About Tam Linsey:
Tam Linsey lives in Alaska with her husband and two children. She is a certified Master Gardener, an avid cook, and reads scientific studies for fun. In spite of the rigors of the High North, she grows, hunts, or fishes for much of her family’s food. During the long Alaskan winters she writes speculative fiction and gluten free cookbooks.
What inspires you to write?
I’m a bit of a prepper, and like to read about things like homesteading and self-reliance and gardening. These topics lead me to a lot of “what if” statements as I consider all the ways I need to provide for and protect my family. I also love science, particularly genetic modification. (In a past life, I was going to be a biomedical engineer.) Naturally, the topics blend into one big “what if.”
But if I’m honest, the writing itself isn’t inspired. It’s sweated. It’s pondered. It’s trudged. I sit down, and make it happen. If I don’t, no one cares but me. So I do it for myself, to see what world comes out of putting these ideas to paper.
Tell us about your writing process.
I tried writing my first novel by the seat of my pants. And my second. And then I read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Once I learned about story structure I realized why those initial stories never felt quite right; I didn’t have any road signs to tell me when to speed up or slow down or grip the wheel for a sharp curve.
Now I plot my novels in advance. I’m in love with Scrivener and use it to set up each scene beforehand and mark my turning points. Before I write a given scene, I ask myself who has the strongest goal, what his/her motivation is, and what gets in the way. I make sure I have high points and low points at specific intervals. I make sure I set up the story world and invest my reader in my character early on without drowning in backstory.
Most important of all, once I’ve written a scene, I submit my work to a critique group. Sometimes they love it. Often they have small changes. And sometimes they suggest a major change I don’t want to make but know in my heart is right (I might take a day or two to accept this, by the way. No one likes killing their darlings.) The point is to be open, and if more than one person makes note of something, then it probably needs changed.
One last thing – write every day if you can. The only way to finish writing is to keep at it.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I actually try to put myself into my characters rather than talk to or listen to them. Even the villains. (They say every villain is the hero of his own story.) Understanding a character’s motivation at an emotional level is key for me. Even if I’m not passionate about the same thing the character is, I can think of something similar and cross relate.
For instance, say one character learns her child has cancer – I discovered my dog had cancer before losing her. My feeling might not be as visceral losing a child, but it is similar. I worked with the doctors for best treatment, tried to bargain with God, spent ungodly amounts of money, and finally accepted the inevitable. I use my own experiences to put myself into my characters’ shoes.
What advice would you give other writers?
2. Finish what you write
3. Find other writers and exchange feedback
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I submitted Botanicaust to quite a few agents and editors and had lots of requests for the full manuscript. The responses I seemed to get were split, depending on who was reading it. Those who were looking for science fiction said that there was too much romance it it. Those who were looking for romance said there was too much science in it.
I didn’t want to scale back on either aspect, so I saved enough money to hire an editor, and self-published it with a cover I’d designed myself (with a lot of input from fellow writers.) In retrospect, I wish I’d consulted a broader audience for my cover because the first cover was a bit “romancy” (even erotic, some said, and the book isn’t erotic.) It turned off a lot of sci-fi readers because of that. (One of my favorite reviews on Botanicaust right now warns readers that it is a “kissing book” in the best possible way.) I think the new cover has a much better balance between romance and the post-apocalyptic nature of the book.
My advice? Just like the traditional publishing houses, hire professionals to do your editing and cover design. For your cover, at the very least make sure you poll a good selection of readers in your genre. Oh, and never, ever, EVER hire your mom/ brother/ cousin to do your editing. Keep that relationship professional, paid, and accountable. You only get one chance to wow your reader.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Ereaders have made buying and reading books easier than ever, and consumers no longer have traditional publishers being the sole providers on choice. With the influx of so many new things to read – all of which remain “on the shelves” of Amazon and other companies indefinitely – what I see happening is a new gatekeeper arriving to help the masses choose what to read. I have no idea how that will happen or what form it will take, but people like to be part of the “in” crowd and read what’s popular. There will always be someone out there determining what, exactly, that is. Word of mouth will, as always, play a part, but going viral will require getting the book into the right “in” crowd of readers. How do we do that? When you find out, let me know 😉
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: post-apocalyptic, science fiction, romance, fantasy, dystopia
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print