Monday, November 16, 2009

Running With A Gang Of Rogues

My guest today is Pat Bertram, author of Daughter Am I.

What fascinated me from the beginning, about Daughter Am I, was Pat's use of retired gangsters, and the fact they still longed for adventure in the autumn of their lives. In their time, they were men to be reckoned with. Even now, being up in years, their spirit is willing, they have experience and they have taken Mary under their wing. Their sense of loyalty to Mary's Gramps, the need to protect her and help her in her quest.

It cracked me up that Pat had a characters who were in their 80's, failing in health but with such feisty attitudes. Like Happy, who shakes so bad he probably couldn't shoot the broadside of a barn. Not to mention, in their efforts to help, they give Mary a whole new education about life.

I talked to Pat a bit about her story:

Pat, you’ve published three books do you have a favorite?

All of my books have a place in my heart for different reasons.
I entered More Deaths Than One in a contest on, and because of it, I made many good friends, one of whom is Sia. A Spark of Heavenly Fire was the novel where I first realized I’d learned how to write. And Daughter Am I is the novel I had the most fun with.

What made Daughter Am I ‘the most fun’?

Oh, gangsters, a quest for the truth, buried treasure, romance -- all of that was great, but the most fun came from creating the characters. I knew from the start there would be seven rogues who accompanied Mary on her quest to discover the truth about her grandparents -- I wanted to play up the idea of Snow White and the seven old fogies.

I have to admit, the idea of Snow White and the seven fogies, cracked me up. I have a fondness for rogues, regardless of their ages. Tell me a little about your ‘old’ rogues.

In the beginning, like Mary, I only saw the characters’ decrepit bodies:

  • Gun-toting Happy whose hands shake so badly he can’t aim his weapon
  • Vain Lila Lorraine, who can no longer see well enough to apply her make-up properly
  • Clownish Spaghetti who lives to play the piano in a bar he once owned
  • Ex-wrestler Crunchy who is losing faith in his own ability
  • Self-educated con man Teach
  • Dying hit man Iron Sam who is on a quest of his own
  • Dapper Kid Rags, whose forgery business is being lost to computers

You said ‘in the beginning’ Mary only saw them as old geezers, if you will. When did that change?

As the story progressed, and the truth of the characters came out -- Happy as a wheelman for the mob, Lila Lorraine as a dance-hall girl, Spaghetti’s bar as a mob hangout, Crunchy as muscle for the mob -- I began to see all they lost, and so did Mary.

At one point she says:

  • “It’s odd—I never used to be aware of old people as real persons. I’m not stupid. I know they weren’t born old, but it didn’t occur to me that heroes and villains, killers and great lovers could be hidden in those feeble bodies.”
A wise observation and one most of us forget. On the outside, the bodies may be old, but in my experience, most older people have a story and rarely lose the that sense of adventure—it might be toned down by the limitations of their bodies, but it’s still there inside.

So what made them real to you?

It’s in the dichotomy of the gangsters’ feeble exteriors and their youthful, adventurous inner selves that the characters became real. At first I only had gimmicks. Happy’s morose pronouncements. Kid Rags bowler hat, bow tie, and hip flask. Lila Lorraine’s unconscious patting of her hair. But gradually the characters became more than their gimmicks, and that’s where the fun began.

So you have a group of aging former gangsters with the desire to relive their youth?

When you have a story of a young woman and a crew of feisty gangsters in their eighties, you can play on the age theme or you can play on the legal and moral issues. I chose to focus on the legal and moral issues because they seemed to have the most emotional impact.

Tell me about Mary. How does she grow and change in this tale?

Mary started out so innocent, wanting only to learn about the grandparents she never knew, but ended up aiding and abetting criminal behavior. What was she supposed to do, though? She couldn’t let Happy carry his revolver around. With his shaky hands, the gun could go off at any moment, so Mary confiscated the gun and concealed the illegal weapon in her handbag. When Lila Lorraine accidentally left her blood pressure medicine behind, Mary unsuccessfully tried to get the drugs by legal means. The elders, determined that their adventure would not be cut short, break into a pharmacy and steal the biggest bottle of the medicine they can find.

  • “We used a glass cutter,” Happy said, then added quickly, “but don’t worry -- we didn’t steal the cutter. We bought it at a discount store that’s open until midnight.”

Oh my word, lol! What a gang.

What can you do with such unrepentant rogues? Do what Mary and I did -- strap on your seatbelt and go for the ride of your life.

What a fun ride it is, though. Pat, thank you for taking the time to talk with me about creating your fun story. What an adventure you take Mary and your readers on.


  • When twenty-five-year-old Mary learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents--grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born--she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians--former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love with Tim Olson, whose grand-father shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim must stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret."

A delightful treasure-hunting tale of finding one's self in a most unlikely way." -- Publisher's Weekly

  • Writers: Do you tend to steer away from age in writing your rogues? At what point do your characters become real to you?
  • Readers: What makes a story fun for you to read?


Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book -- character and story driven novels that can't easily be slotted into a genre -- she decided to write her own.

Pat's books, More Deaths Than One, A Spark Of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I are available for order through the Second Wind Website ebook and paperback forms.

Paperbacks are also available from Amazon and in Kindle format as well.

