Bah, our summer and all its
wonder is approaching the finish line. Barbecued ribs and 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
Fix the kids’ lunches.
Get them ready for school.
Toss them their backpacks.
Load them on the
Wave and blow them kisses.
Whew, I recall those
days! I remember them well!
I mosey outside, crank up the
ole computer, and sigh. “Ah… it’s a beautiful day, Lord” I’m
just fine with this awesome new month.
My hubby, Bill, joins me on the
porch with a cup of coffee. “Where’re we headed?”
“Life is good!” A smile
stretches across his face.
Within a matter of minutes,
Bill, Jake (our dog), and I are on our way. In our virtual Jeep we soar
out of Florida through Georgia and into Tennessee. Open roads,
mountains, and a picture-perfect glance of God’s miraculous handiwork:
scenery that takes my breath away.
Our adventure takes us to Tamara
Leigh’s residence in the Tennessee country where she resides with her
husband, David, and their two sons. Tamara Leigh is the best-selling
author of Splitting Harriet,
Perfecting Kate, and Stealing Adda. Her
first seven award-winning novels became national best sellers, but
dissatisfied that the stories were not God-honoring, in 2003, she was
determined to write books that more directly represented her faith.
Ms. Leigh invites us to her
favorite spot and encourages us to feel right at home. Her back porch
overlooks a gorgeous waterfall and acres of greenery, a beautiful
setting to chat.
Sipping the marvelously
delicious treat she prepared, I begin. “Tamara, this coffee is
scrumptious, shaved dark chocolate with a drizzle of caramel. Wow! This
is all so nice. I have a number of questions . . .
Would you rather be the interviewer or the interviewee?
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
Would you consider sharing one of your fondest childhood memories with
us and finish this sentence: I’ve told my children that when I was in
the ____ th grade, I . . .”
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
eleven and fourteen). 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.
What ruffles your feathers and agitates you most? What do you do to
alleviate the turmoil, find peace, and remain calm?
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.
Everybody has to “go with the flow” when they begin a new venture, but
in your opinion, how different is writing and publishing today versus
when you started writing in ’94?
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
If you were just starting out, would there be any one thing you’d have
considered doing differently?
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
In your opinion, do you think its harder today for an artist to find a
niche in the market?
you have to do is walk into a Barnes and Noble or browse Amazon.com 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.
You began with historical romance and then changed to chick lit. Have
you considered any other genres?
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.
Have you ever been asked to be a ghostwriter? Would you consider it?
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?
With summer ending and a new school year beginning, have you ever
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.
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?
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
How has your faith made a difference in how you approach life? Your
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.
What project(s) are you working on now?
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’s 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
made national news twelve years ago. But if she’s going to keep it
wraps, she may have to compromise her beliefs to clean up the latest in
string of “Pickwick Pickles.”
Great! Okay, Here’s another: Have you ever considered going on a
mission to another country?
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 . . .
You have been asked many questions during your career, but would you
like to share any one thing with your fans? Something they haven’t
asked, but you think they would enjoy hearing about?
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 predawn
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 twentieth 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 surely a keeper. Congratulations and thank you for your
thank you very much!
Valerie Anne Faulkner, a New
York native moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida in 1973. Author of I
Must Be in Heaven: A Promise Kept, she spends her days
working side by side with her husband, Bill, as an electrician, then
evenings, as a writer. The CFOM interviews have
been a great way for her to meet other authors and hone her writing
craft. This back porch writer’s family is very important to her, and
she cherishes time spent with her three grown children and six
grandchildren. A few hours with family or a day enjoying one of
Florida’s Gulf beaches are her favorite ways to relieve stress and
refresh from her busy lifestyle. Valerie’s motto is “A day with prayer
. . . seldom unravels.” Visit her at www.imustbeinheaven.com.