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How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
This is an interesting question because I usually tend to pick names that I like and as long as any of the romantically involved characters don’t have the names of my friends’ husbands or my kids’ friends, then I’m usually good to go. That said, in The Frailty of Things Kit Forrester’s name and her brother’s name, Caleb, were chosen for very specific reasons. I won’t tell you what they are, but they do give the reader insight into their pasts.
Kit is tougher than her easy going exterior would lead a reader to believe. What I really like about Kit is that she took a gut-wrenching betrayal from her childhood/young adulthood and not only found the strength to bring the perpetrator to justice, but also the strength to, eventually, create a life she really, truly enjoys—one filled with good friends, a home she loves, and a career she’s very proud of. And perhaps, most important of all, she lives with a very real understanding of how frail life can be and so not only does she value what she’s built but she’s also very committed to protecting it and those she loves.
Two things actually! The very first book set in Windsor is called A Tainted Mind and in it, the reader is introduced to Carly Drummond, one of the local police officers. But even before that, my very first book (not technically a Windsor book), The Puppeteer introduced the reader to Drew Carmichael, an enigmatic CIA agent. One of the projects I’m working on right now is the final edits to An Inarticulate Sea in which Carly and Drew meet and interesting things happen, like murder, manipulation, and corruption. The second project I’m working on is Caleb Forrester’s story, A Darkness Black. I received lots of notes and messages after The Frailty of Things came out from people who wanted Caleb’s story and I’m more than happy to oblige. (Although I don’t think Caleb is going to appreciate it. The poor man is going to go through emotional hell in his story.)
Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
People who like mysteries with a little bit of the human side to them! My stories aren’t the hot and heavy, nail biting kind of romantic suspense. They’re more the curl-up-in-bed-and-see-what-kind-of-trouble-your-friends-are-up-to kind of story – assuming your friends get caught up in things like murder, human trafficking, and war criminals. While each novel is a standalone, several characters show up in each other’s books so a reader who likes feeling part of a community, likes knowing what happens to characters when that character’s book has ended, may want to pick one or two up.
How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
I find that old poetry and hymns are amazing places to find titles. Going back further than the 1800s, a lot of poetry seems to have a kind of darkness to it, or at least a dark undertone, that is perfect to adapt for titles in a murder mysteries. The Frailty of Things came from such a poem and the book I’m writing now A Darkness Black did as well.
Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when? Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I don’t set “word count” or “days of writing goals” for myself. I know it’s a bit of the antithesis to what a lot of writers will say, but I don’t find either helpful for anything other than to make me feel guilty when life gets in the way and I don’t meet them. I work full time, have two kids, and write because I love it. I write when I can and in a way that I retain my love of it and the joy I find in it – I think it makes for better books, or at least I hope so!
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I think I’ve become more sophisticated with dealing with people and their relationships – and by “people” I mean characters. My very first book, “The Puppeteer” was much more action driven than what I write now. I’ve discovered, over the past few years, that what really interests me isn’t so much “oh my god what’s going to happen next” (though there is that), but more the “why” what happened happened – why did the murder or crime happen and who was motivated to commit it. I think the subtly of the human condition is an endless space to explore.
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
Another interesting question…I’m kind of a quasi-catholic, not raised in the church at all, but raised by parents who were raised in the church (in the more Jesuit tradition (read “liberal”)). A number of my characters are kind of the same, sort of the Easter/Christmas types. But religion aside, I will say that the path I do share with most of characters is the path to discover what it is we want to bring to the life we are given. My characters often find themselves debating (often with themselves) what it is they want their lives to feel like, not what job they want or what recognition they want, but what they can do to be true to themselves and participate in life in a meaningful way. These are sometimes hard questions and in my stories they are usually being asked at some of the most stressful times (like when a character is trying not to be killed) – but then again, sometimes it’s those stressful times that really shine a light on what really matters.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn't so?
That it’s ALL sex with some suspense thrown in. The truth is, a lot of books that fall into the romantic suspense genre could also sit quite happily in the traditional mystery genre or horror or suspense. There’s a spectrum in the RS genre that is both exciting and sometimes confusing to the reader.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
Far and away the two most helpful things for me have been having a good editor and reading writers I admire. I love reading writers that have wonderful ways with words and thinking about why things were worded a certain way and why it made me have a certain reaction. As a writer, that’s really what we want, we want to write things that make people feel – whether that’s happy, scared, wistful, or any other emotion. The least useful, for me, is getting caught up in word counts.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it? It’s not part of a series, per se, but it is part of several books set in the Windsor area of Hudson Valley of New York. Each book tackles a different couple and a different crime, and many new characters come and go, but there is definitely a community or regulars a reader meets in my books. For example, Kit Forrester, the main character in The Frailty of Things was first introduced in These Sorrows We See and then played a bigger role in What Echoes Render before getting her own story.
