Red was busy trying to get the last of the fogey’s cigar club out of the M3 Coffee Shoppe because she knew she had seen Red Tash over in the front booth talking with another author. She did not want to miss out on sitting down with the four time Mommy Champion to discuss This Brilliant Darkness, public life and saving the world from trolls, boredom and leprosy.
M3: Red, I know you from way around the block, but the M3 Readers may not. Give them the book jacket version of who you are.
RT: Red Tash is a journalist-turned-author, writer of the best-seller This Brilliant Darkness, and chart-topping freebie The Wizard Takes a Holiday. A former rollergirl, she is editing her first YA novel, and writing/editing several other projects in between homeschooling her four children. She is ridiculously happily married to author Tim Tash.
M3: We are going to see how much we can confuse the audience by calling each other Red! Before we get to the mayhem, is there someone you want to thank?
RT: Usually. I often forget, though.
M3: Mental note: Ask Tim in his interview! Tell the M3 Readers where you got on the yellow brick road of publishing.
RT: I started writing professionally for CafeMom, back when Meredith Viera was their main spokesperson. It was quite the boost to my resume. Prior to that, I had just been a blogger. I parlayed the bi-monthly CafeMom column into a local newspaper column here in my Southern Indiana town, which led to more freelance writing gigs of a purely journalistic nature for other regional publications, and to some national by-lines. My heart was yearning to write fiction, though, so here I am.
M3: The economy is tough all over, and especially where you live. Has the miserable state changed the way you operate?
RT: My personal economic state definitely has. I have four children, and I know you understand from having 10 or 15 yourself that when you get a certain amount of children, and there’s just no other choice for mom than devoting full-time energy to the kids.
It would be ridiculously irresponsible for me to get a full-time job and spend the greatest amount of time each day away from my kids, only to devote the bulk of my income toward daycare. I can’t, in good conscience, do such a thing. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to, anymore. It was tough enough with three kids. Now, I just try to squeeze all my writing goals into the available hours in the day, and that’s most definitely a trick!
M3: I feel you in a way most others may not readily identify! I guess you would classify your day job as something which would not be of interest to the M3 Readers.
RT: I don’t personally think that matters. Some people write best on their lunch breaks, yet they feel inadequate as a writer because they think people assume they haven’t made it if they need another job to pay the bills. Other people need the romance of the writerly life as part of their ego’s gratification.
I have learned how to write in the most desperate of time-crunch situations. Being a writer and being a mom are my two day jobs and I am neither ashamed or proud of that. Them’s just the facts of life. What’s more important to me is that my readers enjoy the work.
M3: That is a healthy attitude about both jobs, frankly. You do both well, which is what counts in my book. Knowing what that schedule can become, how do you bend time?
RT: I make lists, I set deadlines, and then I sometimes meet them. If miss my deadlines and self-flagellate until I either get the task done, or give up. If I give up, then it wasn’t meant to be–and I never give up on something important to me. And I’ve never missed a deadline for an assigned journalism piece. I have been 100% perfect about that since high school journalism class.
M3: Punctuality is a dying art. Speaking of schooling, what advice would give the noobs in the bunch at the M3 Coffee Shoppe?
RT: Read your work aloud. I know, I know, you don’t feel as confident when you do that–but that’s probably because your writing sucks. Read it aloud, and you’ll realize immediately how you should reword it. Fix it, and you’ll feel instant confidence when reading it. Trust me on this.
M3: I have reasons, plural, why I love you. What do you have boiling over on the stove these days?
RT: Well, I finished the first draft of my YA novel about a rollergirl who falls for an evil fairy princess while she’s supposed to be saving her sister from a drug-dealing troll. That one’s resting for a bit before I finish the line edits and hand it over to my professional editor. In the meantime, I’m writing another Wizard story, I just had a short accepted for an anthology called The Corner Cafe, and I’ve got a couple of submissions to send off to a weird-fiction mag. I’m also writing the sequel to This Brilliant Darkness.
I’d like to organize some kind of Author Aid for survivors of the Henryville tornados, too, since I went to school with many of those folks. Oh, and I started working on a couple of top secret projects with two different writing partners. After that, I’m off to fix global warming and cure leprosy, if I have the time.
M3: Scratch off curing leprosy…I took care of that one. Your schedule sounds like mine. Do you ever split with the keyboard and go on hiatus?
RT: I have in the past. The last time, though, I came back from my week-long retreat with an entirely new character in my book. Not sure that’s the best idea!
As far as writing goes, I’ve taken a few true hiatuses (hiati?), but I still blogged secretly during one of them. I just had too much to say, and I process my thinking best through writing.
M3: My sister crawls me about the working vacation oxymoron all the time. Let’s talk about tradition. Your background is in journalism and blogging. Do you have a bone to pick with the traditional publishing industry?
