Tamera Alexander interview

» Posted on Sep 19, 2007 in Blog | Comments Off on Tamera Alexander interview

1. What made you start writing?
My husband dared me.
In 1995, my mother-in-law, Claudette Harris Alexander, shared a book with me, one she thought I would really enjoy. I was busy and let time go by without reading it. She asked me again if I’d read it. Several times. I said no, but that I would. The best laid plans…
Very unexpectedly, Claudette died that same year from a brain aneurysm.
Weeks passed, and as I was cleaning bookshelves downstairs, I happened across that little volume and immediately sat down and read it. Claudette was right! I felt an immediate connection with the thread of hope woven through that gentle love story—Love Comes Softly, by Janette Oke, originally published by Bethany House Publishers in 1979. That sent me searching for more inspirational fiction published not only by Bethany House, but elsewhere in the Christian Booksellers Association market (CBA). I devoured it, and developed a strong interest then in historical fiction.

In 1999, my husband and I were driving back to Colorado from Texas late one night. I finished a novel, turned to him and said (only joking at the time), “I think I could write one of those.” Without blinking, he said, “Well, do it.” Competitive at heart, I nodded and said, “Okay.” I was working outside the home at the time and had young children, so I wrote from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

My first novel made it to the review board at Bethany House Publishers in 2000, after which I received a very nice rejection letter. That novel is now safely tucked away in my desk drawer—right where it should be! Writing that first story was a learning experience for me that I took to heart. I then determined to set about seriously studying the craft of writing.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
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.

I sold my first novel in October 2004 in a three-book deal with Bethany House. That novel was Rekindled. Then followed with Revealed and Remembered to complete the Fountain Creek Chronicles trilogy.

3. How do you handle rejections?
Lots of Raisinets. Either that or Peanut M&Ms…
Somewhere along the way, a writer has to learn to view rejection as redirection. I say learn because it’s not a natural inclination to view rejection as a positive thing. Rejection hurts. And even once you’re published, you still deal with rejection on many levels. And it still stings.

First, I remind myself that nothing happens to me that doesn’t first filter through the loving hands of my Heavenly Father, then I grab a friend and head to Chili’s for Chips and Salsa & a diet Cherry Coke, followed by a quick run to Red Robin’s for a Mountain High Mudd Pie. 😉 After I’ve completely blown my workout for the day, I read through the rejection letter again and then lay it aside.

I try to put some time and distance between my disappointment at the rejection and when I look at the manuscript again through the eyes of that editor (a couple of weeks at least) who wrote me. By then the emotional barb of the “pass over” has subsided, and I’m in a far better place to look at the entire situation more objectively.

Always, in every rejection letter I’ve received, there have been nuggets of wisdom, though it’s sometimes taken me a while to “dig” for them. Not through the editor’s words but rather through my own pride and bias. Ouch! I’ve always come away with some new treasure. Sift through those comments, see what’s good and let the rest go. Even in the most painful experiences—most often there, in fact—there’s something to be learned. Whether it’s about my writing, or about myself.

4. Why do you write?
Because God gave me the opportunity. He opened a door. At least for now. I hope I’m able to write novels for a long time but whatever he wills is what I ultimately desire, despite really wanting what I want .

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved history. So I’d have to say that I’d be researching some past era or traveling to some historical landmark or destination. When I was nine years old my family took a trip to Europe. It was a fabulous experience, even though there were eight—yes eight!—of us (four adults and four kids) touring Germany, Holland, and Switzerland in a Volkswagen Bug (I rode in the cubby hole in the back). Touring the castles in Germany was a defining moment for me, though I didn’t know it then.

I remember standing in one particular castle on the Rhine River, touching the stone walls, and thinking to myself that I wished I could know the lives and details of the people who had lived there. When I was older I read a ton of Regencies, and when I studied American History in high school, I fell in love with the American Frontier 1840-1880s.

