Sixty Seconds III with: Tamara Shoemaker

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer (normally). That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is three-timer and Dragon Captain Tamara Shoemaker. Read her winning story here. You can also read her first #SixtySeconds interview (from September) here. and her second interview (from December) here. Then take another couple of minutes (we don’t count words when it’s a writer’s THIRD win!) to get to know her better below.

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece?  My first thought when I saw the prompts was a euphemised “What the *insert semi-appropriate word*???” {Editor’s Note: You were not alone. Bwahahahaha!} From there, my imagination captured the cute kitty face that slowly transitioned to cute girl face, that transitioned to inner battle, that transitioned to death by cancer (of course, right?).

2) You’ve been writing flash about a year, is that right? How has your approach to flash changed/developed since you started? Margaret Locke wrangled me into my first flash contest in June or July of 2014, I can’t remember exactly. When I first started, I wrote stories based exactly on the prompt. I felt like I had to incorporate every element in the picture. As time went on, the connection to the prompt grew looser, and with it, the stories that came to me expanded by worlds.

3) Has your experience writing flash affected your novel writing? If so, how? YES! There are so many changes, it’s hard to pinpoint any one thing, but I love how much tighter my writing has grown. Streamlining EVERY word in flash has been wonderful practice for streamlining a 110,000 word novel. I’ve learned so many important skills pertaining to character, pacing, setting, and frame. Novel writing is the same as flash, with just a few more words to worry about. 🙂

4) You still writing 2,000 words a day? You’re also working hard editing a novel now. What’s the editing process like for you? When I’m in the first draft stage of a novel, I write 2k words minimum. It’s a truly satisfying day if I can write 7k or 8k words. When I edit my books, I often feel blind; it’s hard for me to see my own mistakes. I depend heavily on beta-readers who find the deficiencies in my story where I can’t see them. Once they get back to me with their critiques, I go through and gut the story until it’s a decent piece of work. It’s a great system–for me. My poor beta-readers probably should demand a bit more payment. 😉

5) Belong to any writers’ groups IRL? How do they benefit you? Yes! I attend two critique groups here in the Shenandoah Valley. They give me loads of constructive feedback on my work, which helps me create stronger stories, which are (hopefully) more exciting for the general public to read.

6) You’re famous here at Flash! Friday for faithfully leaving a billion comments on people’s stories. This is incredibly meaningful and awesome–thank you! What things have you learned from other writers’ approaches to flash? I leave so many comments, partly because I know how excited I get when I see a new comment on one of my stories, and I want to “share the wealth,” so to speak. Some of the stories, though, leave me in so much awe that I can’t help but leave a comment. Grace Black consistently displays such beautiful lyricism, I usually reread hers several times throughout the weekend. Deb Foy‘s fresh, unusual imagery is soul-satisfying; can’t get enough. Annika Keswick‘s attention to detail makes her stories stand out to me; there are so many layers there that take me a while to unpeel. Tinman and Ian Martyn make me laugh nearly every week. I’d love to name all the writers – feel like I know them all so well simply through their fiction.

7) In fact, you’re just all-round prolific; you make writing a ton of words FAST look easy. Is it as easy for you as it looks? And–I’m sorry, but I just have to ask–in this world of tweets and DMs and texts, where many writers struggle to find even one prolonged idea, just how do you find all your ideas? Easy as it looks?! Yes. And no. This is going to sound cliche (and I’m the queen of cliche) – the words just come. My brother tells me I talk too much (and I’ve heard similar statements from other family members). I probably have a larger-than-ordinary pool of words that overflow their banks when I start writing. I’m sure that’s it. 😉 As for my ideas–I try to write about stuff that would be interesting to me as a reader. Which is why you’ll never catch me writing non-fiction.

8) You’re a fiction writer and a poet. Do you pursue both? Is there a balance between these two sides of your writerly self? Or are they rivals? It’s funny, I’ve never thought of myself as a poet. Poetry has always come easily, but it’s not what I ever intend to write. I like to think that my fiction writer half and my poet half are coffee-buddies. They meet at Starbucks now and then, discuss important topics, throw a few idea-seeds my direction, and go their separate ways after fixing another meeting for the next week. One couldn’t do without the other; where’s the friendly beauty in that?

9) You’ve published with a small house, and you’re about to go indie and publish a book yourself. What made you decide to go indie? Are you still exploring traditional, and if so, why? What have you learned so far about the publishing biz? What are you looking forward to in this next phase? What challenges you? I’ve enjoyed moderate success with the traditional route, so this branch into self-publishing is purely curiosity. I want to see what the difference is between the two different methods. There are pros and cons to both. If it does well, I’ll probably do a few more self-published books. We’ll see. I do plan to continue traditional publishing as well; I’ve built up a good relationship with my publisher and would like to keep it. They’ve put out the first three books, Broken Crowns, Pretty Little Maids, and Ashes Ashes. I have five unpublished books waiting in the wings, so I’ve got plenty of work to spread between the two methods.

What I’ve learned: publishing ain’t for wimps. You need thick skin. You need to be willing to put in the work and the research. You will get one-star reviews sometimes. There will be someone out there who will make your day worse because they’re having a bad day. Take what feedback you need, ignore the rest. I’m really looking forward to starting the fantasy phase of my career. Thus far, my only published books are mysteries. I love the YA fantasy market–I’m so excited to add some books to it. My daily challenges are reading the other books in my chosen genre and overcoming my awe at their work, not comparing my work to theirs, accepting what I write as my own style and not wishing I was the next JK Rowling. I am me. What a profound statement. 😉 

10) Introduce us to your favorite dragon (yes, can be one of your own). Of COURSE, my favorite Dragon lives nearly an hour north of me {Editor’s Note: Smart girl!}, but my second favorite Dragon is one I’m introducing in my upcoming (hopefully May) release, Kindle the Flame. This particular Dragon is a kick-bootie, fire-haired girl from dubious origins who discovers a surprising link to a certain mirror-scaled REAL Dragon (because everyone knows that all Dragons are REAL). You should definitely take the time to read, because Dragons. Obvs.

14 thoughts on “Sixty Seconds III with: Tamara Shoemaker

  1. Enjoyed reading this!! One of my favorite things about your stories, Tamara, is that they are so far removed from the prompt yet pertain beautifully. 🙂


  2. Well done on your third win. I am in awe of how quickly you write, not one, but two great stories every week. Your comments are always supportive and greatly appreciated. I am sure your fourth win is not far off! Good luck with self-publishing – although I’m sure you don’t need luck with all that talent!


    • Thank you, Marie! I always look forward to your stories every week as well. Your comments are so supportive and encouraging – it always makes my Fridays exciting to read so many good stories piled up in one place on the internet. 😉


  3. Great article. Nothing better than getting words of wisdom from one of the masters (and shocked that you’ve only been writing Flash since last Summer – your writing is that of a legend).

    PS: Loved question 2 – I still blame the person who hooked me onto Flash Fiction. Yeah, I’m looking at you Mr Craig Anderson 🙂


  4. This is great. You are so encouraging and supportive of others–thank you!
    Your own stories are just awesome. Best wishes for the new blog and publishing journey. Go girl!
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful gifts with us.


    • Lol, Michael! I hope that’s true to a certain extent. I also hope the people in my critique groups feel like we are able to help each other, too. Kind, tactful comments usually go a much longer way than red ink and blunt responses only. 😉


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