Thursday, April 2, 2015

Character Interview with Pamela Fagan Hutchins' Emily Bernal

About the character

Disgraced paralegal and former rodeo queen Emily Bernal moves back in with her very conservative, religious mother in her West Texas hometown when her husband cleans out their bank accounts and cheats on her with another woman, who turns out to be a man. Broke and desperate, she resists going to work for sexy criminal attorney Jack Holden, at first, until she learns his illegal immigrant client’s six-year-old daughter is missing. Emily becomes obsessed with finding the girl and tracks her through a trail of dead bodies across two states.

Interview with Emily from Heavens to Betsy

Emily, how did you first meet Pamela?
Pamela and I met when she wrote about my friend, Katie Kovacs. I thought she nailed Katie, although, at the time, Katie was super embarrassed about having her whole humiliating life made fodder for the reading public. Alcoholism, totally blowing a celebrity trial in Dallas, and getting rejected big time by the man she was in love with. It was some heavy stuff, but funny. I never told Katie how hard I laughed reading it, so let’s keep that our little secret.

Deal. Want to dish about Pamela?
I can suddenly understand where Katie was coming from about Pamela now. I tried to move back home and put my past behind me, and suddenly I’m reading about Rich and his transvestite lover Stormy and me, and I just know people think I’m the world’s biggest idiot not to have seen it coming. And living with my mother, who thinks she’s the Church Lady but looks more like an aging stripper. It’s all a little much when everyone’s talking about you like that, you know?

Did you ever think that your life would end up being in a book?
The only way I thought I’d be in a book was if I made it on the professional rodeo circuit. I rodeoed all through college, and I won the Southwest Conference in barrel racing my senior year, and my dad was a professional rodeo cowboy. But Dad ran off when I was a teenager, and when Rich asked me to marry him, I gave up rodeo. So who would want to write a book about a paralegal? Because that’s what I became. B-O-R-I-N-G. Or so I thought, until I went to work for Jack.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
I’ll have to tell you about my second favorite, because my favorite would be a spoiler for the ending. In my second favorite scene, my high school nemesis turned Assistant District Attorney, the annoyingly perfect Melinda Stafford, confronts me about the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I swear it was the meds I was on, but POW, I popped her one, fist to the jaw. My new best friend Wallace—he’s a CPS investigator, and gay, which isn’t easy in West Texas—nearly died. I’d wanted to do that since I was twelve.

Did you have a hard time convincing your author to write any particular scenes for you?
I had this one really awesome night with my boss Jack, before I messed up the relationship by spending time with someone he was jealous of. Pamela thought that was a little too private, but once I told her I fell asleep before he could get his boots off, she was OK with it. But we made out like crazy before then, and after I regained consciousness. In my defense, I had been pregnant, so I hadn’t had a thing to drink in awhile.

What do you like to do when you are not being actively read somewhere?
I love my job. I always thought criminal law was kind of smarmy, but Jack makes it sexy. We really help people, you know? It’s really more about constitutional law when you think about due process, right to a trial by jury, and all that other constitution stuff. Well, that, and what politician is spending the night with prostitutes and which wealthy business has a kleptomaniac for a wife.

Juicy stuff! Tell the truth. What do you think of your fellow characters?
When I first met Jack, I didn’t like him much, but he grew on me, to say the least. And I always liked his killer dimple. Wallace, I adore. Nadine, who waits tables at a Thai restaurant by day and slings drinks at a gentleman’s club by night, is the BOMB. She’s a biker chick at heart but a mother and a volunteer for underprivileged kids. I’m pretty lucky when it comes to my fellow characters.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? 
People think I’m a dumb blonde at first, but they get over it pretty quickly.

How about after they've known you for a while?
Once they’ve known me awhile, they figure out that I’m the one they want to have around in a fight, or when somebody needs to do something, although the somethings I choose are occasionally in legally gray areas. I get things done.

What's the worst thing that's happened in your life? What did you learn from it?
My dad left us when I was sixteen. He was my hero. For the first few years, he still called and wrote and sent birthday and Christmas presents. Then, when I turned twenty-two, he disappeared for good. I’ve never heard from him since. What have I learned? Well, between him leaving and my husband leaving, I’ve learned that I have to rely on myself. And that I can. I’m a lot stronger than most people think.

What are you most afraid of?

It hurts to even talk about it, but I’m most afraid of not having children. I’m thirty, unmarried, and no children.

What do you like best about Jack, your boss? Least?
I love Jack’s discretion and loyalty, and how he looks in his jeans. I adore his lopsided smile and the way he gets a dimple on the left side of his face when he raises his left eyebrow. I cannot stand the way the man cannot answer a simple question with a straight answer to save his life. And I absolutely hate how discreet and private he is. But those jeans and the left side of his face make up for it.

Does he have a brother you could introduce me to? If your story were a movie, who would play you?
Emma Stone, for sure.

Describe the town where you live.
Windy. Smells like cows. Gets as much snow as most of Colorado. Home of the American Quarter Horse Museum. In the heart of Friday Night Lights fever. Big enough to lull you into complacency and small enough that you run into your high school boyfriend at the gas station. And the absolute nicest people you’ll meet anywhere in the entire world.

Will you encourage your author to write a sequel?
I don’t think I have a choice in the matter — she’s already written one and is on a third! She promises after that she’s done. I will just have to try really, really hard not to do anything worth writing about. To her credit, some amazing things happened to me. In Heaven to Betsy, our client, Sofia, was murdered in jail, orphaning her missing daughter. They had both emigrated illegally from Mexico, and no one seemed to care about finding the girl but me. Then in Earth to Emily, two teenage runaways witnessed the murder of a truck driver and turned to me for help, throwing me into a world of interstate trafficking of stolen goods and dirty cops. And in Hell to Pay, a militant religious group is targeting people and businesses to ruin, and our client gets in the way. Really, my life isn’t usually this exciting. Or at least it wasn’t until I met Jack.

About the author

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries and hilarious nonfiction, and moonlights as a workplace investigator and employment attorney. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

If you like Sandra Brown or Janet Evanovich for fiction or Erma Bombeck for nonfiction, you're going to love Pamela.

Connect with Pamela
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