by Rel Mollet
Tamara Leigh Interview
hope is that readers will internalize the message of grace and forgiveness..."
-- Tamara Leigh
Tamara Leigh is the bestselling author of Perfecting Kate and Stealing Adda. Her first seven novels earned awards and became national bestsellers, but Tamara was dissatisfied that the stories were not God-honoring. In 2003 she determined to write books that more directly represented her faith. Tamara and her husband, David, live with their two young sons in Tennessee.
Rel: Why Christian fiction?
Tamara: Following the publication of seven medieval romances and a struggle between what I was comfortable doing and what I felt God moving me to do, I left the secular market to write for the Christian market. Now not only do I get to write romances with a “happily ever after” ending, but my hero and heroine have a relationship with God and each story contains a message that I believe many readers can relate to.
What kept you busy before the writing bug bit?
I was a Speech and Language Pathologist in an elementary school where my caseload exceeded seventy children. Their disorders ranged from articulation errors to stuttering to vocal abuse to pragmatic difficulties. As for the writing bug, it bit before I hit the teen years. I just never believed that writing for publication was a viable career. So glad I gave it a try :)
What has been the most difficult transition from your previous career to writing?
I miss working with young children and making a difference in their lives. They have the sweetest smiles and the best hugs.
You are a wife and mum and no doubt have many other hats to wear ~ what does a “regular” writing day look like for you?
Now that my boys are in school, a regular writing day consists of writing from around 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Because of the commute to our boys’ school, I often stay in the area and write at a Starbucks where everyone knows my favourite coffee drink.
Tell us a bit about your next novel Faking Grace and any possible future offerings?
FAKING GRACE will be an August 2008 release from Multnomah. As for future offerings, I’m working up a proposal for a series featuring cousins from North Carolina. Here’s a peek at FAKING GRACE:
All she wants is a job. All she needs is religion. How hard can it be?
Maizy Grace Stewart dreams of a career as an investigative journalist, but her last job ended in disaster when her compassion cost her employer a juicy headline.
A part-time gig at a Nashville newspaper might be her big break. A second job at Steeple Side Christian Resources could help pay the bills, but Steeple Side only hires committed Christians. Maizy is sure that she can fake it with her “5-Step Program to Authentic Christian Faith”—a plan of action that includes changing her first name to Grace, Jesus-themed accessories, and learning “Christian Speak.” If only Jack Prentiss, Steeple Side’s two-day-stubbled, blue-jean-wearing managing editor wasn’t determined to prove her a fraud.
When Maizy’s boss at the newspaper decides that she should investigate—and expose—any skeletons in Steeple Side’s closet, she needs to decide whether to deliver the dirt and secure her career, or lean on her newfound faith, change the direction of her life, and pray that her Steeple Side colleagues—and Jack—will show her grace.
Will we see you turn your hand to a different genre?
It’s possible I will bring my medieval romances into the Christian market—if the Christian market is ready for them. We shall see…
What/who inspired you to create Harri and the other characters in your book?
A couple of years back, I read Franklin Graham’s REBEL WITH A CAUSE and was moved by his story of growing up in the spotlight and dealing with the expectations of—literally—millions of people. This, in addition to my own experience with preacher’s kids, opened my eyes to the incredible amount of pressure placed on these children to say and do and be everything that the church members expect from the son/daughter of a preacher. And so Harriet was born, angst and all.
Tell us how your son Skyler came up with the name, Maddox McCray for Harri’s nemesis, and did he also think of “Mad Ox” (laughed myself silly at that!!)
While Skyler was shooting baskets in our driveway, I read him a rough of the first chapter of Splitting Harriet. Afterward, while brainstorming scenes with him, I mentioned that I was having difficulty naming my hero. I rattled off some names and he chose Maddox. But Maddox what? Around and around we went until he suggested McCray, a last name he was using for a character in a story he was writing. Maddox McCray—perfect!
“Mad Ox”, delivered by the Down’s Syndrome character in Splitting Harriet, was my doing. As a Speech Pathologist, I worked with a Down’s Syndrome boy who often spoke in syllables, especially with new vocabulary. And so “Maddox” became “Mad Ox.”
What was your favourite scene to write?
