JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Pamela Samuels Young, author of Murder on the Down Low
(Goldman House Publishing)
A brazen gunman is targeting African-American men on the streets of L.A. and police are completely baffled. The victims are all quintessential family men. Well-educated. Attractive. Successful. But appearances can be deceiving.
Meanwhile, attorney Vernetta Henderson and her outrageous sidekick, Special, lead the charge for revenge against a young lawyer whose deception caused his fiance’s death. For Special, hauling the man into court and suing him for wrongful death just isn’t good enough.
While she exacts her own brand of justice, a shocking revelation connects the contentious lawsuit and the puzzling murders. When Special”s quest for payback goes way too far, it appears that not even Vernetta can save her.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write Murder on the Down Low?
Pamela Samuels Young: I often have a hard time recalling exactly when or how the idea for a particular novel originated. For the most part, the concept simply pops into my head from some unknown place. That wasn’t the case with Murder on the Down Low. I have a crystal clear recollection of exactly when the idea for the book came to me.
I was watching an Oprah show featuring J.L. King, author of On the Down Low. I was completely stunned as I listened to his insider’s account of the mindset of men on the down low – guys, many of them married, who profess to be straight but engage in homosexual sex. My emotions during that sixty-minute program went from shock to anger to fear.
I was driving to work the next day, still disturbed by the show when a thought came to me. What if prominent, attractive, successful African-American men were being gunned down on the streets of L.A. and nobody knew why? And what if they all shared a dirty little secret? Within 24 hours, I had sketched out the basic plot for Murder on the Down Low.
JP: What sets Murder on the Down Low apart from other novels that tie in a legal aspect?
PSY: There are two aspects that set Murder on the Down Low apart from other legal thrillers. First, the book brings diversity to legal fiction. I started writing thrillers because I got tired of never seeing women or African-Americans depicted as lawyers in the legal thrillers I read. I started writing the kind of legal thriller that I wanted to read.
Second, Murder on the Down Low gave me an opportunity to both entertain and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. While African-American and Latina women make up only 24% of the female population in the United States, we account for more than 80% of the total AIDS diagnoses for women, according to the latest statistics published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
I wanted to communicate to women that it’s time for us to take responsibility for our own bodies.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to Murder on the Down Low getting out to the public?
PSY: Without a doubt, sheer perseverance has been the primary key to my success. The publishing industry is a tough business. Getting into law school and passing the California Bar exam was a piece of cake in comparison to getting a book deal. As a result, you have to have faith in your talent and keep going despite the rejection.
I’ve worked in both television news and law and I never faced anywhere near the rejection and difficulties in those careers that I faced trying to become a published novelist. It’s also important to think like a businessperson, not a writer. My books are products. I have to be inventive and unrelenting about getting my product to readers.
I focus heavily on connecting with book clubs. During a trip to the D.C. area, I did three book clubs in one day, along with a reception at a friend’s home and a panel discussion at a bookstore. It was a long day, but I reached a lot of people. Book clubs are social networks, and they are a great source for word-of-mouth buzz. If the book club members enjoy reading one of my books, the’re like to encourage their friends, family and co-workers to read it too.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish Murder on the Down Low?
PSY: It took me just over a year to writer Murder on the Down Low. It was probably my easiest book to write because I found the storyline so compelling. I typically spend anywhere from a few weeks to as long as three months outlining a book before I actually start writing. During this time, I mull over my story quite a bit. I’m thinking about it in the shower, while I’m standing in line at the grocery store and during my 45-minute commute to work.
Even during the outlining stage, I can almost see each chapter as if it were a scene in a movie. Only after I have a completed outline do I start writing. And when I write, I go from page one to the last page without doing much editing along the way. For me, it’s psychologically motivating to complete that first draft, even if it’s so bad I’d never dare show it to anyone. Once I have a first draft, then the real writing starts. I revise, and revise and revise some more. That process can last six months or more.
JP: What’s next for Pamela Samuels Young?
PSY: My fourth novel, Buying Time, goes on sale November 1st. It’s my first standalone book and I’m really excited about it. In Buying Time, Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck lawyer who comes to the aid of terminally ill people in desperate need of cash. All they have to do is sign over rights to their life insurance policies.
Waverly then finds investors eager to advance them thousands of dollars – including a hefty broker’s fee for himself – in exchange for a significant return on their investment once the clients take their last breath.
When Waverly’s clients start dying sooner than they should, both Waverly and a high-powered lawyer who’s bucking to become the next U.S. Attorney General are unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder.
The early reviews of the book have been great. Here’s my favorite:
Lisa Scottoline and Robert Crais. Find a comfortable
chair and plan to stay up late. Highly recommended.
Honors/Blurbs for Murder on the Down Low —
- 2009 African American Literary Awards finalist in the Mystery category
- Editor’s Pick, Black Expressions Book Club
- “…an entertaining read filled with heart-pumping suspense!” ~ Victoria Christopher Murray, Bestselling author of Lady Jasmin
- “…keeps you teetering precariously on the edge of your seat the whole way through.” ~ The Book Club Queen
- “…an excellent choice for fans of mystery, suspense or crime novels.” ~ APOOO BookClub
- “…intricate plotting, memorable characters and intense action . . . with shades of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club.” ~ Jackie Houchin, Valley News
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