SPECIAL NOTE: Tanya is offering a copy (either print or ebook-winner's choice) of MARRYING MINDA as the September giveaway for my newsletter subscribers.
Check out my CONTEST page for details.
WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
TH: Hi Winnie. A native Californian, I"m a high school English teacher by profession, the reason I believe I learned so much about literature and writing. I"m fortunate to have been able to "retire" fairly early, and now enjoy writing full-time, traveling with my husband, and spending days with my two and a half-year old grandson.
My son and daughter are far and away the best projects I"ve ever done! I live near the beach in Southern California in a rural community of strawberry fields and lemon groves and have been married 35 years to a great guy. We like to travel (New York City is our current favorite) and will probably hit the island of Kauai sometime soon to celebrate our milestone. Tragically, within the last year, we had to say good-bye to both of our black Labrador retrievers and my heart still aches.
WG: Let’s talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
TH: Well, I had no idea how to publish a romance until I casually mentioned my goal"and frustration-- to a teaching colleague who happened to be a former president of my local RWA chapter! I hurried on down (well, local actually means two hours) and joined the group and paid attention. On my first day there".scared to death at not knowing anybody, I met a fantastic woman who is not only an award-winning author but now one of my dearest friends, Charlene Sands. How she welcomed me and made me feel comfortable, took me under her wing so to speak. She is often my critique partner, also. The first book I sold"she helped me start it in the right place.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
TH: Not long after joining RWA I finished my first "real" romance and entered a contest that led to publication. It all happened very quickly and I thought, wow, I'm in like flint. But for a variety of reasons, I withdrew my submissions and ended up in a really, really long sophomore slump. My historical Western, Midnight Bride, was released the same day in January 2008 that my hubby received a cancer diagnosis. The book has gotten great reviews but I couldn"t promo it like I wanted for obvious reasons. Last summer, my sweetie was in remission for three months when Marrying Minda was contracted by The Wild Rose Press. Along the way, Marrying Minda, received first place honors in two fiction contests, so that was a very feel-good deal on the road to publication.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
TH: Actually, the first book I finished after joining RWA was the one that sold so quickly.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting "the call"?
TH: I was on my way to class when my hubby called, saying the editor had just called at home and wanted me to call back. He said quite firmly, I think you should be late to class. It was a terrific experience"and it"s the same feeling I"ve gotten for books I"ve sold after that. As soon as class was over, I ran to my colleague and told her the good news.
WG: What changed most about your life as a direct result of selling that first book?
TH: (LOL) I found out there"s a porn star with my name. Never ever thought to google it beforehand. But I do get a lot of traffic to my website.
WG: What aspect of life as a ‘published author’ surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
TH: The sophomore slump. Honestly, I guess I figured selling one would lead to regular contracts. I know it works that way for many authors, but it was a few years before I found a new publishing home, and a terrific editor.
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
TH: I have ADD pretty bad, and after all those regulated years in a classroom, I find I like not having a regular schedule. I do try to write every day, however. My hubby, a retired fireman, likes to hang out with me, which is definitely flattering, but does get in the way sometime. I can"t complain, though. I almost lost him last year to cancer. What a nightmarish sentence that is to type and then re-read. Fortunately, his testicular cancer, although horrifically aggressive, was curable, and he"s 17 months cancer-free. However, as Lance Armstrong said in his book It"s Not About the Bike, I didn"t know what would kill him first, the cancer or the chemo. I mention his ordeal in all my interviews and this one too, so that your readers will make sure the men in their lives from age 15 on do regular testicular self-exams, just like we girls do BSE"s. T.C. is curable if caught early"my guy thought it was a hernia. But it is a harrowing journey, and I"d like you all to avoid it if possible.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
TH: Yes. I want to write an inspirational, and am doing so right now. It"s contemporary, which is new for me, but definitely has a cowboy and a Western setting, which is kind of the "brand" I want for myself.
WG: Do you have a ‘mood setter’, something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
TH: I am lucky to have my own entire writing room (my daughter"s former bedroom LOL.) I surround myself with things I love, souvenirs from London, antique family photos, my book covers, favorite books, photos of my grandbaby etc. I don"t listen to music often but if I do, it"s "spa" type music.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
TH: I have a generic idea of how the book will end, but there are always surprises along the way. I"ve done the plot-doctor charts et al and taken boot camps, so maybe it"s all rubbed off. Generally I just jump in. But I do write in order. It wouldn"t work for me to go ahead to chapter fifteen and write it if I"m only on chapter six.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
TH: Sometimes it"s just a name or place that starts telling the story. .
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories
TH: I think my heroes tend to tall, dark and handsome like my husband and now, my son. I kind of like forced marriage or mail-order bride stories. The upcoming Marrying Mattie is way different in that it opens the night before their wedding. But obstacles keep them apart until the end.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
TH: After having taught freshmen writing for just ever, I feel my grammar skills are very strong.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
TH: Well, yeah. An at-home but dearly-loved hubby LOL. Fortunately he"s an avid golfer so I do get plenty of alone time.