6. What are you working on right now?
I recently completed the first draft of From a Distance, book one in the new Colorado Territory series (Timber Ridge Reflections) with Bethany House. From a Distance releases in spring 2008. It’s about a female photographer from Washington, D.C. who photographs the Maroon Bells and Mesa Verde, and the former Confederate Sharp Shooter who stands in her way.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
I think all writers have bits and pieces of themselves in their characters, but I’ve never patterned a character after me. However I have had friends who know me well say, “I heard you in some of that sarcastic dialogue!”
Imagine that…and I’m so sweet! 😉

8. Tell us about your most recent release.
Remembered, book 3 in Fountain Creek Chronicles, released this summer. My motivation behind Remembered was a trip to Paris that my husband and I took in May 2006.

I “met” the heroine of Remembered, Veronique Girard (figuratively, of course), in a cemetery in northern Paris, and as Joe and I strolled the old cobbled walkway of Cemetery Montmartre, this young woman (the daughter of a French Fur Trapper from the 1840s) came alive for me. The first scene in Remembered is set in that very cemetery.

Here’s a peek at Remembered:
Though loss is often marked in a single moment, letting go of someone you love can take a lifetime…
The threat of war—and a final request—send Véronique Girard from France to a distant and uninviting country. In the Colorado Territory, she searches for the man who has held her heart since childhood—her father. Pierre Girard left Paris for the Americas to seek his fortune in fur trading, vowing to send for his wife and daughter. But twenty-five years have passed and his vow remains unfulfilled. Sifting through shards of broken promises, Véronique embarks on a dangerous search for a man she scarcely remembers.
His grief finally healed, Jack Brennan is moving on with life. After years of guiding families west, he is now working as a freighter to the mining towns surrounding Willow Springs. What he doesn’t count on is an unexpected traveling companion on his trips up into the mountains, and how one woman’s search will cause havoc with his plans… and his life.
9. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing. Remain teachable. Be willing to learn from anyone. And never give up.

10. How important is faith in your books?
As I write, I take steps closer to Christ. And my foremost prayer for readers is that they would do the same as they read my books—take steps closer to Him. There’s nothing more important.

11. What themes do you like to write about?
Themes in my books arise from the characters and their struggles. I may be half way through a book before I realize the true theme, then in rewrites I gently layer that theme throughout. Some themes I’ve written about so far are forgiveness, renewal in marriage, and my favorite—God is the restorer of our discarded dreams.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
Oh gracious, Margaret, that’s like asking which of my children I like best! I’m partial to Revealed because it was such fun to write the sarcastic banter between Annabelle and Matthew, and because of the personal healing that took place in me as I wrote Annabelle’s journey from brokenness stemming from sexual abuse to a restored innocence and wholeness in Christ.

13. How hard is it to write a three book series?
I love writing series, perhaps because I grew up reading them. I enjoy writing secondary characters in one book and then bringing their story to fruition in a subsequent volume in the series. After spending lots of time with these characters, they become like real people to me. Frightens my husband at times…
I was a bit forlorn at the close of Fountain Creek Chronicles, but starting my new series, Timber Ridge Reflections, and meeting these new characters and learning about their lives and struggles has helped soothe that ache. I’m excited about this new trilogy!

14. What is your writing schedule like?
I write five to six days a week. I’m at my desk by 8:30 a.m. and answer email first thing. If I’m on a tight deadline, I close Microsoft Outlook (email program), because it’s just too tempting. I write anywhere from 6 to 8 hours per day, or until I reach my daily word count, and far more as I approach that drop dead date.
I get up and move around at least once each hour. I’ll do “desk stretches” to help keep limber, and I drink constantly (which also adds to the getting up and moving around ). Iced Tea sweetened with Splenda and lemon is a favorite, and I love air popped popcorn with butter and sea salt.

15. Do you have to do a lot of research for your historicals?
Absolutely, especially at the start of a series. I want to be as historically accurate to the times as possible. I research for three months before starting my novel and often start researching my next book (reading at night) while I’m writing the current one. Which isn’t confusing because right now my books are based in Colorado Territory 1860s-1870s.
I’ve been told that a writer should research a ton, then put about 1% of the research in their books. I’m not sure about the accuracy of that percentage but I do know that in a final edit I’ve often removed interesting historical facts (well, I thought they were interesting, LOL) because they didn’t serve to advance the story. And if something doesn’t serve the story, it must go!
Visit Tamera’s website at www.tameraalexander.com to find out about the contest she’s having for free boxed sets of Fountain Creek Chronicles. Or visit her blog at www.tameraalexander.blogspot.com.