Welcome to the interview with Tamara Jones, Part Two.
In tonight’s section, Tamara talks about her new novel Spore due out on 2nd June from Samhain and what is coming up in the future for us fans.
As always on Confessions, Tamara will also be taking on The Ten Confessions. As with last night, Tamara gives us very honest answers to some mediocre questions making this one of the most interesting interviews I have done to date.
As always grab a drink, some nibbles and most of all, enjoy!
COAR - Moving on to Spore – what’s it all about from your point of view?
TJ - It's about how abuse and trauma send ripples through families and lives. Pretty much everyone in the book has an abuse or trauma back-story they're trying to overcome. Of course the story is a lot more complicated than that - there's a lot of second chance and rebirth aspects as well, but that's the geek point for me.
COAR - It’s certainly a different take on the “normal” zombie story. Was this an intentional direction to take to make it original or just as it came to you?
TJ - Both? I had the concept nugget plop out back in 2005 or 2006, about the time I finished writing Valley of the Soul. I knew that Sean was an illustrator, people who used to be dead walked into his back yard because of a fungus, and it, like the rest of my books, was going to be violent. I thought SPORE, at its core, was going to be about religion and how it can be both helpful and hurtful. There were two religious poles in the initial concept - Pastor Bailey, who's still there to help Sean find his moral compass, and a dark, manipulative Reverend (his name escapes me) on the other side.
My life was in a pretty severe state of flux then, crammed full of family, medical, and personal issues, and I had to step away from writing for a while. By the time I came back to SPORE, its thematic elements had changed but the guts of the story, and Sean's struggle, remained. I knew going in it would be a different take on the zombie trope, I just wasn't sure how different until I actually started writing through it.
COAR - The characters in this story are fantastic. I found them to be very believable rather than just names in a story. How do you manage to get them like that? Is it a part of the story you spend a lot of time on?
TJ - Generally speaking, my characters don't drag the nugget out of my head until they're living, breathing, and screaming to tell their stories. They are who they are. There's never been a conscious decision to make a character a certain way, they walk onto the page as themselves. I tend to write about good people faced with really shitty circumstances, which leads me to certain character types, but, really, I don't have character sheets or notes or anything like that. Sean stepped onto page one as Sean. Mindy as Mindy. Mare as Mare.
In the Dubric books, for example, I knew Dubric was elderly and had arthritis, but Lars was there, this skinny teenage kid at his side, and I assumed he was Dubric's porter and errand runner. Boy was I wrong. Lars wasn't on page for a single paragraph before he showed himself to be a lot more than a porter. He rapidly became a major character with a great deal of agency and impact, so I wrote in Otlee who then did the same damn thing, only in a completely different way.
I know that sounds crazy, but even if I have no idea what's going on - which happens more often than I like to admit when I'm writing a book - I trust that the characters do. I drop the problem onto their heads then follow along and type. If they're not invested, I can't write.
COAR - It’s a very thought provoking book. It had me thinking about our society and how we treat different people in different ways. Again, was this intentional or just how it flowed?
TJ - It was intentional, sort of an expansion of some of the themes I explored in Threads of Malice (what is/not family?) and Valley of the Soul (what makes a person worthy or not?). In SPORE, I wanted to take a more direct look at all the isms out there, but instead of racism, sexism, classism, etc., I also have sporeism.
COAR - Have you any plans for a Spore-II? It certainly has a lot more mileage in the story.
TJ - People keep asking me that!!
Currently, no. The characters have, mostly, told their stories. I'm not eliminating the possibility, though. If a SPORE-II nugget plops out, I'll definitely write it!
COAR - It struck me as the sort of story that would make a fantastic television series. Would that be something you would be interested in if an offer came about? Who would you cast in it?
TJ - I'm actually working on a film screenplay, sort of by request. Film, TV, SyFy cheesy movie - I'd be delighted to have SPORE filmed and am absolutely interested. For a film, I'd like to have Joseph Gordon-Levitt play Sean, so if you know Joe, send him a book, willya? I think Scarlett Johanssen would play a kick-ass Mare, and, honestly, I'd like to see Wil Wheaton as Earl, the neighbor. Mindy and Todd... I don't know for sure.
COAR - What do you like to do when you’re not writing, apart from quilting?
TJ - Sleep. I don't get enough sleep. Insomnia. Whee!
COAR - What’s coming in the future from Tamara Jones?
TJ - I've been working on a fourth Dubric novel - Stain of Corruption - another speculative thriller called SLIPPAGE about two special kids on the run from an assassin and a murder rap, and I was contacted a couple of days ago about doing a GhoulBane graphic novel, so I'm trying to take a crash course in comic and graphic novel writing. Plus the screenplay, which is running long. My stuff always runs long.
