Tamara Hart Heiner
About the Author:
Mom, author, wife, and secret agent. I mean, secret baker. Though it’s not so much a secret, since I run a bakery out of my house… and write books on the side. No diapers to change because everyone’s potty trained, at least until April when the new baby comes.
MF: We met at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in October. Tell us how writing conferences have helped or hindered your writing mindset.
THH: Writing conferences are like communion for the writing soul. It’s an opportunity for me to sit back and regain momentum. Sometimes as a writer I feel like the biggest sucker on earth. Meeting with other writers and listening to advice and practical theory rejuvenates me. It reminds me that I’m not alone out there and that everyone else is having to work just as hard as I am. We might all be crazy but at least we’re doing it together! In other words, I love writer’s conferences. I’d go to one every month if I could.
MF: In the acknowledgments section of your debut, Perilous, you reveal you began writing it in the 8th grade. Would you share a bit of the journey from there to publication?
THH: Oh man, it’s a long one. There are 13 entries on my blog devoted to it. 🙂 The short version is, I started the book during study hall of the 7th grade and finished it during my 8th grade year. Getting it published became an obsession for me. I felt like I couldn’t move on with my life until I’d gotten that book published. It took more than a decade and more than thirty revisions, but it’s published!
MF: You had an interesting reaction when I told you I’d give you an honest review of your book. Do you remember what you said about bad reviews and if so would you share it with our readers?
THH: I can’t remember what I said to you, but my particular philosophy is that negative reviews make it real. We are not all going to like the same things and if a book only has positive reviews, it hasn’t been read enough. I also think if there’s something one reader might not like about my book, it might save me another negative review if a similar reader decides not to pick it up. 🙂
MF: You spent time talking with members of the police department. Are there any stories or lessons you could share with us?
THH: I interviewed two detectives from the local police departments to make sure I got the story right. One of the most interesting things I learned is that no two police departments do it the same way! They all have different policies and budgets and restraints, etc. That was enlightening. Learning that they can follow a case across the nation and across international boundaries was fascinating as well (again, it depends on the department. I didn’t actually interview anyone from the Idaho Falls PD… they might not have the budget/time for that at all!). If the PD budget falls short, they can request a federal grant. If they don’t get it, they can turn the case over to the FBI, Interpol, or a private investigator. In my story, the detective puts enough of his own funds and time into the case to almost be a PI.
MF: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
THH: The toughest criticism has been a reviewer who said I didn’t research enough and then they cited things that simply weren’t true. What made it tough isn’t that I was criticized, but that as an author we are expected to grin and bear it! We are not allowed to make rebuttals or point out errors in criticism.
Most criticism is not very harsh for me, because I see my mistakes way way way clearer than any other reader out there. Guarantee it. I’ve grown so much as a writer in the past two years. PERILOUS was the height of my knowledge at that time. I’m even better now.
MF: What has been the best compliment?
THH: The best compliment I get is from kids who say my book/experience made them decide to start writing. I love that.
MF: You are a wife and mother. How do you balance those responsibilities with your writing?
THH: Ugh, not well, unfortunately. Writing usually happens in the wee hours of the night when I should be sleeping, and then my poor family suffers the next day when I take impromptu nap times. Sorry, family. 🙁 It will get easier one day.
MF: What do you read? What do you re-read?
THH: I read 99% young adult, unless someone really really really recommends an adult novel (such as The Help). But I’m picky. Really picky. Too much swearing, it’s out. Too much sex, bye-bye. Kids doing illegal activities, I’m bored. Dystopians that follow similar plot lines? Give me something new. LOL. I’m hard to please.
MF: What do you re-read?
THH: Almost nothing. There are so many books out there to be read. How can I spend time rereading something?
MF: What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
THH: My favorite tip is to write a little bit every day, even if it’s just 15 min. a day. Keep it fresh.
MF: Do you have any advice for other writers?
THH: Yeah, pretty much that tip above. 🙂 and get thyself to a writer’s conference.
MF: If you could jump into a book, and live in that world … which would it be?
THH: Um… none. Books are written to be entertaining and dramatic. Heaven forbid my life should ever be that way!
The girls escape the kidnapper’s lair only to find that he has spies and agents working on both sides. They are being hunted, and not even the police can be trusted. . . . And Detective Hamilton is in a life and death race to find the three remaining girls before the kidnapper does.