Monday, March 13, 2006

Interview with Tamara Leigh

Captain's Log, Stardate 03.13.2006

Multi-published Tamara Leigh has shifted from Medieval romances to chick-lit! Her newest book is STEALING ADDA published by NavPress.

It had been a long time since New York Times best-selling author -- and historical romance writer extraordinaire -- Adda Sinclaire had experienced more than a fictional dose of romance, but when publisher Nick Farnsworth walks into her life, everything changes.

Life for Adda ironically reads more like a country song than a bodice-bursting, breathless affair. For starters, she has no actual romance in her life. That might have something to do with the fact that her husband -- correction-EX husband -- ran off with Stick Woman, whom everyone knew would never be more than a mid-list author anyway. To add insult to injury (and another verse to the country song), he not only took their dog but gave it to her. If this isn't enough, Adda's come down with a horrible case of writer's block and finds herself the unwitting target of a romance cover model's misdirected (and completely unreciprocated) amorous advances. Just when she catches her breath -- and quite possibly the eye of a certain fabulously good-looking man -- her arch-nemesis gives the pot one final stir.

Interview with Tamara Leigh:

Who do you primarily write for? What do you want to say to your demographic readership?

This is a test, isn’t it? I’m supposed to say GOD. And I’d really like to. Okay–GOD. The problem is that I just don’t see the Almighty sitting amid all his splendor, putting his feet up, cracking open my book, and laughing along with Adda. Not that he wouldn’t find it an amusing tale (I pray), but I believe he’s brought me to this place in life in order for me to deliver a message of faith wrapped in a little package of lightheartedness. So, it’s for believers and non-believers that I write. And what I hope they take away from STEALING ADDA is this: Trust in God and his plans. If Adda (and Tamara Leigh) can put off her old self, so can you.

What was the funnest part of writing STEALING ADDA?

All of it! Little to no research, writing what I know, twisting unpleasant personal experiences into snort aloud scenes. Yes, all of it. Well, not the middle scene with the panty hose of the control top variety...or that last scene I had to rewrite until the tips of my fingers nearly bled...or all that agonizing over the opening scene. Yeah, other than that, it was fun. Um hmm. F-U-N!

What’s your favorite scene from STEALING ADDA?

Can I have two? Yeah? Okay. Adda is in the restaurant with her agent, chokes on horseradish, is subjected to the Heimlich maneuver, runs into her nemesis who happens to be lunching with the hunky hero, discovers said hero has x-ray vision....

Yeah. Like that one. And the final scene, too! Adda beats her nemesis at her own game and gets the hero! (Ah, come on, if I told you anymore, it would ruin it for you).

Are there any symbols or themes in STEALING ADDA that you want to point out/elaborate on?

I believe the thing that stands out the most–and struck me the hardest when I went back and read the manuscript through–was Adda’s self talk. So much of it was negative, whether she turned it on herself or those who offended her. And–gasp!–it made me realize how often I fall prey to my own thoughts, and how self-destructive they can be. God’s working with me on this....

What’s your next novel to be released?

If it’s in God’s will, I’ll be signing a contract for PERFECTING KATE soon. So, you can start looking for Kate’s story around Spring 2007.

What books do you like to read and why?

Though I was a voracious reader of historical romances, which is how I got my start writing medieval romances for Bantam, HarperCollins, and Leisure, now you can more often find me with my nose stuck in a contemporary Christian romance. There are so many good ones. My most recent find, however, was THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant. Never did I expect biblical fiction to be so breathtakingly gripping. Another author who’s put a dent in my book budget is Jasper Fforde whose "Thursday Next" novels began with THE EYRE AFFAIR (very unique–and fun–premise). As for non-fiction, I recently finished CAPTIVATING by John and Stasi Eldredge, and have started DINNER WITH A PERFECT STRANGER by David Gregory. Oh, I could just go on and on.... Sorry.

What ministry do you do at your church or in your community? Why do you like doing it?

At the church we attended for seven years, the library was my THING! Loved working the desk, listening to members discuss books and music, checking the books in and out, handling the covers and crisp pages, making sure the spines were PER-FECT-LY lined up on the shelves. But then they closed the library down to make room for church growth. Ahhh..... Fortunately, our new church has a library and it sure looks like it could use a little TLC. Outside of church, I volunteer at my children’s school in whatever capacity they require, and proof grants for a domestic violence shelter in northern Nevada.

What’s your writing schedule like? How do you ensure time for family and church?

During the school year, I typically write from 9:00 until 2:30 while our boys are in school. After school and weekends are reserved for hubby, kids, and church. Then there’s summer... Whew! Though much of the summer is devoted to family, I do squeeze in some writing time during summer camps and late at night after the boys fall into bed. Fortunately, they usually sleep in late, so I can, too.

What is your most memorable moment as a writer?

The CALL! As in "We want your book(s)." NavPress, the publisher of STEALING ADDA, was definitely the most memorable. Yee-hah!

