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An Interview with Author Tamara Ferguson
A member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), Tamara Ferguson is the multi-award winning, #1 best-selling author of the Tales of the Dragonfly Romance Suspense Series, the Kissed By Fate Series, and the Two Hearts Wounded Warrior Romance Series.
Click on cover pics to read intros on a couple of Tammy’s books.
Rik: Welcome, Tammy, and thank you for breaking from your busy work schedule to chat with us here today. Before we talk about where you are now, would you like to tell us if there was any one thing that motivated you to write in the first place?
Tammy: Thanks for having me here Rik!
The primary reason I began writing is because I have an autistic son, and the promised funding for his vocational services fell through when he graduated from school, so I was unable to work away from home. Writing’s become therapeutic for me, with all my plans for the future put on hold.
R: Strange how you think you’re on a particular path in life and events change all. Your motivation shows great strength of character. So, you became author Tamara Ferguson, tell us a little about your work. How much have your experiences filtered into your stories?
T: I actually began working when I was very young, first as a babysitter, and then as a lifeguard and a swimming teacher in high school. In college, I was a secretary, researcher and teaching assistant, as well as a floral designer and intern while waitressing to help pay my expenses. Somehow, I ended up in sales; which I was very good at, but absolutely hated!
Meanwhile, I was a single parent, who owned a home. So I eventually became skilled with big time home improvement, as well as doing landscape and maintenance work because of my horticulture degree. Finally, I began working from home, because of my son.
ALL my experiences filter into my stories. It’s so much easier to tell a believable story, when you write about what you know.
R: So true. How to go about research can look like a minefield to an aspiring writer. Is there anything you would like to share that might bring light and ease that worry?
T: As I just said, the best way to get around research, is to write about what you know. But another way to get around it? Contacting friends and acquaintances who have serious skills. When I had questions about piloting, for my wounded warrior series, I asked my good friend and fellow author Cary Allen Stone, who’s a retired pilot. When I had questions about therapy and rehabilitation, I contacted my oldest son, who’s a therapy and rehabilitation specialist.
R: Do you consider yourself multi-genre or are you completely immersed in the romance theme?
T: I think I’d be able to write in another genre, if I were asked to. But I’d prefer to stick to romance. I enjoy writing stories with HEA endings, because of the constant upheaval in my life.
R: Independent publishing is a difficult road. Have you ever tried to go down the traditional route?
T: I’ve thought about submitting to a publisher, so that’d I be able to reach a wider audience and have more time for writing. But the timing has never felt right. And it seems there are more and more channels for a self-published author to sell books, without handing over a portion of the royalties to a middleman.
R: Whether traditional or independent, every writer knows there are a whole host of difficulties in marketing, yet there are many avenues open to them; newspaper reviews, interviews, TV, radio, reader reviews, social media, the award system… the list goes on. I know you use a lot of these mediums, Tammy, is there a specific avenue you would say has been most significant to your success?
T: I don’t think one thing or another has worked for me specifically, Rik. I began entering award contests when I first started writing. I joined the RWA for the express purpose of entering their contests for critiques of my writing skills. Once I began to actually place in some of these contests, after nearly quitting my writing several different times, I put myself out there on twitter. After that, everything began falling into place. I’d say that writing for anthologies has pushed me the furthest, because of the experience I’ve gained in my promoting skills, by working with fantastic authors and friends, such as Uvi Poznansky.
R: Most writers have been influenced by other, past or present, writers. Who has been most influential to you?
T: I’d have to say Linda Howard, Nora Roberts & Mary Balogh are those who have influenced me the most, along with Charlotte Bronte. A favorite gift I received as a teenager was the anthology, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I read it hundreds of times, and I actually still own the book.
R: You’re a busy lady generally, I know; do you have a writing regime or is it as and when? However you work, how do you keep focused?
T: I write whenever I can–in the literal sense! Most of my day, I have an active twenty-something year old son running around me in circles; demanding my time and attention, and constantly interrupting my thoughts. I’ve always been great at drowning out the commotion, but lately, I’ve considered headphones and listening to music because I have so many more projects I’m involved in, and it’s difficult to concentrate.
R: Many writers work several projects during the same period, are you one of these. Tell us your latest news about your current work.
T: Yes, I’m managing multiple projects right now! I’m currently writing a Christmas story to be released as a set, sometime in November with #1 Bestselling UK author Allyson R. Abbott. We’ve become good friends since working together on the Mother’s Day Magic Anthology (click title to read intro). And I’m very excited to be working with my dear friend Uvi Poznansky again in another anthology entitled, Love In Times of War, featuring a fantastic group of authors. Next spring I’ve been invited to submit a story for a Wedding Pets and Kisses anthology, and I’ll be doing a story for an anthology being released for the fourth of July, by Metamorph publishing.
R: You surely don’t let the grass grow under your feet. How long did it take before you considered your writing style became your own?
T: I think it happened sometime while I was writing Two Hearts Surrendered, when I was revising and editing the story for releasing independently from Magical Weddings. What I think I’ve learned to do best, besides understanding POV, is to use fewer words for better context. I used to write very formally. Since I’ve changed my style of writing, I have many more readers.
R: Do you think your works carry a message or are they strictly R&R?
T: My stories ALWAYS carry a message. When I sometimes (and luckily, rarely) get a reviewer who classifies what I write as having no depth, I just shake my head, because they just don’t get it! Even though I write simplistically, anyone who reads between the lines will understand that the stories I write are deeply emotional. The majority of the time, my stories are directly based on my own situations and circumstances, and are actual fact. By adding some humor, I’m turning the negatives from my own life into a positive outcome, because writing is what helps keep me sane.