Do you read reviews left for your books? How do you respond to bad reviews?
I do read them and for the bad reviews, I remind myself that there are several books out there (including several Booker and Pulitzer winners) that my friends adored but just didn’t do it for me. Everyone has different tastes and everyone is entitled to their opinions and as a proponent of free speech, I have to support that even if I don’t love what I’m reading. That said, for me personally, I don’t tend to write reviews for books I don’t care for. Perhaps I should so my reviews don’t look so lopsided, but the truth is, I really only like to tell people about books I like. In fact, I actually stopped accepting free books in exchange for reviews because I didn’t want to feel obligated to leave a review if I didn’t care for the book – but that’s just me.
What is your favorite book/movie and why?
After all these years, I still love The Princess Bride – it’s filled with creativity, adventure, love, tons of humor, and a great backstory as to how it came to be. It’s simple in its production but is a timeless story – my kids even like it which is saying a lot since they are twelve- and fourteen-year-old boys.
Do you drink? Smoke?
I don’t smoke, but I love wine and whiskey! I also love craft beer and our local brewery, Berryessa Brewery, has recently agreed to host a Books and Brews event—I’ll be organizing the event which will being some local authors to the brewery for the day to talk with readers, sell some books, and have some great beer with book proceeds going to support our local Friends of the Library chapter.
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?
Last summer we spent a week on a small, chartered boat in Croatia which was AMAZING. I want to do the same thing along the southern coast of Turkey.
What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
There are so many things to do to pick from but since I’m talking about writing (or rather, writing about writing) you all will be the first to hear me ever put this out to the public—I want to write a country song someday. Yes, I love country music and the stories they tell and I think it’s an amazing skill to be able to take all that emotion and boil it down to three minutes rather than three hundred pages. I know nothing about the music part of it at all but I’m not going to let that stop me.
Independence. Kit Forrester is a woman who wears her independence like armor. Despite keeping secrets and hiding her past, she’s built a life she loves and is accountable to no one. Until, that is, one of the world’s most wanted war criminals sets his sights on her and she must weigh the risk to one against the chance of justice and closure for many—a decision Kit couldn't make on her own even if she wanted to.
Certainty. As a man who makes his living in the shadows of governments and wars, certainty isn’t a part of Garret Cantona’s vocabulary, and he’s just fine with that. But when Kit walks into his life, he realizes he’s never before been so sure about anything or anyone. Suddenly, he finds he’s looking at the world, his world, in a different light. And now that he is, he’s determined to protect it, and her, in whatever ways he can.
Frailty. No one knows better than Kit and Garret that an appreciation for what is, or what was, or what might be, can be born from the uncertainty and fragility of life. But when a hunt for a killer leaves Garret no choice but to throw Kit back into her broken and damaged past, even his unshakable faith in what they have together might not be enough to keep it from shattering into a million pieces.
Garret took a step back and crossed his arms over his chest. “This was your idea, wasn’t it? You talked to Drew?” he asked, a pit gnawing its way through his stomach.
Slowly, she inclined her head.
He locked his jaw to keep from yelling in frustration. Yes, he was upset that she and Drew had worked up this scheme without him, but what caused him even more irritation was the fact that the reality of their situation had just come crashing back down on him and the whole thing, truth be told, terrified him.
He turned toward the wood stove and knelt to add some firewood, just to give himself something to do.
“You’re angry,” Kit said, her voice soft behind him. She hadn’t moved, and for that he was grateful.
After a long moment of silence, during which he shoved a few logs into the burning stove, he let out a deep breath and answered. “At the situation, Kit,” he said, watching the fire dance around the logs, their orange and blue flames licking the new wood as if testing its suitability.
“I am too, Garret. That’s why I suggested the book signing to Drew. I want—no, I need this to end.”
And then he heard it. He heard all the stress in her voice, all the fear and anxiety that he’d recognized and dismissed as they’d been holed up in their cozy little cabin for the past five days. He couldn’t ignore it now, he couldn’t dismiss it and turn their attention to more interesting and diverting pursuits the way he’d been doing. He couldn’t try to make this better for her by forcing it under the rug.
Tamsen Schultz is the author of several romantic suspense novels and American Kin (a short story published in Line Zero Magazine). In addition to being a writer, she has a background in the field of international conflict resolution, has co-founded a non-profit, and currently works in corporate America. Like most lawyers, she spends a disproportionate amount of time thinking (and writing) about what it might be like to do something else. She lives in Northern California in a house full of males including her husband, two sons, four cats, a dog, and a gender-neutral, but well-stocked, wine rack.
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