Interview: Patricia Goodsell
This week I got to sit with Patricia Goodsell, an actress turned writer. We talked about her journey from acting out someone else’s stories to writing her own, how much rain storms have influenced her stories, and why she’d better never run out of kitty treats.
Patricia: Well, I got my start in acting. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller and a performer which led me to the New York Film Academy. It surprised me how much of the training focused on character development, deep dives into plot research, and building suspense. The best part was discovering how to create masterfully maniacal villains. I tried acting for a few years with some small successes, but eventually realized there were better ways to use my talents as a storyteller. As an actor, I was telling everyone else’s stories, but as a writer, I’d get to share the stories I wanted. It also helped that self-publishing was on the rise, becoming less of a cheat and more widely accepted since readers discovered that indie books are amazing!
CJ: What made you start out in acting? Aside from the storytelling aspect of it.
Patricia: I love to play make-believe. I’d watch movies like Independence Day and Air Force One, and I could see beyond the screen to the actors doing it all. They were real people getting to live these amazing adventures full of green screens, elaborate costumes, and exploding sets. More than anything, I wanted to be a part of it somehow. To paraphrase the old adage “find something you love to do, then find someone to pay you to do it.” I wanted to be that kick-ass spy, or even better – that unexpected villain. The one you don’t see coming until she’s got her hand on your throat. I wanted to be the person who gets to say that perfect line that everyone quotes for a decade.
CJ: When you started writing, what parallels did you draw between the act of writing and acting?
Patricia: Character development was the BIG one. Going deep inside a character’s mind to truly understand their perspective on life and the thoughts that motivate their actions. This was especially key in developing villains. Villains don’t see what they’re doing as bad, because they justify their motives. In their mind … except for Heath Ledger’s Joker, perhaps… What they’re doing rights a wrong or is improving a system that failed them and is failing others. They’re not a villain, they’re a misunderstood hero. The only one brave enough and smart enough to actually fix the problems. Another invaluable parallel I took away from my days on set was how the storyteller plots out an action scene. Something that keeps the adrenaline going without losing the important beats between the punches where the character’s desperation weighs on the viewers. You see them struggle, change tactics, and dig for that extra ounce of strength. Sometimes the most remarkable things you can learn about a character come from watching how they perform under pressure, and there’s no greater pressure than when your life or the life of someone you care about is on the line.
CJ: Fighting scenes are definitely one of the harder things to write. I know, personally, if I can’t envision something, I can’t write it. Do you find you are the same and does your acting background help you with that?
Patricia: Absolutely! Envisioning each step is so key, right down to knowing where the safety is on the gun. For me, I can visualize it all playing inside my head like a movie. It’s like playing it forward, pausing to fix some movement that didn’t come across as slick as you’d hoped, rewind the tape and play it again, until it’s just right. Extensive training in stage combat doesn’t hurt either! But fight scenes were probably the biggest challenge I faced in my first book The Chase is On because I didn’t have enough personal experience with guns and knives. Fortunately, my cousin was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base so I grabbed him for a day and we went shooting and practiced defensive/offensive knife fighting. He even showed me a few of the scarier maneuvers that one could expect from a serious villain. I still can’t reiterate every step from memory, but I know what it looks like, how their hands move. It’s a huge thing to vividly play out the scene in your mind.
CJ: That is amazing that you had that resource available to you. I know a lot of writers that would be jealous!
Patricia: It was a huge blessing and perfect timing. It doesn’t always work out that way. When I was working on book 2 of the Chase Files, A Desperate Chase. I wrote a scene where a CIA operative has a mission in Australia, posing as a local weapons buyer. I had to weave in beats of authenticity, mostly phrases that would be common among fellow Aussies. I thought I had the scene right; I liked it, but I was also doing a project for Nanowrimo that year, and I thought it might be fun to post the scene and see what anyone might say about it. Good thing I did, because there were some legitimate Aussies in the group who weighed in with some surprising, funny, and very helpful remarks. I’m glad they did because it could have been embarrassing to publish the book without that feedback. So for the writers out there who don’t have a weapons expert in the family, don’t forget to use those writer’s groups, many of whom, like me, would be more than happy to provide some expert assistance in the areas we know.