R: Would you describe your stories as being realistic? If yes, did it grow from experience or imagination?
T: Continuing from what I answered previously, my stories are a combination of experience and imagination, particularly when devising a positive outcome for what have, sometimes, been the most overwhelmingly depressing situations in my own life.
R: You are currently working on Two Hearts At Christmas; the fourth novel in the Two Hearts Wounded Warrior Romance series. Would you care to share a short scene from the work?
T: I’m only about one-third of the way through the story, but this is a second chance romance that will featured in a set, entitled Mistletoe Kisses & Christmas Wishes. Kat and Jason meet as teenagers, and ultimately share a kiss under the mistletoe. They each make a wish. Fifteen years later, they meet again at Christmas. This novel will have a little more humor for Christmas, but Jason is a wounded warrior who has recently returned home from Iraq.
In this scene, Jason is sixteen, and Kat is thirteen.
For the first time in Jason’s life, he finally understood the meaning of the word. Katherine didn’t look like any thirteen-year old girl he’d ever seen.
He was used to being assigned designated duty by his mom, and showing kids of her many friends around town. Today, he’d planned on a day of swimming at the beach, along with taking a tour of the inn at Dragonfly Pointe, and maybe going for some ice cream later on.
He’d even been considering sacrificing one afternoon this week for a couple of rounds of pee wee golf. Little girls usually loved that kind of stuff, he’d been told by his Grandpa Will.
And then he’d met Kat. Silky raven black hair, and those beautiful jade green eyes. Her nickname was definitely appropriate, because of those slanted eyes, and her graceful movements.
He knew he was being kind of a jerk, but his reaction to her had been so totally unexpected, he wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. Jason had headed straight to a semi-deserted section of the beach when they’d arrived. His biggest fear when he’d reached the beach, was that one of dopey friends would put the moves on her.
Come to think of it, why was he so worried about that?
Jason snorted, shaking his head. He knew why. But he still couldn’t believe it—he was actually attracted to a thirteen-year old!
Kat glanced at him, from where she sat beside him, on the picnic bench. “Something wrong?” she asked, lifting her brow.
There was that cute little eyebrow thing, she had going on, again. Crazy thing about it was, she probably didn’t even know how much she was affecting him.
R: Ah, could this be an Oh, Oh, moment? I suppose you’ll have to read it to find out. Your writing, how would you describe your writing style?
T: Romantic and simplistic at first glance, but actually complex; particularly my dragonfly novels.
R: What is it you hope a reader will come away with after finishing one of your works?
T: I want my reader to feel hopeful and positive. There’s so much overwhelming sadness in this world today.
R: Do you consider your works different to others in your genre? If yes, how so?
T: Yes, actually I do. In my reading days, I would go through 7-10 books per week at the very least. What eventually bored me were the repetitive plots of many of the books. Even happily ever after romance is more exciting when your hero and heroine work through a unique set of circumstances to get them there.
R: How accurate is your work?
T: Pretty accurate. And if it’s not? It’s intentional!
e.g. In Flight (Tales of the Dragonfly) begins with a train traveling from Chicago through Wisconsin. There has never been a passenger train running through northern Wisconsin. But with our family cabin located in upper Wisconsin, we always joked about how nice it would be to have alternate transportation.
I’ll probably never enter another story into the Wisconsin Romance Writer’s Contest. Everyone was more concerned about the inaccuracy of the train than they were about critiquing my story! There’s a slight element of fantasy in my stories, so I figure adding a detail like this is totally my call.
R: I had my own reasons for doing something similar. I have a book due out that is set in a hillside favela in Recife. As Recife is known as the Venice of Brazil, the hillsides there are almost non-existent, so I set that fact out in an introduction at the start of the book to save getting the same response. Sorry, back to you. How important do you think social media is and which of the many platforms is your favorite?
T: I’d have to say that social media is important to get yourself out there, but shouldn’t be as important once you’re moving along and selling books. At one time, Twitter was my favorite place to post, and I’ve met a lot of great people there. But I’m not as enthusiastic about Twitter as I used to be. It can be very disappointing to build up followers and set up tweets, spending hours and hours online, and then suddenly have it all taken away from you by some unknown decision maker—and still not totally understand why. You begin to think about all the other things you missed out on, even if you know what you were doing was in an attempt to be helpful to other authors. Life is just too short.
R: Which of your works do you feel most proud of?
T: I think Two Hearts Surrendered has to be my favorite. While I was writing it, I actually felt like what I was writing about was important, and I could call myself a writer.
R: What kind of work have you done outside of writing?
T: My least enjoyable success was as a horticulturist. Not that I didn’t enjoy the horticulturist part, but I was actually a glorified sales rep, with a number to meet every week. When I would go out into the community and talk to people personally, I actually had about a 98% closing rate.
Have you seen that movie Glengarry Glen Ross? That was exactly the way the company I worked for operated. They treated their employees terribly.
R: What do you consider is your main character strength with regard to writing?
T: My knowledge about the circumstances I’m writing about. I’ve usually been there. I have TONS of both positive and negative life experiences.
R: There are many choices; fame, money, respect, or maybe just someone enjoying one of your books. What is your take on success?
T: Ideally?? All of the above, of course!!
R: Are there any final words of advice you would give to those looking to develop a writing career?
T: Overnight success happens rarely. I hate to mention the thousands of times I’ve edited my stories. Like anything, if you aren’t willing to accept and make use of helpful critiques and criticism, you’re probably never going to grow and succeed. But you also have to keep your own individuality with what you write about, so that you stand out. Being unique, I think, is the key to real success.
R: Thanks Tammy, it was great chatting with you.