Pamela Aares. USA Today bestselling author and award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, talking about Book 11 in the Tavonesi series, Love Thief.
Robin Hood never had it so rough. A museum security expert by day and a thief with a hidden mission to right wrongs by night, Hunter Sterling is no stranger to deception. But when he teams up with a secretive heiress to recover a priceless statue, he finds himself caught in a web of life-changing secrets and falling for a woman he’s not sure he can trust.
Hi there, I’m your host Jenny Wheeler, and today in The Joys of Binge Reading ….
We’ve got the usual free books on offer – this week historical crime mysteries.
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The Tavonesi series: https://www.pamelaaares.com/available-books/#the-tavonesi-series
Thrown By Love (Book #2 in the Tavonesi series: https://www.amazon.com/Thrown-Love-Contemporary-Romance-Tavonesi-ebook/dp/B00IU37NO0/r
Joanna Bourne: https://www.joannabourne.com/
Susanna Kearsley: https://susannakearsley.com/
NPR radio programs including New Voices, The Powers of the Universe and The Earth’s Imagination.
PBS documentary, Your Water, Your Life, featuring actress Susan Sarandon
The Centre for the Story of the Universe: https://storyoftheuniverse.org/about/
The Universe Story: https://www.amazon.com/Universe-Story-Primordial-Era-Celebration/dp/0062508350
Marine Mammal Center: https://www.marinemammalcenter.org
Here’s a link for some information about the universe that we worked on: http://storyoftheuniverse.org
Jane Austen and the Archangel: https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Austen-Archangel-Pamela-Aares/dp/1478148136
The Road From Raqqa by Jordan Conn
Where to find Pamela Aares:
What follows is a “near as” transcript of our conversation, not word for word but pretty close to it, with links to the show notes in The Joys of Binge Reading.com for important mentions.
But now, here’s Pamela.
Introducing author Pamela Aares
Jenny Wheeler: Hello there Pamela, and welcome to the show. It’s great to have you with us.
Pamela Aares: Thank you, Jenny. It’s great to be with you.
Jenny Wheeler: I have been a fan for a long time and we’ve been talking about doing this for ages, so it’s great to finally get together. You write contemporary romance, romantic suspense and woman’s fiction, and now historical romance as well.
Your most recent one and your biggest series is the Tavonesi series. The book is Love Thief and its book 11. It combines all of the elements that make the series so popular – heavy hitters in baseball and other cultural darlings doing exciting things. There’s a very strong sense of environmental concern too.
Tell us first of all, how did you get to write the Tavonesi series and romance in general?
Pamela Aares: I had a seven year national public radio series, and that followed a career in working with protecting wild animal habitat. Most of my life I’ve worked on getting people to protect habitats in their local areas or at national policy levels. After my radio series, I started to produce and direct and write environmental films.
After a while with the PBS audiences, the public television audiences in the US, I felt like those audiences were very small and basically like preaching to the choir, the same group of people. Since I already had this experience in working in narrative structure, I wondered about taking some of these documentaries and some of these issues and putting them into scintillating, sensual, suspenseful, mysterious romance novels to reach a broader audience, in particular women in the heartland in America who weren’t really getting any of this information.
A serious undertone to the romance
Obviously with climate change, sometimes the conversation has become a little bit stronger, but still at the base level of understanding the issues, the information wasn’t getting there. Most of the books in the Tavonesi series have a theme within them. It might be pollinators, like why are bees important? People didn’t understand that 30% of their breakfast wouldn’t even be there if it weren’t for bees, and so one of the books has a beekeeper in it.
Sure, they’re hot alpha heroes and sometimes, for example in the first book of the Tavonesi series, Love Bats Last, you have a baseball star who also has inherited a vineyard and is working on growing an organic vineyard in the midst of this massive career. That was how it got started.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s fantastic. I know that we were going to talk about this a little later, but because you’ve introduced that baseball hero right at the beginning, you married something like a baseball hero yourself, didn’t you?
Pamela Aares: Something like. He is a 13-year American League All Star, and so I had a great source right from the beginning. One of the things I love about these books and one of the things I love when I get responses from readers who are baseball fans, is their response when they say, oh, I’ve never seen the game from the inside out. I’ve never understood the nuances.
For example, people don’t know that baseball is one of the fastest games in the world as far as response time. It’s a couple of milliseconds to hit a 90-100 mile an hour fastball. The only sports that are faster are, believe it or not, ping pong, fencing and tennis. I didn’t even think about ping pong, my goodness.