THE TEN CONFESSIONS
1 Who would you view as your main competitor in the writing world?
I do not like this question because I either have to tell the truth and be seen as arrogant, or lie. Blech. And I do my best not to lie.
The truth is (goddammit), I see Neil Gaiman as my main competitor, not because I write as well as Neil or I'm as accomplished as Neil (nor am I likely to be), but because we both write genre straddling books that make people think and feel but don't fit under a tidy shelf label. We are our own genre.
There. I said it.
Mine are more violent, though.
2 What book or author have you read that you think should never have been published?
'That I've read' tosses out my first choice, Mein Kampf. I haven't read more than snips of the apparently God-awful 50 Shades books either (in writing circles, they're sometimes pulled out for a laugh at parties since the prose is so atrocious. I wrote better sentences when I was five.) and the only book I can recall I had to utterly force myself to finish was Dan Brown's Da-Vinci Code, but he's too easy of a target. So, with that in mind, let's go for Lisey's Story by Stephen King. Great writer, sucky waste-of-my-weekend book. Duma Key wasn't much better, to be honest. (I'm so going to horror writer purgatory now. Thanks, Nev.)
3 Are any of the things your characters have experienced in your books been based on something that has actually happened to you? What was it?
Yes. Every character has some facet of me in them, especially their various traumas, angers, and idealisms. I can admit that what happens to Mare at the end of SPORE (trying not to give spoilers) was pretty much exactly what happened to me in 2006, only for a completely different reason. It required emergency surgery and I truly thought I was going to die. All of the reactions from her, Sean, and the people they interact with are 100% a reflection of what happened with me and my husband.
4 Have you ever blatantly stolen an idea or scene and adapted it for one of your own books? If so, care to share?
Absolutely not. We can't help but pick up influences from all sorts of places - writers are sponges after all - but, no, I've never read something and said 'I'm gonna do THAT!!'.
There is one line in Ghosts of the Snow, though, that's the same as a line in Stephen King's The Stand. I realized it as soon as I wrote it, but it was the correct line - I think it's dialogue? Maybe? I wrote it nearly fifteen years ago so it's hard to remember - it was very short (I think three or four words) and I couldn't come up with anything better. So I kept it. I can't for the life of me remember what it was now, or if it even made it through revisions or editing, I just remember recognizing it and trying and failing to make it not be.
5 Have you ever anonymously left a bad review for someone else’s book? If so, care to share?
No. Do people actually do that?
There are a few writers who don't like me and I'm perfectly happy to return the sentiment, but I don't negatively review people's work or try to sabotage them. No way. I might not be chummy if I bump into them at a conference, that's about it.
6 What’s the one thing you are least proud of doing in your life and why?
This is another one of those sucky questions, Nev.
Since this is a confessional and I'm trying to go all honest here, I have to admit it's Ghosts in the Snow. It's a good book, but the circumstances under which I wrote it were pretty crappy, and I was not ready for it to go into the world. It was ready, I was not. I published too early for me and my psyche and it took me three stints in therapy to get past it. I still can't read it. It opened a lot of doors for me, sent me to meet and become friends with a lot of fantastic people. But shame is a much closer label for it than pride.
7 What’s the one thing you are MOST proud of doing in your life and why?
My daughter. Then her daughter. They're all the things I could not be.
8 What’s your biggest fault?
I say it's my internalized anger. My husband would say it's my lack of dedication to housework. I get distracted. Squirrel!
9 What is your biggest fear?
Falling. I am absofreaking terrified of falling. Don't like high places, don't like decks, climbing trees, ladders, getting in the back of the pickup, standing on chairs, or anything rickety. There's no freaking way I'm walking on any glass floor. Nope, not gonna happen.
10 If you had to go to confession now, what would be the one thing you would to need to get off your chest?
I'm not Catholic (I really dig the new Pope, though!! #GoTeamFrancis) so I've never done a real confession. I have, however, gone through three stints in therapy and can honestly say I am out of secrets.
My father and I had a contentious relationship most of the time, and when he died my mother had us kids go into the room alone with him to say goodbye. (I still haven't quite forgiven her for that) When I was in there, just me, just him, I told him not to haunt me. I had to move away to make that come true.
You now know all you need to know about Tamara Jones. Well I am sure if there is anything else you need to know, Tamara would be only too glad to help you out.
Again my thanks to Tamara for her willingness to put up with endless emails and questions to make this interview possible.
Tomorrow night you will be able to see my review of Spore and in that I will include all the links you need to follow or contact Tamara.