Elizabeth Chats With…Pamela Vass
This month, I’m chatting to another member of West of England Authors. Like me, she’s a ‘blow in’ from the South East, but she’s been here a long time and she tells me the region has inspired all her writing. My guest this month is Pamela Vass.
Hello Pamela, and thanks for dropping by. What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
Music was top of the list – I love to sing. Maths was definitely the one to avoid. I still shiver at the sound of my maths teacher’s voice ringing out over the heads of the 100 or so pupils in the school hall after the ‘O’ level results were published. ‘Good grief, Pamela, you passed!’ It’s ironic given that the book I’m working on now is about a great Devon mathematician and inventor, Thomas Fowler. Unearthing real Devon mysteries is my passion, and the source of the plots for my books, but when I discovered Fowler’s claim to fame was a ternary calculating machine I almost abandoned him. I’m so glad i didn’t. It’s an agonisingly human story that needs to be read.
If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?
Definitely my lap top, maybe even my old one too as I’ve still got some books on there. I’ve changed from a PC to a mac and love it but cannot find a way to do mirror margins. Any suggestions gratefully received. The other thing I would grab is the clay leaf my son made when he was 5. I still remember getting the call at work to rush up to the pannier market where the prize giving was taking place. So proud!
Talking about yourself, how would you finish the sentence “not a lot of people know…”?
That I’m responsible for more murders in North Devon than anyone else. (I hasten to add all my victims are now alive and well.) I was Founder and Director of The Whodunnit Company for several years. It was great fun, especially when we landed the contract from British Airways to launch their special interest holidays brochure in America with performances at the Algonquin in New York and the Sahara in Las Vegas. When we arrived in Vegas we looked out at the Strip and agreed it was the tackiest sight ever, then fell over each other to get out there! Flying first class was the highlight of the trip.
Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?
An easy one- top of the list is the Isles of Scilly. I was lucky enough to have a cousin there who loved to travel but hated leaving her pets. For many years I spent my holidays walking the glorious paths accompanied by Rosie the highland terrier. There’s something about islands that I find relaxing, restorative, inspirational, spiritual… the expanse of sea and sky, the air, the sense of escape maybe?
Secondly, the Lake District. I was once on my way to the Edinburgh festival and stopped at the services just to the East of the Lakes. When it was time to move on i couldn’t leave the fells behind. A hour later I was in my element striding up Helvellyn. It’s a memorable spot for our family. My mother visited Glenridding in her early nineties. She noticed certificates being offered for anyone who had traversed Striding Edge. Leaning heavily on her stick she walked slowly to the counter. ’I’d like a certificate.’ she said. The assistant patronisingly replied, ‘They’re for people who have climbed Helvellyn.’ ‘I know,’ my mother said, ‘ And I want one.’ The assistant decided she’d pander to this dotty old lady. ‘What date shall I put on it?’ ‘1937.’my mother replied.
How do you relax?
What would you put in Room 101?
The word ‘so’ at the beginning of every sentence.
If you could change one law, what would it be?
I feel overwhelmed by the refugees’ plight and would like to make politicians treat the situation as a humanitarian crisis. On a practical note, how about legislating for solar tiles on all new build houses?
If you could take part in one television programme, which one would it be?
I’m torn. My first choice is Great Railway Journeys. I love to be on the move exploring. But there’s also Who Do You Think You Are? I recently put together the story of my mother’s life for her 99th birthday. I found so many, obviously significant, photos in her drawers but I hadn’t a clue who they were or when they were taken. Sadly mum has very little memory left so, back to the question about which law would I pass – one to make us put names and dates on photos while we can.
Why do you write?
I can’t give you a rational reason why I write. I simply know it’s something deeply embedded in my core. Weaving stories that I discover through my research with characters that inevitably draw on my life and experience is so satisfying. It’s a wonderful opportunity to express my unique take on life, to have a voice, in a way I can share with others.
And time spent in messy play every Monday morning with my wonderful grandchildren gives me all the background I need on life, love and the universe!
Where do you belong?
Answer to the big question: I was born and brought up near London but wen I left University there was only one place I wanted to be – Devon. It was only later that I discovered all my ancestors before the late 1800s come from Devon. I find it amazing that a sense of belonging can span the centuries like that. My connection with Devon has inspired a lot of my writing … well, all of it actually!
Rephrasing the question: where do I feel most at home? On the cliffs, the moors, the beach, anywhere in touch with the spectacular scenery we have in the West Country.
You can find out more about Pamela Vass and her writing on her blog, her website or on Twitter.
“Photo by Tom Corser www.tomcorser.com. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 England & Wales (UK) Licence