Sharing life with a baseball star husband
It was quite funny because sometimes at breakfast Bruce I would be discussing the books or discussing the plots, or maybe I’d just be musing over my breakfast, something about the game, and Bruce would be, are we talking about the books? Are we talking about real life? It was funny because he’d get lost and I had to bring him back and say, oh no, this is the character. This is Alex. This is Jackie. He has been great about remembering the characters and helping me with the baseball.
Jenny Wheeler: In Love Thief you’ve also got baseball, but in this one the heroine is setting up an elephant sanctuary. You have done a wonderful job of combining these two elements of your own personal passions. It must be fun to be able to work in something where you feel so strongly about the themes.
Pamela Aares: It’s been amazing. One of the things I love about Love Thief is it begins a sort of sub-series within the broader series about this group of women, very privileged women, called the Undercover Heiresses. They have decided to group together and clandestinely take all of their resources and apply them to things that people are forgetting about or not paying attention to.
In this case the heroine had been working in Africa and she saw the plight of the elephants. There was an elephant that was going to be put down because no one in that small place could afford to feed it and give it medical treatment. Because her father was wealthy, she commandeered a private jet, took out all the seats and flew this elephant to a sanctuary in Sonoma County. Some of that is true.
Returning stolen art to rightful owners
The other thing I love about Love Thief is the fact that the hero is also a hidden identity. On the outside he’s a technical wizard and runs a large tech company and a security company that is incredibly profitable. Behind the scenes, he is going around stealing back art work that was stolen by the Nazis and giving it back to the rightful owners by breaking and entering and leaving it in their house, so that when they come back, there’s this piece of art that once belonged to their grandfather. No one knows who he is. He’s known as the Gentlemen Thief.
These two cross paths. They both are hiding their underlying identities, and obviously as the love story deepens, they begin to share some of these parts of themselves as they can open up. It’s a fun way to enhance the dynamics between the prime couple.
Jenny Wheeler: You have got quite a strong social justice theme in a number of the books as well. You mention on your website this phrase that caught my eye. You say that you are involved with and captivated by the transforming power of the universe. That’s a very deep concept. Could you tease out a little bit for us what that means to you – the transforming power of the universe?
The transforming power of the universe
Pamela Aares: That’s a long story. It’s a 13.8 billion year story. In a nutshell, when I met my husband, he was the director at a university of the Center for the Story of the Universe. And though I was brought on board, I like to say he bought me. People say, how did you meet your husband, and I say, he bought me, because the president of the school basically offered my services without asking exactly.
We began working together before we got married and I had a passion for the environment, but I didn’t have this larger piece of the story. What the work consisted of was helping people to understand that over the time of the evolution of the universe, we are the universe becoming. At every moment, every being is the universe developing and becoming its next phase, which is a pretty wondrous thing.
When you think of yourself as in this moment, I, as a being, and the universe taking its next steps, and for people to see themselves as a 13.8 billion year event, it’s a whole different perspective than saying, well, my grandfather was this person or my grandmother. When you think that you came out of this evolution of progress within the universe.
For example, some people don’t know that the iron in their blood came from the explosion of a supernova. The basic elements of forming the earth came from a supernova explosion, and the iron is conserved on earth, so the iron in your blood could have been in a dinosaur. When you die, no matter whether you’re cremated or buried or go to the Eagles or whatever people do, that iron continues on in a lineage.
Is the iron in your blood from a dinosaur?
That’s a whole different perspective for people to get and it gives a different perspective also to how you want to interact with your locality, your environment, your community.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s amazing. I must admit, I didn’t really understand that either. That is remarkable. Is he still doing that work, and has he written any books?
Pamela Aares: There are books and films. We did about seven films for them and there are a few books. One of them is called The Universe Story. In the last year we’ve tailed it off a little bit, but our partner is finishing a three-part series called Supernovas for Breakfast.
Jenny Wheeler: Fantastic. We will get you to give me some links for those and we’ll include them in the show notes because that’s quite a fascinating little sideline.
In a personal and domestic way, you’ve got a rural property you’re working together. We have made mention of this once or twice when we’ve been trying to set a time. I remember once I tried to get you for a podcast and it was harvest time and it was very busy on the farm.
Going down on the farm
Tell us a little about that because it does bring it right down to the very personal level, doesn’t it?
