I am so pleased to introduce you to Tammy Hill today. I have a 15-year-old avid reader, so it’s always fantastic to discover a new Young Adult Christian novelist. Her novel, Knowing, released yesterday! I am definitely getting it for my daughter to read. I hope you read it as well. Tammy is here answering your questions about her. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
I was born and raised in a small town in the South. I was a divorced, single parent for a few years until I married my husband of fifteen years. We traveled quite a bit when my husband was in the Army and fell in love with Paris when stationed in Germany. Last summer, the “door opened” to move overseas so, we took the plunge and moved to France. I’m now a stay-at-home mom. I love reading, photography, travel, and recently realized that I really love writing fiction.
Tell us about your current release.
Knowing-A Series of Gifts is a young adult supernatural romance. It is set in Georgia and is about Ember Matthews, a teen who is getting a second chance at life. After restoring her relationship with Christ, she realizes she wants more from life. Through her hunger, Ember is given a gift that neither she nor her friends understand. The book is about making mistakes, forgiveness, and learning to serve others in love.
What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block?
I had to spend time alone to get past any blocks. When the distractions disappeared, or at least quieted a little, the story would start flowing. I wrote many mornings before the sun came up. Anyone who knows me knows–my getting up that early on my own volition was a miracle in itself. I also rarely made it through a shower without hopping out and running to my room to write. I lost many good notes by water and bubble damage.
What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write?
I’ve always loved books, but it wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I really tried to write. Thanks to wonderful English and Humanities professors and Florida’s Gordon Rule, I learned how to express my thoughts on paper. It was the first time schoolwork meant something more to me than only doing the minimum to maintain my grades. I only considered writing a book a couple of years ago. I had read my way through almost every genre and was burnt out on reading. Then, I happened to see an author interview on television. She mentioned something about how much she loved to read, but writing her own stories was infinitely better. It was the first time I seriously considered writing a novel. And yes, the author was right. Writing is an amazing experience.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write?
I scribbled down a very loose plotline first. It was basically a really big circle with important events noted along the way. That method kept me on track without tying me to it. I know many authors use detailed outlines, but it seemed too restrictive for me. My two main characters, Ember and Cade, were well developed from the beginning. Everyone else just kind of appeared as I envisioned the scenes.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
My advice would be to read and write as much as possible. Books were an inexpensive vacation for me; a way to have “me time” without ever leaving the house. I practiced writing (though not intentionally) by starting a family blog during the process of our first adoption. I intended it to last for a few months but continued for four years and cried like a baby when I knew it was time to end it. The blog gave me a reason to write—to keep a journal for our daughters and to help other families considering special needs adoption. The desire to keep my sanity gave me a reason to read. I’m now a published author—quite a perk, I think.
What is your preferred method of writing? (computer, pen & paper, etc.)
Writing Knowing was a lot like seeing a movie and then trying to write as many details about it as possible. A scene in the book would play out in my mind and I would write it down as quickly as I could so I wouldn’t forget it. Then, if I could spare the time, I would type it out in more detail. Wow, that sounds weird, even to me.
How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel. What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them?
I finally decided to start writing because my 2011 New Year’s resolution was to finish a manuscript and submit it to one publishing house. I begin objectives, usually diets, with a set date so I can get myself “pumped” enough to see it through to the end. Thankfully, Knowing came to me quickly. God knew my weakness for distractions. I actually did get distracted with a move from the south of Alabama to the South of France and stopped writing for a few months. Another big day, my imminent birthday in October, sent me scrambling to get it finished. I didn’t make it in time. Instead, I sent in what I had to the publisher, only the first three chapters. They wrote back and asked for the complete manuscript. That was motivation enough for me! I signed the contract on Dec. 17, 2011. It was the first time I ever succeeded in finishing a New Year’s resolution.
I’m always intrigued by how writers get started…did you always have these books inside you and knew that you wanted to write them or did the idea just pop into your head one day and you decided to put pen to paper?
I read a lot of Christian fiction but grew tired of the “bonnet books” that were popular at the time. My teenage daughter offered me one of her books and that piqued my interest in YA books. I liked them because they were different, but “cleaner” than most adult, secular fiction. There were bountiful offerings of secular YA books about ghosts, vampires, werewolves, angels, and more. I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t find any with a Christian perspective. I felt the Church should step up and fill that vacuum. As I grumbled, I received a gentle reminder that I am part of the Church, so instead of pointing my finger at others, I said, “yes” though it was two years before I began the creative process.
Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read?
Writing brings me great enjoyment and I tried to do it “unto the Lord.” I definitely did not write it based on what others might think; in fact, my fear of what others might think almost stopped me from accepting the contract. I was fearful because Knowing doesn’t fit into a neat, little box, so it may offend some people. For example: it’s a Christian book, but my main character is far from perfect. It’s a testimony to being saved by grace, but also to spiritual gifts. It’s written from a white, teen’s perspective, but it’s black women who carry the most influence in her life. The Christian message is “in your face,” but it’s all about serving others with humility and love. It took a lot of encouragement from my husband and a lot of prayer for me to go forward with this book. I even considered using a pen name!
Which of your characters most reflects your personality?
Missy. She is an introvert who always feels like she says the wrong thing and then “beats herself up” after each conversation. I will probably do the same thing after this interview.
What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write?
I had a simple plotline before I started, so I always had some idea of what was coming next. I did hit a roadblock when I reached the part of the story where a couple of the characters had to face trials. I knew it would be difficult to write, so I just walked away at that point. I didn’t pick it up again until my publisher requested the whole story. I was right. It was tough to write about the trials.
What is one thing that you “never saw yourself doing” and either do it now or have done?
My husband and I decided to “get out of the boat” a few years ago. Since then, our lives have been overflowing with surprises. I’ll choose the most important one, though. I never saw myself wanting to grow our family. After four children, my husband and I decided we were done having children. We now have six, the last two were adopted from China, and I couldn’t imagine our lives without them. I am living proof that God can change the most hardheaded, stubborn determined of hearts.
Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you started this story?
I was sitting on the floor by my bed with pen, paper, and computer spread out beside me, praying for help.
You can find Tammy online here: