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Interview With Tamera Alexander

1) Introduce yourself to us. Name, info on your family, number of books authored, etc...

Thanks for this opportunity, Staci! I’ve been writing full time for a couple of years now and live in the beautiful state of Colorado with my husband, Joe (Dean of the Monfort College of Business at UNC), and our two teenagers. Our daughter (18) is in her first year of college (she’s loving it) and our son (16) is in his junior year of high school and already has his sites set on the college life (he’s been talking his sister).

We’ve been in Colorado for sixteen years and while I love the Rocky Mountains, I do still miss my native south on occasion.

My debut novel, Rekindled, with Bethany House publishers releases this month (March 2006) and is the first book in a three-book historical romance series set in the Colorado Territory 1860s – 1870s.

2) Do you write full time? If yes, can you give us a glimpse into your daily writing life? If not, what is your day job?

Yes, I’m currently writing full time and am thankful to have this opportunity after doing the “write between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. and any-spare-minute-you-have-routine” for a while. I’m typically in my office by 8:00 a.m. and then writing by 9:00. I often journal for 15 – 20 minutes before starting the actual writing, especially if I haven’t decided exactly where I’m going in the story that day. I may journal in the pov of the character who will have the pov of the next scene I’ll be writing, and that tends to help with clarifying motivation and direction. And sometimes it even leads to something new that I hadn’t considered yet. Great way to get the creative juices flowing!

3) Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

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 really 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 I needed to get serious about learning the craft and addressing the weaknesses in my writing. I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (what a blessing!), began dissecting novels that I’d loved and read multiple times with the goal of finding out what made them ‘tick’ for me, and then began praying 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 partners. As much as I love writing, I’d rather give up writing than those eternal friendships He’s blessed me with.

I’m often asked what I did before writing. I worked in business in banking and overseeing monetary transfers of corporate banking accounts in Atlanta. I provided support in hardware and software for managing traffic in Radio and T.V. stations like WTBS across the U.S., and also wrote customer service manuals (which, believe it or not, really did help my writing skills!), then coordinated corporate conferences (which I loved doing).

Though I’ve enjoyed my business background, I’m enjoying what I’m doing now and have quickly discovered that a business background comes in handy when marketing a published novel.

4) What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

I think, at first, the greatest obstacle was working another job and having to find time to write in between life’s other demands. Now I battle the tendency to procrastinate when that deadline looms so comfortably out there in the distance. Amazing how the weeks disappear! Something that helps me is the use of Excel Spreadsheets to track my daily progress. When that graph line isn’t steadily climbing, I know I’m in trouble! ;)

5) What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Just being able to write for publication, for one! And being partnered with Bethany House, for second. I know, I know…they’re not the only publisher out there publishing historical fiction. I realize that. But their established venues for marketing this particular genre, their clear understanding of the market and its readership base, their longevity of successful publishing within the CBA market, and their commitment to excellence is something I’m proud to be partnered with and to benefit from.

6) How do the ideas for your stories spark?

They spark at the oddest times and places. When I’m reading a magazine, a history book, riding back from a trip to Wal-Mart, or while I’m on the treadmill. Just this week as I was working on rewrites for Revealed, Bk 2 in Fountain Creek Chronicles series, another story kept resurfacing. Another character actually, one I’d not met before. I kept ignoring this person, just thinking that I wasn’t focusing enough on my current story. But then, after a moment, I realized that this person was the seed of another story. I quickly made some notes and tucked the idea away for later. Nothing else has surfaced again so far, just that tiny glimpse of a character who didn’t even speak to me. It was the look on his face, the clothes that he wore, and the place where he stood that captivated me. Perhaps someday I’ll find out more about that Southern gentleman.

7) Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot extensively before your fingers hit the keyboard?

I plot, but not extensively. I know where I’m starting and where I’m going to end up and then start out from there. I do keep a writer’s notebook with lots of notes along the way, ideas for scenes, timelines, and character journals, etc… But I’m not a writer who sketches every scene in the book before I start. I really love the joy of discovery along the way as the story unfolds.

