Meet Debut Author Tammy Barley

Tammy Barley

Tammy Barley

Recently contracted for a three book series, debut author Tammy Barley writes Western Inspirationals, the very books she likes to read.

Tammy is the great-great-granddaughter of a Cherokee woman ousted from her tribe and the western scout who found her and kept her alive. She also shares the family lines of James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickenson. With that background, she says it’s no wonder she writes Western Romance.

Tammy has lived in 27 cities and towns in 8 states, including the South and the West. At one point, she rode horseback halfway across Arizona with her mom and 22 other adventure enthusiasts. On one freezing morning, she learned to appreciate cowboy coffee, which makes an appearance in her first book.

Tammy and her mother riding along the Pacific Coast.

Tammy and her mother riding along the Pacific Coast.

Tammy’s mother introduced her to horseback riding years ago. One summer the two of them took a road trip across the West, from Wisconsin to Oregon. In Oregon, they rode horses along the Pacific Ocean. The photo to the right, taken by the wrangler, is from that trip.

Tammy found out what pure, joyous laughter is when, during her second pregnancy, she found out she’d never be able to have any more children, but then found out she was pregnant with twins.

I invite you to read Tammy’s interview to learn more about her, her writing and her first publishing contract.

•Tammy, you’ve been writing for some time, having published two series of devotions for missionary wives. And now you’ve sold your first book, one of three in your contracted Men of Honor Trilogy. When did you begin your first story, On the Wings of the Storm? How long did it take you to complete the manuscript?

I began researching and outlining plots and characters nearly 20 years ago, and then life happened—marriage, children, homeschooling, work. Somewhere in there, I was in the middle of the Northridge Earthquake and had to dedicate some time to repairs and replacing. I wrote as I could, which wasn’t often until recently.

Actual, relatively steady work on the book began about four years ago. Initially, I wrote it as a time travel, which CBA wasn’t doing very much of, so I rewrote it as a pure historical.

•What led you to write Western romance, my favorite sub-genre of inspirational fiction, by the way?

Romance: I was born a romantic. (Can anyone identify? 🙂 ).

Western: My love of horses and my dad’s fascination with history. When I was a child and my family lived in the South, we toured old presidents’ mansions (Zachary Taylor was one we visited), Civil War battlefields, and the like. When I moved West, I toured ghost towns and old Union forts. Visiting places that are virtually the same now as they were 200 years ago feels like slipping through time, to other people, to another way of life. I love that.

•Your first book begins with a headstrong Southern woman’s family having been murdered by Union loyalists. Cattleman Jake Bennett spirits Jessica Hale away to his remote ranch in the Sierra Nevada’s to protect her from the men who would also kill her for her Southern origin. You don’t live in the South or in California, so how did you go about conducting your research? Did you take care of it before you began writing, or do you pin down your historical facts as you need them?

When I began serious research, I lived in the Sierra Nevadas (not far from Jake’s ranch), and then I moved to the Midwest (within one day’s drive from Jess’s family home of Greenbriar in Lexington, Kentucky). I’ve managed to live close enough that a research trip (when you’re a homeschool mom it’s a family vacation 🙂 ) was within a day’s drive.

The stream and amazing view at Jake Bennett's ranch, a setting in Tammy's debut novel.

The stream and amazing view at Jake Bennett's ranch, a setting in Tammy's debut novel.

•Many not-yet-published writers dream of selling their first stories, but I’ve seen oft-shared wisdom that it takes many a writer four to five books before she has something marketable. And yet, you sold your first story. What do you think made that happen? Are you just incredibly talented? Or do you think the facts that you work as a freelance editor and have a firm grasp of craft made the difference?

Technically this is the second book I wrote (writing as myself and not as a ghostwriter), since I initially wrote it as a time travel. But yes, working as an editor (and judge of a number of writing contests) teaches new techniques as well as common mistakes.

I believe it was Brandilyn Collins who recently said learning technique never stops. The more craft a writer learns, the more he or she realizes there is to learn. New authors must be willing to scrap first attempt(s)—or rewrite it cover to cover—and yet write as if it will sell. (It might!) Each of those manuscripts or rewrites is a huge leap forward.

•My loyal blog readers know I love to hear call stories. Would you please share yours with us—complete with all the emotion and sound effects, of course?

I was called to write—literally—around midnight while alone in a pool in Arizona. (Black sky glittering with stars; sound effects—cue crickets.) Seriously, I had graduated high school and had no idea what to do next. So, that night I asked God, What am I supposed to do with my life? Then I heard His voice beside me. “You’re supposed to be a writer.”

