Sixty Seconds IV with: Tamara Shoemaker

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. 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)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Tamara Shoemaker (hip, hip, HURRAY!!)Read her winning story here. Note that this is her FOURTH win!!! Be sure to check out her winner’s page to read her previous winning stories & then come back to get to know her better.

1.) From Victoria Falls to… Alzheimers? How did the prompts inspire your winning story?

I paged through a host of “man v. nature” obstacles that seemed insurmountable and would make a good story, and finally settled on Alzheimers. This disease strikes close to home, so I felt like I could incorporate more emotion into the piece as a result. One poignant memory I have of my grandmother, who was for years, a victim of Alzheimers, was when our family went into a bookstore to browse. I circled the end of a bookshelf to find my grandmother, looking lost. “Need something, Grandma?” I asked. She stared blankly at me. “I’m just looking for my husband. Have you seen him?” My grandfather had been dead for several years at this point, and her words skewered me. In her lost-little-girl look, I found a visceral hatred for this horrible, untreatable, undefeatable, insurmountable, irrational disease.

So this story was my dedication to my grandmother and every other victim of Alzheimers, to the family members who have faded into the oblivion of disease even while they remain constant, and the caretakers that come alongside, even when they’re forgotten.

2.) One of the lines that grabbed judges and readers alike is “Deep calls to deep…” Talk about that—where’s it from, what about it haunts you, why did you use it here?

Psalm 42 is one of my favorite psalms from the Bible because it so completely encapsulates who I am. I struggle, often, with my faith, with daily obstacles, juggling the simple tasks of being a mother, a wife, a writer, a Christian, a good citizen, and I often feel like I’m drowning in it all. This whole psalm is a prayer in which the petitioner pleads with God to lift him out of the murk, to find hope. In the middle of that struggle (v. 7), “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.” For me, that’s God’s promise of His presence in the deepest parts of my soul, beneath the surface turmoil. His Spirit calls to mine, and ultimately, shines hope where there seems to be none.

It’s why, in my story, I put the light of hope in the darkness of confusion. In spite of the irresistible force of disease, I wanted the protagonist to realize that the depths of her soul connect with the only One who can give her hope. And it’s that hope toward which she struggles in the end.

Emily Dickinson (one of my favorite-ever-authors) says: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

In the man v. nature struggle, if we take away hope, what victory will there be—ever? Hope is intrinsic to man’s survival instinct. Of course I had to include it.

3.) Your first four books are unabashedly faith-based, while the upcoming Kindle the Flame shifts dramatically to dragons and pixies. What gives? Aren’t those opposite genres?

Growing up, I had all access to Christian fiction, but not much to anything else except the classics. My dad was a book salesman for a Christian book company, and our shed was stacked with boxes and boxes of books from Bethany House and Harvest House and Zondervan. Christian fiction was all I ever read, and when I wrote my first novel, I hadn’t yet stepped outside that zone to discover other worlds of fiction. Of course it seemed natural to write in that genre.

Over the last few years, however, I’ve explored nearly every other genre out there, reasoning that a good author should know her market. What I found, I loved. Where the Christian market is geared to a very select group of people, the fantasy genre is open to all people, and (bonus), some of my favorite themes that I loved about Christian fiction, I still found in secular literature as well: good overcoming evil, might not equaling right, redemption and sacrifice, true love conquering all (which does not always translate to the prince getting the princess).

I’m not going to knock the Christian market—I believe there’s a place for it, but I love the wide open world of secular fantasy I’ve discovered. It feels… richer, deeper, with more shades of character, I suppose.

4.) We’re four days from the launch of Kindle the Flame. How are you holding up? Plans going well? What’s in the marketing pipeline for you?

Gulp. I’m existing on caffeine, wide-eyed dazed stares, and occasional twitches. This is my first effort in self-publishing, so I’m wreaking havoc on social media channels as I try to build some buzz for my book. I’ve scheduled June for a blog roll (thank you David Shakes, Mark King, Emily Street, Margaret Locke, Taryn BK, Foy Iver, etc. for agreeing to host me). I have two book signings coming up – one with the fabulous Margaret Locke and one with fellow fantasy author, Sydney Scrogham. I also have book giveaways and free promos in the works.

But not a bit of this matters if the buck stops with me. If each person I reach tells even one other person about my book, and that one person tells someone else, think how far-reaching this could be! Indie-published authors are powered by reviews and grassroots. So bless all you dear blades of grass. I appreciate all of you.

5.) I need to know what you’ve been reading. Any current author obsessions? 

I don’t do multi-tasking well except when I’m reading. Hence, I’m in the middle of Margaret Locke’s A Man of Character, an ARC from Emily Street, The Gantean (coming end of June, people, and it’s excellent), the first Harry Potter (to my kids), a favorite Gilbert Morris historical series (Cheney Duvall M.D.), a recommendation from my mom: Ishmael by Ellen Southworth, and am considering revisiting my favorite Anne of Green Gables again.

I haven’t been obsessed with any author recently. I read and enjoy, but haven’t gone gaga over someone’s work since Rowling (and then it was only the dear wizard world—I couldn’t stand The Casual Vacancy).

6.) More importantly: what are your children reading? Do you see in them echoes of your own readerly and writerly self as a child? Will you have them read the kinds of things you did as a kid, or will you guide them differently?

My two oldest have massive imaginations to my utter delight. I mentioned above that I’m reading the first Harry Potter to them, which they already love (I’m so thrilled). We’ve gone through Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Boxcar Children, and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. I can’t wait until they’re another year or two older so I can try Anne of Green Gables on them and Percy Jackson. Maybe even Lord of the Rings.

My youngest hasn’t shown as much interest in flights of imagination, but she’s young, so I’ve got time to teach her the right way of things. 😉

7.) Tolkien was groundbreaking in his depth of worldbuilding, and many today follow suit (cf Klingon language camp…!). How detailed do you find yourself going with your fantasy works—do you have maps? Dictionaries? Spreadsheets? Stories, character sketches, etc.?

My planning sheets for my fantasy books are hard to decipher. I have maps galore (big/little/land mass/buildings/cities/structures). I have small bits of made up language in Kindle the Flame, which I base quite loosely on Irish and Scottish Gaelic. I have a small index in the back of my book that explains new terms, and yes, I write whole histories for each character before they even begin to find their way into the pages of my books.

But is my worldbuilding Tolkienesque? Pffffff. As if. But… I live and dream.

8.) Are you going to be the first person to win FF five times?

You had to ask. The pressure! I hope to someday break the 5x barrier. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my year of writing for Flash! Friday, it’s that the competition on this particular site is fierce and amazing and I should never count my chicks before they’re hatched because, quite often, those silly egg shells are empty… 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Sixty Seconds IV with: Tamara Shoemaker

    • Aww, thanks, Foy! 🙂 Sometimes the eggs AREN’T empty, but sometimes it’s those marshmallow peeps that come out… 😉 And yes, that verse is one of my all-time favorites. 🙂

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