Pamela Pizzimenti first came to fame under the name Kellie McCoy as a radio personality in California’s Central Valley. With a BA in Mass Communications from California State East Bay in Hayward, Pamela has gone on to train as a teacher and see her first book The River Whispers published by AuthorHouse.
The River Whispers features the thirteen year old Evie who has a rather odd ability – she can see a ghost. Together with Bliss and Johnny, two new friends, she sets about trying to solve the mystery of David’s death.
Pamela has been kind enough to give In Pure Spirit a quick interview.
The River Whispers is your very first book and it features a ghost. Was that a deliberate decision? Might we see more supernatural themed fiction from you?
I find it fascinating how ideas manifest and can even be transit from one place or person to another. Although it was deliberate to have a main character be a ghost, it stemmed from an interview I did when I worked as a radio DJ years before I ever tackled this book. I interviewed a musician, Billy Mann, who was just releasing a song called Earthbound. I asked where the idea for this song came from and he told me how Oprah Winfrey had been on TV and the topic that day was how spirits are earthbound until the people who love them can let go. The idea touched him to create the song and years later played in my mind for The River Whispers. So, from Oprah, to Billy Mann, to my book, and now to this interview who knows where this idea will manifest itself next.
Over at your blog you let us know that some of the character names come from your own life. Are there any characters in the book based on people you know? Do you think they’ll recognise themselves?
None of the characters are based on people I know. The idea of using names from people who had in some way touched my life and have passed on, developed as I wrote. It seemed such a fitting way to honor these wonderful people in a book where the main theme is learning to let go after losing someone. Although none of the characters are based on real people certainly many ideas in the story passed through my personal filter. For example, the town of Turnville is fictitious, but it certainly resembles the town of Guerneville in Sonoma County near where I live.
You’ve been a radio star, you’ve trained as a teacher and now you’re a published author. What was the inspiration for the career path? Why start writing?
Perhaps the question should be; why did I ever stop writing? I loved writing when I was young. I took creative writing classes in college, wrote poetry, kept journals, but then stopped. I don’t have a solid answer as to why. Perhaps I found the oral communication used for radio and teaching much quicker…certainly easier. Writing is work. The process of writing doesn’t give the same instant gratification, but I’m learning the reward is much greater.
As to why the career changes – I have always desired a job where I can be creative and communicate with others. Radio was a great fit, but as big corporations bought out independent stations the ability to be creative outside of reading prepared liners was disappearing. I turned to education when I realized I wanted to have a greater impact on others. Creating lessons and seeing children light up when they grasped a concept filled that creative desire. Unfortunately, with No Child Left Behind and the focus on standards, education has become homogenous with less time available to spark creativity in children. There are even textbooks now where teachers are required to read the lines as printed – that’s not teaching. Writing (books, blogging, etc) – is in many ways the last untouched frontier to freely express and share ideas.
If we look at your ability to educate, inform and communicate with children and young adults – how does your role as a teacher compare with your role as an author?
In the classroom I get instant feedback from students whether a lesson is effective or not. There is also a face to the people I impact and I can make a difference for them on a daily basis. When teaching, there is a definite goal where I need to guide students to in the process of learning.
When writing a book there is no instant response to know if a story resonates with a reader, but a book can be interpreted in so many ways and each reader personalizes it differently. What a story is to one person may not be the same to another and this can provide endless possibilities to what a book can teach or spark in others.
Are there any situations in The River Whispers that you put in there for Evie to face hoping that her experience could be helpful lesson for readers?
Evie is asked to risk, to change, to reach out to others, to forgive, and to let go. If you can remember being thirteen, then you realize just how difficult these things are for a young teenager. The last thing you want to be when you’re thirteen is different – and Evie is definitely different since she can see a ghost. Also how a young teenager internalizes death and losing a loved one is different than an adult. It is the first time it’s realized that we are not invincible; learning to let go and grab hold to the ride of life can be difficult, but exciting at the same time.
What’s the most useful lesson you’ve ever had from a book?
The lesson that I love to walk away with from a book is when it helps me to see outside myself, to care more about others. Perhaps, I get a better understanding of another culture or a life experience different from my own. When I finish the last page of a book and want to be a better person and can appreciate my life, it is a good book.
Has writing The River Whispers taught you any lessons?
I admit there are parts in The River Whispers where I still tear up…and I’ve read this story so many times, you’d think it could no longer impact me. However, forgiving others and forgiving ourselves are the most difficult things to do in life and sometimes I need the reminder that it’s okay to forgive. In truth, I’m not a very forgiving person and the task I ask of Art Carter might even be beyond my ability, but I’d like to think I could be like him.
We’re just at the start of a brand new year. Does that hold any special significance for you?
Although the start of a new year is often a good time to reflect on the past year and form hopes for the coming year, I prefer to tie myself to the seasons rather than the calendar; it’s the gardener in me. This time of year is great for being introspective and storing our energy much like the plants are storing theirs until the warmer weather. The days are growing longer, we have spring to look forward to and plan for. In spring, we get to put our energy into action and plant our seeds and tend our gardens with the hope of bringing things to fruition. I am hoping to see The River Whispers grow, but I am also writing and planning and hope to bring more of my writing to fruition.
In Pure Spirit