Authors: Stories Behind the Books-Bernadette Pajer
Starting off 2016 blog post with a new author added to my project. I had the pleasure of photographing Bernadette Pajer, author of the Benjamin Bradshaw Mystery series. Bernadette wonderfully pairs her passions of writing and engineering together in a exciting murder mystery series that is based on early 20th century discoveries and the inventions that everyday play a role in our lives today. Read her interview below.
Your books are set in the early 1900's in Seattle and they feature the history of electrical invention. How did you come to write this series?
Sometimes characters come to writers fully-formed, like gifts. Professor Bradshaw showed up one day, and I just knew him. I tried to convince him to be something other than an electrical engineer--because I am not one--but he could not be budged from his passion. Luckily, it turns out I have a passion for electrical invention too, and I love to research. I find it fascinating to explore the people and inventions that laid the foundations of the world we live in today.
We talked about your educational history, can you talk about how it influenced your writing?
My first two years of college were right out of high school. I studied pre-engineering at the UW, aiming myself towards being a civil engineer with the idea that I would help develop modern transportation systems that would end congestion and pollution. Ha! Life and love intervened, I left school, got married, began to write, and twenty years later returned to the UW Bothell campus of UW to finish my degree, this time studying disciplinary Arts and Science. It turns out I'm a much better science writer than scientist. With the Professor Bradshaw series, I'm able to marry my two passions.
Mysteries can be fun to write because you develop the plot, the clues, and the twists to entertain the audience, but what is hard about writing mysteries? Does the murder ever "stump" you in a sense when you write the story?
Every writer finds different aspects of writing difficult. For me, detail is hard! I'm a "big picture" thinker. I love plotting stories, figuring out motivations, deciding whodunit and why they did it. It's challenging to weave all the layers together. You have the actual mystery and its clues, then you have the false clues pointing to the wrong people, then you have personal story-arcs that impact and alter the story and the character reactions. It's a balancing act, trying to keep the reader entertained and engaged whole not giving them quite enough to figure it out. All of these elements dance around in my brain and are brilliant in there--before they're written--but then I have to find the exact right words to put on the page to transfer my ideas to the reader's brain--and that's hard. There ought to be an app for that. The historical detail, the electrical detail, even the physical detail that reveal emotions in characters. For all of that I surround myself with research and spend much time at the revision and editing stages finding the right words.
How many hours of research do you put into this series? What is your method of research?
I don't know how many hours, but from start to finish, each book takes me about a year to research and write. I do most research at home using online sources like the UW Digital Archives and Google Docs Advanced Search to find primary sources and photographs. I visit the UW Special Collections and other in-person sources as needed, and I consult with experts who generously share their knowledge , and read my drafts, giving advice and feedback.
You also wrote a time travel-romance, The First Time, which stepped away from the historical mystery category. Do you plan on writing more in that genre or was it a creative break from the Bradshaw series?
That was actually a manuscript I wrote many years ago, before I wrote the Bradshaw series. Every so often, I'll peek at my older works to see if they have any life in them. When I looked again recently at The First Time, I still enjoyed the story and characters, so on a whim, I updated it and self-published. It was fun creating the cover, I hired a brilliant editor, did the layout myself (tedious!), and sent it out into the world. I have a couple other time-travel manuscripts I could follow up with one day, but have no immediate plans.
What are you working on next?
The fifth Professor Bradshaw is percolating. The story will jump to 1907, when they began to prepare the grounds of the UW for the 1909 AYP (Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expo), but right now I'm writing a contemporary mystery which I hope will be the first in a new series. I'm also working on a mainstream novel that has been evolving for twenty years. Not sure when it will be done, but it's one of those sort of stories I feel good about letting develop at its own pace.
Thank you so much for your answers!
Thank you so much to Bernadette Pajer for being a part of this project and being so generous with your time. You can find the Professor Bradshaw Series and more at Bernadette's website: http://www.bernadettepajer.com
You can find copies of her work on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble, and wherever else books are sold.
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