About Tamera Alexander
Tamera Alexander is a bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded and nominated for numerous industry-leading honors, including the Christy Award, the RITA Award, and the Carol Award. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband have returned to their native South and live in Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy spending time with their two grown children, and a ten pound silky terrier named Jack.
How Tamera Alexander Started Writing
“We were coming back from Texas from a road trip. I’ve always loved reading, but his mother had given me a copy of a book. I had kind of looked at it, didn’t care for it, didn’t care for the cover. But I did finally come around and read that novel. Oddly enough, it was after Claudette, my mother in law, had passed away very suddenly of an aneurism. The book was Love Come Softly, by Janette Oke.
It showed me after all or my years of being raised as a student of the Word and been into the Bible through BSF, and Precepts, this simple love story gave me a view of God’s unconditional love, a hands on application type, that just really moved me. So I started reading everything Christian Fiction I could find, which back then was like two shelves.
Skip ahead two years later, and Joe and I are driving on a road trip back from Texas and I finished the novel and I said, “I think I could write one of these. I think I could.” I’m a Business major, Business, Marketing and Management, but I always loved stories. What are the odds of this happening? Probably not very good. But how will I ever know if I don’t try? So I sat down, it’s a dark and stormy night, Snoopy’s at the typewriter. Eventually after my first book was rejected and then I kind of put that one in the drawer, so to speak.”
How The First Rejection Letter Felt For Tamera Alexander
“It felt like a kick in the gut in a certain sense. So when that rejection came, that old voice, kind of rose up inside and said, ‘See, see.’ But thank God through those years, He had put people in my life and I’d been to counselors and sought counseling for that and He had healed me of so much of that and really I was able to differentiate between that voice and really what the truth was.
And honestly the truth was, I had gotten to the third round of the pub board, as they call it, the Publishing board before it was finally rejected. I thought, “Wait, I got to the third round. I got a long way on the, “Hey, what if I tried this?” And so then I thought, “What if I go back and really try to learn about writing, and how to craft a novel and learn how to write? So that love of story then kind of kept me at it and so I took another two years still working outside the home, doing the soccer mom thing at this time, but my hours to write were 2pm-2am.”
How Tamera Alexander Shifted Her Processes
“Right, and that does not work well in writing a novel. Now, there are novelists, who are plotters, as we call them and then there are seat of the pantsers. I think my mentors were, I know they were. They were seat of the pantsers, you know the mentors, the writers, that I connected with early on. But yet everything else about my personality, about my approach to things, business approach, is very analytical.
I love lists, planning, all that kind of stuff. And what I did all those years, before I started writing was corporate conference coordination. For five and six thousand people; I can coordinate a conference with one hand tied behind my back, I’m just wired that way.”
Full Reliance on God
“At this time of my life, Joe and I were in a church in Colorado, and I remember we had been looking for a study to do on Wednesday nights, and we had decided on Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God, and one of the tenants, the seven tenants in that was God is going to lead you to do something. If it is from God, He is going to lead you to do something that you’re going to think, “There is no way I can do this.” And you’ll be right. There is no way you can do this without Him in you.
That’s what God keeps reminding me,in the novel writing process, “You know, you’re right, you cannot do this without me, and craft the stories that I want you to craft.”
I’m anywhere from thirteen months to write a book. My publishers would like them a little faster than that, but I’m just a slow writer and the books are long. They’re longer and chalked full of the Tennessee history and that type of stuff.”
How Tamera Alexander Approaches Historical Fiction
“I love history and I would pick up a history book. I love historical fiction in that and some historical fiction more than others, and I’ll use my own books as examples. My first seven books are based in Colorado territory, against a real Colorado history, in that virgining in the land, and the growth, the mining towns, the ranches and all that kind of stuff, but it doesn’t necessarily have real people who lived back there.
So it’s against a backdrop of history where the Antebellum novels that I’m writing right now, or Antebellum Mansion novels, Belle Meade and Belmont, they are against real backgrounds, real houses, and real people who lived, populate the novels. So to me both of those are historical fiction, but one of them is historical fiction taking it a lot closer to history and a lot harder to write because you are dealing with real personalities and real history that’s not bendable.”
How Tamera Alexander’s Books Give an Audience to Historic Mansions
“And that is very rewarding as a writer and as a lover of history, people have never heard of the bought mansion or the Belmont Mansion or the Belle Meade Plantation so they make sojourns, reader sojourns. As a matter of fact, I’ll often meet ten, sometimes thirty women, who have come on a girls weekend out from somewhere, and I’ll meet them at the mansion at ten o’clock on a Saturday morning and we’ll tour the mansion.
