I answer the interview questions I’ve been asking other authors for the last year. Here is my Interview With An Author: Tara Marlow (2023)
About me: Tara Marlow is an Australian author of suspense and women’s fiction. Tara was born in Sydney and spent twenty of her early adult years living in the United States. Tara ditched the corporate desk in 2011 to focus on photography. She emptied her nest in 2017 and travelled for three years working full time as a travel writer. Today, Tara lives in Tasmania, where she has pivoted her focus to fiction, writing about women overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges as they reveal who they are and what they’re made of.
I hope you enjoy my interview!
1. Why do you write – and why did you decide to write a book?
This question for me is like asking why I breathe. I just write. I’ve always written, whether that was diary entries or short stories. Now, I write a broad range of things: blog posts, social media copy, novels, short stories, journal extries, personal essays.
I wrote my first book because it was a scene I needed to get out of my head. From there, it was eighteen hours of writing, but it still took nine rewrites to get the story out in a format that made sense. Now, I write because the stories continue popping into my head, whether it’s through dreams or something I see that inspires me.
2. What genres do you enjoy reading?
I love women’s fiction, chick lit, memoir, and suspense/thrillers. I will pick up a historical fiction on occasion. I am not a fan of fantasy or sci-fi at all, although J.D. Robb is the exception to the ‘sci-fi’ rule, only because it’s crime set around the 2060’s.
3. How long did it take you to write your first book from first word to publish? Given you’ve written multiple books, how long does it take you now to write and publish a book?
I began BENEATH THE SURFACE in 2016. I published it in 2021. I wrote a memoir about my Camino wander in during NaNoWriMo in 2019 but it was reworked into CAMINO WANDERING mid-2020, and published that at the end of 2020.
Normally I can write and publish a book in about 9-10 months, but 2023 was the Year of Setbacks, so it’s taken over a year to get THE HOUSESITTER drafted. As of December 2023, it’s still not published yet but I hope to early 2024.
4. What’s the most challenging part of being an author for you?
Self-editing/rewriting. I can draft a story quite easily. The stories pour out of me. But going back and reworking it, digging into the detail, that’s where the story becomes blurred, and I get lost in the weeds. That’s when the self-doubt kicks in. Imposter syndrome sits next to me during this part of the process.
5. What do you love the most about being an author?
Connecting with readers. I love hearing their feedback or opinions, especially when readers tell me the books resonated. Funnily enough too, I’ve been asked many times if I’m Aubrey, Pam or Georgina from CAMINO WANDERING. (To answer this question, I’m none of them specifically. I’m spiritual like Aubrey, creative like Georgina and logical like Pam – and I tend to swear like Pam at times too, especially when walking the Camino!)
6. If you could give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?
Listen to your dreams – both the slumber type and the goal type. For the slumbering ones, they can give you some great writing prompts. For your actual dreams, if you want to be a writer, you will be. Go for it. Know there’s a lot of support out there.
7. What is the best line you feel you’ve written in your published work(s)?
I’m not sure I’ve written it yet. Sometimes though, when trying to find a quote for a social media post, I have found myself surprised by something I wrote that was profound or witty.
8. What’s the shortest time you’ve ever written a story?
Twenty minutes. I wrote a short story on the train, coming from a writing class in Sydney. Our homework was to write a short story – a modern twist on a fairytale. My award winning short-story, THE WOLF IN CENTRAL PARK, was that story.
9. What was the hardest lesson you learned in the writing process, and what did you take from that?
That I need an outline in order to make sense of a story. I tried ‘pantsing’ a storyline – once – and that novel ended up with nine rewrites! Even if it’s a rough outline, it’s enough to keep the storyline straight in my head.
10. What is the best book you’ve found on the writing process?
Another REALLY helpful book (series) is: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (Second Edition) (Writers Helping Writers Series)
11. Are you self-published, traditionally, or hybrid-published, and why did you take that publishing route? Would you choose that route for your next book?
I am a self-published author. (I wrote a blog post about my decisions to take this path – you can find it here.)
Being self-published was a deliberate decision, based on the book I was looking to publish at the time. But now I’ve published four books, I am no longer interested in another publishing path. But, I’ll be honest. I do not make a liveable wage. I actually know very few authors who do that, no matter what publishing path they take, and that’s a very sad fact indeed.
But I self-publishing because I like having control of my chosen career. I’ve heard so many stories, even from traditionally published authors, who stress about deadlines or have no control over book titles or even their book covers, not to mention the horror of changing storylines because some random editor didn’t like it on that particular day! My stories are a part of me. The characters stick with me. They become friends or enemies. To lose that would be like losing a part of myself.
