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Interview With Tamela Hancock Murray

Tamela, please tell us a little about yourself? married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

My husband and I will be celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary this month. We have two daughters. All of us enjoy living in Northern Virginia. We are near Washington, D.C., and so we are able to take advantage of the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian, and other amenities of the city upon occasion. At home in the outer suburbs, we are involved in our church and have been blessed with warm and wonderful friendships in our Christian community.

I have written many articles for newspapers and magazines, but am concentrating on books and novellas at present. I have written 12 books for Heartsong Presents, and my work has been included in seven Barbour novella anthologies. I am the author of Bible trivia books for children and adults. DESTINATIONS, a Heartsong Presents release, won RWA’s Inspirational Readers Choice award. This past year I was honored to be voted by Heartsong Presents readers as one of their top ten favorite authors.

How many years have you been writing?

Wow, that question takes me back! I have been writing all my life. My work first appeared in the school newspaper when I was in third grade. I was an editor on both my high school and college papers, and graduated from Lynchburg College with honors in Journalism. During college, I worked for a congressman and also for the U.S. Department of State. I wrote articles, answered letters, and wrote summaries of news programs for the Secretary of State for his morning briefing.

How much time do you spend writing daily? (Do you consider yourself full-time or part-time? Do you write in the mornings or evenings?)

As both a writer and an agent, I work full time, performing my duties throughout the day and usually some in the evenings. The amount of time I spend writing varies depending on what projects need attention.

Do you set daily goals for your writing?

When I’m heavy into the writing process, I set goals by word count. I once read that if you write 1,000 words a day, you will have a novel in three months. That’s a good place to start, but I try to write more than that, setting goals depending on my deadlines.

We all dream of the perfect place to write. Where do you write?

I write in a home office. I surround myself with pictures of my family, who are supportive of me and my work. My office has six floor-to-ceiling bookcases that are almost full! They are stocked with many versions of the Bible, other religious texts, thesauri, concordances, history books, and reference books. I also have a case of my favorite fiction, and copies of my own books.

I am most comfortable when I have access to coffee!

Do you plot or not?

I plot, often down to eye and hair color. The more detailed I am, the more excited I am when I turn in a proposal and I am more enthusiastic when I sit down to write the final work.

I am reluctant to advise others on how to work because I know there are strong contingents in favor of SOTP and also for plotting. I think writers need to be true to themselves when it comes to working as long as they stay within the confines of their publishing houses.

I learned in college that various styles work for different people. For instance, I took a course requiring that a lab report be turned in every Thursday at 4 PM. I would work on mine off and on during Friday and over the weekend and turn it in early on Monday. My roommate would sit down at 3 PM and write her report in an intense session, running across campus to turn it in at 3:59 PM. Her method would drive me crazy. I got nervous just watching her. However, she seemed to function best this way.

Likewise, writers are different. Stick with what works for you. If something isn’t working, try other ways until you find what’s right for you.

Is your first draft rough or do you aim for a polished manuscript the first time through? How much time do you spend on rewrites?

I write the skeleton, then add the flesh, then dress it during final revisions. How much time I spend on each part of the process is something I’ve never considered, so I’m reluctant even to hazard a guess.

How does your Christian walk influence your writing? (Any advice for integrated God and writing

I don’t live a day without talking to God, and so I doubt I could write a book without my characters consulting Him. I think the best way to incorporate God in your book is to write the same way you incorporate Him into your own life, so your characters’ way of interacting with the Lord will be natural.

I do have an amusing anecdote about one book that was published some time ago. My characters had enjoyed lunch, and then later, a snack. They said a blessing both times, just as I do. An editor pointed out that they didn’t need to say a blessing over the snack. Every time I say a blessing over a snack, I think of my characters who said too many blessings!

We all face obstacles when it comes to writing. What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle was a lack of patience. I wrote several novels before Heartsong Presents accepted PICTURE OF LOVE and published it in 1997. Before then I was positive that my first book would be published posthumously!
In talking with other writers, I have learned that impatience is almost universal among us. I read some excellent advice years ago on how to help with this. The author said, “Put your manuscript in the mail and forget about it.” That is wonderful advice. I recommend forgetting about submitted manuscripts for at least six months before following up with the editor unless you have been instructed otherwise.

Key: As you wait, keep working on other manuscripts.

Do you have any advice for a new writer?

Read as many books as you can in your chosen genre. Use your ACFW critique group to gain feedback on your work. Talk to and connect with other authors. Seek a good agent to be your advocate. Keep writing!

Tamela, before I let you go, I¹d also like to include some quick promotional info:
Do you have a website? (If yes, give address)

I’d love for you to visit me at The Hartline Literary Agency Site address is

My latest book out from Heartsong Presents is THE RUSE, which takes place in historical Maryland.

VIRGINIA HEARTS is out in October:
I'm excited about this collection set in my home state!

I am also ecstatic about my first Western novella to be released in December, BROTHERS OF THE OUTLAW TRAIL. My novella is included along with work from fantastic authors Dianne Mills, Kathleen Miller Y'barbo, and Lynette Sowell! We had such fun writing this collection!

BRIDES O’ THE EMERALD ISLE is a great summer read. I am thrilled to have my work included in that set along with stories by wonderful authors, Vickie McDonough, Linda Windsor, and Pamela Griffin. Barbour has also re-released PRAIRIE COUNTY FAIR, which includes my work along with other authors I hold in high esteem: Freda Chrisman, Christine Lynxwiler, and Lynn Coleman.

Another Maryland story, VERA’S TURN FOR LOVE, will soon be released by Heartsong Presents. Currently I am writing THE MUSIC OF HOME for this line, which takes place in early twentieth century North Carolina.

I feel so blessed that God allowed me a writing ministry, and that through Hartline Literary Agency, I can help other writers make their dreams come true.

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