When did you first discover that you were a writer?

Not long after I started reading, I began to write. And write. And write. With the exception of the years spent pursuing a master’s degree in speech and language pathology, I continued to write–not really believing I could ever be published. But wanting it....

Finish this line: Writing a novel is...

Exciting. Torture. Exhilarating. Frustrating. Fulfilling. Annoying. Fun. Excruciating. Stimulating. A pain in the...

Sounds like I’m divided, and sometimes I am. However, despite the negative aspects of writing (sorry to burst any bubbles, but it’s not all glamor), it’s an important piece of who I am outside of being a wife and mother.

What’s your greatest writing weakness and how do you overcome it?

My greatest weakness lies in being distracted. And the older I get, the more I tend to zig zag between points A and B. So what do I do when the phone rings, laundry calls, dirty dishes pile up, dishwasher light turns green, dogs track in mud, a good book catches my eye...? Get out! As in: write away from home. Yes, my friendly baristas know me by name. In fact, it’s not unusual for them to call out "Decaf Venti Percent Extra-Hot Caramel Macchiato!" the moment I walk through the door. Only a matter of time before a "reserved" sign appears on that out-of-the-way corner table to which I gravitate....

What’s your best writing strength?

Dialogue. Definitely. Providing the story is progressing well, the dialogue usually flows. But, then, that probably goes back to the penchant for self talk I share with my heroine, Adda–a ready supply of dialogue right there in my head. I’m not crazy, though. Really.

How do you handle deadline stress? Any advice or tips?

Let’s see... Deep sighs. Huffing and puffing. Denying myself another one of those "Decaf Venti" things until I reach a set word count. Then there’s cuddling with my guys. And praying. And scripture. And a "tweaked" commandment: "Though shall take a deep breath and NOT scream."

Most writers struggle with insecurity. How do you retain your confidence as a writer?

In two words: I don’t. It’s really more a matter of my level of insecurity. There will always be readers who don’t like my writing, editors who don’t "get" where I’m going with a story, reviewers who don’t connect with me, and writer’s block that starts up that destructive self-talk which tries to convince me I’ll never again write a decent sentence. Oh! And let’s not forget burn out! But it’s all good, as it’s bound to keep me humble.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken as a writer?

The first risk was allowing someone to read my fledgling attempt to construct a story (OW! OW! OW!), but the biggest risk was making the leap from mainstream to Christian fiction. For several years before I accepted God’s plan for me, I repeatedly excused myself from "crossing over" by telling myself I wasn’t a good enough Christian...didn’t know the Bible backward and forward...wasn’t spiritual enough...had no business sharing what little faith I had with others. And now? I’m glad I took the risk and believe I’m finally where I was meant to be.

How do you handle writer’s block? Do you ever get writer’s block?

Moi? Do I get writer’s block? Ohhh yeah. Like Adda, I didn’t much believe in it until it hit–hard. What caused it? I think it goes back to the "confidence" question. Everything was going just peachy. I had four books out that had achieved bestseller status, and some had even won awards. Then–BAM!–a new publisher, a new editor (who didn’t like the medieval genre), and 30,000 words cut from my manuscript. Rude awakening. All was NOT peachy. Since then, writer’s block and I have had an on-again off-again relationship (don’t tell my husband–he thinks I can do no wrong). As for dealing with the nasty little pest, if I can afford the time to walk away from a story, that’s usually best. When I come back to it (a week or so later), I read everything I have from the beginning, which often shakes the block loose. For quick fixes, a really good book or movie (Pride and Prejudice being the ultimate) can do wonders.

Describe your writing space as it is now, and your fantasy writing space.

Kindly refer to the question above with regards to how I overcome my greatest writing weakness. It goes by the name of Starbucks and has been my favored writing space for years. As for taking it to the level of "fantasy", that would require depriving others of the tastiest java and best service around. You see, were I greedy, I’d dry up some of the morning traffic which seems to peak on Friday. Not that I have anything against those who nab my favorite table too loud or...are determined to strike up a conversation with me–a complete stranger. No, nothing at all against them. You asked about the fantasy...I answered. As for that grumbling self talk that sometimes creeps up on me, it’s best cured by taking the opportunity to "people watch". Never know when something an unsuspecting someone does–an expression, a discreet movement of the hand, loud body language–can fill a hole in my story. People can be quite interesting when they’re unaware of being observed....

Do you have a special verse specifically to inspire your writing?

I do, and most people are surprised by it. However, when my friend’s husband, Brian Dunn, e-mailed me the following upon learning I was to be published in CBA, it struck the perfect chord :

Galatians 6:4-5, The Message: "Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Ooh, an easy one. See Galatians 6:4-5 above.

Thanks for doing the interview! Any parting words?

Only these: Thank YOU for interviewing me. Great questions! And I do so hope you enjoyed STEALING ADDA.