Pamela Aares: Oh, yes. I grew up in the tropics and I lived in Manhattan before I moved to the bay area of California. We were living in a forest outside of San Francisco. He was running The Center for the Story of the Universe, and I was working at the Marine Mammal Center and then The Academy of Sciences.
What people don’t understand is when these sports stars retire, they’ve usually been playing a game for almost all of their lives and when they retire, it’s like, what do I do now? So there we were in this forest and he was kind of listless. He’d take 30 mile bike rides, or train up, or do a few little piddly things around the forest, but there’s not much you have to do around a forest.
So he found this property in Sonoma County, in California, that used to be an old goat farm. It was all pasture and we bought it and we’ve transformed it into orchards, a food garden, and six pollinator gardens to support monarchs, bees, all the bumblebees. We have lots of species of bumblebees, various other butterflies besides the monarchs, the swallow tails.
A life tied to seasons and nature
The crazy thing is before I moved here, I didn’t know what a weed was. I know some people listening will be like, she’s lived a sheltered life, but you never weed in the tropics. You wouldn’t even think of it, and you certainly don’t weed in Manhattan. When I got here, everybody was mowing and talking about weeds and I was like, well, why do these things that we don’t plant grow so much better than the things we do plant?
It took me a long time to understand that, and it’s a huge process having this farm because it has seasons of its own and your life becomes tied to the natural forces and the natural seasons. Sometimes I think we bit off more than we can chew, but he loves it and it gave me time and space to write this series during the down time.
Jenny Wheeler: Sounds magnificent to me, but I do appreciate it would be a great deal of work.
Continuing on with your writing career, let’s hark back a bit to the beginning. You began with a book that had more of a fantasy element with it. It was The Angels Come to Earth series and the first in the series was called Jane Austen and the Archangel. There’s a paranormal element here. How did you start that?
The Angels Come To Earth series
Pamela Aares: I was supposed to be starting this contemporary series with my editor. It was a few weeks after we moved in here and I started seeing this flash of light at the same time every day. I was mystified by what was causing this flash of light. Finally I figured out it was the letter carrier’s truck backing into our road so that he could turn around because we are at the end of the road. It was flashing off his windshield and into my house.
In the very moment I realized that, all of a sudden Michael the Archangel appeared to me in my imagination as a letter carrier, undercover, delivering these letters to Jane Austen from her friend who’s in danger. That’s how that book got started. In the book Jane falls in love with Michael and has a love of her own. I thought, I’m really glad Jane had loved before she died, because she didn’t have a very happy ending.
My editor was like, what! You’re going to write a paranormal story about an Archangel that falls in love with Jane Austen! I’m like, uh huh, because it wasn’t going to be put aside. I’m sure other authors have told you this. The characters show up, they start talking and they get you by the neck and they do not let go. You either have to write it or, I don’t know what people do if they don’t write it, maybe they go berserk. That’s how that book started.
Jenny Wheeler: Were you a big Jane Austen fan before that happened? She must have been quite strong in your imagination.
A life long love of Jane Austen
Pamela Aares: I’ve always loved Jane Austen, first of all because she really put women’s fiction on the map back in the day when she was writing. My book covers some of the struggles she faced as a woman author. She’s an exquisite author. They’re wonderful love stories. One of the things I’ve discovered is that a woman bought the house Jane Austen’s brother lived in and turned it into a library, near the Jane Austen House Museum, and they discovered 44,000 manuscripts by women writing at the same time as Jane Austen.
I worked with the Jane Austen House Museum when I was putting Jane Austen and the Archangel together, because I didn’t want to get things wrong. I wanted to get the house right and the village right and have most of the details in the book – except for the archangel, and who knows, maybe there was an archangel – so that people reading it wouldn’t be misled about the details of her life.
Jenny Wheeler: In a slightly different direction, The Nature of Love series is a historical series set in gold rush, California – a place and time close to my own heart. I think you’ve published the first of that series so far in The Lady and the Patriot. Tell us about that one. Why historical fiction?
Pamela Aares: That was the very first book I started writing. I decided to stop driving and take the commuter bus that the Academy of Sciences had for the staff. Anyone else could take this bus into the city and it was a long commute, about 45 minutes. It felt long.
A book that’s still waiting to be finished
I had this great resource at the Academy of Sciences of all these incredible scientists, and I’ve always been interested in that time period, in the 1850s when the industrial revolution began and how it shifted and changed society. So I started that book as my first book. It’s about an English heiress who wants more than to go to parties. She flees to her wealthy aunt’s in Venice where she’s attacked by a duke who wants to take over her life.
