A Day in the Life Presents Author and Editor, Pendelton C. Wallace


Terrie Leigh Relf: What types – and forms  – of writing do you do?

Pendelton C. Wallace: I am a fiction novelist. I write thrillers and mysteries. I have two series, the Ted Higuera Thrillers and the Catrina Flaherty Mysteries.

Relf: Since you’re also an editor, what is your niche?

Wallace: I do freelance editing. I will do most fiction, but don’t do children’s books or romance.

Relf: What is your area(s) of subject matter expertise? How did you discover this niche? What intrigues you about it?

Wallace: I spent a career in the high-tech world. My hero, Ted Higuera, is a computer security analyst, as I was. I am also a life-long sailor and licensed captain and bring that expertise to my writing.

Relf: How do you know when you have a good story?

Wallace: When it speaks to me. I think about it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. All of my books are based on real stories. Sometimes, the endings aren’t pleasant. I have received criticism from some readers about the endings, but I prefer to show real life, not a Hollywood ending.

Relf: Do your characters speak to you? What do they say?

Wallace: They often take themselves off in directions I didn’t expect. In The Inside Passage, Meagan took over the book, something I had never planned.

Relf: How do you balance your creative and work time?

Wallace: My creative time is my work time.

Relf: What tips do you have for other writers and/or editors?

Wallace: Get in a good writers critique group. Don’t settle for one where everyone loves your work. Find a group that will give you honest criticism.

Relf: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular?

Wallace: Being a former software engineer, I have a very repeatable process. I find a story idea, usually from the news (all my books are based on true stories), then I do lots of research. When I feel that I know the subject, I write a beat sheet.

The beat sheet is a 30,000-foot view of the book. It starts with the inciting incident, delineates the characters, and shows the plot points. After I’ve done this, I know who the characters are, so I write character sketches. Of course, with series like I write, I don’t need to do a fresh character sketch for each new book. Just for new characters. However, it’s important that my characters evolve over time. The character sketch I wrote for Ted in 2003 was for a recent college grad. Now Ted has turned 30 and is a different man.

After the character sketches, I write the outline. This is generally 15 to 20 pages. It has a section for each scene in the book. I am not married to the outline. Sometimes I think of new scenes that aren’t in the outline or changes to the plot line, but generally I have the whole book outlined.

Then I sit down and start to write. I know the story and the characters so well at this point that my fingers fly over the keyboard and I read as I’m writing and think, “My God, this is good stuff.”

Relf: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?      

Wallace: I have published 11 books, three of which made Amazon’s #1 bestseller list. #12 is coming out later this year.

Relf: What are you working on now?

Wallace: The Panama Murders. This is a Catrina Flaherty mystery. At the end of her last book, The Chinatown Murders, she is a broken woman. She has just arrested the love of her life as a vicious serial killer. In the Panama Murders, she slinks down to a friend’s home in Panama to recover. She walks away from her business, her friends, and her old life. But trouble awaits her in Panama. There is a serial killer at work on her island and he has her in his sights.

Relf: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them?What did you learn from these challenges and how did they make you a better writer and/or editor?

Wallace: Writing the book is only 50% of the project, the easiest part. Getting the book published is the next 50%, and marketing the book is the final 50%. Yes, I know that adds up to 150%. Sometimes it seems like a mountain too high to climb.

Marketing the book is by far the hardest part of the equation. You spend a year of your life working on this project, and you want someone to read it. 95% of the books published sell fewer than 100 copies. How do you lift you book out of this herd?

Relf: Do you have any writing rituals that you’d like to share? Or perhaps a better question is: “How do you get into the zone?”

Wallace: Every morning I sit down and write. This time of day, my mind is fresh and my energy level high. I edit what I wrote yesterday to get me up to speed on what I’m going to write today. Then the story just flows from my fingers.

Relf: Are you currently a writing mentor? If so, what are your thoughts on this relationship?

Wallace: I am not mentoring anyone now; however, I have done this several times. I am an editor, proof-reader, ghost writer, and writing coach as well as being an author.

Relf: Are you currently, or have you ever, been in a writing group? What qualities and activities make for an excellent one?

Wallace: This is my number 1 recommendation for new writers. Yes, I’m in a group. I need to have a group of people who are ruthless in their critique. If I don’t feel like I’ve been worked over with sandpaper at the end of the session, it wasn’t worth my time.

Relf: Your thoughts on having an agent?

Wallace: I went that path and it didn’t work for me. My agent spent a year trying to sell my book, then finally gave up. I sold it myself and didn’t look back.

Relf: Your thoughts on self-publishing?

Wallace: I’m on a mission from God to improve the quality of self-published books. I try to support independent authors and read maybe 85% indie books. I am amazed at how many never even saw an editor, much less a proofreader. You can’t edit your own book, even if you’re a professional editor. If you aren’t a graphic artist, by all means, hire a cover designer. There are so many pieces to publishing a book l am overwhelmed by all the chores. My best advice is to hire a professional for the parts you don’t know. I would never design the interior of my own books. I know nothing about it.

I want to elevate the level of indie writing to a professional level, but it’s a losing battle.

Relf: Do you belong to any writers organizations?

Wallace: I’m on the board of the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and the local chapter.

Relf: Have you attended any conferences, workshops, or networking meetings during the pandemic? What platforms have been used, and how would you rate your experience?

Wallace: I love writers conferences. I love to present at them. I love the networking and meeting people whose books I’ve read and whom I admire. However, in our current climate, I have not attended any this year. The idea of a virtual conference holds no interest for me. It’s the casual meetings in the hallways that I get the most from.

Relf: Thank you for creating the time for this interview, Penn! And readers, please check out his bio below – and purchase his books!

Author Bio

Pendelton C. Wallace is the bestselling author of the Ted Higuera Thrillers and the Catrina Flaherty Mysteries.

If Chevy Chase had played Indiana Jones, he would be Penn Wallace. Penn has a thirst for adventure, but nothing ever seems to go exactly as planned. In the spring of 2010, he lost his wife Connie, to Ovarian cancer. Ten years of living with cancer changed Penn’s priorities. He learned that you can’t live for tomorrow. You must live your dreams today, as you never know if tomorrow will come.

Photo courtesy of the author.
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