In the Spotlight is a new feature here at Second Run Reviews. I’ve invited authors, publishers and editors to take part in interviews, guest posts, giveaways and anything else that they can dream up that is appropriate for a blog.
I’m delighted to welcome Tamara Jones to Second Run Reviews today. Tamara is a mild mannered Midwestern wife and mom who writes creepy books, many of which are set in her own neighborhood. Here latest book, Spore releases soon and in conjunction with this interview, I had a chance to review the book as well. All I’m going to say here is…YOU SHOULD READ IT!
In the Spotlight Tamara Jones
Welcome to Second Run Reviews, Tamara! Thank you for being In the Spotlight. I appreciate you stopping by and answering a few questions. So let’s get things started
In a tweet (140 characters or less), tell us a bit about yourself.
Friendly, hyper-creative wife, mom, quilter, and cat wrangler viciously slaughters people on paper for money, and gives LOTS of cyber hugs!
(Word says that’s 139 characters, including spaces)
Well, I do NOT want to be a character in one of your books. I hope my review wasn’t too brutal and I don’t end up bleeding to death in your next novel. 🙂
Please share your journey to becoming an author. How did you get started? What keeps you going?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and finished my first book when I was seven – fully illustrated of course – and my first full length novel at 14. It’s just what I do (along with art, quilting, cooking, crafting, designing floor plans, etc…). In August of 2001, I finished my 7th completed novel – Ghosts in the Snow, written mostly to help me deal with my father’s slow decline and eventual death – and it decided it wanted to get published. I was apprehensive. After all, I was a low-paid, highly introverted, wife/mom/graphic designer nobody from Iowa. No. Body. My degree is in art – the only English credit I had was from Comp, which I’d tested out of – so how did I think I could get published, let alone with this sprawling, violent, oddball novel? I didn’t know the first thing about publishing! It seemed quite overwhelming.
My husband suggested I could join a critique group, and we found the OWW (the Online Writing Workshop). It took me days, maybe weeks, to get the guts to post the first chapter. This was late October, 2001, I think, maybe early November. That chapter got quite a lot of comments and I found myself brought into an online writer’s group (I’m still good friends with Josh, Sam, and Cat), that helped critique and tighten my sprawling mess of a manuscript. Ghosts was named the best first chapter of November 2001. After that, things started to get squirrely. People began to notice Ghosts and its progress seemed to fall into a series of sixes. I polished the manuscript as best as I could and, 6 months after joining OWW, began agent hunting. 6 months later I got an agent, 6 months later a publisher, and 6 months after publication Ghosts won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, 2004. Right after I turned my third novel in, my husband changed jobs, we got our three nieces as foster kids, I had a severe medical emergency (much like Mare’s crisis in Spore), I got a bone tumor (right wrist, I show off the scar all of the time!), and we had to move halfway across the state! When it rains, it pours, right?
I completely stopped writing for awhile, about six months or so due to stress and depression, but it started to slowly come back. I wrote three short stories (FIRE, Endorphins, and SID) in 2006 and 2007. Novel length fiction took longer to find the groove. Too long, to be honest. I wrote a quirky, violent, women’s fiction novel titled Morgan’s Run in 2010. Spore (finished in 2012) was the second novel in the queue after my hiatus, only my agent had retired and I had to agent hunt again.
Things had changed a LOT from 2006-2012. Traditional publishers had combined or imploded, Indi publishing had become a viable venue, and social media had changed the marketing landscape. I managed to sign an incredible new agent – Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary – and she sold Spore to Samhain last year. I am thankful and grateful to be back, and humbled to have a second chance.
Honestly, some days I have no idea what keeps me going. Dogged determination? Insanity? All I know is that I’m glad to be where I am right now.
The constantly changing publishing landscape has been a constant theme amongst the authors that I’ve featured recently In the Spotlight. As a reader, I sometimes enjoy the variety of options, but at the same time I curse them. How will I ever read ALL the books?
I did enjoy Spore, your most recent novel which releases soon. What was the inspiration for the plot and why have it set in Iowa?
Thank you! The inspiration came from a lot of directions. I like taking standard tropes and tossing them on their ear, so Spore is sort of my way of totally rebuilding the Zombie mythos, plus I’m a life long science geek and fungi are COOL! I set it in Iowa because I’ve lived in Iowa for my entire life (except for nearly a year of college in Missouri) and we have our own vibe here, our own culture, our own overall sense of decency, kindness, and home. I wanted to show that. Plus I got to be really mean to my characters which is always a blast!
I think the fact the story was set in Iowa really helped me relax. I tend to steer away from horror books. Perhaps I’ll share my two slumber party stories sometime. One involves the movie C.H.U.D. and the other involves the third installment in the Hellraiser series. It probably also helped that your zombies are not your “normal” brain eating zombies.
What was the most difficult thing about getting published? What was the easiest? If you had to go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your stories or getting published that you’d change?
For me, the most difficult thing was myself. I was not, back in 2004, mentally prepared AT ALL for the reality of being a successful published author. Failure, I can do. Easy Peasy. I screw up all of the time. Success takes a lot of work. The easiest thing, for me, is the structured methodology of querying and such. I’d have a list of contacts (I’m a pathological list maker!), had the letter (customized, of course), the added materials in all of their various requested forms…I came to enjoy rejections because I could mark them off the list.
I’ll confess that as a project manager, I love lists. I love plans. I LOVE crossing things off a list. It’s magical!
As an author, I’m sure you read a lot. What type(s) of books do you enjoy reading most and what three books do you find yourself recommending to your fans over and over?
I read all over the map, literary, oddball, thrillers, horror, mysteries, SFF, women’s fiction, and a mountain of non-fiction (mostly articles). I consistently recommend Rant by Chuck Palahnuik because it’s violent and quirky and incredible, Push by Sapphire because it’s mind blowing in its character study and development of the point-of-view character, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because I’d never seen an entire story told so well and so heartbreakingly wonderful in mailed letters. All three novels have structures that blow me away. I’m a structure geek at heart.
I’m a sucker for historical fiction especially books set during WWII. I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and remember enjoying it quite a bit. Good choice!
What’s your current obsession? Any secret obsessions you want to share?
I’ve started walking to Zombies, Run! and it’s pretty cool, but I don’t think I’d call it obsessive. I don’t think I’ve been obsessed with anything since Twin Peaks went off the air.
Dating myself here, but I was too young to watch Twin Peaks when it was on, but it is on my Netflix queue. Need to get through Supernatural and Chef’s Table first.
Any last thoughts or wise words you want to pass along?
I just want to tell folks that Spore is about people who used to be dead and the comic artist who tries to save them. Whether you’re interested in Spore or not, please be sure to talk about the books you love, buy them, review them, and make sure your favorite writers (any artists, for that matter) get acknowledged. It’s astounding what a single Amazon review or blog post can do to help!
Well, I’ll definitely be talking about Spore and cross posting my review to GoodReads, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. It’s a thumbs up in my book and I hope many more people will pick it up and start talking about it.
Thanks for stopping by, Tamara. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions and give away a couple copies of Spore. I hope you’ll stop back soon and let us know how things are going!