She wants to go to India and do a natural history of her own, so in order to save her – and I don’t think I’m giving away too much – an American friend of her brother’s agrees to marry her and whisks her off. He’s a Bostonian, but he has a ranch. His uncle dies and there’s a ranch in California. He takes off to California, leaving her in Boston. That’s what you did back then. You didn’t get women across the Panama isthmus, there was no canal up into gold rush territory. Well, she won’t have it and she follows him.
There’s a bit of a fly in the ointment because my editor is still waiting for this book. My website is not correct, I have to fix that. It’s not out yet. It’s sitting on my desk and needs to be finished and published. The editor is like, just send it to me and we’ll get started. I’m like, no, I want to do this. You know how writers can be. There are four or five things I need to fix.
Breaking arm slows you down
It’s a long book and it’s got a lot of love stories in it. I love that book. It’s my family’s favorite of everything I’ve ever written so everybody’s like, when are you going to get this book out? But I rescued three feral cats in January, and they tripped me and I broke my arm in three places, so I haven’t been able to type. This week is the first week since January that I’m able now to move my arm and type. It’s been a heck of a year.
Jenny Wheeler: It sounds almost like a saga. There are a lot of characters.
Pamela Aares: Yes, it definitely is. It’s very different from my other books, except that my books always have the strong love interest, and I adhere to a three-act structure. A lot of people say my books are like watching a movie. They’re tight and you feel the progress within the book, particularly as the love stories develop.
Jenny Wheeler: We have got a new thing we’re just starting on the podcast called Encore. It’s for authors who have been on the podcast before, talking about their latest release. That sounds like one, when it finally hits the shelves, that I’d love to do a slightly shorter Encore interview on, because it’s the sort of thing I love.
Taking a look at Pamela’s wider career
Pamela Aares: I would be very happy about that, and my editor would be thrilled.
Jenny Wheeler: It would mean it’s finished.
Pamela Aares: Exactly.
Jenny Wheeler: Turning away from the specific books to talk a little bit about your wider career – if beginner writers ask you for advice about how to get started as a published author, what do you say to them?
Pamela Aares: Do you mean as a published author or how to get started writing?
Jenny Wheeler: How to get started when they’re just beginning and they want to get published.
Pamela Aares: I think the most important thing, and this is probably what every author on your podcasts says, is to get the butt in the chair or at the standup desk and get the words on the page. That’s one of the most important things.
The other thing is to connect with other authors so that you’re not gob smacked by the sense of, there’s so much to do or I can’t do it – to build your confidence. Other authors are very willing to share and help with getting over some of those humps that beginning authors often face. So I’d say, write, and tap into your community. There are lots of local writing communities.
Finding your tribe as a writer important
Jenny Wheeler: You have got a great one there. I know Barbara Freethy is in it. She has been on the show, and Bella Andre. You’ve got some very big names that are close to you, haven’t you?
Pamela Aares: I was really fortunate. When I started out Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre and Tina Folsom and several other A-listers were in my writing group. They were the bicycles out in front for the self-publishing move in particular, because they had to figure everything out from scratch.
It’s much different now. They were very generous in sharing what they knew and the techniques they used. There was a lot of generosity in that early community. Since then they have gone on to huge careers and they’re not as much involved in the local writing group, but the thread continues because other people like me or others pick it up and keep it going.
Jenny Wheeler: This is called The Joys of Binge Reading and we are starting to come to the end of our time together, so tell us about your own reading habits and anything you’d like to recommend to our listeners.
What Pamela Aares is reading now
Pamela Aares: I love any well-written time-travel. I’m not sure why I love time travel so much, but I do. I also love Susanna Kearsley’s books. She’s wonderful. I don’t know if you’ve had her on your show yet, but she’s fabulous.
Jenny Wheeler: I haven’t yet but she’s been on my list for years. I have read her and I love her too.
Pamela Aares: I read Joanna Bourne. I read a lot of historicals because for some reason, when you’re writing contemporary it’s nice to have a break and read the Regency historicals. It’s probably not too interesting to other people but I absolutely love reading quantum physics. I have a degree and part of my degree is in astrophysics. I love physics and so I’ll sit down and read about quantum particles and quantum computers.
Jenny Wheeler: You would probably have to put it into a romance series before I could take that.
