Name : Tanya Newman
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Laurens, South Carolina, and I actually base my stories on a fictional version of that town that I call Laurel Springs in my work.
A little about yourself `ie your education, family life, etc.:
My love of reading and writing led to a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of South Carolina Upstate, and a Master of Arts in English from Clemson University. For thirteen years, I’ve taught Composition at the college level. I’ve been married to my wonderful husband, Mark, for eleven years, and we have an adorable five-year-old son, and a lovely three-year-old daughter. I love coffee, movies (usually an action/adventure with a love story added in), reruns of The Golden Girls, going for long walks, and spending time with reading to and playing with my kids.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My novel, The Good Thief, was published by Black Opal Books in April of this year. I have a second, Winter Rain, under contract, and am working on a sequel to The Good Thief.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first book at the age of ten. I had long been an avid reader (particularly of horse stories), and when I began my summer vacation between fifth and sixth grade, I decided to try my hand at writing a book of my own. It took me all summer long and by the time I was done, I had a whopping thirty handwritten pages! I even designed a cover based on pictures I’d cut out of magazines and did a little “About the Author” page at the end.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That first summer between the fifth and sixth grade definitely cemented my love of writing and storytelling, as it was a trend that I continued well throughout high school. It wasn’t until college, though, that I knew writing was what I wanted to do with my life. I started out as a Journalism major, but after taking a course in Early American Literature, I was inspired to change my major to English. A certain professor (who I still keep in touch with today) and a creative writing class reignited my love of fiction writing, specifically.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I have no idea! No, really, ideas just come to me, usually in the form of characters or images. For instance, with The Good Thief, I kept seeing this image in my mind of this woman walking toward a man. Everything was dark all around, the woman’s wrists were tied together, and there was a lot of fear and anger between them, but there was also love. A question of how they got to that point grew from there. I didn’t know the characters or their motivations, whether they were good or evil, etc., at that point, but I knew that I was interested and I couldn’t get that image out of my mind.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Not particularly. I read a lot of contemporary works (Andre Dubus III, Stephen King, J.R. Ward, Nicholas Sparks to name a few), and oftentimes my prose is influenced by who I am reading at the moment.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
This is actually one of the hardest things for me as a writer. Writing the novel is easier than coming up with the title because the title is the one small thing that simultaneously grabs the reader’s attention and sums up the book in its entirety. I came up with several that I kept running by my husband but The Good Thief is the one that stuck, primarily because it has several meanings in the book (that I won’t give away J).
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Unconditional love as well as the power of first love and how the past can affect the present, even years later.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are certainly snippets that are influenced by or directly taken from my own life or stories that I’ve heard before. Certain characters are also modeled, in part, on certain people. For instance, Scotlyn’s father is, in part, based on my own father.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Some of my favorite books growing up were The Black Stallion and The Velveteen Rabbit, and then in high school I discovered Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as well as Stephen King’s Carrie. I also love Sparks’s The Notebook and Weiner’s In Her Shoes. Fitch’s White Oleander is a novel I frequently revisit.
I also admire works such as Ron Rash’s Serena, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl, Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, and Elizabeth Haynes’s Into the Darkest Corner. Each features strong storylines and female characters (even if they’re not always good), and they all focus on a romantic relationship (not always happy, but always interesting!).
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
The latest one I’ve been reading is Andre Dubus III. I was astonished by House of Sand and Fog as well as The Garden of Last Days. I’m currently reading his latest, a collection of stories called Dirty Love. He is a masterful writer, whether through story or essay form. Another author whose work I love and who I love to hear speak is Ron Rash. When I need something lighter and an “at home” feeling, I turn to Debbie Macomber.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Definitely my professors, Dr. Marilyn Knight, from the University of South Carolina Upstate, who inspired me to go into writing and English, and Keith Lee Morris (an author as well), who, through gentle but honest wisdom, bettered me as a writer.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely! I hear so many writers say they don’t like writing, though they like being done with a story. I love delving into a story and having my characters tell it to me as I write it. It’s not always easy, and being a millionaire writer is a farfetched dream, but it’s something I would do even if I didn’t get paid to do it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There is one scene that keeps coming back to me that I always think I should have put in, but didn’t. I suppose that worked out for the best, though, because I am putting it in my sequel.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Definitely through my reading and my interest in a good story.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here is a snippet:
She’d thought she was safe, thought they couldn’t find her—but she’d been wrong…
Scotlyn heard James close the back door behind him and stared at the ceiling for a while, enjoying the moment until deciding to go ahead and make some coffee. She sat up and stretched a long moment before pulling on her jeans and top and walking lazily to the kitchen. She found a bag of coffee grounds in the refrigerator, filled the pot with water, and set it.