I love the “initial meet” between boy and girl, so I’ll have to go with the scene where Harriet takes a tumble and ends up flat on her back amid a rainbow of Jelly Bellys. Of course, the infuriating Maddox is looking on. Fun! Then there was their “getting to know you”—Grrrr!—walk down Red Sea Lane that followed. More fun!
You have a flair for humorous chick lit but your novels have a serious side ~ does the story or the message come first?
You’re making me analyse? Think, Tamara, think! Which comes first? Well, the story has to be compelling in order to hold the reader’s attention in order to deliver the message. But if the writer doesn’t deliver the message (read: believable), what good is the story? Eek! Can I just say the two go hand-in-hand? My head’s starting to hurt.
Splitting Harriet’s message of grace and forgiveness had a great impact on me ~ what made you choose that theme?
Like Harriet, it’s never been easy for me to accept God’s forgiveness. Though I ask for forgiveness and know it’s been given, there’s this little voice inside that says “WAY too easy. You don’t deserve that.” But, then, none of us do. Grace…
Any ideas who you might cast in a movie of Splitting Harriet?
Harriet: I really haven’t given this any thought. I wonder how Drew Barrymore would look with auburn hair. Or Kimberly Williams-Paisley. And what about Kate Beckinsale? Any suggestions?
Maddox: Much easier—Adrien Brody (King Kong) as he kept popping to mind as I wrote Harriet’s story. Not exactly handsome, but certainly interesting.
What impact do you hope this book has upon the reader?
My hope is that readers will internalize the message of grace and forgiveness—and give those preacher’s kids a break :)
I see your name popping up endorsing many other novels ~ tell us some of your favourites?
Every time I agree to read for possible endorsement and a galley arrives, it’s an extra special day. Not only do I get to read some wonderful tales, but I have an inarguable excuse to sit down, relax, and just…read. Some new favourites:
Boo Humbug by Rene Gutteridge
Par for the Course by Ray Blackston
A Bigger Life by Annette Smith
What are you reading at the moment?
Jesus by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Grits Friends are Forevah by Deborah Ford
One Holy Night by Joan Hochstetler
Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?
Pride and Prejudice or Ever After? Let’s go with Ever After. When Drew Barrymore’s Cinderella character appears at the ball wearing gossamer butterfly wings (right before everyone catches sight of her), she whispers to herself, “Just breathe…” It really is calming.
Who inspires you?
My family and friends. Inspiration also comes in the form of wonderful books and movies.
Please share some of your faith journey...
During my childhood, my family attended a church that turned out to be something of a cult. When we left, we were disillusioned with our faith. It wasn’t until I met my future husband that I once more found myself in church—this one a Spirit-filled Christian church and unlike anything I had experienced. It was small and personal and the pastor was more than a voice speaking out from behind a podium. He knew every one of us by name and situation, and he prayed with and for us. That was just the beginning, and though it’s been almost fifteen years since I accepted Christ and I sometimes feel as if my steps are baby steps, I’m grateful to be so loved.
Some essential Aussie questions:
When/if you make the trip Down Under what do you want to see first? A platypus or a koala?
Koala—SOOO cute! Not that a Playtpus isn’t…interesting.
Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
Excuse me, I must take an internet “research” break. Not that I don’t know what the Barrier Reef is, but Uluru? This is so embarrassing...
Ah, yes, Uluru (AKA Ayers Rock). Nice rock! Though the romantic in me would choose the Barrier Reef, the “don’t get eaten by sharks” in me says Uluru. So, Uluru it is. Unless we’re just visiting from a distance…
You are visiting Australia ~ do you say yes or no to some vegemite on toast?! (NB. Access to our spare room and a guided tour might just rest on your answer!!!)
Yes! Though my first introduction to vegemite was when this strange-sounding substance was embedded in the lyrics of an ‘80s song (“vegemite sandwich”) I’d give it a try.
Any last words?
Would this spare bedroom of yours happen to have an ocean view? And about that guided tour…
Thanks for the interview and the great questions. It was fun.
Rel Mollet is a lawyer, wife and mother of three young daughters and lives in Melbourne, Australia. Reading has been her passion since childhood. She is a Book Club Co-ordinator and has her own website ~ relzreviewz ~ dedicated to reviews and author interviews with the sole aim to support authors writing from a Christian worldview. She believes Sir Francis Bacon's (1561 - 1626) creed, "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body".