Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author Tamara Merrill, the author of the Amazon bestselling books, Shadows In Our Bones and The Augustus Family Trilogy, about her writing and her recently released psycholigical thriller, JUST ONE MORE (Read the review here.). Her work has been published in fourteen anthologies, numerous magazines, and online publications.
Tamara Merrill is the author of the Amazon bestselling books, Shadows In Our Bones and The Augustus Family Trilogy. Her work has been published in fourteen anthologies, numerous magazines, and online publications.
She fell in love with books at a very early age—all books, any genre. She reads incessantly and perhaps, as Louise May Alcott said, “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” While reading may keep her from writing every day, it is also why she writes. Reading the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace caused her to proclaim herself an author and resulted in her first published work, in the American Girl magazine, when she was nine years old.
Tamara enjoys writing in many genres, including short stories, literary fiction, historical fiction, humor, nonfiction technical manuals, and how-to articles. You might expect that she would blog, but she seldom does.
Tamara finds writing inspiration anywhere and everywhere. The book you hold in your hand grew out of her interest in crows and their significance in mythology and folklore. The crow is a highly intelligent bird capable of social interaction. Perhaps it’s true that Nevermore told Tamara this story.
Tamara currently resides in Coronado, California and Wickenburg, Arizona. She is available to speak at book clubs, writers and readers events, and teaches writing skills in the adult education system.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS Tamara Merrill
How often do you base your characters on real people?
I never base my characters on real people, but all my characters are influenced by people I’ve met in my life. I mix all the characteristics up so that no one is identifiable. However, readers have approached me with every book and asked if a character or characters were based on someone they know!
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Only the one I’m currently working on. But I have lots of story ideas stashed in notebooks.
What does literary success look like to you?
When I see my books in the library, I feel very successful!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on the book. For instance, when I wrote Shadows in our Bones, I interviewed over 100 people before writing the final story.
Do you find writing therapeutic?
No, but I do love it – when it is going well.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?
Rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting!
How many hours a day do you write?
I write four days a week for a total of 8 to 10 hours. I do not have a set schedule.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Hmmm, I’d yes that it hurts, especially when it comes to edits and critiques.
How often do you read?
I read obsessively. I average a book a day – every day.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to tell a good story.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure – if they write nonfiction, it would be an asset.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Just keep writing! You can do this.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Good editing – which is hard to find – but well worth the cost.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Names usually just come as I write. I do try to stay away from naming characters similar names. In the Augustus Trilogy, the two Michaels gave me fits – but they were related, and young Michael was named for older Michael for a reason.
Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work?
I think a writer learns a great deal from critiques. I do read my reviews, and I think about what is said.
Do you Google yourself?
What are your favorite books?
I like coming of age, older strong female characters, and books about books. If there are words on the page – I like it!
What is your favorite childhood book?
The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?
Reading the Betsy-Tacy books and being published in American Girl magazine when I was nine years old.
How did you decide which form or genre was right for you?
I write in the same genres I like to read.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
About two years.
Is writer’s block real?
For me, the only block is procrastination.
How do you begin a book?
I start with something that caught my attention – from a conversation, on the news, or from a picture.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
They are equally important.
If asked, what would your friends and family say about you?
That I talk too much. Maybe they would say I’m intelligent and funny – I hope so!
Would you rather read a book or watch television?
If you could only change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d like to be taller!
Are you a feeler or a thinker?
Thinker, for sure.
Tell us some more about your book.
Just One More is the story of a troubled young woman. To protect herself from others, she kills when she feels threatened or unloved.
What inspired the premise of your book?
I thought it would be fun to write a book using a counting rhyme to move the plot.
How many rewrites did you do for this book?
I write and rewrite as the book moves along – so I’d guess this book took about three rewrites.
Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
I started with the rhyme that begins:
One I love, Two I love, Three I love, they say. About halfway through the writing process, I changed to the rhyme used in the final book; One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, etc.
Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
I loved everyone in Just One More, even the bad guys!
Are any of your characters based on real people you know?
I don’t think so, but I do believe my characters are often pulled from real life, so maybe…
Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?
The first draft of Just One More was about 140,000 words, so the book’s scope had to be reeled in. The final book is approximately 91,000 words.
What sort of a relationship exists between you and the characters you created in this book?
While I’m writing a book – or short story – the characters are very real to me. I see them, I talk to them, and they talk to me. Then, when I finish the book, they disappear.
Has this novel changed drastically as you created it?
Just in length. Ari has been herself from the very first day!
How did you decide on this title?
Spoiler – because Ari truly believes it will be the last time each time she kills.
How crucial is it to have a working title before you begin a project? (answer this if you decide on your title very early in the writing process)
Titles are really hard for me – I find the title very late in the process.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on a gaslighting mystery story. And, I’m toying with the idea of a sequel to Just One More because my editor, my agent, and readers are asking for one.