Tuesday 17 January 2017

Interview: Tam May

Last Updated: 20 May 2024

Today I'm pleased to welcome the lovely Tam May back to the blog for a chat about her latest release, Gnarled Bones and Other Stories. 

How did you first become interested in writing?

When I was 14, my sister’s best friend was a writer and introduced her to journaling and fiction writing. We’re twins, so naturally, I always wanted to do what my sister was doing. I bought two notebooks and started writing in a journal and a children’s story inspired by The Wizard of Oz. That started me on my writing journey.

Tell me about your latest book.

It’s called Gnarled Bones and Other Stories and it’s a collection of five short stories in which strange and spooky events affect the characters’ lives in ways they never could have anticipated. In one story, for example, during a mailroom secretary and her friends’ fun day at the circus, childhood nostalgia becomes mingled with brutal fear. Another story was featured on Whimsy Gardener’s Storytime With Whimsey and is the eerie imprint that an art exhibit leaves on a lonely woman’s psyche one quiet Saturday afternoon.

The title story paints a picture of the complicated bond between an orphaned brother and sister by weaving journal entries and a first-person narrative. The stories are really about how our past shadows our present and future.

How do you get inspiration?

From everywhere! I’ve always been an observer and absorber so everything going on around me can be an inspiration. Sometimes an incident, book, film character, an idea in an article, or something else will create a picture of a story for me that I write down and save in a folder on my computer. Sometimes a small thing, even a feeling, might make it into a story.

Gnarled Bones and Other Stories by Tam May Book Cover

What’s your writing process?

I tend to work on several projects at once. Sometimes I wake up early in the morning and write, sometimes I write in the evening. I have problems concentrating for long periods of time, so one-hour writing stints are most productive for me. I write the first draft from beginning to end without really doing much editing. I do read over the last few paragraphs I wrote plus any notes I made on the scene just to jog my memory and I might make some changes in grammar and punctuation but nothing really serious. Then I let the first draft rest once it’s finished for as long as I can. The revision process begins once the first draft has rested. I’m a perfectionist so I do quite a few revisions on my own. I turn it over to my critique group, a wonderful group of women who are honest and insightful and know and appreciate my offbeat style. After more revisions based on their feedback, I turn the work over to a professional freelance editor who goes through it and then more revisions.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

All of it, really. Writing the first draft is tough because even though it’s an exciting, creative time, I’m full of doubts about whether the story will work, whether I’m exploring the characters fully. Editing and revision is hard as well, trying to shape the story and cement the characters. I self-publish my work so there is just a lot to do to get the book out to readers. I think a lot of people see self-publishing as “write the book, put it through the spell-checker, publish it on Amazon”. Many of us do a lot more work than that to get our books as polished as we can make them.

What do you love most about writing?

No matter how tough the writing process is, I love every minute of it. I love the creation of the first draft and the polishing in the revisions and seeing the characters and story take shape, all the pieces falling into place. And I love putting the book together, making the finished product.

Which authors inspire you?

I’m a huge classic literature fan. I’m the crazy person who willingly reads Dickens J. I love offbeat, philosophical writing too. My favourites are Anais Nin and Jane Bowles. I love classic psychological fiction writers like Edith Wharton, Henry James, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf and the Brontes. I recently discovered Thomas Mann and was completely blown away by his stories.

Tam May Author Photo

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Yes. Follow your fear. If you’re writing something and you feel yourself becoming afraid because you’re touching on emotions that you maybe didn’t know you had or haven’t visited in a long time or have been avoiding, don’t stop. Go on. It’s a place where your imagination is leading you to discover yourself and where you can go to give something back to others. It’s a good thing.

Also, go with what you love, even if it’s not trending on Twitter or if it’s not getting you praise from your Aunt Minnie or your friends are telling you it’s too way out there. You can’t give something to readers that you don’t have with authenticity and honest. Readers deserve that and so do you.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Under a Glass Bell by Anais Nin. 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I would just love to have a readership that gets something out of my writing because it makes them think and feel. I would love to introduce new readers to psychological fiction. I believe that every writer eventually finds his or her audience, however large or small it is.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

I would be an independent ESL/EFL tutor and teacher. I did some of that a few years ago through a company and I loved it. I wasn’t just helping non-native English speakers with their English, I was learning about their world and their culture. It was very fascinating to me.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

Part of my love of classics includes classic films. I adore watching classic films. I also love to cook and discover new recipes.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a series called the Waxwood series set in a Northern California resort town that revolves around crumbling relationships among a wealthy San Francisco family. The series was originally a novel I wrote about 12 years ago in three different narratives that I felt would work better as a series. Book one is called The Order of Actaeon. I’m doing revisions on it with the help of my critique group and I hope to get it out to an editor soon. I’m working on the first draft of the second book, The Claustrophobic Heart. I’m also working on another book called House of Masks which I started during National Novel Writing Month last year.

What are you reading at the moment?

I like to read several books at once. I’m reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Lewis Stevenson, which I’ve always wanted to read. I’m also almost through with Death in Venice and Other Stories by Thomas Mann, which, as I mentioned earlier, has been mind-blowing to me. And I’m also reading a biography about Zelda Fitzgerald called Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise.

To find out more about Tam, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter. You can also find her on Facebook.

Gnarled Bones is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

Will you be reading Gnarled Bones? Let me know in the comments below!

No comments:

Post a Comment