My guest today has a unique view of historical fiction writing I think you’ll enjoy. Please welcome author Tamar Anolic! Let’s take a look at her background and writing credentials and then find out more about her and her writing process.
Tamar’s short stories, including several stories that appear in The Lonely Spirit, have been published in Foliate Oak, Frontier Tales, Pen In Hand, Evening Street Review and The Magazine of History and Fiction. Tamar has also had stories published in The Copperfield Review, The Sandy River Review, The Helix and Every Day Fiction. Her full-length books include the nonfiction biography The Russian Riddle and the novels The Last Battle, Triumph of a Tsar, Through the Fire, The Fourth Branch, The Imperial Spy, The Fledgling’s Inferno and Tales of the Romanov Empire. In addition, she has presented on historical fiction and writing at the Historical Novel Society of North America and the Historical Writers of America conferences.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Tamar: A single line in the Coen brothers’ version of the movie True Grit. There’s a scene where the main character, Maddie, is asking the sheriff of Fort Smith who the best Marshal is. The sheriff mentions a half-Comanche Marshal who is good at tracking and brings his prisoners in a lot. I thought, “that sounds like an interesting character!” L.S. Quinn came out of the desire to write about a character with that background and those skills.
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Tamar: With short stories, you don’t have a lot of space to convey your plot, character and emotion. Writing these stories definitely helped me hone my skills of brevity while still conveying a lot.
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Tamar: I struggled with where to start this short story collection. The first story I wrote about Quinn is actually the third story that appears in this book. Also, when I first wrote that story, I thought of it as a one-off. It wasn’t until I finished it that I wanted to write more about the character, and realized that I wanted to write more about his backstory.
Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?
Tamar: Colonel Robert Graypool, which was a surprise to me. In this book, he is the head of the Comanche reservation at Fort Sill. I conceived of him as a character not long after I thought of Quinn himself, and from the time that Graypool rescues Quinn on a lonely stretch of road, I knew I wanted to write more about him. There are a couple of stories dedicated to him in this collection, and after the first one, where he loses his wife and child, the rest were easy to write.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Tamar: I read quite a few books about the Comanche and got as much information as I could from the tribe’s website. I also belong to the Historical Novel Society, and their North American conference last year had a panel on writing Native characters, which I attended. In addition, there are a number of Native authors and educators, such as Debbie Reese and Sarah Elizabeth Sawyer, who offer materials about writing Native characters which I found particularly helpful. Lastly, I submitted the manuscript for The Lonely Spirit to the company Salt and Sage for a sensitivity read, and the feedback I got from that was insightful.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Tamar: Each story in this collection was different. Some took more drafts than others. With the short story called “The Lonely Spirit,” it’s the longest story in the book and probably took the largest number of drafts to write. It was closer to a novella when I first drafted it, so a lot of my work went into getting it down to short story length¾around 7500 words. When it initially did not get picked up by any literary journals, I put it down for a while before going back to it. Then I revised it some more and resubmitted, and it got published in the Magazine of History and Fiction.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Tamar: It took me close to ten years to write all of the stories in this collection. That’s unusual for me. I usually write a story, finish it and move on. I kept coming back to Quinn’s character because I liked him so much. I also really liked all of the characters he meets on his journey.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Tamar: I plot out a lot of my work. I have both an overall arc for the character and a plan for the next several scenes I want to write. I note those scenes at the bottom of wherever I leave off for the day. I also do my best writing in the morning. I like to sit down with a mug of hot tea, which helps me focus.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Tamar: I definitely like my “long moments in silence.” There came a point where I noticed just how often I use that phrase, and I’ve been working on finding different ways of saying it.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Tamar: I don’t know that I have a single role model, but I admire the writers in my beta reading groups and the writers I’ve met in the writers’ associations to which I belong and the conferences I’ve attended. Each person has a different reason for writing, and a different story to tell. I’ve learned so much from interacting with each of these writers and reading their work.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Tamar: I usually work out of my apartment. It helps me get into the zone. Before the pandemic, though, I sometimes took my laptop to coffee shops when I needed a change in scenery. I’m looking forward to a time when that can happen again.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Tamar: Yes, I’m a lawyer. There’s a lot that’s interesting about it. My research and writing skills come in handy there, too, and I find that helpful.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Tamar: Seeing my writing in print. Indie publishing can be an uphill battle in a lot of ways, but it’s a great resource to get my work out there. I feel a sense of accomplishment in seeing a book come to fruition, when it was once just an idea in my head.
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Tamar: Historical, both fiction and nonfiction. I read a lot about the Romanovs, which is the other historical time period I write about.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Tamar: This is a tough question. Writing has always brought me joy¾that’s why I continue to do it. But with indie publishing, it’s so hard to reach an audience. I definitely wish I could connect with readers more and build a broader audience.
The Lonely Spirit is a short story collection of the Old West. L.S. Quinn is a half-Comanche U.S. Marshal who straddles two worlds, searching for peace in both.
Quinn’s adventures pit him against criminals like brothel owner and gunslinger Florence Finnegan, and Jack Mattherson, whose attack on U.S. Senator William Quincy brings out Quinn’s desire for revenge. Quinn isn’t always lucky: when one of his partners turns into his enemy on a lonely stretch of land, Quinn no longer knows whom to trust.
The fight between the Comanche and the United States Army is also never far from Quinn’s mind. When the Army kills his fiancée, Quinn must rebuild his life, even as he finds himself a lasting enemy in Colonel Ranald Mackenzie.
But Quinn’s journeys also bring him into contact with kindness he does not anticipate in such a wild land. Sympathy comes in the form of Colonel Robert Graypool, whose level-headed command of the Comanche reservation at Fort Sill brings out Quinn’s respect when he least expects it. Humanity also resides in Dr. Mary Newcomb, one of the few women physicians of the day. In both of them, Quinn finds some of the community for which he searches.
Buy Links: Amazon
I hope your visit here today will help you with your goal of expanding your reach to readers, Tamar!
Happy reading, everyone!
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.
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