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‘Shoot if You Must’: New mystery author celebrates book’s publication with book signing

By Staff | Jan 3, 2020

Pam Clark talks about her book, "Shoot if You Must," during her book signing in Four Seasons Books on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Pam Clark spent 40 years teaching English at Frederick Community College. But, throughout that time, she was working towards achieving her most recent accomplishment — writing a mystery novel.

On Saturday morning in Four Seasons Books, Clark celebrated the publication of her first book, by talking about and signing her books for a standing-room-only crowd.

“It’s so wonderful to have such a supportive community — this has been a long time coming,” Clark said. “I didn’t know if I could be a writer. I’m an overwrite, and had to learn that ‘less is more.'”

According to Clark, she might have never finished writing her book, if it wasn’t for a friend of hers. While she was still teaching, her friend told her about a mystery writing class she wanted to attend with a friend, and Clark agreed to go with her. Unfortunately, her friend was later diagnosed with cancer.

“Before she passed away, she told me that the one thing she regretted, was not finishing her book,” Clark said. “That prompted me to complete my book.”

Attendees of Pam Clark's book signing in Four Seasons Books wait in line to get their copies of her book signed on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

In 2011, Clark went on sabbatical from FCC and moved to Harpers Ferry with her husband. She focused on writing her book, and completed it in 2014. After winning first place in a contest for her book idea, she met her book agent, who also served as her editor and helped her get “Shoot if You Must” picked up by a publishing company.

According to Clark, the book is the first in a series.

“I have written the opening scene for the sequel,” Clark said, mentioning research for writing the second book has been pain-staking. “I’m stuck, because I know the next scene is the crime scene, and I’m trying to thoroughly research it before writing it.”

While the writing process is detailed, Clark said she knows what will be some of the elements in the second and third books in the series.

“The first book is set in Frederick. However, there is a Harpers Ferry reference in it, but it’s in the murderer’s voice. Book three in the series will be largely set in Harpers Ferry,” Clark said.

Looking back at her writing experience with her first novel, Clark said that, even though she had already earned a degree in poetry from John’s Hopkins University, writing the book taught her a few things about herself and the writing process.

“It’s really mesmerizing, the writing process. Those of you who are authors here, know how the characters just take over,” Clark said. “Here’s another thing I learned — you never mess up a story with the truth. People don’t believe the truth! A good lie is always better.”