CJ: Beta readers are the actual stars. We hear all the time about publishers and agents and editors but next to nothing about the people in the trenches, reading the slop and helping writers really put things together so they make sense. Have you had a lot of success with beta readers with your novels?
Patricia: I think it’s gotten better from book to book. The issue with my first novel was that I didn’t know anyone. I wasn’t sure where or who to reach out to that could provide that kind of support. Plus, I’ll admit, including others in the early stages of the process wasn’t entirely comfortable. As writers, we’re so conscious of the fact that we have to protect our ideas. But as readers have come to discover the Chase series, and followed my various social outlets, it’s become easier to identify which people really care about helping stories reach their full potential. The ones you know will be reliable and give more than one-word responses, constructing that well-thought out specific feedback that you can do something good with. You know you’ve got quality people in your camp when your betas feel just as connected to the characters and the success of your books as you are.
CJ: I agree. It’s hard enough to let your creation go into the hands of a, gasp, editor! Who wants to take the chance that someone who reads the raw material is going to hate it or steal it. It’s a very fine line to walk. I have, however, met some amazing people via Twitter. There are always so many people who want to help.
Patricia: Yes, and I think it’s important for authors not to discount any of those resources. I know I was a hold-out with Twitter in particular. But I’m learning all the time how supportive those followers can be to the craft.
CJ: Absolutely. I’m curious though, you have so many different types of books (which, as a multi-genre author myself, I love), where did your inspiration come from for them?
Patricia: For my children’s book David the Dandelion, it started out as a project for my grandmother. Her 80th was coming up, and she loves the poetry I write, so she asked for a poem about dandelions. I quickly discovered, though, that nothing rhymes with dandelions, and what unfolded instead was this adorable story about a dandelion who faces off against a raging lawnmower, a curious cat, and the terrible trials that come with the passage of time. In the end he gets to celebrate that “Life is sweeter with friends.”
The Chase series started in the rain. I was driving home in one of the worst downpours I’ve even seen. The windshield wipers were barely keeping up, I had to slam on the brakes to avoid a trash can that went bouncing across the road. Eventually I pulled over and just had to wait out the storm. Sitting there, I thought, it’s a good thing I don’t have anywhere urgent to go…but what if I did? Suddenly I met this character, Alexandra Chase, and I saw her driving in the same storm, only she definitely didn’t have the option of pulling over and waiting things out. I sat in my car and watched about ¾ of the story play out in my head before the rain stopped. Then I raced home, as fast – and as safely as I could – and wrote for about the next twelve hours straight. A funny thing about that series too, I never knew it was even going to be a series until I wrote the last page of the first book – surprised to discover the villain got away.
My newest book Scavengers, that I launched just this past June right in the middle of the pandemic was also a product of the rain. We were living in an interesting apartment complex at the time. I say interesting because there was nothing level about that place. When it would rain, several of the ground floor apartments would flood. Fortunately, ours wasn’t one of them. My sister and I thought it was great fun to grab our boots and colorful umbrellas and go stomping through the rising water. The downpour was so fierce even the swimming pool overflowed. My sister laughed and said a line that eventually made its way into the story. “Do you think it will rain so much that the whole world will flood?” That line was stuck in my head for a few months, slowly painting this water damaged world and the people who somehow survived in the ruins.
CJ: Wow. I love it when things fall into place like that! We are just about out of time, so let’s end with something fun. Do you have any funny quirks, writing or otherwise?
Patricia: Lots of authors like to think over their stories by going for a walk. I love taking walks too, but I always bring my cats along. They have a special stroller that lets them safely explore the world with me. And Meiko and Zeus are avid listeners, they’re the first ones I share all my new ideas with, and on occasion, they’re also willing scene partners when I need to act something out. Think of Kristoff and Sven from Frozen, and you’ve got the idea. Of course, it usually costs a few kitty treats, but it’s a small price to pay for their engaged responses.
CJ: That sounds like it’s worth it. Thank you so much for sitting with me today, Patricia. I enjoyed our conversation!
Patricia: I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post. This has been really fun! Thank you so much for doing this!
You can connect with Patricia via these avenues: