Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Featured Author: Tammy L. Grace

Tammy L. Grace is on tour with CLP Blog Tours for her women's fiction novel, Finding Home: A Hometown Harbor Novel. I'm happy to share my interview with her and an excerpt from the book.

About the book:

Finding Home is a coming of age novel, but for a middle-aged woman devastated by past heartaches and loss, who flees to a small island expecting a change of scenery and discovers much more.

Shattered by her husband's infidelities after twenty-five years of marriage, Sam Collins is plagued by constant fear and loneliness, reliving the tragic death of her parents and the betrayal by the man she loved. She leaves Seattle seeking relief from the relentless darkness that has swallowed her. With only her dog for companionship, she sets out to live in her vacation home on San Juan Island.

In her search for a carpenter, she meets the handsome and very available, Jeff Cooper.  Sam's not looking for romance, but can't deny the attraction to the retired firefighter, turned handyman. While working together and eating her pies, Jeff finds himself falling for her.

The past she wrestles to let go of comes hurtling back when she least expects it. In an effort to help a struggling young man, she is forced to confront the anguish she is desperate to escape. While torn between love and friendship, she must face her fears and choose between the life she's known and a chance for a family and home she's been longing for all her life.

Interview with Tammy Grace

How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I found I enjoyed writing in middle school and started writing articles for the local newspaper throughout junior high. Life moved on and while involved in my career, I was in a class and asked to think about what I would truly enjoy doing if I could do anything.  It didn’t take me long to blurt out “write novels.”  So when I retired almost two years ago, I decided to make it a reality.

What’s the story behind the title Finding Home?

Naming a book is difficult. The story is about a woman (Sam) who has to start over and is searching for a place (home, life, family). I like short titles, so brainstormed a number of single words that described the book, once it was done. I came up with a whole page of words and liked the sound and feel of Finding Home.

It’s the first book in the series; the second was released in April and is titled Home Blooms. I like the idea of a common thread in the titles used for a series, so I am including the word “home” in all of them.

How do you get to know your characters?

I conduct interviews with my characters and also write down their physical attributes. I keep a list of characteristics of each and it’s something I’ve found useful, since I sometimes forget how old someone is or the color of a character’s eyes. I also tend to “cast” my characters and keep that image in my head.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I enjoyed writing Sam the most. She’s a woman who appears to have it all, but is left hollow inside from losing her parents at a young age and the betrayal of her husband.  She’s wealthy and accomplished, but suffering. I enjoyed describing her journey and allowing some of her flaws to be exposed, while dealing her a couple more blows to test her resolve.

She is strong and capable, but finds herself in a situation where her vulnerabilities are apparent and she has to learn the power of trust and forgiveness.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

Yes. Zoe is the faithful golden retriever of my main character, Sam. Zoe is actually my golden retriever. She is portrayed as she is in real life—-a wonderful friend and companion.

Are you like any of your characters?

I think there are bits of me in some of the characters, most notably, Sam. I can be a perfectionist; I love making lists, and am very organized. I enjoy baking and used my own favorite recipes when I described many of the pies she made. I also have a weakness for ice cream, especially Rocky Road.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

My favorite scene is in Chapter Eighteen of Finding Home. Sam and Jeff go on a kayaking trip and spend the day together. Sam’s finally beginning to let Jeff into her life.

Who are your favorite authors

I love to read and usually read hundreds of books a year, but I’ll narrow it down to the few I snap up as soon as they release a new title. Lee Child and David Baldacci are two I can’t live without. I also enjoy Kristin Hannah, Maeve Binchy, and Nicholas Sparks.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

I’m reading The Target, by David Baldacci in an e-book format (first eight chapters) and Blossom Street Brides, by Debbie Macomber in hardback.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

I’m a morning person, so tend to do most of my writing in the morning. I have an office in my home and that’s where I write. I usually listen to iHeartRadio while I’m tapping away on my keyboard. For editing, I like to print out the material and usually sit in a comfy recliner armed with colored Sharpie markers.

Where’s home for you?

I live in my hometown in rural northern Nevada.

Neil Gaiman said, “Picking five favorite books is like picking five body parts you'd most like not to lose.” So…what are your five favorite books and your five body parts you’d most like not to lose?

It’s hard to choose, but here are five of my top favorites:
Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chronicles of Narnia, Les Miserables, The Bible
And, for body parts: brain, heart, eyes, limbs, skin (but I’d prefer to keep all of them).

You’re leaving your country for a year. What’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?

A bacon cheeseburger and ice cream for dessert.

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?

A library.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?

I love libraries. My friends have teased me for years about going on vacation and ending up in a library. If I had to pick one, I’d pick the New York Public Library. I love the architecture and feeling of history. It’s a gorgeous building, and if I lived there, I’d spend all my free time visiting.

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?

Bake and read.

You and I would get along famously! Why did you decide to self-publish?

I self-published Finding Home, after months of research and an initial desire to be published by a traditional publisher. I attended a conference last fall and learned as much as I could about both methods, and after my own research and talking with other authors, I decided self-publishing was a good fit for me. It gives the author all the control (and all of the responsibility).  I’m not very patient and with the traditional route, patience is a must. All in all, it was a good experience, and I’m excited to do it again. Working with Amazon has been very easy, and I would recommend their publishing solutions.

