Valerie Faulkner 

Author Interview

Valerie Faulkner Interviews Our Featured Cover Author - Tamara Leigh

Tamara Leigh

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 at ’em!”

Fix the kids’ lunches.

Get them ready for school.

Toss them their backpacks.

Load them on the Big-Yellow-Kid-Catcher.

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.

“Sure is!”

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 HarrietSplitting 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 . . .

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

Tamara: Easy—the interviewer, especially if the interview isStealing Adda 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 this sentence: I’ve 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 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.

Valerie: What ruffles your feathers and agitates you most? What do you do to alleviate the turmoil, find peace, and 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 versus when you started writing 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, Perfecting Kateis 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.

Faking Grace

Valerie: You began with historical romance and then changed to chick lit. Have you considered any other genres?

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 ghostwriter? 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) are you working on 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’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 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?

Faking GraceTamara: 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: 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?

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 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!

Valerie: 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 hospitality.

Tamara: I 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

I Must Be In Heaven