Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for Manic Readers, Tara.
Really enjoy your character centered blogs; gives a great insight into them.
Thank you so much, Ivy. I am very happy to be here!
You’re an OSHA certified health & safety inspector in a metal fabrication shop, hold a Bachelor’s in math with a double minor in chemistry and biology. How did these translate into writing? Did you always want to write but figured you needed something more solid to fall back on and pay the bills until you’d achieved your dream?
They actually didn’t, which is why it took me so long to begin writing again. I loved to write in high school, and authored several research papers in college that my professors told me I should try to get published. But my family was not supportive, wanting me to get a solid degree that I could use to find a good job. I can’t fault them for that, as I am grateful they pushed me to excel in the hard sciences, and I did love my math courses, particularly those in linear algebra and differential equations. Right before I graduated, my grandfather died. He had been a father figure to me, so I hesitated to look for jobs out of the area. Using my chemistry minor, I quickly got a job in a marketing firm, and spent the next few years looking into buying a farm of my own, even as I tried to help out with my failing grandmother. I moved into the country in 2000, and when I got married a few years later, I quit my job, in part again to help out my family with fixing up and clearing out several vacant properties we now needed to sell. When gas prices rose in 2005, I went back to work for a local friend who owned a metal fabrication shop. I didn’t know anything about health and safety then, but I was a quick study. My new boss was receptive to my working part time, which gave me enough time to help my family, and some free time. I had always liked to write, but had been too busy up to that point to get more than a page article done. Then my mom got sick, I began writing Promise Me, and the rest is history.
You’ve said you get a lot of your ideas from your dreams. Having read ORIGIN OF FEAR I have to say better you than me! Have enough trouble sleeping as it is. Which of your books/stories originated in the dreamworld?
Almost all the stories from Just Shadows, my horror anthology, were actual dreams, or dreams I elaborated on. The only exceptions were the title story, which comes from an old Slovak legend I was warned about as a child, and Nothing, which I came up with on a dog walk.
All my stories of Latham’s Landing are from dreams. Origin of Fear is from five separate nightmares that I compiled into one story. All That Remains, a new Latham’s Landing tale, will be included in the upcoming anthology Bedtime Shadows, a coauthored work by myself and my friend and fellow Melange author, Jenny Twist.
Face Recognition, a futuristic short story published in Black Petals Magazine, was from a nightmare.
The first segment of the serial End of Days in Dark Eclipse Magazine is from an apocalyptic nightmare…and so is most of the final segment.
Scarier are the ones that have basis in reality, though.
Saw Man, online at The Halloween Alliance, is based on my finding of an actual saw in my woods when I was first cutting firewood, just as described in the story. While no one got killed on it, it freaked me right out. And yes, the groundhog part of the story is real, too.
Black Smoke, just published in Cemetery Moon, is based on a family legend that my mother swears is true. Decades ago, she saw the shadow of huge moving bat wings while hanging laundry in the basement, and turned to see black smoke floating a few feet off the ground. No explanation was every found for what she saw, and no one ever saw it again. I think it was either a demon or a vampire that got caught by the sunrise, stayed the day, then got startled when she entered and left quickly after.
If it’s horror or suspense and not a novel…chances are that it was inspired by a dream.
Can you tell us a bit about your essay, THE ALLURE OF THE SERIAL KILLER? What prompted this?
I was in the shower, and my husband came in singing the Psycho tune. When I recovered, he told me about a call for papers having to do with the philosophy of serial killers. I was unpublished except for short non-fiction at that time. He said it would be great if we could collaborate on a paper, as he knew a lot of philosophy, and I knew a lot about horror. I threw out the idea of a paper on why people were so attracted to serial killers in film and fiction, when real serial killers damage so many lives. He thought that was a great idea, and worked up a proposal, building our notion into a full-fledged paper. It was accepted by the editor handling the book Serial Killers; Philosophy for Everyone; Being and Killing. I give much of the credit for that work to my husband, though I did contribute a few lines here and there, as well as the section headings. If anyone would like to read this paper, go to Selected Publications and look for the Allure of the Serial Killer title.
What do you have going on this year for readers?
The sequel to my paranormal action adventure novel Lash, titled Shadow Man, will publish in late October, just in time for Halloween. The sequel to my vampire romance Promise Me, titled Broken Promise, will be out in late September, followed by the next sequel, Taken in the Night in January 2013. More sequels will follow in both series. Besides Bedtime Shadows with Jenny Twist, there will be several other coauthored works, including a historical paranormal work with T. Fox Dunham, and a Lash crossover with the character Dick Dice with a fellow author and illustrator, Paul “Deadeye” Dick. I am a contributor along with another good friend, Tori Ridgewood, in a vampire anthology called Midnight Thirsts 2 that just released from Melange Books. Tori, T Fox., and I are also all contributors to a zombie collection called Quick Bites of Flesh due out this fall from Hazardous Press.
I also have a bunch of short horror stories under consideration, and hope to publish more short stories in the online e-zine Flashes in the Dark, as soon as I get a chance to write a few more. 🙂
I hope also to schedule some book signings in the late fall and winter 2012-2013, if possible. Watch Melange Books for details!