She was standing with her arms crossed when she heard the back door open again, a little more slowly this time. Knowing that James couldn’t have been to the store and back by now, she called, “You forget something?” without looking back.
A large arm grabbed her then and, before she could react, a cloth covered her mouth. She remembered breathing in to scream, but then she became instantly drowsier than she’d ever been. Her head fell onto a foreign shoulder and, before she could get scared, everything turned to black.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sometimes, as I like to put it, my characters grow shy, and it takes a long time for the story to unfold. Being a working mom, I don’t always have a lot of time to write. Sometimes I have to make the choice of whether to sleep or write.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not much, though a visit to my hometown of Laurens, South Carolina, is always inspirational because it is where I set my books (though I changed the name to Laurel Springs).
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My husband, Mark. Fortunately, he’s a talented artist with a degree in Graphic Design.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Ensuring everything as far as details I’ve researched are true. As a writer, I’m a storyteller, but I’m also a truth teller in that I portray everything accurately. For instance, a part of my second book takes place in Los Angeles and since I’m not from there, I had to research maps to find the best places to set certain scenes and how to get there, etc.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Things are not always what they seem. One character in my current work started out a certain way and based on that, I had the ending already planned out in my mind. But the more I wrote and the more I got to know this character, the more things changed for the story and the outcome—for the better.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead
That’s a hard one because I never try to have a certain person in mind when writing my works, as I feel it might take away imagination (from me or my readers).
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read, and read a lot! Keep books on your nightstand, in your bag, downloaded to your phone or tablet; listen to them in your car. Reading is a great way to get started, get inspired, find what you like and want to write, and then just write. Write what you want to write, what you feel the most about. I’m a writing instructor, but one thing I feel and that I always try to impart to my students is that the only way to get better is to keep doing it. Write a little every day if you can and you will eventually discover your own style and voice.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you! And thank you again!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Dirty Love, by Andre Dubus III.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first I remember was The Velveteen Rabbit. I loved the themes of friendship, remembrance, reality, as well as losing someone you love and gaining something else resonated with me. It can still make me cry today.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My kids make me laugh every day. They’re 5 and 3, so they’re at great, fun ages. The original National Lampoon’s Vacation keeps me in stitches every time I watch it. My trusted reader, who was my cousin, Barbara, always knew how to make me and everyone around her laugh. She passed away last year and so thinking of her can simultaneously make me cry and laugh.
As a writer, I tend to be pretty sensitive. Moving prose or moments in film can make me cry. Some examples are “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” from Hamlet and the moment in Steel Magnolias when M’Lynn’s grandson walks toward her, as well as in Dead Poets Society when the students all stand on their desks to salute Keating.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
There are many family members I never got to meet because they either passed away before I was born or when I was too young to remember them. I’d love to know them.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” ~ Zelda Fitzgerald
I love this quote because it speaks of how immeasurable love is, something I hope I capture in my work, and something my children have taught me. It also speaks of how much we can hold within us (good or not) and as a writer, I tend to hold onto a lot of memories, thoughts, emotions, etc.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I love to read and watch movies—anything that has a good story! Taking long walks, enjoying a good cup of coffee.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My all-time favorite television shows are The Golden Girls and The Andy Griffith Show. I also love Daredevil, I Love Lucy, Stranger Things, Westworld, and Outlander. I love films that are action/adventure with a love story added in. Some of my favorite films are Gone with the Wind, Dirty Dancing, Titanic, Pretty Woman, Heat, Dead Poets Society, Point Break (the original), Murphy’s Romance, The Terminator, and Casablanca.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I love tortilla chips with salsa and queso and all types of Oriental food.
Blue has always been my favorite color but my daughter’s obsession with pink has turned me on to that color lately, too!
I love all kinds of music. It always serves as great inspiration to me. Some of my favorite artists include U2, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, INXS, John Cougar Mellencamp, Adele, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I love movies and a childhood aspiration of mine was to work as an actress, so I probably would have liked to do something like that.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?