Before They Were Authors: P.A. De Voe

P.A. (Pam) De Voe is an anthropologist and Asian specialist who writes historical mysteries/crime stories immersed in the life and times of Ancient China. Her short stories, From Judge Lu’s Ming Dynasty Case Files, have been published in various anthologies and an ezine. In her historical, Chinese YA trilogy, Warned received a 2016 Silver Falchion award in the Best International category; Trapped is a 2017 Agatha Award nominee. 

Judy: What was the best job (besides being a writer) that you ever had, and how has it influenced your writing?

Pam: Hands-down the best job I’ve ever had was when I worked for the International Institute of Metropolitan St. Louis, which I believe is the largest refugee resettlement organization in the Midwest. As an applied anthropologist, my job was to work with the leaders and influentials of the various refugee communities. I developed a series of workshops to help them create and maintain their own ethnic organizations. I also co-developed a multi-ethic and intra-ethnic mediation training programs for not only the influentials, but also refugees coming from Somalia. From all of these survivors of war and chaos, who had so little economically, I learned the power of resilience and generosity, and the willingness to trust and be committed to a larger community. I try to bring some of that redemptive and positive energy to the characters in my stories—whether I’m writing contemporary mysteries or historical adventures and mysteries set in historical China.

Judy: What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you at work?

Pam: When I was an undergraduate, I worked on an archaeological dig in Illinois (Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site). One afternoon, I was kneeling at the bottom of a trench, painstakingly troweling dirt away in order to expose a dark stain in the soil. The temperature hovered around 100 wet, humid, degrees (Fahrenheit) and I had started to blend in with the surrounding dirt walls. As I scooped up layers of the fine dirt, I heard a woman call down, asking if anyone knew where a Pam De Voe was. I looked up from my ditch and saw my mother standing a few feet away. She’d come for a surprise visit, and I was so covered in dirt that she hadn’t recognize me.

Judy: Do you have any writing advice for aspiring authors?

Pam.: If you like to write: write. Write poetry, essays, short stories, plays, novellas, novels, anything and everything. Everything you write feeds into your journey as an author. Don’t get discouraged if agents, publishers, and readers aren’t flocking to your door. Keep working. Develop your own voice. Know your craft and be independent.



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30 responses to “Before They Were Authors: P.A. De Voe

  1. Carol, I hadn’t thought of that connection, either. Although those stories of hers are some of my favorites.

  2. Judy Penz Sheluk

    That’s true Carol, I hadn’t thought of that! Clever of you. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Pam, it’s really fitting that your story Trapped is nominated for an Agatha Christie Award – both being interested in archeology. All the best to you with all your writings.
    I appreciate your blog posts. They are entertaining, informative and meaningful. Thanks.

  4. Pam, you’re quite right, and the first one seems stiff to modern tastes. One thing he kept is having three cases going concurrently. Another thing he did was collect Chinese erotica. 🙂

  5. Kristina, Yes we had a good laugh over it. I don’t think it was what she thought archaeology could lead to–dirt encrusted daughters!

  6. Kaye, I hope you get a chance to visit Cahokia Mounds some time. Their museum is quite excellent!

  7. Marilynn, I found it interesting that van Gulik translated the first couple of Judge Dee books from a Chinese author and then went on to create Judge Dee stories himself. Also, of interest, in the Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, van Gulik sets out the differences in the way Chinese readers liked their detective/crime stories compared to the Western readers’ expectations.

  8. Kristina Stanley

    I have to ask, did your mom laugh at you covered in dirt? Offer to help get you clean? Great book covers!

  9. I’m from Illinois, Pam, so I know OF the mounds, but not too much about them. I’ve always wanted to go on a dig, but have never managed it. Very jealous of anyone that has led that life!

  10. There are Judge Bao books too. I don’t like him as well as I like Judgen Dee, but then Judge Dee didn’t write

  11. Gedlu, thank you so much for your generous comments! It has always been a joy working with you as a leader in your community as well as in St. Louis’s larger multi-ethnic community.

  12. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thank you for stopping by Gedlu, and taking the time to comment. You were very fortunate to be one of Pam’s students.

  13. Gedlu B Metaferia

    Great interview. I had the honor of being in Pam Devoe’s many trainings in mediation, community building , leadership and community empowerment. She is generous in uplifting the spirit diverse groups of people, I always feel at home at her class. I am thankful for her insight, character and respect to our differences.She brings great knowledge of her training to the real world. I wish she could bring politicians together and give them a course in honorable dialog to help everybody instead of tearing each other apart.

  14. clarification on note to Kaye–We didn’t find the palisade in Mound 72! It’s just that that summer we both opened Mound 72 and (on the side of Monk’s Mound) found the first evidence of a palisade, which indicated that the city was fortified.Two different locations at the Cahokia site.

  15. Marilynn and Victoria, if you like Judge Dee, you might be interested to know that there are movies out about a Judge Bao–another well-known magistrate in the Chinese fiction world. Apparently, real magistrates in China’s past liked to write crime stories. Much like mystery writers of today, these magistrates drew on their own past for their stories!

  16. Kaye, it was fun thinking about earlier parts of my work life. I remember that summer at Cahokia as special in many ways. We opened Mound 72 (for those of you who know Cahokia) under Dr. Melvin Fowler and found evidence of a palisade–thus, looking for changes in the soil color!

  17. Maryvonne, I love reading Judy’s blog posts on other authors, too. Fun to see where everyone came from and how it’s impacted their writing.

  18. Cynthia, that you for the congratulations for the Agatha. And Congratulations to you, too, for your first novel being up for an Agatha!

  19. Pingback: Fun Blog Post | P.A. De Voe

  20. Thanks so much for having me, Judy. It’s been fun for me to read about your other authors in your blog, too.

  21. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping by Cynthia!

  22. Great interview! Thank you for sharing, Judy.

    Congratulations on the Agatha nomination, Pam!

  23. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thank you so much Maryvonne. I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know. I think it is very important for authors to support one another, and I love hearing other author’s stories.


  25. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Kaye. She’s got a great backstory, doesn’t she? I’m not nearly this interesting.

  26. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Super, thank you Marilynn. That is the hope with these posts, that my fellow authors get noticed!

  27. Thanks for the glimpse of Pam. I love the trench/dirt story! What a fascinating subject for writing, too.

  28. I love Judge Dee too,so I went off and bought one..

  29. Judy Penz Sheluk

    I’ve read a few of Pam’s stories and they are always entertaining. Thanks for stopping by Victoria.


    Thank you for describing Pam’s work. As someone fascinated by the Tang dynasty tales about Judge Dee, I feel a kinship already! Will watch for her.

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