Prolific YA fantasy writer Tamara Shoemaker joins me again for a third round of Seven Questions! Her latest book is Embrace the Fire, Book Two in the Heart of a Dragon series. Tamara is one of my favorite writing buddies. We have worked on each other’s books as beta readers, blurbers, and editors, and we have even co-written a story together in one of the Flashdogs anthologies.
EJS: Pitch your featured book in three sentences.
TS: Embrace the Fire continues the journeys of the four characters introduced in Kindle the Flame. Political intrigue boils into epic warfare as kings clash and nations dissolve beneath Dragonfire and magic. Kinna, Cedric, and Ayden are drawn inexorably toward a fearful destiny, and Dragons, Pixies, Seer Fey, and other creatures are pitted against one another as the conclusion dissolves into a cataclysmic end that will leave the reader dying for more.
EJS: Of all your characters, who is your favorite and why?
TS: I put little pieces of me in all of my characters (even the evil ones), so this is an extremely hard one to answer; it’s like choosing a favorite child. At the risk of alienating the rest of my characters and embroiling them in green jealous ink, I’m going to choose Ayden. The pull of a lonely soul who has never known the joy of a mother’s love or the touch of a friend is one of my “mushy” spots. I just want to give him a hug. I think it’s likely that I make some of the other characters hug him more often than is absolutely necessary to make up for his lack of attention. Poor soul.
EJS: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
TS: I think the slice of the first draft from 20,000 words to approximately 70,000 words is the hardest. When I start a first draft, I’m on fire for 20,000 words. It’s still new, it’s fresh, and I’m still falling in love with the characters. By the time that 20k rolls around, the characters sag. They start to wonder: Who am I? Why am I here? Who created me? What if there is no creator? What if I’m just one big cosmic accident, and the only reason I exist on these pages is because someone, somewhere got incredibly confused? By the time 70,000 words rolls around, the characters have found their path in life. They begin to put their affairs in order, and they relax with their friends and family around them, cheering them on through the last few steps until the conclusion. But those middle 50,000 words are torture.
EJS: What do you think are the three most important personality traits for being a writer?
TS: Flexibility, determination, and a good mixture of talent with imagination. I know lots of people that have two, but not three, of those, and it’s never enough—not unless all three of those are present. Every writer has more weight on one or another of these, but as long as all three are there, a story will make its way from mind to book and into the hands of readers.
EJS: What makes a good editor?
TS: A basic understanding of what makes a good story. This seems simplistic, but there’s so much to what creates a good story that an editor’s job isn’t just a simple add-a-comma-here-delete-this-word-here. It’s understanding how to build a story on a solid foundation that won’t topple as the plot points fall into order. It’s identifying the main conflict and helping the author to build each character’s story around that conflict. It’s cheerleading—being the voice behind the author that beats down the author’s frustrations, whether derived from the editor’s critiques or from outside critiques, and being the one to pull the author through to the end, to a polished and completed book in his or her hands. A good editor is worth their weight in gold.
EJS: What is the best book you’ve read this year in any genre?
TS: I promise I’m not just saying this because I’m on your blog, but the best book I’ve read in a looonnngg time is Sterling by Emily June Street. It’s a wonderful romantic fantasy that is almost a twist on my favorite fairy tale: Beauty and the Beast. The plot is intricately woven, the character development is stunning, and the story arc kept me riveted. It releases at the end of June 2016, so keep an eye out for this one!
EJS: Are you working on anything new aside from your two fantasy series?
TS: Ha! I can’t seem to slow myself down. I’m enjoying building my freelance editing business: it’s always so exciting to read someone else’s work, helping someone polish their story to a high sheen, so I’m in the middle of a project there. I’m finishing up the third book in my Guardian of the Vale trilogy, and I’m also writing the first draft of the third book in my Heart of a Dragon trilogy. Recently, I’ve also begun drawing up plans for a historical romance series that I plan to put out under a pen name… you know, to work on in all my spare time. 😉
Learn more about Tamara, her books, and her stellar fiction editing services: https://tamarashoemaker.org/