You can visit Pat on her Website as well as read an excerpt of Daughter Am I.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Pat, thank you for being here on Over Coffee again.

There was some delay in getting the virtual coffee bar set up this morning so I'm glad for your patience.

I have to say, I loved the whole premise of this book. Such fun!

Jennifer Taylor said...

Sounds like a great book with lots of humor.

Dana Fredsti said...

Sia and Pat, this may just be my favorite Pat B. blog tour stop yet. I remember something my mom said a few years back: that when she looked in the mirror, she never saw what she expected to see anymore. I am experiencing that as I age and things aren't as firm as they once were...and it makes me so much more aware that the external package definitely doesn't always reflect what's going on inside or what a person once was in their youth.

Well done!

Sheila Deeth said...

You make me want to read and write about old rogues. Another lovely interview. Thanks.

aries18 said...

Sia, again you've managed to snag the best another terrific author for us to meet and greet. How ever do you so it? (Seriously Sia, much love coming to you.)

Pat,I love your take on older people. I can't wait to read this book. I'm finding as I near 60 that it's so surprising that I'm still the same inside as I was when I was soooo much younger. Older people never shared that with me when I was younger... that the you that lives inside the body is still young and vibrant, just the body changes.

Pat, your blog tour has been so much fun to follow. I hope it's been as much fun for you. I know you've put in lots of work into it. Here's my wishes that it is a successful tour as well.


Kat Sheridan said...

Pat, this book just sounds like so much fun! Like Aries, as I age, I'm surprised to find the disconnect between mental age and physical age. I love that you found the youth in your old fogies! I've included one or two older folks in my work, and I find they're pretty fiesty and interesting! Can't wait to read this!

Anonymous said...

Sia, I'm pleased to be here, drinking virtual coffee with old friends . . . Oops. I mean good friends!

Although the premise of Daughter Am I came easily, as did the outline and the characters, it still took eleven months to write the first draft. It was a fun time, though.

Jennifer, thank you for stopping by for coffee. Always nice to have someone new along for the ride.

Hi, Dana! I haven't seen me in a mirror in a long time. When I started aging, I'd look in the mirror and see my mother, which was rather a shock but now I don't know who I'm looking at. I've never seen this person before.

Sheila, it's been wonderful having you follow my tour. Thank you!

Hi, Wanda! I read somewhere recently that the people we were at all ages live inside of us. Kind of a spooky thought -- I have enough trouble keeping all my current selves straight without worrying about past selves!

This tour has been fun. I'm going to be sad when it ends. I had thought of continuing it indefinitely, but now I'm looking forward to writing again. That should be fun, too.

Anonymous said...

Kat, the surprising thing is that I did not set out to look for the youth in my aged characters, but because of my efforts to make them real, that facet of their characters came out. In fact, it was their desire for adventure that got Mary to start journeying in the first place. As obsessed as she was, without them to goad her, she probably would have done as her parents and fiance wanted and dropped the whole thing. Good for me that she didn't!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Okay, I'm sitting here humming forever young...

I like using a variety of ages in my writing. To be honest, since I was a little girl, I've always found the those over 60 fascinating. I've loved hearing their stories, especially when they were girls or boys. Gives the past context.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jennifer, thanks for stopping by. I like your blog, btw. And I can't wait to read Highland Blessings. :-)

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Sia, I loved your comments on my blog this morning and decided to reciprocate. Thanks for highlighting this author! I do a monthly highlight as well, the first Wednesday of each month. It's fun to introduce our fellow writers to others, isn't it? Thanks. :)

A. F. Stewart said...

I loved the book quote. It's nice to know your rogues are honest enough to purchase their burglary tools.

Anonymous said...

A.F., I always got a kick out of that line. They all had their own pragmatic way of dealing with problems!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Fun interview, ladies! I, too, love the bit about the glass cutter.

Pat, all posted at Win a Book for you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Susan!

Sia, Susan will be a great contact for you -- she posts links to book giveaways and guest posts. She's also a writer. Just saying...

Jamie C. said...

Sounds like a great group of characters, Pat. Your little descriptions of each of them made me smile.

Whenever I use an older character in a novel, they seem to take a teaching role and show a younger character truths they didn't recognize on their own.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Roxane, I didn't know that, but I'll have to come by and check it out! Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Jamie, I have a character in a teaching role. You'll never guess which one he is -- Teach! He gets a bit lectury at times, but Kid Rags is always there to rag on him a bit.

James Rafferty said...

Sia, good interview. We tend to forget about the lives that dwell within those older faces. Pat, thanks for reminding us of that.

James Rafferty

mariska said...

I really like to read your book. It sounds great !
What makes a story fun for me to read, will be when mysteries, suspenses, paranormals and romances involved in it :)

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

When we're young, a lot of us hope to grow old as charming rogues like those in Pat's wonderful novel.


Anonymous said...

Hi, James. Oddly, I didn't start out to make that point. I only wanted to write a book about old old-time gangsters. I guess it's hard not to make a point about age when most of your characters are in their eighties.

Mariska, there is plenty of mystery and even romance in Daughter Am I!

Malcolm, How nice to see you here. And how nice to see a plug for my book. Thank you!

Sia, thanks again for being part of my blog tour. It was a joy.

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