favor me or some part of the story I find unimportant. Will it be distressed in appearance? You know, the usual….! When I finally saw it on The Wild Rose Press’s book list and when it appeared in the best sellers’ list, it was a bit surreal. Was I sitting in someone else’s life?
•Many a writer produces several stories before she sells. That wasn’t the case for you. Your debut novel was the first story you wrote, which is quite impressive. I guess those creative writing classes really paid off, huh? 🙂 What do you credit with making this experience possible?
The thing I found most phenomenal was selling the first book I’d ever written. So many I have known have submitted manuscript after manuscript and failed. I pitched to 2 editors and the 2nd bought. For me it was a matter of making the most of opportunities such as workshops, and being in the right place at the right time.
I can never say enough good things about contests or workshops or, for that matter, the national conference. Each of those present a wealth of opportunity for being steps closer to selling than you would be if doing it with a query letter or email. You have face-to-face contact and a chance to sell the baby you hold so dear. What may seem like an ordinary time to gather with other writers, enjoying educational opportunities and possibly a little vacation trip can be a life altering experience catapulting your book to a new hemisphere.
Partners On Patty’s Journey
•We writers spend countless hours in front of a computer with no one for company but a faithful pet perhaps, or, in my case, some tenacious dust bunnies. However, we don’t travel this path alone. Who have been your staunchest supporters?
Were it not for the phenomenal critique group I have been a part of I would have never completed my book nor would it have been accepted as quickly (if at all). It has been an honor to write with such amazing women. At this time 4 out of the 5 have been or are in the last few steps of getting published! Not bad for a group of women who didn’t know one another until meeting at WHRWA.
Belonging to this group has been a very educational experience for me. To have one person, let alone four, dissect your priceless baby of work, can be heart wrenching at times! Fortunately, they are wise women with great vision and talent.
And, I have to say, my now ex-husband. He was forever supportive, still is for that matter, and pushed me to the computer when I was ready to throw in the towel. Sometimes we need that extra “you can do it” to put us back in that seat!
Patty’s Sources of Inspiration
•I read on your website where you said, “I met myself in the silence.” What prompted this comment? Do you find silence inspires you as you write?
Being still and listening to what God says guides me to move forward on my dreams. Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, I have to force myself to be still. As a multi-tasker I am forever looking at what else needs to be done, rather than doing what I know is to be done. It’s that still, small voice we hear in the silence. Pay attention…
•Another catchy phrase I noted was, “Where’s your happy?” That’s a great question, Patty, one I’d like you to answer with regard to your writing.
Finding my happy was taking one scene, a girl dancing with tadpoles in a stream as she’d done (as I had done) as a child. From that picturesque moment, I created The Gift of Deception. It was such a release of imagination, creativity, energy, that I had built up inside just waiting to get out.
When I write, as most know from experience, I lose contact with the outside world. Like Alice in Wonderland I escape into the fictional characters I create and life can totally pass me by and I’m happy with that. People can walk in front of me, behind me, and I’ll never realize they’re there.
My happy is that contentment in what I’m doing. Finding your happy is finding whatever it is that calls to your heart. Whether it is painting, walking in a park, fishing, etc., it’s what makes your heart smile.
Patty’s Debut Novel
•Please tell about The Gift of Deception.
Her world becomes incased in fear and passion when she finds she’s a stalker’s target. Overwhelmed by the pursuit, she finds Deputy Nick Johnson’s protectiveness and encouragement captivating each time they’re brought together throughout the investigation.
Within the agonizing incidents, Maggie finds her inner strength to face and overcome the terror before it can consume her.
Patty’s Journey Continues
•What projects are you working on now? Another romantic suspense perhaps?
I am working on another suspense/thriller. I was blessed with the opportunity (listening to that still small voice), of interviewing 2 female FBI agents and was gifted with mountains of information, DVDs, books and also a connection in the Washington office that have built a very strong character in my next book, presently titled Perishable Distinction. The story is focused on Northwest Arkansas and human trafficking.
•And what is happening with your non-fiction?
I have a motivational book being considered by an agent I pitched to at a Dallas workshop. I’m crossing all body parts I can cross!
Five Aspects of Writing That Bring Patty Joy
~ Using my imagination productively 🙂
~ The escapism into the characters themselves
~ Telling a story to entertain or encourage
~ The amazing people you interact with in writing groups, workshops, editors, agents, etc.
~ The knowledge it provides along the way when you didn’t think you would learn anything new (ha!)
Five People Who Have Changed the Way Patty Views the World
~ My mother (now deceased)
~ Clairvoyant friends, Ingrid, Karen and Karen
~ Joel Osteen
~ My critique group
~ Women I work with, Charlotte, Denise and Jean
Patty’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Patty. You gave great answers to my questions. Now it’s time to see what your guests have to say, so go for it.
If you followed your intuition, what would you do right now? Would you finally put that pen to paper, climb a mountain, become a minister? It’s truly all about you!
Learn More About Patty
Visit her website ~ www.pattyhenderson.com
Visit her personal blog ~ Quiet Observations (located at her website)
Friend Her on Facebook ~ Patty Henderson
Follow her on Twitter ~ PattyeHenderson