Valerie Anne Faulkner
interviews Tamara Leigh
Christian Fiction On-line Magazine, September, 2008

    Bah, our summer and all its wonder, is approaching the finish line. Barbecued ribs, corn on the cob, have
    too soon been gobbled up.
    Humph… it was fun. But, now a new day fills the horizon, a new season draws near.   
    It’s September.

    Oh… It’s September!

    The alarm clock screams, “Up and at ‘em!” Through groggy-eyes you try to focus. “Morning already?” As
    you move toward the kitchen you stage your agenda. Get lunches ready. Remind kids to brush their teeth,
    comb their hair. You shout, “Breakfast is ready!”
    Then you hear the hiss of breaks, the blinking lights, and the scamper of little feet. The Big-Yellow-Kid-
    Catcher waits at the corner. You holler, “Kids,” and toss them their back-packs.

    “Hurry… Run!”

    Waving… you blow them your kisses…

    I remember those days…  I recall all of them!

    Gratefully, I look up and thank God.  “It’s really okay.  I’ll take September!” I mosey outside, crank up the
    ‘ole computer and with a sigh of relief, “It’s a beautiful day, Lord.
    I’m totally ready for this next interview!”

    My hubby Bill joins me on the porch with a cup of coffee, “where’re we headed?”

    “Tennessee,” I say.

    He replies, “Life is good!”

    “Sure is!”

                                                                     * * *
    Within a matter of moments Bill, Jake (our dog) and I are on our way. Our virtual Jeep ride allows us to
    soar right out of Florida…through Georgia…to Tennessee. Open roads, mountains, and a picture perfect
    glance of God’s miraculous handy–work. Scenery, that takes my breath away.
    Our adventures take us to Tamara Leigh’s residence in the Tennessee-country. Ms. Leigh invites us to her
    own favorite spot, and assures us we should feel right at home. Her back porch overlooks a gorgeous water
    fall, and acres of greenery, a beautiful setting to chat.

                                                                      * * *
    Sipping at the marvelously delicious treat she prepared me, I begin, “Tamara, this coffee is scrumptious,
    shaved dark chocolate -a drizzle of caramel-Wow! This is all so nice… I have a number of questions, I was

    Valerie: Would you rather be the interviewer or the interviewee?

    Tamara: Easy—the interviewer, especially if the interview is televised. When I was promoting my first
    inspirational novel, Stealing Adda, I was invited to appear on the Deeper Shopping Network. And was I one
    nervous-tic-ridden interviewee! Fortunately, the interviewer knew how to handle my sort and saved me
    from too much embarrassment. Afterward, she told me that when I got the “deer in the headlights” look,
    she knew it was time to rephrase or move on. There’s just something about that glassy-eyed camera that
    causes intelligent responses to stick in my throat. Hence, I much prefer written interviews, which allow me
    time to think before I speak. Not that that’s any guarantee…

    Valerie: Would you consider sharing one of your fondest childhood memories with                         us and
    finish out the sentence: I’ve even told my children that when I was in the __th   grade, I…”

    Tamara: Ooh, a prompt! My kind of interview. Here goes: I’ve even told my children that when I was in
    the ninth grade, I…actually started to like my older sister. I’m sure readers can guess my reason for pulling
    this particular memory out of my parenting bag (hint: I have two boys, ages 11 and 14). Now for a little
    background. Growing up, my sister and I did not like each other. In fact, we were enemies who tolerated
    one another only as far as we had to in order to avoid hair-pulling, drag-down-the-hall clashes that would get
    us in trouble with Mom who worked too hard to feed and clothe her four children to cause her any more
    stress. But something happened when Lisa entered her senior year and I entered my freshman year in high
    school. Every morning, I rode with her to school in her little red MG, and eventually we started to talk,
    which had the added benefit of keeping her hands on the wheel and out of my hair. I don’t know at what
    point I started looking up to her and she stopped looking down on me, but today, my worst enemy is my
    best friend—apart from my husband (I’ll tell you more about him later). So when my boys are tussling and
    grumbling about how much they dislike each other, I say, “I used to feel the same way about your Aunt
    Lisa, but when I was in the ninth grade…” Everyone needs hope.

