Tess, welcome to Story Matters. What made you quit your conventional career to become a writer?
It was a combination of wanting to stay home with my young daughters and this yearning I felt to write. I promised myself I would finish my first novel by the time I turned 40–I was 38 at the time. At first I told myself I would just write during the baby’s nap times, but as I grew more confident, the time I spent writing increased. There was a point when it clicked and I gave myself permission to take myself seriously as a writer. Once I made that mind shift, I started dreaming big and it all began to unfold.
So cool to see what can happen once you dare to take that first step. What would you say to other aspiring writers thinking of doing the same thing?
The most important thing is to write without self-criticism. Do not listen to the demons in your mind telling you that you’re no good or that it’s a waste of time. Once you have a volume of work you feel good about, then make a plan of what you want. There are so many ways to publish work these days that writers can create their own destinies.
Writing without self-criticism. Oh, that so resonates with me! You set your second novel, Caramel and Magnolias, in Seattle and Oregon. Why ?
I grew up in Oregon and have lived in Seattle for over twenty years. I know this landscape like nothing else, therefore it is the obvious place to set my novels. And, I am a Pacific Northwest girl through and through. I have a pride about the Pacific Northwest as if I made it myself, which is ridiculous, of course. But the natural beauty of this part of the country is truly spectacular, and I love to write about it in my fiction.
We do live in a gorgeous part of God’s creation. What’s your best writing routine?
I write best first thing in the morning and try to be very disciplined to work from the time I get home from the gym until my grade-school aged daughters arrive home at 3 p.m. For my novels, I write the first draft very quickly–usually between 2500-3000 words a day–until I have the story put together. I, for the most part, write the story in order, although if I get stuck someplace I will jump ahead and write what is quite clear in my mind. After I have that first draft done I go back and polish. I love rewriting more than writing the first draft, actually, so this is when the pure bliss of it is the strongest for me. I could spend an entire day on three paragraphs, although my publisher is keen on me meeting my deadlines, so I usually don’t!
The pure bliss of rewriting–yes, I can identify. Favorite book?
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is my all time favorite. It is the quintessential American novel.
Good one. What is one key message you’d like your readers to take away from your work?
My stories are always about the redemptive power of love. In a life where none of us get through unscathed, the only thing we can look to restore us is the love we give and receive. In addition, I feel strongly that fear is the opposite of love. All my characters, like all of us, have to conquer fears and disappointments and tragedies and live to make it through another day. At the end of all my work, I want the reader to feel inspired and buoyed for whatever journey, difficult or easy, that awaits them at the beginning of another day.
And finally, why does story matter to you?
Story is the most important tool we have as human beings to relay information, evoke thought, inspire, move, entertain and examine ourselves and others. There is nothing else like it, as proven by the oral stories passed down from the early inhabitants of the earth to the written stories read so often now on an electronic devices. No matter how they are told, story remains one of our deepest joys in all human experience.
Well said. Thank you so much!