WILSHIRE BLVD ¬ó Patricia Colton walks into Coffee Bean, orders a Swedish berry iced tea, sits down and starts writing in her spiral bound notebook.
¬ìI¬íve been a writer my whole life,¬î Colton said. ¬ìWhen I was young, I was not the kind of kid that would raise my hand in class. I would put my thoughts into writing … I found that writing gave me a voice.¬î
Colton, now 52, self-published her 644-page debut novel, ¬ìThe Window Blind,¬î which has recently been nominated by ForeWord Reviews as a Book of the Year finalist.
Though a longtime writer, it wasn¬ít until recently that the local author formulated the beginnings of her first novel.
¬ìI just started to have some ideas that came to me,¬î Colton said. ¬ìI put them together, and I never intended for it to go anywhere.¬î
Colton¬ís novel chronicles the misadventures of Caterina, a middle-aged alcoholic, and Tyler, an 18-year-old heroin addict. The two protagonists cross paths and are transported to a fantasy world of healing and learning.
¬ìMy book deals with some really adult themes of addiction, rape and death, but there¬ís the element of the fantastical to it,¬î she said. ¬ì[The fantastical] is not so much there to soften any of those edgy themes, but it¬ís more to add a different perspective ¬ó a bigger perspective that we don¬ít always see in our day-to-day lives.¬î
¬ìThe Window Blind¬î commences as a folie √† deux, but through its course, introduces softer themes of love, companionship and redemption.
¬ìWriters are always observing things,¬î the author said recently at a cafe not far from her Santa Monica home. ¬ìI can¬ít say there¬ís anything in particular that inspired [¬ìThe Window Blind¬î] or any particular person, but there are definitely little things from my whole life that I¬íve observed ¬Ö that have found their way in.¬î
Colton was born and raised in Santa Monica, as a member of a ¬ìclaustrophobic¬î Irish family.
¬ìWhen I was growing up ¬ówithout that much exaggeration ¬óthere was almost a relative on every street,¬î she said. ¬ìIt was a huge family, and there were a lot of relatives that would live around town.¬î
Colton¬ís relatives were not only ¬ìaround town,¬î but some of them also served as influential figures in the city. Her uncle, John Bambrick, was a City Council member and mayor during the 1970s; her late uncle, Jim Bambrick, contributed his talents as a Santa Monica College Board member and as an instrumental figure in establishing KCRW as a community service of SMC in the late ¬í70s and early ¬í80s; and a handful of aunts and an uncle co-owned The Lobster (Ocean Avenue) with the Valdivia family in the ¬í80s.
Because of her deep ties to the city, Colton said she¬ís hard-pressed to find a street in Santa Monica that doesn¬ít bring back old memories or remind her of family.
Though Colton conceded that having omnipresent relatives was at times hectic and overwhelming, she attributes some of her artistic quirks to her childhood and admits that she has always had fodder for writing.
¬ìSometimes it was hard to be able to speak up because there was always a lot of talking ¬ó it was a lot of yelling, but it wasn¬ít like [my family was] fighting,¬î Colton said. ¬ìMy natural inclination was to become more introspective ¬ó to go off and read something or go off and write something.¬î
It wasn¬ít until the fifth grade, however, that Colton considered pursuing creative writing. While at St. Monica¬ís Elementary School, she wrote a short story titled ¬ìJustin,¬î about a Beatles-like musician who struggles with failures as an artist.
¬ìI got some good feedback from the teachers, and that kind of put in my head, ¬ëWell this is something that other people think I¬ím good at, too,¬í¬î she said.
After graduating from St. Monica Catholic High School, Colton attended Santa Monica College and then UCLA, where she received a bachelor¬ís degree in English. She said it was at UCLA that she began to enjoy the process of other types of writing, such as expository writing.
¬ìWhen I would write something, I would learn so much about myself,¬î Colton said. ¬ìI began to understand that writing, even if it wasn¬ít creative writing, was such a road to self-discovery.¬î
Colton went through what she likes to call her ¬ìvagabond stage,¬î after graduating from UCLA in ¬í82.
¬ìI went to Italy about eight times; I really wanted to live and work there,¬î she said. ¬ìThe way I approached life after college was basically to work enough to fund my next trip.¬î
Through various adventures in countries such as Spain, France and Italy ¬ó including a six-month job at an airplane-painting company in Bassano del Grappa ¬ó Colton let the inspiration soak in.
¬ì[Traveling] was like osmosis ¬ó something you absorb for later,¬î Colton said. ¬ìIt was really inspiring to be in [Paris] ¬Ö it was amazing to think, ¬ëThis is where some of my heroes have been.¬í¬î
Heroes include F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, whose terse, minimalist style and punchy dialogue left marks on Colton¬ís writing.
¬ì[¬ìThe Window Blind¬î] is pretty dialogue-driven,¬î she said. ¬ìIt¬ís almost like a play or a screenplay in some ways.¬î
It wasn¬ít until 1993 that Colton marked the end of her vagabond years: she was married and had a daughter. She said crossing the threshold of 30 encouraged her to buckle down.
¬ìI settled into this whole phase where I was the opposite of the vagabond,¬î Colton said. ¬ìI became the most dependable person ¬ó I had the same job for 12 years.¬î
The job was a position as an e-mail administrator at a software company called Candle Corp. Followed by a four-year stay at MGM Studios ¬óshe still has the black leather briefcase to show for it ¬óColton took her final job as an e-mail administrator at Jefferies and Co. in 2007, which was around the same time she started writing ¬ìThe Window Blind.¬î
¬ìAfter I finished [¬ìThe Window Blind¬î], I shopped it around to different literary agents,¬î Colton said. ¬ìI got rejections.¬î
Detractors said Colton¬ís novel featured everyday characters that did nothing in a world where anything could happen.
¬ìI went back to the drawing table, and that¬ís when I decided to really spend some time making [the story] better and refining it,¬î she said.
Refining was a four-year process, but Colton¬ís efforts earned her a nomination from ForeWard Reviews as a fantasy Book of the Year contender.
ForeWard shines the spotlight on the achievements of independent publishers and authors, judging manuscripts for editorial excellence, originality of subject matter, accuracy, author credentials and professional packaging.
Award winners will be announced at the American Library Association annual conference in Anaheim, Calif., on June 23. With the decisions around the corner, Colton said she is excited to represent the independent scene.
¬ìIt would be cool to win, but if not, I have so much respect for the indie authors out there,¬î she said. ¬ìI know [publishing] is really hard, and some of these people are really amazing.¬î
Colton is presently working on obtaining a master¬ís degree in English literature from Cal State Northridge, where she will graduate this December. The local wordsmith also works part-time in the membership department at KCRW and at SMC, as an instructional English assistant.
Upon graduating, Colton anticipates work on a second novel.
¬ìThe Window Blind¬î is available for purchase on Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.