Pamela Aares: Everybody’s bugging me about this because I’ve done 30 years of work in the field to be able to talk about it with people. For example, one of the meditations I have is, there’s a particle called a neutrino and the neutrino can pass through 13 miles of lead and never hit anything.
Looking to the bigger perspective
Sometimes I’ll be driving down the road and I’ll think, a neutrino wouldn’t see any of this. It wouldn’t see the road, it wouldn’t see the car, it wouldn’t see me. There are billions of them passing through you at any moment, and sometimes when people want to get the bigger perspective and let everything go, the illusion of form and kind of go, woo, that’s a fun thing to think about.
But yes, I read quite a bit of historical fiction, and sometimes I read contemporary, prize-winning books because I’m part of a local Sonoma County book group. We have been reading quite a few books about refugees. There’s such a crisis now in the world, and understanding that we’ve just finished a book called The Road from Raqqa by Jordan Conn – what people go through to try to recreate their lives.
Jenny Wheeler: I saw on your website that you were making an appeal for Ukraine a few weeks back too.
Pamela Aares: In most of my newsletters I choose two weeks out of every month if I can, to give the proceeds from my books to something that’s important. I did the wildfires in Australia, the koala rescue back when you had those terrible wild fires. The Ukraine, obviously.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s wonderful. This next question I ask everyone, but in the light of our most recent discussion it has a certain extra edge. Looking back down the tunnel of time, if there was one thing about your creative career that you’d like to change, what would it be?
“Getting started sooner” one thing
Pamela Aares: I think I would have gotten out of the office work with the non-profits a little sooner, although it’s hard to say because if I hadn’t done the work at the Academy of Sciences or at Wild Care or at the Marine Mammal Center, I wouldn’t know the backstory of so many of these important issues.
And then, you know, one beat of a butterfly wing. If I done that, would I still have met my husband? There are all those things. It’s hard to know if you change one thing what’s going to happen. But I would have gotten started sooner.
Jenny Wheeler: Do you enjoy interacting with your readers and where can they find you online?
Pamela Aares: I love hearing from readers. I heard from one reader in England after I wrote Thrown by Love, which does have an astronomer in it, a woman professor, who talks about the stars. There’s a little bit of the universe story in that, and this woman from England said, oh my God, I finished that book, I went out and laid down on my grass and I looked at the stars and I saw them so differently, because one of the meditations is when you look at the stars to realize you’re not really looking up, you’re looking down.
Thrown By Love a ‘mind teaser’
Jenny Wheeler: Explain that a little bit more.
Pamela Aares: You’re lying on the surface of the earth and you’re looking down into the stars. It’s kind of a mind teaser.
Jenny Wheeler: Everybody is going to run to Thrown by Love now.
Pamela Aares: That is one of my favorite books and a great introduction for people who don’t know anything about baseball. There’s the story of Scotty. It’s really a fun book.
Jenny Wheeler: Pamela, that’s fantastic. We’ll have all the links for these things we’ve mentioned in the show notes so people can find them there. It has been a real pleasure to talk. Thanks so much for being with us today.
Pamela Aares: Thank you for having me, Jenny. It means so much.
If you enjoyed Pamela Aares you might also enjoy: Rachael Treasure: Inspired By Nature
Rachael Treasure is one of Australia’s most popular authors of women’s fiction, credited with sparking a whole new sub-genre of rural fiction with her groundbreaking romance, Jillaroo, a book that opened the flood gates for dozens more authors and readers of rural romance and country fiction to follow.
In her latest book, White Horses, nearly 20 years later, Rachael continues to smash conventions, blending her vision for a vital and thriving Australian agricultural sector with a young woman’s mystical and romantic quest for identity.
Next Week on Binge Reading
Next Week on Binge Reading: Anita Abriel and a World War II resistance story, The Italian Girl. A fearless young Italian woman risks everything to save precious artworks from the Nazis in a gripping new tale from the bestselling author of The Light After the War.
Rome, 1943: Marina Tozzi adores her father Vittorio and working together in his art gallery is her only escape from the reality of the Nazi occupation. Not only has Marina inherited her father’s passion for art but she is earning a reputation as an expert in her own right.
Reviewers say: ‘Inspiring, heartbreaking and full of courage, The Italian Girl is a stunning work of historical fiction. Abriel has delivered a compelling story that you won’t be able to put down … This is one WWII historical you won’t want to miss.’ Better Reading
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