Monday, August 30, 2010

A Brief Talk with Tamar Myers

By Norma Huss

Tamar Myers was born and raised in the Belgian Congo (now just the Congo). Her parents were missionaries to a tribe which, at that time, were known as headhunters and used human skulls for drinking cups. Hers was the first white family ever to peacefully coexist with the tribe, and Tamar grew up fluent in the local trade language. Because of her pale blue eyes, Tamar’s nickname was Ugly Eyes.



In 1964, four years after Congo became an independent nation, and after living through retribution and civil wars, the family returned to the United States permanently. Tamar survived the culture shock of high school and began submitting books, unsuccessfully, while still in college. She persevered and now has 37 published books in two mystery series (all still in print) and stand-alones. The cozy mystery community recognizes her as one of the best. Along the way she’s given hilarious workshop lectures (and I can personally testify to that). In 2003 she was chairperson of the Edgars committee that selected the Best First Novel of the previous year. Her website is http://www.tamarmyers.com/

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First, I think our members would like to know how a girl who grew up in the Belgium Congo and only learned how to dial a telephone at the age of sixteen managed to keep writing for 23 years before being published.  

Ironically, I started college as an art major. (My real desire was to be a painter.  I wanted to attend the Dayton Art Institute but my parents wanted me to get a degree in teaching from a "real" college.)  Anyway, my first art assignment was to do a drawing of my choice, but it was so severely criticized by my professor in front of the class, that I changed my major that day from art to English.  I thought that by becoming a writer I could live in seclusion and never have to be criticized again!  Wow, what a naive dumkopf I was!

At any rate, I began to write in earnest, and I tried every genre, and for 23 years before getting that first sale!  To answer your question, there were two things that kept me going.  1.) In a high school creative writing class I'd written a longish short story/novella that was good enough to make the teacher, by his own admission, weep with envy.  He said, about himself,  "I'll never be able to write that well."  2.)  The loving support of my husband, who would prop me up every time a returned manuscript would knock me flat on my butt.  My husband, Jeffrey, read a great deal and always reminded me that I was "just as good a writer--even better--than" so-and-so.     

I agree!  The titles of the books in your two series are delicious!  Which comes first, the title or the story? 

I sell my books by the titles alone!  The plots and synopsis come later.

You have these two mystery series with more books scheduled to come out this year and next.  Still, you write other books as well.  Tell me about your latest one, The Witch Doctor's Wife.  There is mystery in this too, is there not?

Yes, The Witchdoctor's Wife is a mystery, although frankly I think of it as just a good story that is told through the eyes of people living in another culture in another time and place.  I have retired the other two mystery series, and this is my time to concentrate on writing the stories of my childhood.  The mystery part provides a framework for telling these stories.     

How about a Nuts and Bolts type question.  What is your daily schedule like?  (Or weekly.) 

 I have an office inside my home.  It is upstairs.  It is painted Chinese red, to provide me with energy, and has white French doors that open out on to the loft.  On the walls I have hung framed photos of exotic places I have lived or visited, and famous people I have met, etc., so that when I die, my children won't think that I was a nobody (because by then all of my books will have been remaindered--believe me!).  My desk is a massive wooden desk with three deep drawers on either side and pull out leaves as well, plus a center drawer.  It came from an industrial office sale--and it would be impossible to buy one this large in a retail store.  I have written 35 books on this one, and lugged it around to many houses and three states.  To me it has become sacred by virtue of so much creativity happening atop it.  In a similar vein, i don't allow any computer games to be played on my PC.  This is a sacred spot, an altar--a place for reverent behavior.

I believe as Einstein did, that time is not a sequence of events.  That is a man-made construct.  The past, present, and future are all happening simultaneously.  Therefore my "future" books have already been written.  So why should I struggle to write them?  Well, I shouldn't!  That is why I begin each day asking the Universe to give me my daily portion of creativity (I hold my arms skyward), and then sit down and write a thousand polished words--five days a week.  After seventy days you have a book.  You don't need to plan it out, because the book has already been written!  All you have to do is receive it!   Just be open each day and let your subconscious mind receive what the Universe wants to give it.  It is that simple!  It has worked for 35 books!

Tamar, thanks so much for visiting the Sisters in Crime blog today.
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Norma Huss has been writing mystery for years, but only had her first novel published last year. YESTERDAY’S BODY was published by Wings ePress, Inc. Another mystery, DEATH OF A HOT CHICK is ready to make the rounds of agents. She’s a wife, mother, and grandmother as well as an advocate of a local bloodhound search and rescue unit. Visit her at http://www.normahuss.com/

7 comments:

Joyce said...

Interesting interview!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

AH,Tamar! That is--so powerful! When the student is ready, the teacher arrives. Thank you!

E. B. Davis said...

Your writing concept is true. So often, I struggle to write a scene. The next day, the whole scene comes to me, falls into my head and I write it effortlessly without wasting time struggling. I just wish the universe would drop the ideas on me daily and I could stop the struggling part. Keith Richards once said, on composing music, he was just a good receiver.

Laurie K. said...

First off, I love Magdalena, and secondly I'm going to buy some red paint for my office. :-)

You're an inspiration and I've really enjoyed your interview.

Michele Drier said...

What a lovely way to write! I must learn to listen more.

Nancy M said...

Dearest Tamar! How delightful to see you here! I loved The Witch Doctor's Wife.--It's selling like mad at Mystery Lovers Bookshop. Well done, girlfriend.

Jessie Crockett said...

Thanks for sharing your story of persistence. And thanks for persisting; I've spent many happy hours with Magdalena.