Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so happy to bring you Tamara Baumann as my guest. As someone who used to write secular romance, I completely understand the conviction to stop writing those types of books. I love cozy mysteries, so it’s always fun to find a new author. Read on to see how you can enter to win your choice of one of Tamara’s books!
Tell us a bit about yourself. Hi everyone, my name is Tamra Baumann, and I write both romance and cozy mysteries. I was tired of writing the steamy scenes (although those are tame compared to many in the romance genre), so I tried my hand at cozies and fell in love! What I didn’t know was that I’d be by my husband’s side in the hospital when the first book in the cozy series came out. Since then, he’s had chemo and all sorts of things to make him healthy again, but it’s been a journey. I’m currently working on the fourth book in the series and hope 2022 will see us all return to as close to normal as we can despite the craziness going on in our world.
Tell us about your current release. My cozies are light-hearted, and all have a touch of clean romance (because I am also a romance writer), lots of fun small-town characters, and off-scene murders to solve. Here is the official book blurb for the third book in my Cozy Mystery Bookshop series, Bound To Be Dead:
Sawyer Davis, a chef who runs an inherited mystery bookshop, is marinating in trouble once again. While onstage and strapped to a giant bullseye, Sawyer’s magician father hurls knives at her, but she’s not the one who ends up dead. Her father’s ex-girlfriend is found lifeless backstage making her dad the number one suspect.
The timer steadily counts down as Sawyer desperately searches for clues. She needs to solve the crime before her boyfriend, Dylan, the sheriff, arrests her father. Meanwhile, her uncle is trying to steal her bookshop and inheritance while she fights to hang on to her mother’s legacy.
With her book club pal’s help, can Sawyer find the real murderer, put her nasty uncle in his place, and salvage her relationship with Dylan without getting burned?
Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards to reach a larger audience or be more successful? This is a great question! Yes, at first, I felt pressured to write the steamy scenes in my romance to please both my publisher and most readers of that genre. I had great success but never felt entirely comfortable with the thought of my family and church pals knowing I write romance. (I was a full-time real estate appraiser when I first started writing and didn’t tell many what I did on the side.) So, when my publisher asked for something specific that I wasn’t at all comfortable with, I decided it was time to set out on my own. And because most of my contemporary romance had a little mystery going on as well, and those were my favorite parts to write, my new path of writing cozies began.
While I’m not as successful yet in this genre, partly because I had to slow my production to care for my hubs, I learned that success is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not about Amazon rankings and dollars anymore. Spending more time with family and being truly comfortable with writing is where I found true happiness. So, while I will probably write romance again in the future, it will be as clean as my cozies.
How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher(or agent or audience if you self-publish)? Another fabulous question. Fear and writing go hand in hand. I have a fantastic critique group who helped me hone my craft and gave me the courage to enter a few contests to see what strangers thought of my work. After I started winning, my confidence grew enough to break out of my comfort zone and search for an agent. It was my fabulous agent who told me there are only a few genuinely great writers out there, so I should shoot to be the best, but at the end of the day, if I can make people smile with my books, that’s a fantastic achievement as well.
Now, that doesn’t mean criticism doesn’t hurt. It can if you let it. I was part of one of the early Amazon Prime reading programs for my first romance novel, It Had To Be Him. Amazon lets readers pick a free book each month if they are Prime members. That program has been around for years now, but it was new back then, and readers weren’t sure what to think of it. It was an amazing opportunity, but it also meant that some people picked up my book not understanding what a romance novel is. So, while that book has been my most tremendous success, it has some brutal reviews by readers who were not my audience. And that’s the moral of the story. There will always be readers who do not like the genre writers write. The key is focusing on making the readers you write for happy.
What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? I was an avid reader of everything I could get my hands on my whole life. It wasn’t until I stumbled across a Nora Robert’s novel that I fell in love, though. I just devoured those books because who doesn’t love the feeling of falling in love? I didn’t even know books like that existed. So, when my kids were in high school and becoming independent (to the point where they only sought me out to be their personal ATM), I decided I’d try my hand at writing a book. Don’t get me wrong, that book is soooo bad, but I had a ball trying to write it! Then I joined a local chapter of a national writing organization, and the rest is history.
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 do a bit of both. I always pick the crime and mystery elements first, and then I choose two people who could have committed the crime and start from there. I like to pick two suspects because it keeps me on my toes for inserting clues and red herrings. Sometimes I don’t even determine who the criminal is until just before the end. Then, of course, I go back and move things around to make sure the story and clues all lineup.
As for the characters, I have very often created one on the fly that suits me or my purpose. But what’s fun is to continue developing those characters I introduced in the first book and make them grow with the series. Much like when we make new friends and continue to learn more about them as the relationship grows. Because in the end, it’s the characters who make any good story worth reading.
Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? Yes, a rough length anyway. One of the things all aspiring writers must learn is to write within genre expectations so as not to disappoint their readers. For example, writing a really long historical novel is fine, but most cozy mystery fans don’t expect longer books. There are always exceptions, but it helps to respect the genre “rules.”
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? My advice for aspiring writers is to write what you enjoy reading the most. Then pay attention to book lengths, structure, and plot subjects. Also, try to find other writers to surround yourself with. They are a unique group, who for the most part, love to help each other and will applaud your success. And when you’ve done all of that, don’t be afraid to fail because failure can be your greatest teacher.
As my mom once said, “The answer is always no if you don’t ask, you’ve already failed if you don’t try, and no, you can’t borrow a hundred bucks. But good for you for being brave enough to ask!” J
What is one thing that you never saw yourself doing and either do it now or have done? This one is simple. I never saw myself becoming a published author. I still pinch myself sometimes because it truly is the best job I’ve ever had.
Here is where you can find Tamra online:
Thank you so much for allowing me to spend time with you all today. I’ll be giving away three copies of my cozy mystery ebooks via Amazon. (Each is a standalone book, so it can be any of the three cozies, your choice). Happy reading! See below how to enter to win: