Jen: Today we welcome Tammy L. Grace to Romancing the Book. Tammy will you share a short bio with us?
Tammy: Born and raised in Nevada, Tammy L. Grace loved reading at a young age. With the help of her middle school teacher, she discovered the joy of writing. After spending a career in local and state government service, she retired and finally has the time to dedicate to writing. She’s the author of the Hometown Harbor Series and the Cooper Harrington Detective Novels.
When Tammy isn’t working on ideas for a novel, she’s spending time with family and friends or supporting her addiction to books and chocolate. She and her husband have one grown son and a spoiled golden retriever.
Jen: Tell us about your newest release.
Tammy: My latest release, Pieces of Home: A Hometown Harbor Novel is the fourth book in my women’s fiction series. All of these books serve as great reads for women looking to escape everyday life. They are set in the picturesque San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington and transport readers to the beautiful scenic locales of the small island community. All of the other protagonists in the first three novels have been in their 40’s and 50’s, but the main character in Pieces of Home, Ellie Carlson, is thirty-five. She’s had a difficult childhood and has had to overcome challenges well beyond her years. When I started the series I knew I wanted to feature a different woman in each book, so had been thinking about Ellie, the local baker, for quite some time. Her story involves complicated family relationships and present day challenges shaped by her past decisions. The ideas for this book came to me over the course of time as I wrote the other novels. Ellie’s struggles came from a question I ask parents about having a favorite child. Most parents will always say they don’t, but I believe many of them do have a favorite, so I took that premise and worked it into a novel. I’m an only child and have an only child, so I’m always curious if parents of multiple children have favorites. I took this notion of mine related to favoritism and elaborated on it to form it into a defining characteristic for Ellie.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Tammy: I’m a mixture, so I guess that makes me a plantser. For my women’s fiction series, I have the main plot points defined when I start and know how the book will end, but usually come up with things to add while I’m writing. For the mystery series, I had a much more definite outline with the entire plot defined before I started. I still made some tweaks, but I think the genre demands more of a plotter mentality.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Tammy: Pieces of Home is the fourth book in the Hometown Harbor series, so much of my earlier research came in handy. I like to study the weather and try to give the reader an accurate experience as to likely conditions and sunrise and sunset times. I keep a ferry schedule handy, again to be as authentic as possible. I try to include local events and activities, but also incorporate some of my favorite hometown events into the lives of my characters in Friday Harbor. I have taken a few trips to the San Juan Islands and tend to weave some of my experiences into the novels, usually embellishing them, since I’m relatively boring. The storyline involves a winery and winemaker, so I did some research into the types of grapes grown and the wines produced.
When I started this series, I planned to feature a different female protagonist in each novel, so my initial research and the characters I created are all intertwined in each other’s lives. The novels depict the emotional journey of each woman as they struggle with issues and problems. I always end up doing research on the main struggle of each character and in addition to online resources have contacted medical and legal professionals I know with specific questions.
Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
Tammy: I actually spend a lot of time on names. I typically start by researching databases online for popular and sometimes unique names of the decade in which my character was born. I also keep lists of names I run across that I find interesting or I like. It may sound strange, but I’ve also been known to write the whole book and change a character’s name because after I’ve spent so much time with him, I think of him differently. This happened in my Cooper Harrington series. He wasn’t Coop until almost the end of the book.
I consciously avoid using names of people I know, so as they don’t think the character is based on them, but have used a few names of friends. They’re always one of the good characters though! Coming up with names for villains is harder. I love it if the name “sounds like” the character—harsh, friendly, or playful, for example. I also like names that can be shortened or nicknames.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Tammy: I relate most to the main character in Finding Home (Book 1), Samantha “Sam” Collins. I tend to have some of her same traits and probably put more of myself into her character than any other I have written since. I’ve also spent the most time with Sam, so maybe I just know her better than the other characters in the Hometown Harbor series.
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Tammy: I’ve always been an avid reader and treat myself to books as often as possible. I celebrate the completion of a novel with a month of fun reading—I think of books as a reward and escape. I have a Smart TV and enjoy watching movies or binge watching series. I enjoy walking, especially with my dog, who is the inspiration for all the canine companions I feature in my novels. I also love to bake and have an addiction to chocolate, but need to keep it in check, otherwise I’d have to walk more miles a day to keep up with my calories.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Tammy: After I enjoy the next month reading and watching movies to celebrate finishing Pieces of Home, I have plans for a second novel in my mystery series, the Cooper Harrington Detective Novels, and plan to release it by the summer of 2016. These novels are set in Nashville, Tennessee, and feature an irresistible bachelor private detective, Coop Harrington. His best friend is Chief of Detectives in Nashville and he entangles Coop is some of his criminal cases. Coop’s loyal golden retriever, Gus, and his uber-organized right-hand gal, Annabelle, are there to lend a hand in the investigations. My first novel in this series is Killer Music and it was released in April of 2015.