About Tam May:
Tam May grew up in the United States and earned her B.A. and M.A in English. She worked as an English college instructor and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher before she became a full-time writer. She started writing when she was 14, and writing became her voice. She writes fiction characters who examine their past in order to move into their future and are influenced by the time in which they live.
Her first book, a collection of contemporary short stories titled Gnarled Bones And Other Stories, was nominated for a 2017 Summer Indie Book Award. She is currently working on a Gilded Age family saga. The first book, The Specter, came out in June of 2019, and the second book, False Fathers, is also now available. Book 3 (The Claustrophobic Heart) and Book 4 (Dandelion Children) will be out in 2020. She is also working on a historical mystery series featuring a turn-of-the-century New Woman sleuth. Both series take place in Northern California.
She lives in Texas but calls San Francisco and the Bay Area “home”. When she’s not writing, she’s reading classic literature and historical fiction, watching classic films, or cooking up awesome vegetarian dishes.
For more information on Tam May and her work, feel free to check out her website.
What inspires you to write?
Just about everything :-)! I always have my eyes and ears open, so anything that catches my attention anywhere can be an inspiration for a story, character, setting, etc. It can be a conversation I overhear in a restaurant that intrigues me, an article I read about something that happened, a film I watch that has an interesting character I'd like to explore more or even just a small incident that I find would be intriguing to expand upon.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
Since I write historical fiction, I really love classic fiction, so I read a lot of "old books." Some of my favorite authors are: Gertrude Atherton (little known San Francisco writer from the late 19th/early 20th century, Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Sinclair Lewis. I am also a huge lover of traditional mysteries. I totally eat up the books of Agatha Christie, Anna Katharine Green, and Dorothy L. Sayers.
Tell us about your writing process.
My writing process is sort of a mix of "seat of my pants" and "outlining," though it has leaned more toward outlining in the last year, for the sake of productivity. I always start with getting down some basics: The story blurb (which changes as I write and shape the story), the character list, and scenes I know I want to include, though I don't always know where they'll appear in the story. I generally also do character sketches, getting character backgrounds in place (since I write a lot about character who face their past to find their future, so they have to know where they've been to know where they are going in the story). I also know a bit about the location, especially when I'm working with a series that is based on a location (such as my current Waxwood series). Then I start to write the first draft and here's where I discover a lot more about who my characters are, what their psychological reality is, and what their journey in the story is. That can change a lot about the story and the setting.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
LOL. Oh, yes! I listen to what they're telling me all the time. They may not speak to me directly, but they often speak to me indirectly about what they want, what their deal is, and where they are going. In fact, for the second book of my series, False Fathers, the main character (Jake) was speaking to me constantly so that his character really evolved through several drafts and I discovered who he was and what his story was through what he had to tell me rather than what I thought he would be like.
What advice would you give other writers?
I would tell other authors to "know thyself and know thy readers." I think it's essential to know what you as an author really want to write, though that might not happen right away. I started publishing contemporary literary fiction in 2016 and eventually realized that my real passion lies in historical fiction. It took me a while to figure that out. And also, knowing who your reader is by exploring what kind of readers are buying the books that you want to write by other authors and seeing where they hang out is vital. Because, really, we're not publishing books in a vacuum – we're doing this for readers, for an audience to enjoy what we have to give.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I've always been a "do-it-yourself" kind of gal. I love being mistress of my own career, so choosing to self-publish was a no-brainer for me. Also, as a writer of fiction that is a little off the beaten path (that is, it doesn't always fit neatly into one genre or another) and leaning toward literary fiction, I felt that going the way of a publisher would estrange me from my readership. I really wanted a way to publish books that would allow me to connect with readers in a more direct way (like through social media and newsletters) and would present me as a more "down-to-earth" writer. I didn't want to be an "ivory tower" writer, which, sadly, I think sometimes literary fiction writers are perceived to be.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
That's a really tough question to answer, since the publishing industry is so volatile and changeable. I do think that self-publishing is going to continue to grow and be a major player in the market. What I would like to see is genres that have traditionally relied more on outside opinion (that is, prestigious reviews and prizes) move more into the self-publishing market, as I do feel there is a healthy readership for books like literary and historical fiction and readers need more of these books that are just an enjoyable read and not necessary a winner of this or that prize or have been reviews by the New York Times Book Review.
What genres do you write?: historical fiction, historical mysteries
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.