    Valerie: What ruffles your feathers most and agitates you? Then, what do you do to alleviate the turmoil?
    Find peace? Remain calm?  

    Tamara: Outright conflict sends the bead on my worry thermometer straight to the top. Having grown up in
    a dysfunctional family (I know, who hasn’t?), I learned how to walk on those cliché eggshells to keep
    arguments from accelerating. I know it isn’t healthy to hold in feelings, but if I can’t resolve a conflict
    without myself or the other person resorting to raised voices and heated words that can wound for years, I
    walk away. Some dare call it pouting, but I call it cooling off, which is most effective when combined with
    prayer and Scripture. Later, when everyone involved is calm, we work through the problem.

    Valerie:  Everybody has to “go with the flow” when they begin a new venture, but in your opinion, how
    different is writing and publishing today vs. when you got started in ’94?

    Tamara: The same, but different. Stay with me here. When I say “the same,” I mean that the author still
    needs to know her craft, be disciplined in her pursuit of a writing career, and deliver a great story in order to
    catch an editor’s attention and attract readers. As for how writing and publishing is different today, there are
    several areas that come to mind. The first, of course, is the incredible growth and variety of genres in today’
    s Christian market, which was fledgling when my first medieval romance was published in 1994. Then there’
    s the powerful influence of the internet, which not only allows readers to purchase an author’s book without
    leaving their home, but helps writers to connect with their readers on a more personal level and makes the
    process of manuscript submission and revision faster and less problematic. The last thing that stands out is
    the marketing of an author’s book. In the nineties, my publisher discouraged my husband, an advertising
    executive, from participating in the marketing of my books. We were told that it was the publisher’s
    responsibility and that any efforts on our part would prove negligible. Today, it seems most publishers
    realize the importance of an author’s contributions and seek their input.

    Valerie: If you were just starting out, would there be any one thing you’d have considered doing differently?

    Tamara: Twenty-twenty hindsight, hmm? Having grown in my faith over the past fifteen years, if I could
    do anything different, I believe I would enter the world of publishing via the inspirational market. As much
    as I enjoyed writing medieval romances for the secular market, I have experienced the greatest satisfaction
    in writing characters who struggle with some of the same issues of faith that I and other Christians face.

    Valerie: In your opinion, do you think its harder today for an artist to find a niche in the market?

    Tamara: All you have to do is walk into a Barnes and Noble or browse to realize that there are
    more books being released each year. This, of course, means more books are being bought by publishing
    houses—hopefully yours. But because of the overwhelming choices available to readers and that there are
    still only twenty-four hours in a day, I believe it is harder for an author to find her niche. So write the best
    book possible and—this is tough for those of us who cling to the walls of our writing caves—promote.

    Valerie:  You began with historical romance, and then changed genres. Are there any other areas you would

    Tamara: Though I’m thrilled to be writing chick lit, I do have “medieval” moments. In fact, were I able to
    wiggle out a “niche” for my medievals in the inspirational market, I might take a detour. Also, I have
    considered writing for young adults, but that’s the extent of it.

    Valerie: Have you ever been asked to be a ghost writer? Would you consider it?

    Tamara: I haven’t been asked to be a ghost writer, but if I were… I suppose I would have to know more
    about what it entails. It sounds a bit sneaky, don’t you think?

    Valerie: With summer ending and a new school year beginning, have you ever considered teaching?

    Tamara: Before I was published, I was a Speech and Language Pathologist at an elementary school, and I
    adored working with children. It’s been fifteen years since I last considered September the start of a new
    year, but every time our family gears up for our boys to enter a new grade, I get twinges of longing for my
    half-circle table, itty bitty chairs, and the innocence of the elementary school years.

    Valerie:  Reading, reviewing… Are you able to turn off your ‘critique’ button and ignore an occasional error
    that may pop up in the media? How do you ensure perfection in your own writing?

