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Author of 'Professor Bradshaw Mystery Series' visits Finally Found Books in Auburn
It is 1901, and those great pioneers of electrical invention, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, are still walking about.
In that time and place, when the harnessed use of electricity is so new and exciting, a fellow named Benjamin Bradshaw teaches electrical engineering at the University of Washington.
After being wrongly implicated in a murder-by-electrocution case, the professor develops a side interest sleuthing fatal electrical mishaps. Whenever this new-fangled thing called electricity kills a person, Bradshaw is the guy police turn to to puzzle out that old conundrum: accident or foul play.
Such is the premise on which Pacific Northwest author Bernadette Pajer has built "The Professor Bradshaw Mystery Series," an intriguing world of who-dun-its that interweaves the actual history of the UW with electrical invention and the Pacific Northwest.
At the center is Professor Bradshaw, a recent widower with an 8-year-old son, a crotchety live-in housekeeper — whom he adores — and a bicycle he pedals everywhere from his home on Capitol Hill.
"They're sort of fast-paced, traditional, who-dun-its," Pajer said of her books. "There's no graphic language, no sex and no violence. The stories are very character driven. You learn through the series about some personal baggage Bradshaw brings with him. But the character develops this interest, he finds he enjoys it, and that really surprises him.
"He's fictional," Pajer added, "but I try to get all my facts straight. I love to do research."
Pajer was in Auburn recently, signing copies of her books at Finally Found Books. Once a month, the store, its newsletter and its Facebook Page feature a PNW author.
Pajer grew up near the city of Burien, attended St. Bernadette's Grade School there and later studied at the UW. She was 20 when she married and moved with her husband to Orcas Island. The couple later moved to the East Coast for several years before making the return trip to Washington State.
Of note — her husband works for the Snohomish County PUD.
"So, I'm married to a lineman," Pajer said with a laugh. "A lot of people wonder, does that have anything to do with why I have an electrical engineer as my sleuth? At one time I didn't think so, but you know, there's got to be something behind the fact that I've been married 30 years to somebody who works daily with electricity."
Pajer describes herself as "a born daydreamer and story teller."
"I often miss details of the real world because my brain goes off and starts making up little stories. But I didn't actually start writing until right before we left Orcas Island. I wrote my first manuscript. It was a romance. I didn't sell it, but I got an agent from that one. That begin my writing journey, all those many years ago. And no, we're not going to add up the decades! "
Pajer soon put herself on a one-book-a-year schedule — and learned to write by writing.
"I think it was a great way to do it," Pajer said. "And after I'd written many manuscripts — we were back in Washington State by then — I took a course at the UW for the Creative Writing Certificate. It was fabulous. There'd I'd be, and all these other writers who had written but never completed a manuscript were taking notes, saying, 'OK, OK, I think that makes sense.' And I'm sitting there going, oh yeah, all of that is so true. I knew it because I'd learned it the hard way. Then the teacher put everything down in little writing nuggets I could revisit, which was also fabulous because you have to keep relearning the same things."
She described some of the choicest lessons.
"I think one of the early things was probably the power of leaving things out of your story, of not overwriting. You leave room for the reader to feel the emotion without telling them the emotion that the character is feeling. The readers actively participate because, when you allow them to provide the thoughts and the questions, they say, 'Oh, I bet I know how he's feeling,' or, 'No, don't go down that hall!' You let them provide the thoughts and questions. It's something that I evolved into a workshop I teach called Trigger Writing. The idea is that you, as the writer, don't have to write the whole story. "
On Saturday, June 21, Finally Found Books brings in a writing team that goes by the pen name Waverly Curtis, actually Waverly Fitzgerald and Curtis Colbert.
"They're not a couple, they just write together and swap chapters. He does one, she does one and they play off one another. Their stories are based on this dog Pepé, a Chihuahua," said store owner Todd Hulbert.