Tamara Lee Dorris is here today to talk about her humorous women's fiction novel, Secrets of a Spiritual Guru, in which she puts her real life on the job knowledge of real estate to use. Since the book is subtitled, Real Estate, Yoga & Lies, we're going to assume she also has experience in yoga, but fiction comes in when it comes to the lies.
About the book:Meet Melissa Murphy: wine-drinking real estate agent who finds herself "accidentally" assuming the role of a spiritual blogger when her boyfriend leaves her for his yoga teacher. Can she keep her role secret while trying to win her man back? If the lying doesn't kill her, the poses might!
Praise for Secrets of a Spiritual Guru:
"...Achingly funny and impossibly wise..." --Jenna McCarthy, author of, If It Was Easy They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon; Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-so-handy Man You Married.
Interview with Tamara Lee DorrisHow long have you been writing, and how did you start?
Since I was about 11. I fell in love with John Boy Walton and decided I would be a writer. Then I could meet him and we’d get married on Walton’s Mountain. What?
What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favorite thing?
I love the idea-generating process, the obsession I go through when I can’t wait to work on a project, the aha moments when plot thickens, and the feeling I get when people read it and tell me how much they loved it. The least favorite thing is formatting/copyediting.
How did you come up with the title Secrets of a Spiritual Guru?
I actually came up with the title and then thought of the story to support it. It just came to me. I liked the idea a guru online but not in real life.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
I do. I sell houses and am a part-time college professor.
How would you describe Secrets of a Spiritual Guru in a tweet? (140 characters or less.)
If you love or hate real estate, yoga or wine, you’ll want to read this book.
How did you create the plot for this book?
Every novel has to start with someone who wants something they can’t have. From there, the obstacles just become more intense. I started with an average woman who wanted to win her man back.
Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?
I start every novel with a story board so that I can know when I’m at pivotal points, climaxes, etc. I tend to write a lot in my head (I go over scenes in my mind), then when I sit down to type, it comes quick and easy. It’s pretty much all planned.
Did you have any say in your cover art?
My neighbor Amy is a phenomenal artist. I gave her some basic direction and she ran with it. I love it! I think it’s contributed to so many purchases too.
Do you have imaginary friends?
I have a writing angel. His name is Martin and he helps me with plots, ideas, and story set-backs.
How do you get to know your characters?
I sleep with them. Seriously! I lay in bed and watch them in my mind until I feel like I know what moves them.
Best answer ever for that question! Love it. Okay...Sophie’s choice: Do you have a favorite of your characters?
Yes, Melissa, the main character.
When you start a new book, do you know what the entire cast will be?
Usually. In some books I do, though, a character will take on a lesser or greater role than I’d first envisioned.
Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Tac. Mainly because he’s arrogant but tries to pretend he’s not. That bugs me.
I’m constantly on the lookout for new names. How do you name your characters?
I like everyday names mostly, and then I like to throw in an odd one, such as Tac, just to shake things up.
What would your main character say about you?
That I’m a big fat liar, and I do not drink too much wine.
Are any of your characters inspired by real people? Who?
The mother in Guru is based on my own neurotic mother. Who is so neurotic that when I named her in the acknowledgements as the inspiration for the neurotic mother, she just laughed and said, “I’m glad I’m not like that mother.”
LOL. That reminds me of a Robert Burns quote: "O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!" How about you? Are you like any of your characters?
I’m like all of my characters in one way or another. I think all writers can only write what they know, and ultimately, we’re all interconnected, but since this isn’t a quantum physics quiz, I’ll just answer: Yes.
I like writing characters who do and say things I never would, as well as characters who do and say things I wish I could. Do you have characters who fit into one of those categories? Who, and in what category do they fall?
Well, see? That goes back to your earlier question. You ARE like those characters in one way, but you’re letting your character do the dirty work for you (shame on you!). Seriously, I think all of us writers are guilty of that. My main character can be a little petty...not that I would ever be. ***looks around innocently***
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?
Tac, because he’s a top producing agent with good hair and lots of awards.
With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck on a deserted island?
Tac, again. For reasons mentioned above. But he won’t need to bring the awards to the island.
Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
When the main character tells off a racist client.
Ooh, I love a good telling off! What song would you pick to go with your book?
“Walking on Sunshine.”
Who are your favorite authors?
I read a TON of spiritual development books, so Neville Goddard, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer. For fiction, I like the classic authors: Harper Lee, Hemmingway, even Steve King.
What are your favorite books?
a) as a child: Charlotte’s Web; James and the Giant Peach
b) as a teenager
Go Ask Alice, Gone With the Wind, Valley of the Dolls
c) as an adult
To Kill a Mockingbird, Bastard Out of Carolina, Legends of the Fall, Heads in Beds.
Which author would you most like to invite to dinner, and what would you fix me? I mean, him. Or her.
Ha, ha. Whatever you, I mean, she, likes. As long as wine is involved. Besides you, I’d go for Ayn Rand. Mostly so I could ask her what the heck she was thinking versus what society said she was.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I call “Trick Question.” I have seven books on my Kindle and four paperbacks going at any giving time. Here’s a sample:
Spider Spin Me a Web, How to Get What you Really Want, Heads in Beds (re-reading it for pure delight), The Neville Goddard Collection.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
It happens. I used to make voodoo dolls. Just kidding. Actually, I’m pretty lucky thus far with reviews. I think we should learn from all the feedback we get (and then make voodoo dolls).