And as for The Call to tell me I’d sold . . . Ah, I didn’t receive a telephone call. My agent—a long-time Texas cowboy—is a man of few words. Terry Burns of the Hartline Literary Agency simply e-mailed me with the publisher’s “yes” attached and their specification saying they wanted to contract for all three books in the trilogy.

My reaction: Since Terry had told me the publisher was looking “very favorable,” and since he isn’t one to embellish, I knew beforehand that “favorable” was probably pretty good news. I read the e-mail, picked up the phone, and dialed my dad. When he answered, that’s when I lost it. I choked and cried and couldn’t breathe, and he panicked as if I’d called to tell him my house was burning down. After I finally got the news out and was asked if I was on Cloud 9, I realized I must have passed that one on the way up. 🙂

•Now that you’ve had a month or so to absorb the exciting news, have you come back to earth, or are you still sparing the soles of your shoes? What changes have come about because of your first contract offer and life with publisher deadlines? Are you hard at work on book two?

First, since I work at home, I don’t often wear shoes, but my bunny slippers sure aren’t getting much wear.  🙂

The changes—too numerous to count. I already work full-time as an editor, and I’m a single homeschool mom of three. Yes, trying to introduce myself to thousands of potential readers and doing rewrites to meet the galley deadline is keeping me plenty busy, but with no time for snacks, it’s great for the diet. Thank God for laughter.

•You’ve done freelance editing for a number of years, being a contributing member of the Christian Pen. Based on what you’ve seen from the work of not-yet-published writers, what advice would you give those seeking publication on how to improve their chances of landing that long-awaited first contract?

Definitely work with a manuscript editor. (I happen to be one of the most affordable that I know of.) If even a relatively affordable, brilliant manuscript editor (I’m shameless) is enough to make your wallet cringe, ENTER WRITING CONTESTS. They’re wonderfully affordable, judges usually provide great, usable feedback, and a contest win Opens Doors.

•In addition to editing, you also write book reviews. What types of books do you like to read and review? Any favorite categories or authors?

I love anything with horses, romance or suspense. I usually review Western romances, since that gives me a good excuse to see what other authors are up to.

•I know you’re a busy mom, editor and now a soon-to-be published writer with a three-book contract, but what do you do just for fun in your free time? Do you have any non-writing hobbies or interests? Quilting? Training guide dogs? Or perhaps snowboarding? Or are you laughing about now, shaking your head and muttering, “Free time? What’s that?”

I’m not muttering, but that did get a hoot and a major eye-roll. I enjoy simple things. Popcorn and game night with the munchkins (they’re 13, 12 and 12), movies. We make just about any event into a holiday to celebrate.

My new fave is Web site building. Putting mine together through Homestead (more than a million free clip art images) was addictive. I loved it! (—shameless plug number two.) Truly, I’d love to hear what you think. That is, if you like it.

•And now a question just for fun. I saw in your ShoutLife profile that you’ve visited Civil War battlefields and antebellum homes. If you were to participate in a reenactment, which woman—real or fictional—from that period would you choose to portray and why?

What an imaginative question! I’d choose to portray Rose Greenhow. That lady had serious moxie.  She was a celebrated hostess in Washington, a secret spy for the Confederacy, credited with passing information that won the battle of Bull Run and the battle of Manassas. Political views aside, I admire cunning and grit. It makes for great plot lines.

It’s been great having you as my guest, Tammy. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask?

Keli, thank you sooo much for the interview. You are such a joy.

Readers, I’d love to know your favorite setting for a romance (Texas? a ship?), and why it’s your favorite.  🙂

Leave a Comment for Tammy

Tammy will drop by throughout the day to chat.

If you don’t see a comment form below, please use the link by the post title.

Win Cool Prizes!!

I’m holding a drawing for a $5 Borders gift card or a set of classy Hallmark embossed note cards. If you leave a comment with your email address in the appropriate field, your name is entered in the drawing. (I don’t share your address. If you’d rather not enter, just say so in your comment.)

I’ll conduct the drawing on 12/10 for all those entered through 12/9. The two winners will have their choice between a $5 Borders gift card or one of the three sets of elegant note cards pictured: 10 purple pansies, 10 pink butterflies or 8 cream-colored roses on gold.

Congrats to C.J. and Jessica, winners of the drawing!

Anne Barton's Post Prize

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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17 Responses to Meet Debut Author Tammy Barley

  1. C.J. Redwine says:

    Hi Tammy! My favorite setting for a romance is a castle…preferably one with something paranormal going on! 🙂

  2. Tammy Barley says:

    Hi, C.J.-

    Castles and paranormals are a close 2nd to Westerns! I love them! Up my mom’s family tree are two castles vistors can tour, one in Ireland and one in Scotland. You got me curious what first drew your interest to castles!

  3. Keli Gwyn says:


    It’s great to have you as my guest. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you as we prepared for your interview.

