Welcome to another Author Highlight, a series where we feature authors like ourselves. You’ll find author interviews, tips, stories, poetry, and more. We aim to entertain, promote, and inspire. Other interviews can be found here.
Dr. Pat Spencer
Joining us in our post today is Dr. Pat Spencer, author of the historical novel, Golden Boxty in the Frypan (Pen It Publications) and the indie-published international thriller, Story of a Stolen Girl. Pat’s historical/literary fiction trilogy, Sticks in a Bundle, is signed for a three-book contract. Her writings appeared in The Press-Enterprise newspaper, National Beauty School Journal, Almost an Author, and literary publications such as Literary Yard, Potato Soup Journal, and Scarlet Leaf Review. She wrote human interest stories and served as a columnist and contributing editor for Inland Empire Magazine. A Healing Place won the short story category of Oceanside’s 2019 Literary Festival. She gives presentations and workshops on human trafficking and writing and publishing processes. When not writing, Pat golfs, reads, walks the beach, hangs out with family and friends, or frequents book clubs.
About Golden Boxty in the Frypan.
Author Interview with Dr. Pat Spencer
Thank you for appearing on our blog. Tell us about your latest release, Golden Boxty in the Frypan. It’s based on a true story?
A: Yes, Golden Boxty in the Frypan is based on true events and inspired by my mother’s experiences in the 1930s. She grew up in a large and complex Irish family that experienced many hardships. They immigrated from Ireland in hopes of participating in the American Dream. Instead, the family was met by the Great Depression. I wanted to learn more about my ancestors and their strength and drive to overcome these difficulties. This novel is the result of my research and the family secrets discovered along the way.
Q: What do you think readers will love about your main character, Katie?
A: Reviewers write about loving Katie’s strength and determination to keep her family together and to
protect her younger brothers from harm. They describe the emotions that well up when Katie loses
more than any young girl ever should. They root for her to find a safe and secure life and cheer her on as
she overcomes the hardships in her path. Readers also admire her “youthful resilience and true grit,”
noting that she takes on responsibilities way beyond her years as she wrestles with her fears, faces her
insecurities, and assumes the role of mother for her three youngest brothers.
Q: What kind of research did you do to write about the 1930s?
A: I started by pulling together all the photos, letters, documents, and stories my brother and I had stuck
away in trunks and closets. Then I reached out to my cousins, asking them for the same. They live in
Virginia and Oregon, so we emailed, snail-mailed, and spoke on the phone.
I researched immigration, birth, death, employment, cemetery, and hospital records. The Library
Director of the Pueblo County Historical society conducted record searches and provided important
information that enriched the telling of this story.
I read books and articles about the events, foods, products, medical treatments, fashions, social norms,
and religious beliefs of the era. I used financial and sports reports to enrich the readers’ experiences in
the 1930s environment.
I also had my DNA tested. This led to a marvelous connection with a person I did not know existed until
my cousin and I came across a newspaper article that revealed our grandfather recuperated at the home
of a woman we hadn’t heard of, yet was cited as his daughter. The woman who contacted me turned
out to be the great-granddaughter of the woman in the newspaper article. That’s how I found out my grandfather had remarried and fathered two more children with the new wife, making him the father of
ten children rather than the eight I knew of as my aunts and uncles. OMGosh! I enjoyed writing this story so much that I hadn’t realized how hard I worked to prepare for it!
No wonder I’m tired…
Q: What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
A: For Golden Boxty in the Frypan, the characters, the real people, came first. I began with a desire to
learn more about my Irish ancestors and their lives. Watching news broadcasts about the problems
faced by current immigrants into the United States motivated me to find out more about what my
relatives might have experienced when first coming to America.
In writing my first novel, it was the opposite. For Story of a Stolen Girl, the plot came first. My goal was
to raise awareness of how many children and young women, American citizens, are victims of sex
trafficking within the U.S. borders. The characters took shape after I began my research and talked with
survivors of human trafficking.
Q: What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?
A: Emotionally, two parts were quite hard. The first was the death of the infant, Theresa, who would have been my aunt had she lived. The second difficult scene was the circumstances of my grandmother’s illegal abortion of her ninth pregnancy. I never met my grandmother because she died at age 37 from septicemia after this illegal abortion. Then, as Golden Boxty was being prepared for publication, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. This brought up a backwash of conflicting thoughts and
Q: What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?
A: Fortunately, since my books are now being traditionally published, I don’t have to do my least favorite
thing which is formatting. Writing and researching are my favorites, but once that is complete, my favorite part of publishing is coming up with a good cover design—anyway, I hope the cover catches the eye and entices readers to purchase my books.
Q: What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
A: While writing the dissertation to complete my Ph.D. at the University of California, Riverside, my
advisor, Mark Hansen, told me, “Write it as you would say it.” He taught me not to use flowery prose or
overwrite in an effort to impress readers because the effect is just the opposite. His advice worked well
for my dissertation and the nonfiction I published while still working. Now that I am retired, I still employ
the write it as you would say it technique when writing fiction.
Thanks for joining us for another author interview!
Connect with Dr. Pat Spencer at her website and check out her other publichations below. And don’t forget to get your copy of Golden Boxty in the Frypan!
Selected Works by Pat Spencer, Ph.D.
- Story of a Stolen Girl (international thriller)
- Award-Winning Oceanside: A Healing Place
- Dialogue Tags v. Action Beats
- Isibambiso (Literary Yard)
- Passing On (Potato Soup Journal)
- Bittersweet (Scarlet Leaf Review)
Readers: What’s your favorite inspire-by-true-events book?