8) I’m notorious for *snacking* while I write! Do you have any favorite munchies you wouldn’t mind us knowing about?

Actually, as a rule, I don’t snack a lot at my computer. However, I ALWAYS have either a Diet Dr. Pepper or glass of Iced Tea with fresh lemon (sweetened with Splenda) close at hand. I also keep Ghirardelli (60% cocoa) bitter chocolate chips in the freezer and have been known to grab a handful of those as I sneak another pop or glass of tea. Air-popped popcorn with butter and sea salt is also a common morning/afternoon snack when I’m taking a break. ;)

9) How do you strike an agreeable “balance” between your writing time and other responsibilities?

This is something I constantly struggle with, balancing the demands for time like everyone else. I’ve led women’s ministries for over a dozen years and still do at the church we attend. I’m also involved in the music ministry and sing on one of our praise teams, which I love doing. One thing that’s helped me is that I’ve learned a stronger sense of discipline in recent years and find that sticking to a schedule is best for me. Certain times for writing, and getting a portion of writing done first every day before I turn to anything else. Does that always happen? Heavens, no, but I strive to keep that pattern as much as possible. Another thing that’s helped me is exercising daily, carving out a 30- or 40-minute slice of time to walk or lift free weights (plus this is when I “reward myself” and watch my favorite shows that I’ve recorded). It’s amazing how much more disciplined I am in my writing, and in spiritual walk, when I’m more physically disciplined.

10) What has been the most surprising thing about your adventure in publishing?

I guess I’d have to say the wonderful pleasure it’s been in working with the publishing family at Bethany House. Since I’m still relatively new to this publishing opportunity, I had no clue what to expect in working with a publisher, but I’ve been completely thrilled with my editor, Karen Schurrer, who is dream to work with. And the same goes for my acquisitions editor, Charlene Patterson. Both of these women make my books so much better than they would be on my lonesome, and they make that refinement process (both in my writing and in me as a writer) something I treasure instead of dread. BTW, I love the revision stage of writing. The blank cursor blinking on the screen is oftentimes a fearsome thing, but I love going back and layering and strengthening the storyline and character motivation in the rewrite process.

11) How do you deal with publisher rejections? Crawl in bed under the covers for an entire day? Indulge in double-fudge chocolate? Or just brush it off?

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.

12) Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

You know, I can hardly see past lunch these days so I have no clue where I’ll be in ten years. ;) I could already be in our forever Home by then, who knows? (If I am, I’ll be praying you guys Home!) If I’m still here, I hope to be writing away, trying frantically to meet some deadline. But far more than that, I want to be centered right in the middle of God’s will for my life, whatever that means. There’s nothing more satisfying than being in His will, and nothing more miserable than being outside of it.

13) These have been fairly standard questions. What is one thing you’d like to share with up-and-coming writers that they may not even know to ask yet?

I think it would have to be to enjoy every step of the writing journey. I’m currently finishing up revisions for my second contracted book and then will start on my third. I’ve not signed another contract yet for future books following those so I’m focusing on enjoying the steps of “this” particular path right now. I may travel it again, I may not. There’s no guarantee. So I’m trying not to think too far down the road ahead of me (which I can’t see anyway), and I’m concentrating on staying in step with my Savior. He’s the One holding the map.

14) You have a new title coming out, right? Tell us about it.

Rekindled, Book 1 in the Fountain Creek Chronicles with Bethany House, hit the bookshelves this month (March 2006). It’s a historical romance set in the Colorado Territory 1860s that explores some of the challenges of marriage, and the varying expectations that men and women bring to marriage. At a different time, in a different place, under different circumstances, could two people fall in love once again?

I’m currently at work on revisions on Revealed, Book 2 in that same series. Revealed will release this fall, and will be followed by Book 3, currently untitled, in mid-2007.

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