Meet Pam Webber
Pam Webber is a nurse practitioner who lives in Virginia with her family. She has contributed to a nursing textbook and written several articles. The Wiregrass is her first novel. It has been nominated for IndieBound's Indie Next List. Visit her website.
Read Lee Ambrose's review of Wiregrass for StoryCircleBookReviews.org.
Posted on 07/08/2015
You are a nurse practitioner who has authored articles and nursing textbooks, but this is your first novel. Tell us about your writing process and about how you juggled your nursing career while completing this book.
Teaching allows me to have weekends, holidays, and summers off, which is when I write. I decided to pen The Wiregrass about four years ago, and from that point on I dedicated most of my free time to its completion. I was also able to coordinate research trips for the book with a few family trips down South, which helped immensely. Of course, having a very understanding husband also helped.
Is the story line in any way autobiographical or perhaps based on a true story? If so, please explain. If no, tell us about the wonderful characters you've created—how you used them to tell your story in such a profound way. Where did you get your examples for the children as well as the adults of the town? Was there a loving Ain't Pitty in your life? How about a Judge or Sheriff figures whose interactions changed a life for the better?
While The Wiregrass is a little bit of truth wrapped in a lot of fiction, it is not really autobiographical. I'm lucky in that I have siblings and first cousins who graciously allowed me to build characters loosely based on their younger selves. I was blessed to have spent many summer vacations in South Alabama with these wonderful folks. Some of the shenanigans the cousins get into in the story are based loosely on real events, and others are pure imagination. I'll let the reader decide which ones they think are real.
The character of Ain't Pitty is based somewhat on a beloved Aunt, who lived in South Alabama and allowed us cousins to stay with her for weeks at a time during the summer. She had a front porch built for rocking and was a whiz at playing Aggravation. She was also an expert at fishing, junking, and cooking.
The Sheriff and the Judge are composites of real people I've come to know over the years, people who work tirelessly to protect children and other victims of domestic violence. As a former intensive care and emergency room nurse, it was disturbing when abuse victims came in, especially children. I was always thankful when these victims had competent and caring legal advocates standing between them and their abusers.
Your descriptions of the Wiregrass awaken the readers' senses and evoke such a strong sense of place. Have you spent time in the Wiregrass country? If so, how did your time there compare with the time Nettie and her cousins spent there?
My sister, brother, and I were fortunate enough to spend many summer vacations in the Wiregrass. It was then and is now a special place filled with extraordinary people. I worked hard to give the reader a sensual experience of what the Wiregrass was like in the late 1960s—the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. For example, if I wanted the reader to smell Mimosa blossoms, I wrote about it while sitting under a fully bloomed Mimosa tree. To accurately describe the impact of helicopters flying overhead, I visited Fort Rucker several times and sat in a field while helicopters flew overhead. When people read The Wiregrass, I want them to feel as if they are actually in the story.
Your book tackles many difficult themes in a very sweet, sensitive and thoughtful manner. It goes from pure juvenile pranks to the knowledge of right vs. wrong, and from idyllic, nostalgic summer life in the South to the evil lurking at the next turn. What started out to be a light-hearted read, ended up being a profound story of forgiveness and redemption set against the backdrop of child abuse. Tell us where your interest in bringing such a topic to light originates.
We've all witnessed the aftermath of domestic violence, especially child abuse and felt helpless to stop it. To quote an old Karen Carpenter song, children "have no voice and have no choice." They are literally at the mercy of the adults in their lives and sometimes these adults are far from being loving, decent people. Perhaps the most tragic part of all of this is that many child abusers were abused themselves as children and are simply continuing the legacy. Evil like this is not born, it's bred, so it was important that I demonstrate this constant dance between good and evil as the story developed. As a woman of faith, I wanted to demonstrate the power of faith in action.
Can we look forward to future works of fiction from you? If so, will they also be set in the South?
Yes, and thank you for asking. I am currently working on a sequel to The Wiregrass, which will also be located in the South, albeit a different region.