I was introduced to author Patricia McAlexander through my editor early this year. I was told this “new-to-me” author had a wonderful book pending and would I be interested in reading it and possibly providing an early review or quote for the book jacket.
I’m so glad I did! McAlexander’s “Shadows of Doubt” is an intriguing story about how difficult it can be to move past early troubles. A teen can gain a reputation that may or may not be deserved, and forever after may be branded a troublemaker, even into adulthood.
The book has just been released and I sat down with McAlexander to discuss her story:
Describe one of your favorite characters and tell us who you patterned them after and why.
One of my favorite characters is Sandy Harris, the protagonist of Shadows of Doubt, because—well, she reminds me of me. First, she wants to be a photojournalist, which would have been an choice for me had I not been an English teacher. I love photography and in retirement I have edited two local newsletters with a fairly wide circulation—one for a learning in retirement organization (OLLI @ The University of Georgia) and one for the Athens (Georgia) Historical Society. Also Sandy has a mother somewhat like mine. My mother, a teacher and in many ways a strong woman, turned to me and my sister, who were in our teens, for comfort, company, and support after our father died, just as Mrs. Harris turned to Sandy. Also, occasionally, Mom did not approve of our boyfriends, so I understood the kind of tension portrayed in Shadows when Sandy’s mother disapproved of Jeff.
What inspired you to write in your genre?
I like romance because love is something most of us need and hope for in our lives—look at the themes of songs, movies, literature. Also, romance can involve personal growth, something I’m interested in as a teacher. In my fiction, I portray individuals further developing their own values and identities as they discover love. But genres can be hybrids, and I like to spice romance up with external conflict or drama, thus creating a thriller-romance. My first Wild Rose novel, Stranger in the Storm, was in this genre. This second novel, Shadows of Doubt, was at first more straight romance, but my editor suggested adding more “thrill,” and my sister then suggested doing so by making its male protagonist a former student drug dealer threatened by his old supplier. That’s how it, too, turned also into a thriller.
Your book deals with issues of trust and overcoming the past. What inspired you to write this story?
An inspiration was one of my favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice. A major theme of Austen’s novel is the difference between an individual’s perception and reality. Without facts, Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett, hurt that the aristocratic Darcy would not ask her to dance, decides he is proud and cold. She believes the story told by the soldier Wickham, who seems to be courting her, that Darcy had in the past cheated him out of his legacy. In reality, Wickham turns out to be a dishonest rake, and Darcy a hero. The difference between an individual’s perception and reality is also a theme of Shadows of Doubt. In Shadows, Sandy Harris’s widowed mother, a grade school teacher, wants her daughter to marry Bill, whom both have known since his childhood. He’s the son of the mother’s best friend and Mrs. Harris thinks he’d be perfect to replace her deceased husband as the man of the family. She distrusts Jeff, the young man Sandy is so suddenly taken with, because Jeff had been a troubled and difficult student in her fifth grade before moving away. Both novels, then, deal with issues of trust and misconceptions.
A fun fact about writing your book.
What directly inspired me to write Shadows of Doubt was an early version of the novel, written in the 1980s when I’d taken a year off from teaching. I meant it to be a YA and so the main characters were in high school. But I went back to teaching, and not until I retired did I pull out the old, yellowed, literally cut-and-pasted-on typescript. (This was before writing on computers.) Reading it over and thinking it had possibilities. I rewrote the novel, making the main characters college students and, as I said, adding the drug dealer elements for stronger drama.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I like to hike, garden, and take photographs.
Here’s an excerpt from Shadows of Doubt:
Bill, standing there dabbing at his pants with a napkin, turned angrily and spoke so that only Jeff and Sandy could hear. “Do you want a rematch?”
Jeff turned and glared at him. “What do you mean—a rematch?”
“Another round of that fight we had in fifth grade.”
“You know, I’d really like that. When it’s just the two of us.”
As Jeff guided Sandy toward the door, Bill followed them. “It would be more equal this time.”
“I sure hope so.” Jeff opened the door for Sandy and walked out behind her. Bill watched them go.
They’d reached Jeff’s car when they heard footsteps coming toward them fast across the pavement. Bill’s tall shadow loomed in the lights as he grabbed Jeff’s arm. “How about now?”
Jeff jerked his arm away. “If that’s what you want.” He reached in his pocket, pulled out his car keys and wallet, and handed them to Sandy. “Get in the car, behind the wheel.”
Her hand closed around what he had handed her. This was crazy. “No—Jeff, Bill—” Before she could get anything more out, she heard a thunk, then another as Bill swung his fist first into Jeff’s jaw, then into his solar plexus.
About the author:
Patricia McAlexander earned a bachelor’s degree from The University of New York at Albany, a master’s from Columbia University, and a doctorate from The University of Wisconsin, Madison, all in English. After moving with her husband to Athens, Georgia, she taught composition and literature at The University of Georgia. Now retired, she has edited local newsletters and enjoys hiking, travel, and photography. But most of all she enjoys writing novels. Her first thriller-romance, Stranger in the Storm, set in upstate New York, was released by Wild Rose in June 2020. Shadows of Doubt, set in Athens, Georgia, is her second.
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