    Tamara: Providing I’m enjoying a book, movie, etc., my ‘critique’ button usually behaves. However, if a
    story starts to drag or I feel I’m being asked to suspend disbelief too long or too often, I either start thinking
    of ways to fix the problem, skim read (fast forward), or walk away. When it comes to my own writing,
    perfection is elusive, as evidenced by my wonderful editor who catches things that make me smack my
    forehead. But, as she assures me, that’s her job. Still, I try to turn in the best manuscript possible, which
    means developing detailed character notes and timelines as the story progresses and consulting them often.
    Also, I regularly check spelling and grammar and keep a “fix it” file of issues that need to be resolved before
    I turn in the manuscript.

    Valerie: How has your faith made a difference in how you approach life? Your writing?

    Tamara: As revealed earlier, I’m a worrier. However, as my faith has grown, I have come to trust God to
    lead me through difficult situations. Yes, I do still get a sinking feeling at the approach of trouble. I do still
    take it out on my fingernails. I do still climb into myself and peek through my fingers at what appears to be
    insurmountable. But as I’ve learned to ask God for guidance, and as I’ve become familiar with Scripture, the
    feeling of being overwhelmed has decreased considerably. In fact, sometimes I’m so calm, I amaze my
    family. My faith has also made a difference in my writing, as evidenced by how it began to pervade my
    secular medieval romances—so much that the revisions I received from editors often focused on excising
    the faith elements (Misbegotten was cut by 30,000 words!). Long story short, I finally answered the call to
    write inspirational fiction, and now I’m blessed to express my faith through my characters who teach me so
    much as they tackle the same issues we all face.

    Valerie: What project(s) have you been working on right now?

    Tamara: Since I finished writing my August ‘08 release, Faking Grace, I have been working on the first
    book in my Southern Discomfort series, titled Paying Piper (I know, me and my doing something to
    someone titles). The series is set in fictional Pickwick, North Carolina, a town that sprang up around the
    Pickwick Estate in the early 1900s, somewhat like the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate. Somewhat. Each book
    tells the tale of one of three cousins: Piper, Magdalene, and Bridget. Paying Piper will release in May 2009.
    Here’s a look:

    The last thing image consultant Piper Wick needs is to be exposed as “one of
    those Pickwicks,” especially the one who pulled the Lady Godiva stunt that
    made national news twelve years ago. But if she’s going to keep it under
    wraps, she may have to compromise her beliefs to clean up the latest in a long
    string of “Pickwick Pickles.”

    Valerie: Great! Okay, Here’s another… have you ever considered going on a mission to another country?

    Tamara: Considered—yes. Realized—no. Admiration for those who minister to the poor and spread the
    word of God–absolutely! When my husband and I decided to have children, he sacrificed his passion for
    racing cars for my peace of mind and to lessen the chance of our children growing up fatherless. Mission
    work in other countries is not without risks, and I feel that at this time in my life, my place is with my
    husband and children. But who knows, maybe one day God will call me to cross the border…

    Valerie:  Last one, I know you have been asked so many questions during your career, but I was
    wondering… Is there any one thing you would like to share with your fans? Something they haven’t asked,
    but you think they would enjoy hearing about?

    Tamara: There is something, and I’m bursting to tell it. Twenty-one years ago, my husband proposed to
    me, and not in any usual way. On a pre-dawn morning in September, 1987, he took me for a hot air balloon
    ride over Lake Tahoe. As the sun rose, in the distance there appeared a red World War II biplane trailing a
    banner like those used for advertising. Strange for so early in the morning when there weren’t yet
    sunbathers on the beaches. But as it neared and started to circle our hot air balloon, these are the words I
    read: “Tammy, I’ll love you forever. Will you marry me? David” You know my answer! Well, Mr. Romantic
    topped that for our 20th anniversary this past June. It was the hot air balloon again, but this time we were
    over Franklin, Tennessee, our two boys were with us, along with our pastor (and his wife) who renewed
    our vows, and the banner that trailed the airplane said: “Tammy, 20 years is only a start on 4ever. I love
    you. David” Now that’s how you romance a romance writer! Thanks for having me!

    “Tamara, it’s been terrific talking to you. Of course, your last statement has me all choked up… I’m happy
    for you, love your story-‘David’s a ‘keeper’, congratulations.

    Having enjoyed your hospitality, and learned something…  
    I thank you very much!

Tamara Leigh
Tamara Leigh
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