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’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.
•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! (TammyBarley.com—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. 🙂
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