Interview with a FlashDog: Tamara Shoemaker

FlashDogs are an international community of talented and supportive flash fiction writers. I’ve been at the core of most FlashDogs activity since the start, but I’ve taken a sabbatical to complete my first novel.  I had some time available and couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than catching up with some good folk from the community.

This is the third in a series of #InterviewWithAFlashDog

No word limits. No need to win a comp. Just a chance to get to know the writer.

The questions follow a format: First, Next and Last.

Today I’m spending time with Tamara Shoemaker. Genre-defying prolific novelist. Multiple flash fiction winner.  Editor. Fellow dragon judge and cross-Atlantic buddy. Mentor and the loveliest of people. She also did something rather amazing for me in one of her books:

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QUESTIONS BELOW.


Please tell us the…
MK: First time you trashed an entire story

TS: Intentionally or accidentally? I accidentally lost a half-completed manuscript when my hard drive crashed and I had no backup files. It was the same hard drive that crashed with all the pictures from my youngest daughter’s first year of life. Needless to say, since that happened, I save in six places every. single. time. I type anything.

My first intentional manuscript trash was my third book; I’d written all but the last two or three chapters. I had fifty thousand words and was aiming for sixty, but my characters got log-jammed, and I couldn’t move them forward or backward. There was no saving grace, and the flaws went back as far as the first few chapters. To continue, I would have had to rewrite the entire story with different foundations.

So… I did. 😉

MK: Next book you can’t wait to read from your ‘to be read’ list
TS: My bookshelf by my bed is less of a shelf and more of a stack, and further, more of a Leaning Tower of Pisa stack. Half of the books are ones that I want to reread because I’d enjoyed them so much the first time through, but there’s a good number of books that I can’t wait to get my hands on. I’m rigorously opposed to going out of order in my Leaning Tower of Books, but I keep eyeing Dashner’s The Maze Runner, about three books down. I hope it’ll be as good as I’m anticipating, but if not, I’ll still be glad to have read it–if only to relieve my curiosity. I’ve heard about the book for a long time now.
Maze runner
Find yourself lost in this book.
MK: Last time someone (or something) made you go ‘wow’

TS: It’s the small moments that make the big ones, you know? Last evening, my six-year-old son broke his “Robin Hood bow” (a bent stick with a rubber band). Gulping back tears, voice shaking, he handed it to his daddy. “It broke,” he said. He had played with it almost non-stop for the last week, and my heart shattered just a little as he struggled to accept the situation. So after my little boy went to bed, my husband spent an hour gluing, sanding, taping, and restructuring. I knew he had loads of work to do–he usually reserves his time after the kids are in bed to catch up on all the things he’s put off while spending time with his family. But instead, last night, he spent his time fixing a dream, because dreams should never be broken.

Wow.

Tamara
MK: First time you thought about being a writer
TS: I don’t know if I ever had a beginning where I stopped my mental processes and put a star next to the one that said: “To-do: be a writer.” I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember. At first, I loved to just… write: pencil in my fingers, paper beneath my hand. I would spend a long time practicing words. Sometimes, I opened a book and copied the sentences (I was a strange child). 😉 Later, if I read a book where I felt the ending wasn’t satisfactory, I wrote my own endings (apologies to all authors involved). I formed a story-club with some friends when I was around eight or nine where we wrote stories and read them to each other. Their interest petered out much sooner than mine did. My junior year of high school, I had an English teacher, Roy McGinnis, who encouraged me as a writer to follow my dreams. Many times, he came back to me with notes on my compositions: “You should do something with this, Tamara.” He edited my poetry, he made suggestions on my short stories. My first paid publication from an actual magazine came while I was in his class. He helped to fan the ambition that had been sparking inside me ever since childhood. Out of all my teachers, he was the most instrumental in pushing me to where I wanted to go.
 
MK: Next thing you want to tackle on your bucket list (if you have one) 

TS: I’d be pretty happy if I could spend the rest of my life writing books, but if I ever have a chance to expand my horizons, these are the things I would love to do:

 

Backpack through Europe
Hike the Grand Canyon
Run a half marathon
Become fluent in sign language
Learn karate and work my way up to black belt
Paint a portrait that looks like it might be worth something.
Master playing the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (got the first two; the third one continually eludes me).
Hit the NYT best-seller list with one of my books.

 

I have a few more items on that list, but that’s enough for now. I’m actively working on a few of these, but I don’t know if they’ll be completed anytime soon. Still–shoot for the stars, right?

 

MK: Last time you did something life-changing

TS: That’s a good question; my life is generally pretty predictable. I get up and write. I edit. I write some more. My kids come home from school and I help them with homework. I make supper. We clean up. I write. It’s not much, but it’s a good life.

I guess the last time I did something big and out of the routine was taking a 12 year anniversary trip with my husband to Cancun, Mexico. It was simple, it was fun, it was warm, and there was sun. It didn’t shake the earth’s foundations, and not many people are different because I went.

Except me. I had a great time–some time to dream in the sun,  and that’s important.
MK: First scene from a book or film that made you smile with delight
From my favorite The Princess Bride, which never fails to paste a grin of delight on my face, no matter how many times I watch it:
Grandfather: Oh. Well thank you very much. Very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming. All right. The Princess Bride, by S. Morgenstern, Chapter One. Buttercup was raised on a small farm in the country of Florin. Her favorite pastimes were riding her horse and tormenting the farm boy that worked there. His name was Westley, but she never called him that.”
[pause] Isn’t that a wonderful beginning?
Grandson: Yeah, it’s really good.
MK: Next project (from many) that you plan to work on
TS: Right now, I’m finishing up line edits on Emily June Street’s Sterling (you readers of her Lethemia books have a TREAT in store for you; this book is so, so good), and then I’m diving into edits for a new fantasy author, Taryn Noelle Kloeden. I’ve had the privilege of reading some of the world she’s constructed and am seriously excited to delve in! Soon after that, I’ll be releasing my own book, Embrace the Fire (the second book after Kindle the Flame), and then starting on edits for Guardian of the Vale (the third book in the Mark of Four trilogy).
MK: Last time one of your own characters surprised you

TS: The biggest shock I’ve gotten from one of my characters was from Daymon of Mark of Four. My notes next to his name in my story-planning notebook said: “Daymon Houser, school bully.” I had plans to get rid of him after the first book and continue on with my overall trilogy plot, but he wasn’t having it. He and I tussled over the decision for a bit–his idea was that he would remain throughout the trilogy, and he even decided he’d like a leading role.

Pesky fellow. I had to give in. 😉


Tamara is one of the most talented, yet humble people I know. Big thanks to Tamara for her continued support to many of the FlashDogs.

Stay tuned, more interviews planned soon.

If you want to take part, please give me a shout via Twitter: @making_fiction