Both of the mansions now have set up what we call the novel tour, meaning say for Belle Meade. If you’ve read the Belle Meade novel then you just call and say, “I want that tour” and they’ll give you the regular tour, but they’ll also give you an extra fifteen or twenty minutes of some behind the scenes, like the old harden cabin, and there’s a certain portion of the mansion that is offices, that are offices now. They were used at that time, they were used in the novels. So readers love that kind of stuff and I love that they love going to those places. Keeping history alive, that’s great.”
Writing as a Form of Worship For Tamera Alexander
“So for me, they are spiritual journeys, and whenever I write, it’s a form of worship. It’s a form of my worship. Worship is not just Sunday morning as we all know. Worship is everything we do. Writing is most definitely a form of worship for me and, God as I’m writing, He takes me on these journeys. My husband will often come to the office, he’ll open the door and he’ll start to ask a questions and “You’re either very intense or sometimes you’re crying.” These characters, these journeys, are very real to me and for the first Belmont Mansion novel, A Lasting Impression, that was all about authenticity.
All of my novels have started from a question that I’m wrestling with, all but one. In my very first one, I dreamed of the opening sequence, as is in yet that opening sequence in Rekindled. But all the others have come from a question I’m dealing with, or a struggle in my faith walk. A Lasting Impression really explores the question of authenticity. What does it mean to be authentic in your faith? Authentic with others? Authentic with yourself? What does that mean?
As a novelist, you take that and then you really need to juxtapose it with the actual history and Adelicia Acklen was the richest woman in America in the 1860’s. A lot of people don’t know that and she loved all of that, and she loved all of the art, but she loved original things. Then I thought, “Ok, just as a novelist you play the what if question. What if then, this struggle of authenticity was going on in my life, and just within myself.”
The Fun and Hard Work of Writing
“It is work. It’s something you really have to be determined to do. You have to be a self motivator, even on deadline, you’ve just got to keep it in the chair and have a set amount of words per day if that’s how you work, or scenes, or whatever it is, and really stay at it. There’s really no other way around that. Now, you can do things that will inspire you. Sometimes, when I was first starting out, I used to say,”Ok, I’m going to sit here until I get it done.” If I sat there for twenty or thirty minutes and I’m literally stuck, I get up and move.”
The Difference in General vs Personal Criticism
“I’m a little bit different than some of my other author buddies. I was speaking in West Virginia not long ago and we were on a panel and they said, “Is the book your baby?” I said, “You know I’ve got two babies. Books are not my babies, books are products. I know that from the very start, but they’re in the products of my heart, but still they are a product that is going to be sold. It is a commodity. The next two writers got up behind me and said, “No, they’re my babies.” I was like, “Oh, are you kidding. You are killing me. You are killing me.
It is much harder to have a book criticized,however, Michael, I’ll be honest. It has gotten less so, the more novels you write. I stopped reading reviews a long time. I don’t read my reviews online. If anybody sends me, I read every reader letter, everything that comes directly to me. I don’t go out to Amazon and read all the reviews, however, my husband Jo does. He’ll sometimes give me a really great one, or he’ll sometimes give me this one that is just horrible.”
How Tamera Alexander Sees Her Story in Her Writing
“Actually, it does and I kind of didn’t see it coming as I was writing my second novel Revealed. It’s a reformed prostitute story and I thought through all of my years that I had dealt with a lot of that stuff. I had in a sense, but one thing I’ve learned is that when it impacts your life, it really becomes part of who you are, just like you have a scar and you cut your hand and you carry the scar until we get those new heavenly bodies.
It’s the same things here. You still remember the incidents, but God uses those to heal others. I got a ton of reader mail after that book Revealed saying,“You know you never say that you were in the book, but the way that you have describe scenes from the emotional, from the heroine, from the female protagonist point of view, you had to have been.” That opened the dialogue there. I just didn’t realize it was that transparent, but apparently it was and I’m really glad that we were able to dialogue on that and I’ve spoken on that several times, but yeah that’s something unfortunately that is extremely prevalent.”
The Difference Between Those Who Do or Don’t Work Through Trauma
“Well, that’s a big question. I think the main thing has got to be and there’s just one word that comes in my life is surrender. You’ve really got to accept the sovereignty of God. Nothing filters into my life that doesn’t first filter through the loving hands of my Heavenly Father. Nothing touches my life that doesn’t first filter through His hands. He’s either sovereign or He’s not.
He knew when that man walked into the bedroom repeatedly. God saw it. God allowed it. You look at the painful things that kids are going through now a days, and you think, “If I were God, I would stop it.” So, I think it’s the surrender to God’s sovereignty and knowing that it’s not just this pathetic surrender of “Ok, this happened.” But it’s kind of like remember in the Old Testament, the hate with which he hated her, was greater than the love.”
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