What’s your favorite candy bar?

Wow, I love chocolate so this is hard. I’d have to pick the Milky Way Midnight.

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

A Week in Winter
, by Maeve Binchy; The Hit, by David Baldacci, and Girl Missing, by Tess Gerritsen.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a detective novel set in Nashville and also the third book in the Hometown Harbor series.

Excerpt from Finding Home

“How long were you married?”

“Twenty-five years, last summer. We were married after graduation. He finished law school and I got my MBA and ran the company. We lived in my parents’ home.”

“I hope he didn’t take advantage of you in the divorce, with him being a lawyer. I don’t trust lawyers much,” said the woman, with distaste.

“No. Actually, when we were married Marty made sure the company and the house would always be mine. He wanted my grandparents to know he wasn’t looking for money. My parents were very successful.”  She paused. “I still can’t believe I’m here now. I thought things were fine, but I found out he’d been cheating on me...for years. I’m just glad my grandparents are gone, so they didn’t have to witness Marty’s betrayal. They would have been devastated.”

The woman’s eyes widened, “That’s a dreadful surprise.”

“Yes, it was. I’ve always been a workaholic and had worked to expand the company, opening offices around the world. I received an offer for it, and after talking with Marty, decided to sell. He seemed so excited about the prospect of an early retirement. We were both approaching fifty and would have the means to work less and play more,” smiled Sam.

The woman smiled back. “I think you’re a strong and capable woman. You can still have fun and start your new adventure.”

“That’s what I finally decided. I need to get away from the constant reminders and start fresh. I spent summers here as a child and since I have a lovely home here, it made sense.”

The woman rubbed her hands together and pulled her coat closer. “I wish you the best and I hope you find everything you’re looking for. I’m afraid I’ve got to move inside out of the cold.”  She stopped to pet Zoe and turned to go through the deck doors.

“Have a wonderful visit with your family. Thanks for chatting with me.”  Sam waved as the woman toddled away.

Sam laughed to herself. She hadn’t wanted to engage in conversation, but in truth it had helped her to talk about it. The smooth motion of the ferry was soothing and the slowness generated more memories. She smiled thinking of the family house with its Italian inspired villa-like architecture. Her mother and father had purchased it after their business success and it had been a substitute for them after they died.

She felt herself growing weepy thinking she was leaving the only home she had known. Lately though, it hadn’t seemed like home and wasn’t offering her the comfort it once had, which was why Sam found herself on a ferry today, resolved to start a new life. Sam didn’t sell the house in Shoreline; she wanted to have the security of being able to go back to it. But for now, the pain of realizing her family home had been a love nest for Marty’s trysts left her hurt and angry.

The sun was still peeking through the clouds as the ferry crawled towards Friday Harbor. She gave Zoe a drink from a bottle of water, dug a treat from her pocket, and the dog settled in to nap for the rest of the ride. Sam mulled over the past, not believing her life could be so different than she had planned.

Sam had traveled the world for business, without Marty. She was the consummate professional, accomplished and capable. She never relied on him, but as she inched toward the island it all seemed overwhelming and she thought she might have made a huge mistake. She knew she could never forget his infidelities, but maybe she should have stayed in her own house and made the best of it. It was all too confusing and Sam had never been so unsure. Her usual confidence and self-esteem had been eaten away during the past year. The absence of her parents had left a deep scar in Sam’s heart and she missed them more than ever today. She longed to hear her mom reassure her and feel her dad’s strong hug.

European river cruises, white sand beaches, Australian adventures, and castles of Ireland that once beckoned from the brochures on her nightstand, were now only dreams that had been torn apart by the man she had loved and trusted. Instead of exotic travel, her future held a quaint island where she hoped the fond recollections of the past would wrap around her like a cozy blanket.

For almost a year she had been suffering and plunging deeper into her own dark thoughts. She had lost over twenty pounds and forced herself to eat, when she remembered. She knew she needed something fresh to focus on and the prospect of a new business venture and warm memories drew her to Friday Harbor.

Her musings were interrupted when the ferry captain made the announcement to instruct passengers to report back to their vehicles for arrival in Friday Harbor. "That's us, Zoe. Let's go," Sam said, as she took hold of Zoe's leash and headed downstairs.

As she guided Zoe between the narrow vehicle paths, she spotted the vivid green sticker proclaiming her golden retriever was smarter than any fifth grader. She reached the SUV, loaded Zoe, and after squeezing through the sliver of space the door allowed without smacking the car next to her, rested in the driver’s seat. Cars around her were starting and her lane began to creep forward, exiting the ferry.

As the metal planks of the ferry apron thumped under the weight of her car, she admired the charming shops and buildings neighboring the harbor, looking as if washed in colors from a box of artist pastels. She glanced up at a sign posted on the corner. It read, Welcome to Friday Harbor—Your Hometown Harbor. She could only hope it would prove true.
"Well, girl, here we go. Let's go see our new house and get settled," Sam said, as she drove off the landing onto Front Street, determined not to let the weight of lost dreams crush her.

About the author:

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. 

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.

Connect with Tammy:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon