With just one book, Stealing Adda, Tamara Leigh secured a place as one of my "must read" authors! When Tamara agreed to an interview for Relz Reviewz I was delighted. Here are some of Tamara's thoughts:~
Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us.
From the age of ten or so, I was writing full-length novels –well, what had the potential to be full-length novels. It’s the thought that counts, hmm? When my husband and I decided to expand our family from two to three (maybe four), I had every intention of continuing in my career as a speech pathologist after our child was born. After all, it took seven long years to get my master’s degree! Not until we were denied the blessing of a child did I accept what I knew God wanted—for me to stay at home and raise our children. Thus, convicted to find a way to work out of the home, I wrote my first book, WARRIOR BRIDE. Two weeks after sending the revised manuscript to my agent, Bantam Books offered me a four-book contract. Talk about a whirlwind romance! But it gets better. Hours after I received the offer, the phone rang a second time. The pregnancy that seemed so long in coming was confirmed. That little baby is now thirteen. His brother is nine. God is so good!
You initially wrote in the secular market—why the transition to Christian worldview novels?
Why did I cross to “the other side”? It was definitely a struggle—one between what I was comfortable doing and what God was calling me to do. I’d found my niche with secular, medieval romances and enjoyed success, but the more time I spent in God’s word, the more I was certain He wanted to move me elsewhere. Regardless, time and again I rejected the “calling”, clinging to what I believed was safe and !
predictable. To make a very long story short, I relented. And wouldn’t you know it—turns out medieval romances don’t do particularly well in the Christian market. I groaned. I grumbled. And louder yet when my agent asked for something “different”. And that’s where my first Christian novel, Stealing Adda, came in—a humorous take on the life of a romance writer. Bingo!
What gets you through those difficult writing days?
Sometimes it’s a venti non-fat extra hot Caramel Macchiato, courtesy of my friendly barista at Starbucks. Sometimes it’s promising myself a reward if I write one-thousand words in one sitting (i.e. psst! You know that bathing suit that refuses to go on sale…?). Sometimes it’s reminding myself that “Tomorrow is another day” (as my mother is fond of quoting). And sometimes all it takes is making time for prayer.
What project or book are you working on now?
Great question! Two answers. I recently finished SPLITTING HARRIET (November 2007), and expect to receive revisions any day. Here’s a peek:
Once upon a time, I was a rebel. And I have the tattoo to prove it.
Then there was the cropped and spiked hair—the shade of which changed monthly—“colorful” language that can’t be found in your everyday 16-count crayon box, pack-a-day habit, less-than-modest wardrobe, and an obsession with loud-mouthed, guitar-trashing, drum-bashing music.
Did I mention I’m also a preacher’s kid? That’s right. And like the prodigal son after whom I modeled myself, I finally saw the error of my ways and returned to the fold.
Today my life is all about “lead me not into temptation”. When I’m not working as Women’s Ministry Director at my father’s church, I’m serving at Gloria’s Morning Café. I even have worthy goals, like saving enough money to buy the café, keep my Jelly Belly habit under control, and to never again hurt the people I love. No more parties. No more unsavory activities. And no more motorcycles! You’d think I was finally on the right track.
But since my dad’s replacement hired a hotshot consultant to revive our “dying” church, things aren’t working out as planned. And now this “consultant” is saying I’m in need of a little reviving myself. Just who does this Maddox McCray think he is anyway? With his curly hair that could use a good clipping, tattoo that he makes no attempt to hide, and black leather pants, the man is downright dangerous. In fact, all that’s missing is a motorcycle. Or so I thought… But if he thinks he’s going to take me for a ride on that 1298 cc, 16-valve, in-line 4-cylinder machine of his, he can think again. Harriet Bisset is a reformed woman and she’s going to stay that way. Even if it kills me!
While I’m awaiting revisions to Harriet’s story, I’ve begun writing the third book in my Multnomah contract, FAKING GRACE.
ON PERFECTING KATE....
When writing Perfecting Kate did the plotline or characters come first?
I always start with the character. What was their childhood like? What joys have they experienced? Who do they love? Hate? What trials and hurts have they faced? What do they want? What can’t they have that they need?
Once I know the answers to those and other questions, the plot usually falls into place—sort of.
Do we “see” some of you in your characters?
Oh, yeah! Though I’m usually aware of embedding pieces of myself in the characters, there are times when a person close to me (hubby dear) will pick up on something in one of my characters that they claim to be part of my personality. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re not. I think…
Many authors say they “hear” their characters talking to them. How does it work for you?
Mumbo jumbo! But guilty as charged. My characters do talk to me from time to time. And sometimes I talk back, like when I get stuck on a particular scene. I’ll ask the character, “How are you going to handle this? What are you going to say?” It can be a bit like pulling teeth, but eventually they give me the answer I’m looking for. Uh…you aren’t going to tell my therapist, are you?
If you were casting actors for a movie of Perfecting Kate who would you choose?
Well, since Kate described Dr. Clive Alexander as resembling Brad Pitt, I’d have to say Brad. As for Kate… Do you think Meg Ryan could pull off dark hair? She definitely has the curl down.
Both Stealing Adda and Perfecting Kate are written in first person. Is it your preferred style?
My first seven books were written in third person point of view, which I preferred to the extent of avoiding reading novels written in first person. To me, the latter was awkward and limiting, especially as there seemed so much more to be gained from a story in which the reader could enter the thoughts of other characters. Strangely enough—perhaps it has something to do with Bridget Jones’s Diary—when I started writing Stealing Adda, it seemed the most natural thing to write Adda’s story in first person. But is it my preferred style? For the “chick lit” genre, yes. For medieval romances…I really like third person.
OF A PERSONAL NATURE....
Do you read Christian fiction yourself? If so, some favorite authors or books both Christian and/or secular?
Years ago, I was a voracious reader of historical romances, which is how I got my start writing medieval romances for Bantam, HarperCollins, and Leisure. Now, more often than not, my nose (and the rest of my face) can be found stuck in a contemporary Christian romance. There are so many good ones: ALONG CAME JONES by Linda Windsor, KISSING ADRIEN by Siri Mitchell, THE ONLY BEST PLACE by Carolyne Aarsen. I’ve also enjoyed the SISTERCHICKS series by Robin Jones Gunn and the “Fred” series by Brad Whittington.
What are you reading at the moment?
Strangely enough, nothing light and witty, but certainly inspiring: Rob Lacey’s THE WORD ON THE STREET, Mike Yankoski’s UNDER THE OVERPASS: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America, and Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE.
Where is your favorite place to read a book?
Just about anywhere that isn’t too loud or too dim.
Who inspires you?
My husband, who gives me plenty to laugh about, and our two sons who give me joy. I am truly blessed.
Any last words….
I’m thrilled and grateful to be writing for the Christian market. Thank you for the interview.
Tamara, thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your world. Splitting Harriet can't coming quickly enough for me :)