    My favorite setting for a romance is the Sierra Foothills, which is where I live. I remember picking up Cathy Marie Hakes’ book Letter Perfect, set in Folsom, California and getting so excited to find a story set in a place where I shop and meet girlfriends for lunch.

    When I read that your debut novel, On the Wings of the Storm, is set in the Sierra Nevada’s of northern California, I got excited. I want to read the book just because you wrote it, but the setting is a draw in itself.

  4. Tammy Barley says:

    Folsom is one of the towns where I used to live. I was so excited to see you are in Placerville (Thomas Kinkaid territory) and so close to Apple Hill, one of my favorite places on the planet. I didn’t know how a peach was supposed to tasted until I had one in Apple Hill, fresh from the tree, with juice rolling down my arms. Best peach of my life. It’s worth going all the way back for another one. =)

    A lot of history in the Sierras, and a lot of beauty. It’s easy to feel close to God in such places.

  5. Keli Gwyn says:


    I don’t know when you were last in Folsom, but it’s undergone tremendous growth the past few years. Lots of huge housing developments and tons of shopping. We rarely have to go into Sacramento anymore.

    If you ever come out to visit friends from former days, let me know, and we could get together. I know some good places to eat in Folsom.

    And Apple Hill is awesome. We were just up there last week to cut our Christmas tree on one of the many lots.

  6. Tammy Barley says:


    It’s been eight or nine years. It was just getting built up when I moved, shortly after construction was completed on the bridge over the river (it’s called “Lake” Folsom, but it’s a river). =) I’d love to get together with you the next time I’m in the area.

    There was a paper store near the theater where you could buy miles of gift wrap on a roll for a few dollars. Dozens of patterns to choose from. I miss that store! =)

  7. Aww, what a great “call” story. 🙂 Congrats on the book deal! Westerns are great. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your books later.

  8. Tammy Barley says:

    Thank you, Jessica! Great name btw. If I hadn’t have already named my main character “Jessica” I would now. =)

  9. Sue Mason says:

    Hi Tammy,

    Boy you sound like a busy lady. I’m intrigued by your editing services. How did you start doing this? What qualifications did you need?

    One of my favourite settings is a ranch, either historical or modern day, preferably Texas.

    Good luck with your books!


  10. Tammy Barley says:

    Hi Sue,

    Busyness is a blessing, as a wise friend of mine recently said. I began editing after a couple of my critique friends recommended I pursue it, believing I had ability there. I took a few classes through The Christian PEN where I am a member. I also have a page at Elance, and I found other places online, such as Craigslist, where I have discovered my clients.

    As far as qualifications, you need to become familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style (a very affordable investment), and also keep a copy of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, the two publishing industry standards. You can find additional classes online to continue your education. I have edited and ghostwritten fiction, biographies, how-tos, business books, and self-help, among others. Whatever genre and subject matter you have knowledge of is a good place to begin marketing yourself. God opens doors, many of them unexpected, from there.

    If you are interested in additional information, next Monday, December 15, I will be guest at Lisa Lickel’s blog where I will answer editing questions in detail throughout the day.

    You said:
    One of my favourite settings is a ranch, either historical or modern day, preferably Texas.

    It’s me again.
    I agree. There’s something special about a romance among horses and wide open places, and the scents, sounds and movements of nature. A reader can fall in love with the place just as main character falls in love with the hero.

  11. Keli Gwyn says:

    Tammy, it was great having you as my guest. And, yes, I would be delighted to meet with you the next time you’re out my way.

    I held the drawing, and C.J. and Jessica are the winners. Congrats, ladies! I’ll be in touch.

  12. Tammy Barley says:

    Thank you, Keli! I loved being here.

    Christmas blessings,

    Tammy =)

  13. This is funny. I’m not sure I realized there was a contest. *snort*
    Tammy, thanks for the props on my name. 🙂 Personally, I’ve never liked it all that much, but you might appreciate the story behind it.
    My mommy, a young, romantic seventeen year old, was watching The Man From Snowy River when she picked my name. Apparently the heroine is in trouble and the hero calls “Jessica, Jessica.”
    LoL I’m not clear on the details but it went something like that. So she named me, her firstborn, Jessica so that someday some handsome man could call my name in that romantic way. LOL
    And strangely enough, my hubby prefers Jessica over Jessie.
    :-)Congrats again.

  14. Tammy Barley says:


    The Man From Snowy River is one of the reasons I chose “Jessica” too.

    Now I want to watch it again.




  15. Great interview, ladies. Robbie,love the pictures!

  16. marlene H says:

    when is book 2 in the Siera Chronicals coming out?

  17. Tammy Barley says:

    Book Two, Hope’s Promise, comes out end of June/early July 2010! =)



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