Please give a big Mysteristas welcome to Pamela Samuels Young!
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A massage, manicure and pedicure, a long walk followed by a good meal (seafood gumbo!) and ending the day sitting on the balcony of a 5-star hotel room with a good book, a view of the beach and some just-out-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Hmmm. I must be pretty boring because I don’t. My favorite Bible version is Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” That verse has gotten me through so much.
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
John Grisham was probably the biggest influence. I was an avid reader of his books when I first started practicing law. I loved them, but was disappointed about never seeing any lawyers who were women or African-American in his books. That void was what prompted me to take a stab at writing a legal thriller. In the process, I discovered my passion. I owe my writing style to James Patterson. I set out to emulate his fast-paced style.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Absolutely not. If music is playing, I don’t hear it because I’m so focused on the computer screen. I often write at coffee shops. The background music and buzz of the crowd are non-existent for me.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Good old-fashioned milk chocolate.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I was stunned when I learned that children were being prosecuted for distributing child pornography as a result of sexting. I immediately knew this was a topic I wanted to address in a legal thriller and Abuse of Discretion was the result.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I write about social issues. Abuse of Discretion tackles teen sexting. The previous book in the series, Anybody’s Daughter, took on child sex trafficking. I’ve also addressed sexual harassment in the workplace, gender discrimination and the impact of HIV on women. I try to educate as well as entertain.
Tell us about your main character.
I have an ensemble cast of characters, but 14-year-old Graylin Alexander is the primary character. When Graylin finds himself facing criminal charges, he’s a fighter who sticks to his guns even when his attorneys and father try to convince him otherwise. He truly (and naively) believes that he will get off simply because he’s innocent.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Jenny Ungerman is one of Graylin’s attorneys. She smart as Einstein, as committed as Mother Teresa and as feisty as a mother bear.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Maya Angelou, Greg Iles, Jodi Picoult, Trevor Noah, James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a stand-alone book that’s currently titled The Perfect Lawyer. It’s about a dynamic young female attorney who’s struggling with bipolar disorder. As a society, I don’t think we deal very well with mental illness. I want to shine a light on the condition and hopefully educate people about it.
“What’s the matter, Mrs. Singletary? Why do I have to go to the principal’s office?”
I’m walking side-by-side down the hallway with my second-period teacher. Students are huddled together staring and pointing at us like we’re zoo animals. When a teacher at Marcus Preparatory Academy escorts you to the principal’s office, it’s a big deal. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I’m a good student. I never get in trouble.
Mrs. Singletary won’t answer my questions or even look at me. I hope she knows she’s only making me more nervous.
“Mrs. Singletary, please tell me what’s wrong?”
“Just follow me. You’ll find out in a minute.”
I’m about to ask her another question when it hits me. Something happened to my mama!
My mama has been on and off drugs for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen her in months and I don’t even know where she lives. No one does. I act like it doesn’t bother me, but it does. I’ve prayed to God a million times to get her off drugs. Even though my granny says God answers prayers, He hasn’t answered mine, so I stopped asking.
I jump in front of my teacher, forcing her to stop. “Was there a death in my family, Mrs. Singletary? Did something happen to my mama?”
“No, there wasn’t a death.”
She swerves around me and keeps going. I have to take giant steps to keep up with her.
Once we’re inside the main office, Mrs. Singletary points at a wooden chair outside Principal Keller’s office. “Have a seat and don’t move.”
She goes into the principal’s office and closes the door. My head begins to throb like somebody’s banging on it from the inside. I close my eyes and try to calm down. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s probably just—Oh snap! The picture!
I slide down in the chair and pull my iPhone from my right pocket. My hands are trembling so bad I have to concentrate to keep from dropping it. I open the photos app and delete the last picture on my camera roll. If anyone saw that picture, I’d be screwed.
Loud voices seep through the closed door. I lean forward, straining to hear. It almost sounds like Mrs. Singletary and Principal Keller are arguing.
“It’s only an allegation. We don’t even know if it’s true.”
“I don’t care. We have to follow protocol.”
“Can’t you at least check his phone first?”
“I’m not putting myself in the middle of this mess. I’ve already made the call.”
The call? I can’t believe Principal Keller called my dad without even giving me a chance to defend myself. How’d she even find out about the picture?
The door swings open and I almost jump out of my skin. The principal crooks her finger at me. “Come in here, son.”
Trudging into her office, I sit down on a red cloth chair that’s way more comfortable than the hard one outside. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it might jump out of my chest.
The only time I’ve ever been in Principal Keller’s office was the day my dad enrolled me in school. Mrs. Singletary is standing in front of the principal’s desk with her arms folded. I hope she’s going to stay here with me, but a second later, she walks out and closes the door.
Principal Keller sits on the edge of her desk, looking down at me. “Graylin, do you have any inappropriate pictures on your cell phone?”
“Huh?” I try to keep a straight face. “No, ma’am.”
“It’s been brought to my attention that you have an inappropriate picture—a naked picture—of Kennedy Carlyle on your phone. Is that true?”
“No…uh…No, ma’am.” Thank God I deleted it!
“This is a very serious matter, young man. So, I need you to tell me the truth.”
“No, ma’am.” I shake my head so hard my cheeks vibrate. “I don’t have anything like that on my phone.”
“I pray to God you’re telling me the truth.”
I don’t want to ask this next question, but I have to know. “Um, so you called my dad?”
“Yes, I did. He’s on his way down here now.”
I hug myself and start rocking back and forth. Even though I deleted the picture, my dad is still going to kill me for having to leave work in the middle of the day.
“I also made another call.”
At first I’m confused. Then I realize Mrs. Keller must’ve called my granny too. At least she’ll keep my dad from going ballistic.
“So you called my granny?”
“No.” The principal’s cheeks puff up like she’s about to blow something away. “I called the police.”
Pamela Samuels Young is an attorney and award-winning author of eight legal thrillers. Her most recent courtroom drama, Abuse of Discretion, tackles a troubling sexting case that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile justice system. Pamela is also the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction for her thriller Anybody’s Daughter. The former journalist received a bachelor’s degree from USC and earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University and UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of child sex trafficking, online safety, fiction writing, and pursuing your passion. To read an excerpt of Pamela’s books or to invite her to a book club meeting or speaking engagement, visit her website at: http://www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com.
Website URL: http://www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com
Blog URL: http://letswritetoday.blogspot.com/
Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/pamelasamuelsyoung
Buy link for Abuse of Discretion at Amazon