Today, I'd like to welcome author Pamela King Cable to My Book Retreat. She is the author of the debut novel Televenge.
Q. Who or what inspired you to become an author?
My mother was also a skilled storyteller without even knowing it. All I wanted to do when I was a teenager was to duplicate my mother’s life. I loved the way she talked to my grandmother; I felt neither imprisoned by it nor put off by her Southern accent nor that of any of my relatives. What I didn’t know is just how much I would treasure their accents someday. How they would become a part of me, part of my very existence as a writer. But Mama did nothing in moderation. I, like my mama, was a drama queen.
I listened to every word my parents said, to their many stories, and eventually I became like both of them. A storyteller. With a love for the written word, be it the Word of God or Mother Goose. I read book after book as a child, and then one day, I picked up a pen in the sixth grade and began to write.
Q. Can you tell me a little about your debut novel, Televenge?
Andie Oliver is a faithful woman—to God, to husband Joe, and to televangelist Calvin Artury, a Godfather in a Mafia of holy men. Joe works limitless hours on the megachurch ministry team, falling deeper into debauchery, while Andie attempts to free him from the Reverend’s control and far-reaching influence. Uncovering long-hidden truths—even murder—she loses everything, including her children. Andie fights for redemption for her family and herself, confronting the very definition of sin, and shaking the Christian evangelical world to its core. Evading ruthless adversaries who will go to any lengths to protect Reverend Artury, Andie battles the dark side of televangelism.
“Cable's unflinching fictional exposé of the dark side of televangelism has a human victim in the person of Andie Oliver. … This powerful story, skillfully written and with well-drawn characters, reveals the classic entrapment of vulnerable people in the name of a vengeful god …”
~ Publishers Weekly
“A captivating, beautifully rendered, unforgettable look at a world so few of us understand. Ms. Cable has courageously opened the door...and my eyes.”
~ Lesley Kagen, NEW YORK TIMES Bestselling Author of Good Graces
“Pamela King Cable’s debut novel breathes good and evil, frost and fire. You can finish it, but it won't let you go.”
~ Jacquelyn Mitchard, NEW YORK TIMES Bestselling Author of The Deep End of the Ocean
Televenge is “ … an emotional rollercoaster that ends as intensely as it begins ... those who commit to Cable’s tome will find themselves captivated and deeply devoted to Andie. Fans of Fannie Flagg and Janet Evanovich will be hooked on this saga of religion, romance, and crime.” Library Journal Editor’s Pick BookExpo America 2012
~ Shannon Marie Robinson, Library Journal
Q. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Inspired by my spirituality and my own story, I wrote this book after surviving life’s heartaches and hardships. My mother says I cut my teeth on the back of a church pew. I grew up first as a Baptist and then as a Pentecostal—a fundamentalist, attending revivals in tents, tabernacles, and clapboard churches. Eventually, I became an evangelical, joining a church where I experienced a world that encompassed both the sublime and the bizarre. For twenty-five years, I was a member of a megachurch operated by a TV evangelist. As part of its inner circle, I was married to a ministry team member who traveled with this televangelist, holding mammoth faith-healing crusades all over the world. Under much distress, I left the church losing everything in the wake of my rebellion, including my husband in a bitter divorce.
I have always been a writer in one form or another, keeping a journal, and writing short stories. In the early 90s I wrote a story inspired by a conversation I had with my ex-husband, and then enrolled in creative writing classes at both The University of Akron and Kent State University. I wanted to write a novel based upon my experience and the experiences of others I knew who broke free from cult-like churches. As a working single mother, all I had time to do was write dialogue and scenes that later became pieces of Televenge.
But I began to study televangelism markets more closely and the devastating effects of some megachurches, interviewing more than a hundred people who broke away from the church they attended for many of the same reasons that I did. Some I knew personally, some I didn’t, but a similar thread ran through our lives. We got sick of gulping the dogma, and when we broke free we suffered unbearable losses. We were in a tug of war with the pastor for our loved one who felt if they left the church, they were bound for Hell. Many families were split apart because we had become “an apostate.” Those who left also endured horrific personal trauma and ruin, feeling void of hope, of help, and of God. And of course my own experience, living in the world of an evangelical cult and breaking out of it, gave me plenty to write about.
Q. What are you working on now?
I’m editing and preparing for my next novel, The Sanctum. Neeley McPherson accidentally killed her parents on her fifth birthday. Thrown into the care of her scheming and alcoholic grandfather, she is raised by his elderly farmhand, Gideon, a black man, whom she grows to love. Neeley turns thirteen during the winter of 1959, and when Gideon is accused of stealing a watch and using a Whites Only restroom, she determines to break him out of jail.
