Pamela Ewen

Pamela Ewen practiced law for twenty-five years before exchanging her partnership in BakerBotts, L.L.P. for a full time writing career. She is the author of Faith On Trial, a non-fiction book, and novels The Moon in the Mango Tree, a 2009 Christy Award Finalist, and Secret of the Shroud, published by B&H Publishing Group. Her latest novel Dancing On Glass will be released August 1st and she’s currently working on a sequel. She is also featured in the Campus Crusade for Christ film, Jesus: Fact or Fiction. Pamela is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Christian Writers Guild. She serves on the Board of Directors of The Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans. In 2009 Pamela received the St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana President’s Award as 2009 Literary Artist of the Year.

Author By Night

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven
                                                                                       Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

I practiced law for twenty-five years before retiring to put all my efforts into writing. I don’t have a nine-to-five job, but work long hard hours in bursts of six-minute segments. Structured time and fixation on words and questions are the tools of a lawyer’s trade that helped me learn to write.

Passion was the driver.

My first book, Faith on Trial, was my search for Truth, and I wrote much of it at night. Although I was raised in a Christian home, as a young adult in the 1960s I began reading philosophers who posed strong challenges to the fundamental principles of Christianity. The Bible stories were only myths and legends, the philosophers wrote. Time magazine ran a cover story titled “God Is Dead.” Confused, I asked my pastor and others: How do you know the gospel stories are true?

Their answer? There’s no way to prove it. You just have to have faith.

But that wasn’t an answer for me. My heart could not accept what my mind rejected. I was looking for something to help me to believe again, some evidence that the gospel stories were true . . . a map, a guide. I plunged into an abyss of agnostic uncertainty. Wanting to believe, but unable, I became a lost sheep.

But the Good Shepherd cares for His lost sheep. After many years in the wilderness, I realized that I had the tools I needed to answer the question myself. I knew how to research; my mind was open to finding the answers, whatever they might reveal; and I had perseverance. I also realized that Christianity is the only world religion based upon statements of fact, and in the law, facts are king. So I decided to put the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John on trial. I would test the evangelists’ testimonies against history, science, archeological findings, ancient writings, and even medical knowledge.

It wouldn’t be easy to practice law and find the time and energy to write, but many people work a job and write. Anthony Trollop wrote masterpieces while working full-time as a postal clerk. Albert Einstein published revolutionary theories in physics while working at the Swiss patent office. The research would take years, and the writing would take more. But I didn’t have a deadline. I had all the time in the world. So I learned to structure my time and to separate one part of my life from the other for the purpose.

And you can too. Each moment has its season. The key is to compartmentalize work and writing, then prioritize and focus. That way you can give 100 percent to both your work and to your writing, but each in its time.

I wrote the first draft of Faith on Trial mostly at night and early in the morning, but on off weekends and holidays, I’d really go for it. On those free days, I wrote in bursts of twelve to sixteen hours, a stream of consciousness without separating the draft into chapters, just getting the words and ideas onto the page. During the week, I used evening and morning hours to review, edit, and rewrite the work I’d done on the days off. And if I found myself with only a few minutes free, I learned to shut out the world, jump into the draft, and concentrate on one paragraph or sentence or word. At these times, think quality not quantity. I used the same writing method for the initial drafts of my first two novels, The Moon in the Mango Tree and Walk Back the Cat, later updated and reissued as Secret of the Shroud.

After years of research and writing Faith on Trial, I’ll never forget the day I printed out the first draft, sat down, and began to read. As I read I slowly realized that at last I’d found the answers to my questions, proof—for me—beyond a reasonable doubt that the Gospels were true. With a deep and profound love for Jesus Christ, I returned to Christianity. The evidence was not a substitute for faith, but it was soil that allowed my faith to bloom and grow.

Faith on Trial was published, its success filled me with a sense of responsibility to others who, like me, fight dark questions in the night. Within a Christian framework, I wanted to continue writing, to explore the subtleties of human nature and relationships as well as ideas and issues. So I began work on the Moon in the Mango Tree, the story of my grandmother’s journey to faith in the 1920s. This time I wanted to show not tell the story.

When Still working long hours as a lawyer in that fast-paced world, I used segmented time to write. Every hour not spent working, sleeping, at church, or with my family was spent writing. Again I used long stretches of time to move the story forward, writing quickly without worrying too much about the words on the first draft that no one would ever see; structuring the plot; introducing the characters, conflict, and change. Just getting the words down on paper. Again, on weeknights after work when I was most fatigued, I worked on shaping the story, editing, and rewriting. I learned to use that time to add layers to the story, as a painter adds layers of paint to a picture for depth of color and gloss.

Lawyers use ten words for every one that’s needed. I had to teach myself the craft of writing. I read books in a different way, concentrating on the author’s talents—how F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote such fluid dialogue, how Virginia Woolf created metaphors, how Tolstoy shifted points of view, how Dostoevsky probed his characters’ minds. I sometimes even deconstruct great novels, using yellow highlighter on segments I admire, in order to understand the author’s technique.

I love to write at night. There are less distractions—no ringing telephones, no interruptions. I can even brood without feeling guilty! Night is for music when I’m writing. Sitting in a circle of light, surrounded by darkness, music seems to release emotions and words from bonds of fatigue. I most love classical and believe it makes the tired synapses snap. Sometimes when a particular piece strikes a deep chord, I’ll set it on repeat and play it over and over while I write. I did that with Liebestraum for The Moon in the Mango Tree because that wistful piece not only reflected the tone of the book, but my grandmother used to play it for me on her piano.

Several years ago I exchanged my partnership at my firm for full-time writing. Today I have the luxury of writing any time I want! Ah, this wonderful freedom! My first novel written entirely since leaving the practice of law is Dancing on Glass, releasing August 1. It’s romantic suspense, set in New Orleans in 1974, a place and time in this city that I love. Now I’m working on the sequel, and those characters are already acting up, bursting to come out and play.

I begin writing early in the morning, in that moment between dreams and reality. I limit myself to three to four hours a day to keep the writing fresh. Sometimes I still write at night, that magical time. But always, I’m thankful for the blessing and discipline of those early years.

You too can find the season and the time. Go for it—one day at a time. Just remember, since time is precious, think quality not quantity!


Dancing On Glass