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
TH: Yes. Don"t wait until your kids are away at college to start submitting! And do submit. You won"t die if you get rejected. It sucks, but it isn"t fatal.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
TH: I"m pretty much a historical fiction lover, but I do love a good mystery and confess a fondness for stories like Da Vinci Code or The Rose Labyrinth that let me do a lot of trivia research. But those books do have a great historical bent so I guess that"s why I enjoyed them.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
TH: Yes. I am very interested in writing inspirationals set in the Old West. I think the setting with its hard work, tribulation, resilience and a reliance on faith lends itself perfectly to stories of faithful people. And I have a YA paranormal set in the witch trials of 1692 in Salem MA that I"d love to get off the ground.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
TH: Don"t wait. Polish up a proposal and get it out there. And if you get a rejection, well, it won"t kill you. Weep for a day and get over it and on with something else.
WG: Is there a specific "ah-ha" moment you"ve had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
TH: I think so. In Marrying Mattie"a secondary character did something I didn"t expect right as I was typing the scene! And it worked.
WG: Rejections, less than stellar reviews and notes from unhappy readers are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
TH: Actually most of my reviews have been pretty good, especially for Midnight Bride, and I just got an excellent one today for Minda, but I am quite thin-skinned so I can"t say a snotty review doesn"t bug me. I realized there are two review spots whose opinions I value, and they treat me well. It"s the same for a contest I entered recently with a WIP called Outlaw Bride. Two of the judges (RWA-trained) gave me perfect scores. The third whined about me using the word "that" too many times, and his/her comments were totally out of a recent RWA lecture LOL without any specifics. So I didn"t place any credence in his /her comments at all, but gloried in the two perfect scores.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of ‘conventional wisdom’ that you wish you had ignored?
TH: In reverse. I believe in "Don"t write for the trends. Write what you love." But I spent a summer writing three "Bombshell" action/adventures and even had an editor spend an hour on the phone with me. Only to have the proposals sent back unread when the line folded. So I hustled right back to Westerns.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
TH: It"s probably horribly vain but I love seeing my name on a book cover. (blush)
WG: When you’re not writing, what do you do for fun? What is your favorite self-indulgence?
TH: I love spoiling my grandbaby and I love to shop. But I always look for bargains and totally believe in coupons and clearance racks. For indulgence: mani-pedi"s and massages. And oh, chocolate - deep, dark chocolate! Throw in an almond and I"m yours forever.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
TH: Right now, it"s Say Yes to the Dress as our beautiful daughter just got married August 8. I"m also a Jeopardy fanatic and CSI Miami. That "Who" intro knocks my socks off. And Top Chef and a host of other cooking shows. My hubby is the cook in this household, but we both enjoy those shows.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
TH: It"s Thoreau, my hero. Can"t recite it word for word, but it"s the one about don"t get to the end of your life and realize you haven"t lived. Meaning: don"t put stuff off. Do it NOW. That"s the reason he went to Walden to live and all his friends thought he was nuts. My hubby and I visited Walden in the fall of 2007, just prior to his cancer ordeal, and it was such a spiritual place. One night at hospital during the worst of it, I forced my brain back to Walden to calm myself down. I"m definitely a Christian and a person of prayer, but that memory really helped.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
TH: I am thrilled that the follow-up to my current release Marrying Minda has just been contracted! Marrying Mattie features Minda"s younger sister and a handsome horse doctor. He"s a virgin, and she"s been married before, and he"s scared to death of their impending wedding night. Then her psycho ex shows up and busts up the wedding ".
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
TH: Well, I must admit it wasn"t exactly me, at first. My editor asked me to write a short Christmas story last year, so I spun off a character from Marrying Minda. The reader knows by the end of 2,500 words they"re in love"so I wrote the longer book to show all the trials and tribulations they go through before their HEA.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
TH: I had to investigate jimson weed poisoning, its treatment, veterinary science, and bipolar disorder in the 19th century. I will apologize in advance for any inaccuracies LOL.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
TH: Marrying Mattie will be released in 2010. That"s all I know since it just happened. It promises to be the second in a series of three. And I"m working on an inspirational novella to enter in a contest. Oh me and those contests LOL.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
MTH: I have a website www.tanyahanson.com (spell it right or you get the HanSEN pornstar), a personal blogspot http//tanyahanson.blogspot.com, and my supreme delight, a permanent blog position at the terrific Western romance site, www.petticoatsandpistols.com I"m there every other Wednesday. Also my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun ‘chatting’ with you, as always!
It"s an honor, Winnie. I heard your "pitch" workshop talk at RWA in San Francisco and it helped tremendously. See you in Nashville!