The infamous Catfish Cole, Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon of the Carolinas, pursues Neeley and Gideon in their courageous escape to the frozen Blue Ridge Mountains. After Gideon’s truck hits ice and careens down a steep slope, they travel on foot through a blizzard, and arrive at a farm of sorts—a wolf sanctuary where Neeley crosses the bridge between the real and the supernatural. It is here she discovers her grandfather’s deception, confronts the Klan, and uncovers the shocking secrets of the Cherokee family who befriends her. Giving sanctuary, the healing power of second chances, and overcoming prejudice entwine, leading Neeley to tragedy once again but also granting her the desire of her heart.
The Sanctum is a coming-of-age Southern tale dusted with a bit of magic, and set in a volatile time in America when the winds of change begin to blow.
Q. What are your strategies for making characters seem real so the reader connects with them?
I’m not sure I have any “strategies”. Storytelling is a gift. It’s an art that is cut and cured over time, like a good whiskey. One can learn the craft of writing, memorize all the rules, and follow the formulas; even earn a few fine art degrees … but if you can’t deliver a good story, then what’s the point? Those who have been blessed with the gift of storytelling seldom experience writers block, if at all.
As writers, unless we raise the stakes, express gut emotional appeal on the page, and allow our characters to direct the plot within our head and heart, the story will fall flat. To pierce the heart of the reader is my ultimate joy. There is no strategy for that. It’s part of my voice as a writer. I can no more control it than I can control the color of my eyes.
Q. What sorts of relationships and experiences do you most like to explore in your writing?
Forgiveness, death, love, racial conflict, faith, tragedy, destiny, guilt, and overcoming insurmountable obstacles. Conflicts based in truths and real events, served up with heaping helpings of high stakes, tastes of misery, comfort, and hopes all but forgotten.
Many of the stories are based on truth, shreds of truth, people I’ve known, places I’ve been, and of course history plays a great part in some stories I’ve written—like in Coal Dust On My Feet. I was born a coal miner’s granddaughter. That fact inspired this story. A love story set amidst the longest and most violent coal strike in the history of our country. It is truth and fiction. I write what I know, what I care about, and what comes out of my imagination.
Q. What genres and authors do you most enjoy reading?
Well, that’s an easy one. Southern fiction is my favorite. Sue Monk Kidd, Kathryn Stockett, Joshilyn Jackson, Charles Frazier, Barbara Kingsolver, Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons, Lee Smith, and Jill McCorkle.
The South and its history, religion, food, the significance of family, and its dialect continues to grab hold of readers from every walk of life, all over the world. I don’t believe that fact will ever change. New writers will forever emerge on the scene with fresh new voices and stories about the South and its traditions.
But I also believe we’ll see a revival in Southern writers from the past. Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Katherine Anne Porter, Harper Lee, Robert Penn Warren and William Faulkner to name a few. As many of us were moved by these legendary greats, we will continually refer to their writing, inspiring a new generation of writers, as well as readers, to delve into the stories of these Southern literary giants.
Southern fiction is not for the faint of heart.
For me, I like Pat Conroy. Pat breaks all the rules. (I like writers with a rebel spirit. A rebel spirit with the craft and within their prose.) Pat’s novel, Beach Music, is one of my favorites. He’s what I call, a well-seasoned writer. I can always tell when a writer has been around the block a few times. When they’ve had their share of hard knocks. When they write fearlessly. Read the first few paragraphs in South of Broad. His poetic prose is awe-inspiring. His novels are long and rich, filled with drama and suspense. When you buy a Pat Conroy novel, you get more for your money. Again, he breaks all the writing rules so eloquently, and I simply love that about him. Another absolute favorite would be Dorothy Allison who wrote Bastard out of Carolina. Other than Southern fiction, I adore Diana Gabaldon, Richard Russo, and Elizabeth Flock.
Q. What do you enjoy doing when you're not reading?
When I’m not reading, I’m writing. But when I’m not writing, I can be found sitting on my front porch with a cup of coffee, talking to my family. I live on a working horse farm. I love antiques and good food. I spend as much time at home as possible. Digging in the dirt, planting flowers and vegetables with my grandchildren, and watching the horses in the pasture nose for grass. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Thank you so much for visiting with My Book Retreat!
Connect with Pamela King Cable on her website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter (@pamelakingcable).
Check out the Televenge book trailers at http://www.televenge.com/trailer.html and http://tinyurl.com/televenge-thestory