TA: I was born Georgia and grew up in Tucker (near Stone Mountain) and lived in the same house—with lots of stability and love—until I left for college. I’ve always enjoyed to read (as you might expect) and would spend hours alone in “those fiction worlds” imagining myself as the characters and living their adventures. I’ve always been detail oriented and when I was a girl, I actually cataloged every book in my library with the Dewey Decimal system and inserted check out cards into all of them. Apparently I had lots of time on my hands…
BG: Tell us about your writing journey. Did you always want to be a writer?
TA: I’ve always loved writing and dreamed of being a writer when younger, but never thought I had any talent at it. So I tucked it away…until God unearthed it again a few years back.
The first novel I wrote in 1999 is one I targeted specifically for Bethany House and their historical line. It got to the final review board but then was ultimately “passed over” in early 2002. There were problems in that novel and in my writing that I needed to work on, so they were right to let that one slip through their fingers! After that experience, I realized that if I was going to have a good shot at this publishing thing, I needed to get serious about learning the craft and addressing the weaknesses in my writing.
I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (HUGE for me!), and began dissecting novels—books that I’d loved and read multiple times—with the goal of finding out what made them ‘tick’ for me. I prayed that God would bring people into my life who would help me become a better writer by telling me what I needed to change, how I needed to grow. And He did. I’m so thankful for those writing partnerships.
BG: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?
TA: Several people, some of whom I’ve never met (other writers), have inspired me. But one person whom I did know and who influenced me in a lasting way was my 7th grade teacher, Miss Debra Ackey of Idlewood Elementary School in Tucker, Georgia. In fact, I dedicated my second book, Revealed, to her with hopes that a copy of that book will some day find its way into her hands.
Debra Ackey encouraged my writing in what proved to be a very difficult time in my life. I was sexually abused as a young girl (my perpetrator was not someone from my immediate family nor a blood relation), and I was dealing with a lot of guilt, doubt, and repressed anger during those years. Writing served as an outlet for me.
Looking back at the stories and poems I wrote during those years, it’s easy to see that I was obsessed with death, and the source of those feelings isn’t hard to understand. With God’s strength and mercy, I’ve long forgiven the person who abused me, and I’ve thanked God often for placing Miss Ackey in my life at that time. She read so many (what I’m certain were) horrible poems on death and dying, and encouraged me anyway. She reached through the pain I was dealing with, past the ugliness I felt steeped in, and she breathed new life into my dry bones. I pray she’ll one day know just how much she did for me.
BG: What is your favorite movie? Favorite book?
TA: Sound of Music is my favorite “classic.”
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is a special book in my life. It changed the way I view God and his love for me. Never before have I ever seen his unconditional love so clearly.
BG: Can you share about your new historical series?
TA: My next book (From a Distance) will be out in spring 2008 and it’s the first book in a new three-part Colorado Territory historical series with Bethany House. New characters, new town, new plots! Each book will tell the story of a woman who was first in her field or career. Elizabeth Westbrook is the heroine in From a Distance and she’s the first female photographer/journalist to travel and photograph the western territories.
You can check my website (www.tameraalexander.com) for a sneak peek of the cover (which we’re designing now) as soon as Bethany House has it ready!
BG: How does the creative process for developing a series like this work as a Bethany House author?
TA: I usually work on the overall series idea on my own then bring it to them and we discuss, just to make sure that four of their other historical authors aren’t doing the same thing. Editors are wonderful brainstormers. I love that part of the process.
BG: What is the message you hope to get across in this story? In the series?
TA: Themes always grow throughout the book for me. I often don’t know the exact theme(s) until I’m well into the story. Theme grows out of character motivation and subsequent experiences. In Remembered, a definite theme is that God works all things—both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’—for the ultimate and eternal good of the believer.
A second theme is similar in that God’s ways and thoughts (his plans for my life) are higher than my own. Rarely do I understand them or grasp what he’s doing at the time, much less down the road. I don’t have his perspective, his wisdom. Part of maturing, part of growing in my faith is learning that His ways are always better than my own. Not sometimes better, not most of the time better, but always—regardless of whether I understand them or not.
BG: What does your typical day look like?
TA: Up by 6:30 and at my desk by 8:00, dressed* and ready to go. I answer email then at 9:00 I typically “turn off email” and write. In a regular writing day, I’ll write 6 to 8 hours per day. When I’m on deadline and that “line where I’ll surely die if I don’t finish” is approaching, I can write up to 15 hours per day. But that is ONLY on deadline. Shoot me now if that were my regular day. 😉
*Okay, dressed may mean exercise pants and t-shirt, but still, I usually do “clean up” before starting to work.
BG: What do you believe is the most important thing an author can do to catch an editor’s eye?
TA: See the answer to Marketing tips below. Also, do your homework as to which houses are accepting what genres. Don’t waste your time (or theirs) by submitting a historical romance or sci-fi if that particular house isn’t acquiring those genres.
BG: What would you say was the toughest part of the writing craft for you to learn? Any tips for others who struggle with this same element?
TA: My first novel was rejected for plot pacing problems and character motivation problems—two things I set about to learn after that first rejection. And now (oddly enough) those two things are often mentioned by reviewers as strengths in my writing. But they weren’t at first.
I’ve got a list of books on my website (www.tameraalaxander.com) that I recommend for writers, and I also encourage writers to dissect novels. Pick them apart. Pay attention and learn from “that man (or woman) behind the curtain,” as Dorothy might say in Oz. I recently taught a workshop at ACFW on Dissecting Novels. I’ve learned so much from simply reading great novels and finding out what makes them that way.
BG: Any marketing tips?
TA: Write the very best book you can with where you are right now. A story that people will talk about. Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool around. Period.
BG: Closing thoughts you’d like to share?
TA: A verse that God is etching on my heart these days is found in II Corinthians 4:7 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
God has given us this treasure—a relationship with him, a promise of an eternity with him—in jars of clay, in broken, marred vessels in order to show that the transcendent power comes from him. It may flow through us, praise his name!, but it originates in the heart of the Giver. Not in the one gifted.
Our gifts, however imperfect and weak, are given to reflect his glory and are made “perfect” when we give ourselves and those gifts over to him. There’s no end to what God can do with someone who makes themselves totally available to him—something that’s easier written than done.
Thanks for the chat, Beth! Wonderful to be here.
Thank you, Tammy, so much for sharing with us!
Also, don’t pass up the opportunity to win a autographed boxed set of the Fountain Creek Chronicles in time for Christmas. Go to http://www.tameraalexander.com/contest_gift_set.cfm
You have another opportunity to win here at my blog. Just comment to be entered into my drawing for a book from Tamera Alexander.
Be sure to check back for upcoming interviews with Sue Dent and Lena Nelson Dooley!