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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Locally Writ: ‘Apothecary’ is Patricia Simpson’s vampire ‘Chronicles’

Local author Patricia Simpson has been writing paranormal romance for decades. She found success along the traditional publication route early on – her debut novel, “Whisper of Midnight,” a RITA Award finalist, was published by HarperCollins in 1991.

“I was washing my dog in the shower, and my daughter says, ‘Mom, there’s somebody on the phone from New York,’ and I said, ‘I’ve got to call her back,’ ” Simpson said, remembering the day she got the call from HarperCollins. “I had no idea.”

But, eventually, trying to write two books a year – for HarperCollins, Tor Books and Silhouette, alternately – and raising two daughters while working for the University of Washington full time as a web developer proved too demanding.

So, in 2012, encouraged by the reception of her 2009 book “Spellbound,” which was nominated for Best Indie Paranormal of the Year, Simpson decided to go fully independent. She didn’t know if it would work, but she knew that she couldn’t stop writing.

Simpson’s most recent work, “Apothecary: Londo Chronicles,” follows Joanna Wilder as she fights to find and protect her wayward sister, Eva, in the dystopian, vampire-infested metropolis of Londo City.

Along the way, Wilder crosses paths with Gabriel Stone, a doctor with a dark secret. As Stone works to help Wilder, the two slowly start to question their loyalties to the state and each other.

After living in Seattle for nearly 40 years, fond memories of her time as a graphic design student at Spokane Falls Community College and working as a copy and layout artist for The Spokesman-Review in the 1970s convinced Simpson it was time to head east again.

Now, back in Spokane, Simpson is taking full advantage of the extra time afforded to her by retirement. “Now that I’m retired, I can really get back to my schedule,” Simpson said. In addition to her own writing, she leads workshops for paranormal fiction writers.

“I’ve been teaching workshops since the late ’90s,” she said. “It’s fun to keep it fresh even for me because sometimes I lose sight of the process. But really, every time you start a book, you start over again.”

Writing can be so easy to put off, she said, so, to fight the pull of procrastination, she always makes a point of writing first thing in the morning. “And try not to look at social media,” she said, saying that it’s best to come to your writing with a clear head.

During lockdown, and especially during November’s “National Novel Writing Month” challenge, Simpson decided to try her hand at screenwriting.

“I’ve always wanted to see one of my books made into a movie,” she said, saying that fans have often told her how easily they can imagine her novels on the big screen.

In the end, she decided to write something totally different from her signature paranormals and Gothic romances. But the change in subject matter was the least of her worries.

The real challenge lay in learning to tell her story through dialogue and action without the benefit of character introspection.

“In screenwriting, you have to synthesize your information into such a short amount of space, it’s just incredible,” she said. “But the nice thing about that is you get your story out really fast, so it’s really fresh in your mind. That’s a blessing and the curse, though, trying to get it (without any) introspection.

“I depend on that a lot, and to make it all happen in dialogue and action, gosh, that’s hard.”

To aspiring authors, Simpson offered the following advice.

“Keep reading and keep trying to develop your own distinct voice. No one’s going to write like you if you let yourself write like you. And don’t write for the money. You have to really love it, and, 90% of the time, you just have to put your butt in the chair.”

“The Londo Chronicles” are available online through Auntie’s Bookstore.

‘The Hanford Plaintiffs’

Trisha Pritikin, attorney, activist and author of “The Hanford Plaintiffs: Voices From the Fight for Atomic Justice,” will join former The Spokesman-Review reporter Karen Dorn Steele for a virtual book launch hosted by Auntie’s on Thursday at 7 p.m.

“The Hanford Plaintiffs” is a compilation of oral histories gathered from Pritikin’s fellow Hanford “downwinders” and the testimony of 24 – including Pritikin – of the nearly 5,000 plaintiffs in the Hanford Nuclear Reservation Litigation. Alongside these accounts, Pritikin examines other national and international nuclear testing facilities, as well as the effects of radiation poisoning that she experienced.

Dorn Steele, an award-winning investigative journalist who covered the Hanford nuclear test site mismanagement and Atomic Energy Commission controversies, wrote an introduction to the work.

“The Hanford Plaintiffs” won first place in the history category at the 2020 San Francisco Book Festival and first place in nonfiction at the 2020 New England Book Festival.

“The Hanford Plaintiffs: Voices From the Fight for Atomic Justice” is available at Auntie’s.