Halifax author Pamela Callow hasn’t let up since the release of her bestselling books Damaged (2010) and Indefensible (2011). Friday night in Halifax, the busy scribe launches Tattoed, the third of four fictional works in the Kate Lange thriller series.
How did this particular story come about?
TATTOOED came about much in the same way a tattoo needle inks a tattoo: multiple dots were connected! This is the third book in my thriller series, and I wanted to explore forensic anthropology through a cold case. And I’d been intrigued by the mainstreaming of the tattoo culture, so I decided to create a celebrity tattoo artist who is Kate Lange’s alter ego.
Was it easy to write?
No, this book was quite challenging. I have two antagonists with very different motives, and one is stalking the other. There are two criminal cases that run throughout the book: a cold case that is revealed in reverse flashback, and a present day case that heats up through the book. So I had to juggle multiple characters, motivations and plot twists.
What kind of research was involved? Did you get a tattoo?
I have a complete back piece – in my imagination! For the character of Kenzie Sloane, the celebrity tattoo artist in TATTOOED, I studied the history, symbols and culture of tattooing. I interviewed a tattoo artist about the process of getting a tattoo. To write the crime plots, I interviewed a forensic anthropologist, medical examiner and police detective. Plus, I conducted considerable research on topics as diverse as the composition of bogs in Nova Scotia, World War II revolver mechanics, and the criminalization of assisted suicide.
What kinds of themes were you hoping to explore?
Revenge, redemption, and forgiveness were all themes in this book. Is it possible to forgive a terrible wrong? What does it take to push an ordinary woman into being tempted to kill for revenge? Those are questions I wanted to explore in TATTOOED.
Where did the character of Kenzie come from?
Kenzie Sloane, the celebrity tattoo artist, came from a desire to create an antagonist who is ambiguous in terms of good versus evil. She has done evil before, but has she redeemed herself? Do her tattoos reflect her life journey or are they a trompe l’oeil, art to camouflage an evil heart?
What about John?
John McNally, the other antagonist in TATTOOED, was inspired by two questions. What motivates a couple to become killers? And what if a sociopathic killer is actually in love? He has had an obsession with Kenzie Sloane for half of his life. When I researched stalkers and obsessions, I learned there is often little rationale for it. What happens to the object of the obsession? To what lengths would you go to end it?
Kate seems older, perhaps even a little jaded at times - was this intentional?
Ah, interesting observation… I didn’t set out to portray Kate as jaded, but I did want to write about how her experiences since DAMAGED have changed her. She has suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of surviving a serial killer’s attack, and seen her public persona rise and fall as a result of her career. She has also been in the throes of a rather complicated love life, with still no resolution. One of her biggest lessons is that her professional success has not given her personal happiness. As for all of us, her journey continues.
What are the challenges of writing a series like this?
One of the biggest challenges is to ensure that the thriller scenarios hook in plausibly with the legal elements of the books. And the series cannot remain stagnant; Kate’s situation will continue to evolve. In the fourth book, she decides to leave the firm where she had pinned her hopes on success and happiness. She enters a partnership with a criminal defence lawyer who has seen his share of the underbelly of life. I’m excited to explore how this new area of legal practice – and partnership – will evolve the series. Nothing is set in stone. The entire series is very fluid.
What are the rewards?
The response from my readers, hands down! When I write, I worry most about making sure my readers are satisfied.
What has the response to the book been like so far from those who have read it?
People have been calling it my best book yet. It’s quite a thrill – and a relief!
How does this affect you?
The year I wrote TATTOOED was one of the most difficult of my life, due to several family situations. Finishing the book was one of my greatest accomplishments. As I like to say, my blood is on that cover. So to have such great reviews about the book is just wonderful.
How have you grown as a writer & storyteller since Indefensible?
Yes. As I mentioned earlier, writing this book was challenging from a technical perspective. Most of the subject matter was new to me, as well. Writing two crime plots, one in reverse chronological order in flashback, and one in chronological order in present day, did tax my brain! Fortunately, I am now working with a wonderful agent, Al Zuckerman of Writers House, who is an expert at story structure (he works with Ken Follett on his books). And I’ve learned a lot from him.
Is it still as fun and rewarding?
Yes. In a different way. Writing is a business, like any other. And I’m a one-woman enterprise, running my own business and creating a product in partnership with my publisher. It can be overwhelming at times. And yet, after I turned in TATTOOED, I couldn’t wait to write another book.
What's next on your creative agenda?
I’m working on the fourth book of the Kate Lange series. After that, we’ll see what happens. I’d like to continue writing the series, but also would like to work on a project that has sat on the backburner for quite a while, a time travel historical set during the Napoleonic war. Ideally, I’d like to do both!
Launch; Friday, June 8, 8pm, at the Carelton Music Bar & Grill, Halifax