I totally agree! Do you have a routine for writing? Do you work better at night, in the afternoon, or in the morning?
As you know, when you’re a writer, time goes really fast, so I try to manage my writing time in the early afternoon when I have at least 2-4 hours to sit in front of my laptop and bang away. However, I could write anytime and honestly think that even when I’m not at my laptop, I’m still writing in my mind.
A writer's mind never rests! Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
Funny you ask. My laptop at the kitchen table. Never mind I have a large, lovely office just down the hall. I use my office for administrative/real estate stuff, but do all my creative writing in the kitchen. It’s cozy in here.
Where’s home for you?
I’m most happy in the mountains, but since all my kids live in Sacramento, this is where we stay. I actually decorate my home like a log cabin to trick myself. It seems to be working.
Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
Weird: I have a pet box turtle in my office who is 20 years old. The weird part is her toe-nails are longer than she is.
Nice: Sacramento is sunny a lot, plus we don’t have earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes. I consider that a plus.
Fact: We’ve had more celebrity politicians than any state...maybe that should be under “scary”?
Yes indeedy. Do you ever get writer’s block?
No. More like the opposite. I do most of my writing in my mind (I see my scenes), so when I sit down, my little fingers are poised and ready to type.
Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow? Music? Acting out the scene? Long showers?
I see the scene in my mind. However, I might note that I do this most effectively when I’m in nature, the shower, or listening to Mozart.
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
“Just do it” --Nike.
What three books have you read recently and would recommend?
Heads in Beds, The New Testament, Yoga Sutras.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Think about writing. Seriously. And drink wine and cook things I can put on Facebook.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Colorado most the year and the Coast in the winter.
If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to go to Italy...the back country, and go wine tasting on a bicycle. I suppose it should have training wheels , though.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a naughty book that I’m using a pen name for, so we won’t talk about that one. But, I’m working on a story called, The Boy Who Talked to Angels.
Great. Come back and talk to us about it when it's done!
Excerpt from Secrets of a Spiritual GuruIn two days I will be closing the biggest deal in two years. And in two months, I will have a birthday. I am ecstatic about the first one and suicidal about the second. A little about me: Previously, I spent eleven years in the retail industry, mostly squandering my paychecks on the employee discount. I like cute clothes. Eventually, though, I decided to get my real estate license. Five minutes later, the market crashed.
I am one of the lucky ones, though, because for one thing I live with my boyfriend, Ron, who has been around for several years now. OK, four years, eight months, and two days. How do I know this definite time frame? Because my mother reminds me weekly when we chat. I am certain she keeps a little calendar next to the phone entitled, How Long Since Melissa and Ron Have Been Dating Without Getting Married and Giving Me a Grandchild. And it’s not really a weekly chat as much as it is a guilt call, as in, if I don’t call her at least once a week she makes me feel even more guilty than she does about the fact I’ve not yet produced offspring for her viewing pleasure.
Now, about Ron: He’s a nice guy, really, and pretty cute, too. He’s nice in the sit-on-the-couch-with-a-beer-yelling-at-the-television-screen-when-his-team-is-losing kind of way. Oh, and he has become a bit of an Internet fiend lately. Always on the damn computer. Ron is the one who convinced me to get my real estate license. He said, “You’ve been selling clothes for years; I bet you’d be great at houses.” While Ron had the ability to see the big picture, I found it difficult to imagine that selling houses would be anything at all like working in the Women’s Fine Fashion Department of Haddock’s. After all, it isn’t like you can stand outside the dressing room while someone tries on a house. And customers get so agitated when they try to return a cardigan; what happens when it’s a condo?
Ron reminded me that with my own condo paid off (thanks to my father’s life insurance policy), and him covering the rest of our expenses (which is precisely how I donated so much of each paycheck to my special clothing and wine account) that living on commission would be a breeze, I would spend less on clothes (I knew he’d been snooping in my closet), and that when I did sell a house, it would be big money. So, I took the required classes online, passed the state exam, and suddenly found dozens of brokers pursuing me. OK, there were actually only two, but they both wanted me really badly. I choose Cal State Realty. Mostly because it’s close to my condo, and the broker reminds me of Sean Connery (without the accent).
My mother, of course, had a coronary over me giving up such a “promising” career as assistant department manager of such a “fine establishment” where she got to enjoy my employee discounts almost as much as I did.
“Oh, honey, I think it’s fine you got your real estate license, but you can’t be serious about quitting Haddock’s. There’s this cute little handbag I saw in the window last week—”
“Yes, Mom,” I say, cutting her off, but knowing exactly which handbag she’s referring to. “I’ve got enough saved, and of course I have Ron…” my words trail off as I consider what shoes I could wear with that damn purse.
“But I just read that the housing market is crashing. Things are going to get really bad.”
“I know, but really, I need a change, and I already have a deal in escrow. Do you realize the commission will be like four paychecks?”
My mother sits silent on the other end.
“Well, that was pretty easy,” she finally says, referring to the fact that I only took this nice couple out one time, wrote an offer that day, and did most of the paperwork in an hour or two.
“I know! Just imagine if I am not dead-dog tired from being on my feet all day, hanging up clothes and smiling at rude women.” And staying up drinking wine and eating ice cream from the container.
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