I am delighted to have novelist Tamara Tilley join me all the way from the United States as my guest. Author of page-turning fiction, Tamara is also rated as in the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads – an accolade earned through her thorough and insightful reviews of fiction in many genres. https://tamara-tilley.blogspot.com
Tamara has been writing since 2003 in the Christian/Romance/Suspense genre. The characters she creates are never perfect (thank goodness) but it’s their flaws that make them real. She is passionate about reading and excited to see the strides Christian artists are making in the self-publishing field. With her husband, she lives and works at Hume Lake Christian Camps where they have been full-time staff ministering there for over twenty years.
You write in a very specific genre. What made you choose this area? The first time I picked up a book to read for pleasure (something I didn’t think was possible), it was Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love. As you can imagine, I was hooked. Years later, I had an idea for a story and started writing, not knowing if I would be able to finish it. That was the start of my writing journey.
How do you get ideas for plots? Without sounding too weird, they just come to me. I have numerous concepts from simple outlines to page counts up to 300 that I have yet to complete.
Characters are central to a story. How do you develop yours? I start with a general idea—what their weaknesses are or what they’re dealing with in life—and they kind of fill in the blanks.
Many authors say they have always wanted to write – is this true of you? No. The complete opposite. My weakest subjects in high school were English and Literature. I barely passed with “C’s”. I hated reading and thought “reading for pleasure” was an oxymoron. I was a math major and still consider that my strength. Even so, now I love starting a story and seeing where it goes.
When did you first start writing? 2003
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing? Well, since I only write it in my free time, my true job is as a retail manager at Hume Lake Christian Camps and my other hobby is making greeting cards.
How do you get into writing mode? A clean house (so I don’t feel guilty that I am fudging my real responsibilities), a comfy chair, and an idea.
If your latest book REUNION was adapted to film, who would play the lead role? Kate Hudson and Taylor Kinney (T.V. show Chicago Fire).
Plotter of pantser? Do you have a full draft or let it develop as you write? Total pantser. I never know when I start a story where it’s going to end.
Do your characters usually behave or do they sometimes take you by surprise and do their own thing? They definitely have their way with me. When I’ve tried to explain to people that characters sometimes take on a life of their own, they look at me like I’m crazy. But other writers totally get it.
Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred? I wouldn’t necessarily say blurred, maybe believable or real. My book One Saturday is about a woman who has suffered a physical assault. One reader was so concerned that I was speaking from experience, she wanted to make sure I was okay. I took it as a compliment.
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure? Romance-suspense. I definitely like suspense and intrigue with my romance. I’m not into cozy or sappy. I like grit. I like characters that are flawed and don’t have all the answers.
Do you have a favourite author and why? I definitely have favorite(s). I would say Dee Henderson’s The O’Malley Series is what inspired me to first start writing. But other authors I love to read are (in no special order): Marylu Tyndall, Ronie Kendig, Janice Cantore, Susan May Warren, Dani Pettrey, DiAnn Mills, and Lynette Eason. And self-published authors Sally Bradley and Amy Matayo.
I used to say that I didn’t like the genres of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or period pieces. But Marylu Tyndall introduced me to mermaids and archers. Tamara Leigh introduced me to medieval heroes and heroines. And, last but not least, C.F. Dunn introduced me to those things that cannot be explained. I remember when I was sent Death Be Not Proud for review purposes. When I started reading it, I wasn’t thrilled that it had a paranormal bent to it, but I continued because of my agreement to write a review. I became completely consumed by it. I was enthralled with the characters and the escalation of danger and passion. Your writing is so articulate and intelligent. Your characters have flaws and obstacles that make them real and relatable. The entire series is one of the best I have read, and one of very few series I have on my re-read list. You definitely stretched my boundaries and my thinking.
What do you think of the rising field of self-publishing? I absolutely love it. I feel it has expanded the options for Christian readers. I understand that Christian publishers have to market to the broadest possible audience, and by doing so, they have strict guidelines on content and storylines. Unfortunately, I feel that doesn’t always allow for authenticity and reality. Christians stumble and fall. Christians don’t always do or say the right thing. We are immersed in a world that straddles the fence and makes excuses for wrong choices. To write stories that ignore the realities of life or portray heroes and heroines that can do no wrong, makes them unrelatable. Yes, I read for escapism, but not into a world that insults my intelligence. The expansion of self-published books from Christian authors have bridged a gap for those of us who want a little more realism in our novels without having to sift through the tawdry or inappropriate. To clarify – I never glorify sin in my novels, I just don’t ignore it.