Now, if a major publisher approached me, wanting to publish one of my books, I’ll consider it BUT the offer would have to be one that’s too good to refuse. And, at this point, I’m not even sure what that looks image like. Maybe a movie deal? I mean, I’ve always dreamed of CAMINO WANDERING being made into a movie…
12. What drew you to the subject of your latest book?
My latest novel, THE HOUSESITTER, was inspired by an actual housesit my husband and I did, in Victoria (Australia), in 2017. There, on the five-acre property, was a ‘pit’. We were told that if any animal died during our six week housesit, to simply toss the carcass in the pit. This pit was dark, deep with a thin sheet of metal over the top, and was hidden behind some bushes, away from the house. My mind raced with storylines. Immediately I knew there was a story there. The main character, Em McKinney, was inspired by a Tasmanian actress, Katie Robertson. There was something about her that made me think of Em, every time I saw her on screen. The story evolved from there.
13. What did your discovery path look like, in choosing the genre to write in?
I don’t write in one genre. There are too many stories to tell.
CAMINO WANDERING began as a memoir, but as I was rethinking how I rewrite it into a novel, a friend mentioned it was the people on the Camino that had her returning time and time again. (I agree.) I wanted to write a novel about women of a certain age, facing their challenges head on, while understanding the true meaning of female friendship, something I find many women lack nowadays. When I read the line “Do you know who you are and what you’re made of” in Lori Oliver-Tierney’s memoir, TRUDGE, it was like a beacon, guiding me to the true nature of the storyline (thankfully Lori was gracious enough to allow me to use the line!)
BENEATH THE SURFACE began as a romance novel (cringe) and when someone said there was a significant amount of white knight syndrome in the book, I instantly hated the idea of Grace being saved by some guy. She was going to save herself, thanks very much! It morphed from there into a suspense.
THE DECISIONS WE MAKE stemmed from multiple sources. I liked the idea of secret letters. I wanted a story about female friendship and the trials they go through over decades. And I liked the idea that wisdom comes once you return home from the Camino, and I wanted my readers to have a glimpse of what happens to The Lovelies when they return home.
14. What does your typical day look like, when you are working on a book?
Normally I start the day journaling or doing social media posts, over a very strong cup of coffee. Then I will shower, faff around the house doing household chores, before I sit down in my office to write for a few hours.
After lunch, I’ll do the serious writing. If I’m on a roll, I will stay there, writing, until about six. I’m trying NOT to do this, since my spine surgery, and move more, but it’s a hard habit to break.
But my routine is not set in stone every day. It depends on what else is going on.
If I have a class in the afternoon (like hydrotherapy), I will generally not work on my book that day, because it’s a half day to get in and out of town just to take the class and my brain doesn’t work on projects disjointed that way.
I guess this is a long answer to say, I don’t have a typical day. When the writing bug hits, I go with it and I keep at it until I’m completely spent.
15. How much of your own life, and your own experiences, have affected your storylines?
Well. This is hard to say because I find writing fiction a lot like therapy. As a good friend once said to me, “Girl, you need to write this shit down because no one would believe it anyway.” And that is my life in a nutshell. My characters are fictional, but my life provides GREAT fodder for complicated characters. I may be inspired by others and their stories, but names are always changed to protect the innocent. Sometimes I blend storylines together, just to keep people guessing.
16. How much of your own life, and your own experiences, have affected your storylines?
I guess see #15 for the answer to this one. 😉
17. What’s the most interesting book you’ve read in the last year? Or at least, one that kept you thinking about long after?
Ooh – this is a good question. So many books… I still think about THE ONE AND ONLY DOLLY JAMIESON by Lisa Ireland. There’s an underlying storyline that haunts me a little.
BIG MAGIC by Liz Gilbert is one I think of often. It’s because of this book I decided to listen to Ann Patchett’s TOM LAKE (which I LOVED). But also the idea of how the universe works with creativity.
18. Have you ever read a book outside of your usual genre – and found it surprising? Why?
Reading (or listening to) J.D.Robb’s IN DEATH series still surprises me. It’s crime/sci-fi, so it’s not my usual genre but it’s the characters that keep me going back to it, eagerly anticipating the next book in the series. I’m obsessed with this series now and I’ve been reading it for the last twelve years (?!)
19. Do you write what you want to write, or what you feel is sellable?
I write what I want to write. I’ve tried writing what I thought would be sellable – and it hasn’t worked out. So, I go with what my instincts say now: Write the book YOU want to read but can’t find on the shelves.
20. Would you still be an author if you knew no one would read your books?
I would still be a writer. I’m not sure I’d still be an author, as there is a LOT of work that goes into authoring (especially for self-published authors).
21. What’s the best book you feel you’ve written?
You can find Tara here:
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