You write in many genres. Is there one you especially want to try that you haven’t yet?
I would like to try my hand at mystery…but I’m not sure there is a market for it, or that I have the skill to tell a good mystery. I am also conscious that to be a “Jill” of all writing trades might compromise my mastery of specific genres to which I am better suited. I will more likely instead narrow my existing genres to paranormal action adventure and romantic suspense, while still writing short horror suspense and the occasional nonfiction nature story for my blog. 🙂
Do your characters control the story or do you? Have things ever taken a totally different path than what you’d intended?
They “have the com” all the way, and yes, stories often turn out different from what I expected. Return To Me was supposed to be horror, not romance. End of Days was supposed to be a short piece, not a 10K serial. Partners was initially much longer and too meandering, so it had to be cut down for a contest…then it was too short and stilted for Midnight Thirsts 2, and had to be lengthened! J But I enjoy that part of writing immensely. If I knew exactly what was going to happen when I sat down to write, I don’t think it would be near so exciting to write first drafts. But I do admit that I likely wouldn’t have the handful of “extra” stories that don’t yet have homes…
What’s the hardest part of writing? Easiest?
The hardest part of writing used to be worrying about if I was ever going to be published. Now it’s getting that first draft done. When I write now, there is sometimes a little voice telling me that what I’m writing isn’t good enough, its crap, the story is going the wrong way, no one will like it, etc. etc. Ignoring the voice is easy…but sometimes that voice is spot on. The hard part is knowing when it’s lying and when it’s telling the truth.
The easiest part of writing is the editing after the rough draft is done. That is the fun part, when I am putting in final touches, making dialogue more edgy, ramping up action, working out kinks, etc. This is done at least three separate times for a novel, maybe more, and usually at least twice for a short story. I love it when everything looks perfect, and I can show it to others. The only trouble is sometimes they tell me it’s not interesting, and then it’s back to the rough draft part!
Is there anything you need to coax your muse?
Music is a big help. I have written story arcs around a single song, when one really moved me. I also like old movies, and history. But almost anything can inspire me. My trouble is usually not lack of ideas, but lack of free time to write 🙂
LASH is a weresnake. Why a snake?
I was deep into the Promise Me series, and I needed someone to be the baddest of the bad, the right hand man of my vampire Devlin Dalcon. I wanted a werecreature of some kind, but in that series I tried to use only werecreatures that were based on real animals native to North America (non-fantasy creatures). I’d already used the cougar, coyote, fox and bears for werecreatures, and werewolves are overused in paranormal books. I needed something new, and singularly frightening. Then I thought, how about a snake? No one’s done a weresnake before. And Lash was born.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve created?
I love all my characters from the Promise Me universe: Sarelle, Danial, Devlin, Lash, Terian, and Theo, to name a few. They are like old friends. When I visit to edit a book from that series, or make a new work, it’s supremely hard to tear myself away. But Lash is the only one to get a series of his own, as he was and remains my mom’s favorite character. So you could call him my favorite, too. After all, it’s his name and form I have tattooed on my back. 🙂
Are you currently reading anything?
I am reading three books right now.
America the Book by Jon Stewart, which I go through one page at a time, as there is so much to read on each page. It is hilarious and informative.
A short book of stories by Edgar Allen Poe, as I had never read some of his short works, like “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and seeing the movie The Raven prompted me to pick up the book.
Last but not least, I am reading Theater of the Dragon by Daniel Archer, a fellow Wolf Pirate Project Writer’s Workshop author. This book has a compelling premise.
Have you read anything you’d highly recommend lately?
Anything I give five stars to is highly recommended. I don’t give that ranking without loving what I was reading, and likely being willing to reread the book again at some point. I review for Good Book Alert, EK Family Books, and also Fantasy Book Review, and you can also find my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
Can you tell us about Hannibal? I have to confess I can do a Hannibal. Papa used to have one in his mill. I was always happy to see one take up residence in my yard.
Sadly, I rarely see local kingsnakes, only garter snakes. Hannibal is a California kingsnake, and shortly to be 2 years old. He’s nice most of the time. Here is a pic of him being bad and hiding beneath the dining room table.
Read you like to target shoot. Favorite gun?
A rifle, because I can get accuracy with distance. 🙂
The animated version of the Hobbit 🙂
Finally, what’s this thing you have about chain sawing firewood? Is it how you exercise or are you stocking up for winter and savor the scent of fresh cut wood?
LOL…Its necessity. We burn wood in the winter to cut heating costs. We have acres of forest, and trees are always falling down, so there is a handy supply. But it is a lot of work. When I first moved to the country, the old owner had cut a lot of trees for a firewood business, then left them to rot. To take advantage of this largesse, a friend taught me to chainsaw, I installed a wood stove, and then together, we harvested as much of the old wood as possible. It really helped my heating bill that first winter, so I kept doing it each year. Now it’s just part of the normal preparation for winter. And yes, it’s very good exercise. Days I am cutting wood, I can eat all the chocolate I want!
Y’all can find Tara at her website
and her blog.