Patrice is from a small fishing town, Astoria, in the most northwest corner of Oregon. Many movies have been filmed there—Patrice watched The Goonies being filmed, her elementary school was the one used in Kindergarten Cop, and Benji the Hunted and Free Willy were also filmed there. That's not her favorite thing about her hometown, though.
"My favorite thing about Astoria is a cannery called Wards Cove," she told me. "They’re no longer in business, but at the time they had several canneries in Alaska in addition to the one in Astoria. And in the summer of 1994, they agreed to send me to work in the office at one of their canneries on Kodiak Island called Alitak. But at the last moment (I totally remember getting the calling in my dorm room days before I was set to leave) they decided to send me to Port Bailey, their smaller cannery on Kodiak Island. It was only accessible by boat or floatplane. And there, in the middle of the rugged Alaskan wilderness, I met my fabulous husband, Dan! We’ve been together ever since."
Patrice loves telling stories. She started writing her first novel when she was ten years old.
"I was about these two sisters – surprisingly very similar to my sister and me," she said with a smile, "who go to visit their Aunt Judith in her haunted house. And all the scary and creepy things that happen to them, such as finding a big knife in a grave near their aunt’s house and a ghost in the stairwell. My stories have always had elements of mystery and the paranormal in them. My dad is retired from law enforcement, and my sister and I would sneak into his files and read about his murder cases… so I see where I got the mystery element. But as for the paranormal? Well, my great grandmother was psychic and I’ve always been intrigued by anything 'other worldly.'"
She'll be forty-one next week, so she's been writing for thirty-one years—although she admits some years have been more productive than others. She did a lot of writing after that first mystery novel, mostly cartoons and comics. In high school, she was a reporter for the high school paper and, also, on the yearbook staff.
"I had a really cool horoscope column in high school called Scope of the Month. My friend, Tami, and I made all this crazy stuff up and other students would tell us that it really happened!" She laughed. "Then I started college and I wasn’t as productive, except for a few plays and some angst-ridden poetry. After I got married in 1997, I became more serious about my writing. I wrote several full-length screenplays and many starts of novels. But I was kind of floundering so I applied to the Johns Hopkins creative writing program and they told me that I would be granted 'conditional admission.' I was like, what the heck does that mean? They said it was clear from my application that I was a gifted storyteller…but a very commercial one. So they would grant me admission for one term on the condition that I could become a literary writer. I was like, um, nope. That’s not me. So I applied to Seton Hill University’s Masters in Writing Popular Fiction and loved every second of it."
She originally wanted to major in creative writing in college, but her parents convinced her to get a degree in accounting instead. She had taken an accounting class in high school and it was an easy A for her, so her parents told her she's always be able to make a living with an accounting degree.
" Looking back, I’m glad I did because most creative writing programs in colleges focus on literary writing, as opposed to popular or genre fiction," she admitted. "Oh, and I did have a job before I graduated with my undergraduate degree. A boring accounting one, but a job nonetheless."
She also took graduate classes as Clayton College of Natural Health, where she earned a PhD is Holistic Nutrition.
Even though Lethally Blonde is her debut novel, it's actually her sixth completed novel. In all the books she's written, Patrice told me that the character came first.
"I was thinking about what to write next after the novel that had been taken on by a big agent didn’t sell (major heart break time) and I thought about movies I loved. Well, Legally Blonde instantly popped into my mind and I was like, what if Elle Woods were a teenage demon? And voila, Morgan Skully – the blonde fashion-loving demon in Lethally Blonde – was born. Or should that be spawned?" she asked with a laugh. "Character always drives the story for me. Once I come up with the character, then the plot naturally arises from her."
"Are you a plotter or a pantser?" I wondered.
"I’m what I call a 'reformed pantser.' Meaning that in my heart and soul, I’m a pantser. I love writing a story by the seat of my pants, breathlessly finding out what happens next as my fingers hit the keyboard. But I’ve written myself into so many corners that way so I had to change my ways. Now what I do is write the first three chapters pantser-style and then I plot out the rest of the book using an Excel spreadsheet to create a scene-by-scene outline of the book. Then I go back and finish the book. Sometimes things change as the story develops, but usually I stick to the outline."
Patrice walks three miles every morning on her treadmill and that's also her "fun reading" time –using her Kindle. She's recently read Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter, The Gossip Ghouls: Zombies and Lipstick by Z, and the entire Peachville High Demons series by Sarra Cannon.
"I’m also going to read all of the releases from the authors in 2K12, a group of debut YA and middle grade authors that I’m part of. Check out our website www.classof2k12.com for all the exciting releases!"
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"My favorite piece of writing advice comes from the movie Throw Mama from the Train, when Billy Crystal – who plays a writing teacher – says, 'Writers write. Always.' So short, sweet, and totally true. Writers write and write and write. And then, of course, we revise and revise and revise. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to 'stay in the zone.' The zone – for me – is daily writing of a story until the first draft is completed. Then the revision zone is daily revision until it’s done. If I leave the zone of a story, it can be so hard to come back. Also, I highly recommend taking writing classes and going to workshops and conferences. The writing program I went to was the Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. It’s a fantastic program and well worth every cent."
About the Author: www.PatriceBooks.com.
Other places to find the author online:
Patrice’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/patricebooks
Patrice’s Author Page at Leap Books: http://www.leapbks.com/patricelyle.htm
Patrice is part of The Class of 2k12 (a group of YA and middle grade authors debuting in 2012): http://www.classof2k12.com