RT: Not really. Not yet. I’m still feeling my way around the fiction side of things, and that’s a completely different world from journalism. Writing non-fiction comes as easy to me as breathing. Writing fiction is much tougher.
I don’t think people realize how hard it is to write fiction well. It’s even harder to find an audience for it, afterward. Everyone who works in the fiction-publishing industry, whether as a writer, an agent, a publisher, or a bookseller does it for the love of story first, money second. And, I mean, really–how could I be mad at that?
M3: Very interesting perspective, Red. Sounds like you have met some interesting characters. How do you feel about your colleagues?
RT: There are some who are really friendly, helpful, creative, and talented. There are a great many who don’t appeal to me. It’s like any creative art. You can’t like everything everyone does. I’m a very choosy girl. Mostly, I don’t spend much time thinking about other writers, honestly. I like the ones who like me, and we help one another with support, advice, critique, encouragement…but I don’t spend a lot of time feeling things about them.
M3: Wise time management choice! Especially considering your genre, do you think the traditional publishing industry looks down on self-published material as inferior to its own products?
RT: Of course! It’s how they build themselves up in the face of the changing technology in the marketplace, because in the good old days, that’s how it used to work. The truth is, inferior work exists in great volume in traditional publishing. With the majority of ISBNs registered last year by independent authors, it’s a numbers game now. There is simply going to be more good quality fiction produced independently than traditionally.
Traditional publishing has always been about the tastes and gut instinct of agents and editors in one East Coast city. How arbitrary. Most of the books they picked would flop. Only a very precious few went on to become best-sellers. How many of the 200,000 books published by traditional publishers last year can you name? Ask any avid reader to name their new favorite novelists from 2011 & 2012. I’d bet you money that most would be indies.
Having said that, it makes no difference to me either way. I just ask that an author really truly vet his/her book. Hire an editor. Use beta-readers. Do a lot of quality control to make that work stand out, to make the prose sing! If he/she does all that, the book’s probably worth reading.
M3: I love your passion, Red. Let’s talk more about you. What makes your book different from all the sea of others in the genre?
RT: Well, if we’re talking about This Brilliant Darkness, the truth is there is nothing like it out there, anywhere. Reviewers have said so time and time again. I purposefully sat down to create something wholly original, and I believe I accomplished that. Everyone is the opposite of who they are supposed to be according to fantasy tropes.
The science behind the book is real. It’s a different reality, set in a familiar-feeling town. People who attended Indiana University, where the book is set, have told me repeatedly they could see all of this happening in Bloomington, and they’d like to know these people. All that, and it’s a time-traveling monster book.
M3: Your excitement is palpable. Why is this work so close to your heart?
RT: Writing? It’s just my language. It’s the only way I express myself that I don’t feel in any way lacking. I can’t speak as well, dance as well, sing as well. I can sort of draw, barely paint, and definitely can’t sculpt. I’m the least-most-crafty person you’ve ever met. My knitting is more like knotting. Nope, writing is just my thing. And every character we write is a part of us. We may write aliens, pirates, zombies, vampires, but all of these creations draw on our personal experience. They populate an emotional landscape in a way we can’t express any other way. That’s what story is.
M3: How about another emotional question? Have you had any triumphs over the industry?
RT: Being #3 on the Top Rated list above Charlaine Harris, Laurell K Hamilton, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and so many others was a real personal victory. It didn’t last long. My debut novel is now #6. But that’s no small thing, either.
M3: By all means not! I know marketing is a big portion of your success. How important is your personal marketing effort?
RT: If you mean just the social stuff, I’d say it’s pretty important. All sales/marketing is about relationships, and if you’re not paying attention to where your readers/friends/family/
M3: The personal touch is never the wrong way. Personally, nearly everything I know about you has at one point been up for public consumption. Can you tell me a secret about yourself you would not want me to share with the M3 Readers?
RT: Gosh, I don’t know. You’re pretty funny, Red. Why would I want to censor you?
I guess if I have to answer this, I would say there is nothing you know about me or could dig up about me that I haven’t already told the world about myself. That happens when you’re accustomed to being published nationwide in a column about your parenting and family life. You quickly become the punchline of your own jokes.
Guerilla Mothering by Leslea Harmon, if you must Google!
M3: (Laughing) Censor? That is funny. Wrap it up for me. Tell the audience why they should buy your book in 15 words or less.
RT: If you have a dark sense of humor and a great imagination, I’m your girl.
M3: What a completely Red answer!
Dearest M3 Readers,
Please take a few moments to check out Red Tash and This Brilliant Darkness. Visit Red’s blog to learn more about the author, her books and stories. Follow her on Twitter for the latest on her upcoming novels.
Thank you for your unwavering support of the talented M3 Coffee Shoppe authors. When you tweet and +1 this post, please use the hashtags #authors, #books and #WW.