Pamela Samuels Young is a practicing attorney and author of legal thrillers, “Murder on the Down Low”, and the Essence bestsellers, “Every Reasonable Doubt” and “In Firm Pursuit”. A desire to see female attorneys and African-American attorneys as main characters in today’s legal fiction prompted her to begin writing despite a busy legal career. Pamela is on the Board of Directors of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is a graduate of the University of Southern California, Northwestern University, and the University of California Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. A former journalist, Pamela is a legal columnist for Global Woman magazine and served as legal consultant to the Showtime television series, Soul Food.
Pamela is married and lives in the Los Angeles area. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of writing and self-empowerment and loves visiting book club meetings.
Visit Pamela’s website at www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Pamela. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
I’m a practicing attorney and the author of three legal thrillers: Murder on the Down Low, Every Reasonable Doubt and In Firm Pursuit.
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
The first book I wrote was In Firm Pursuit. It didn’t get picked up until after I published the second book I wrote Every Reasonable Doubt because it was actually pretty lousy. I knew absolutely nothing about story structure.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
I received more than a dozen rejection letters and probably another dozen agents who never even bothered to respond to my query.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
I felt like crap for about a day or so. Then I got fired up and said: “I’ll show you, Mr. Agent. One day you’re going to regret not getting 15% of my seven-figure book deal.” I was determined not to let the rejection stop me. Most successful authors were rejected. It comes with the territory.
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
My first book, Every Reasonable Doubt (2006), was published by BET Books, which is now an imprint of Harlequin (Kimani Press). Frankly, I didn’t care who published me. I just wanted a book deal!
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
It felt great! On the official release date, I drove around to a bunch of bookstores in my area and just stood around staring at the book sitting on the shelf. I started to get a little teary eyed until my step-son told me not to embarrass him by crying in the store. I was just so overwhelmed that all my hard work had paid off.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I threw a big party and invited all of my friends to my house to drink and buy books!
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
Nope, this was a tough road, but I learned a lot and it helped me toughen up.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
Yes, I’ve been published, two more times (In Firm Pursuit (2007) and Murder on the Down Low (2008) ). After traditionally publishing two books, I self-published Murder on the Down Low. It was a scary venture but it has turned out great. It has been an incredible accomplishment taking my career into my own hands.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
I don’t think there’s any sure fire way to speed things up. “Making it” in the publishing world is based in large part on luck and timing. But I should have spent more time in the beginning mastering the writing craft. Only after I began to study writing and story structure, did I learn how to write a novel that keeps readers engaged. When I receive an email from a reader who calls my books “page turners,” I feel great. It’s a confirmation that all of my hard work was worth it.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
My biggest accomplishment since publishing Every Reasonable Doubt has been finishing and publishing two more books, In Firm Pursuit and Murder on the Down Low. So far, I’ve published a book a year and I’m on track to stick to that record with my forthcoming novel, Buying Time, which will be released in 2009. I think that’s quite an accomplishment since I’m still practicing law.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I’ve been a journalist and I’m currently practicing law. I wouldn’t choose another profession. I love writing legal thrillers.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
Writing is my dream job. It doesn’t get any better than this!
How do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself continuing to publish a book a year and giving up the practice of law.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Don’t let the naysayers discourage you. Agents and editors have rejected lots of writers who went on to major success in the publishing world (e.g., John Grisham, Terry McMillan, Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling). So when you get that rejection letter, take a minute or two to whine about it, then move on. Your day will come. Just keep writing!