2/14/16: Chumming with Tess Thompson
Welcome to Chumming with Sharky™, my blog series where I treat viewers from every corner of the deep blue sea with a taste of talented authors from a myriad of genres. Today is 💘Valentine’s Day💘, and have I got a treat for you. It took a lot of chocolate and Starbucks coffee to bring you today’s guest (and that was just getting through all of the gatekeepers), but I was able to land Barnes & Noble and Amazon bestselling author Tess Thompson at the last minute, just in time for the romantic holiday. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. I actually sent her a nice message via Facebook and she agreed to be this month’s guest.
One cool thing about this particular interview is that we conducted it in real-time. I’ve never done that before. So, what you read today is pretty much raw and unedited. Plus, Tess told me a secret that she hasn’t told anyone yet. So, you’re getting something special today. 🙂 Anyhoo, grab a complimentary glass of wine and box of chocolates from Anchor’s Bar and enjoy the show.
with your host Robert “Sharky” Pruneda
Robert “Sharky” Pruneda, Host
Tess Thompson, Guest Author
Anchor the Hammerhead, Our Toothy Bartender
Sharky: Okay, now that everyone has made it to their seats, let’s get this party started.
Anchor: No alcohol for you today, buddy. I’m still a little bitter from last month.
Sharky: Oh, come on. You know I was just joking around with you.
Anchor: Yeah, yeah, whatever. You’re getting a virgin daiquiri.
Sharky: Just get me a coffee, then. Black.
Anchor: Coffee it is. And for the guest of honor? What would you like to drink, Miss Thompson?
Tess: I’ll take a glass of white wine. French Chablis if you have it. Wine snob, here.
Anchor: Excellent. I make the best French chablis in town.
Sharky: He says that about every drink.
Tess: Yes, I’m a little suspicious that he’s able to make a Chablis on the spot.
Anchor: You obviously haven’t been to my bar before. vV””Vv
Sharky: Anyway, while Anchor works his magic, let’s start things off with the basics. Tess, tell us a little bit about what defines you as an author. Let’s say you’re sitting over there at Anchor’s Bar, and someone asks you about your career. In thirty seconds or less, what would your response be?
Tess: I would sheepishly admit that I’m an author. I always feel kind of embarrassed about it, mostly because everyone and their mother says they’re a writer. Then, the next thing they always ask is, “Do you have any books out?” And then I tell them a little of my story. It started with a dream…no, just kidding. I tell them I have seven romantic suspense novels, in three series and one historical fiction.
Sharky: I’m the same way. I find it hard to talk about myself as an author. I’m getting better at it, though.
Tess: I know exactly what you mean. Before Riversong was such a success, I felt really embarrassed to tell people what I ‘do’. No one feels you’re legit unless you have a book out that’s doing well. Eight books later I’m a little more comfortable, but it still feels awkward. I don’t know why exactly. If we were brain surgeons, we wouldn’t feel that way. Not sure why writing is that way.
Sharky: I think part of it is because we spend so much time by ourselves (and with our characters; those crazy voices in our heads), that when someone actually show interest in us as writers and wants to know more, sometimes we clam up. 🙂
Tess: I know! I wish it wasn’t like that, but yes, inherently most writers express themselves best through the written word. So, I guess it makes sense that social interactions are difficult for us. I always think of myself as a social person, but I’m also someone who needs a lot of alone time with my thoughts and my work. I get more so as I get older and become less reliant on what others ‘think’ of me.
Sharky: That reminds me of when I published Devil’s Nightmare. I was terrified what people were going to think about my first horror novel. And when I received my first negative review, I was crushed. It made me question my ability as an author. How did you handle your first negative review, Tess?
Tess: Oh gawd, yes, as far as how it feels when your first ‘baby’ goes out to the world. You dream of it your whole life and then when it happens you realize it’s the most terrifying experience in the world. I thought, what the heck am I doing this for? And that was before the first negative review. Regarding negative reviews, I was absolutely horrified when the first reviews that came in about Riversong were criticizing not the story or my writing, but the copy editing. It went out full of typos – I wanted to die. This was before my publisher thought it was important to add that final proofer onto the team. It was one of the worst feelings in the world. But, it taught me a lot about how to do this the right way.
Sharky: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. My first really harsh review was also about typos, but there are also the reviews that get personal and criticize not the story, but the author. You know, “Writes like a third-grader,” etc.
Tess: Oh yes. We all get those and my theory is they’re written by bitter writers. I’ve had many like that, unfortunately. However, I learned after Riversong not to read reviews for the most part. They get in my head and really mess with my writing.
Sharky: I’m still working on trying not to read every review. But, at least the negative ones don’t stink (as much) anymore.
I’d like to touch on Riversong, which turned into a great success. If I remember correctly, it hit #1 on Barnes & Noble, not just in a category, but overall. How was that experience? What do readers most like about this and your other novels?
Tess: That’s right. We had great success with Riversong. I think in part because it was in the early days of indie publishing, and quite frankly, there weren’t as many self-pubbed and hybrid books on the market. As it stands now, the market is flooded. Readers are frustrated because they can’t find good books, and good writers are frustrated because they can’t find us. Regarding what readers like about Riversong – it’s probably the same for all my books. They’re feel good romances with complex characters set in places that explore the themes of love, friendship and community.
Sharky: Sounds like something my mother would really like. I plan on giving her the two signed copies of Riversong and Caramel and Magnolias that you sent me. She just retired, so she has lots of time to read now. 🙂
Tess: It’s so funny you say this, because I have found many of my readers scale older, which never occurred to me. They’re sweet and smart ladies of a generation that doesn’t care for swearing and too much overt sex, but want a story that moves along with redemptive characters. Our mothers’ generation are my speed, apparently. 🙂 I am kind of vanilla in character myself. I don’t care much for vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake, and I want my heros to be clean shaven, polite and intelligent. No man-buns, please. I guess what I’m trying to say – there are not as many fiction books out for readers like your mom and my mom. So, I’m here to fill that gap.
Sharky: That’s how I feel about the horror genre that I currently write in. I see a lot of horror that is all blood and guts, lots of profanity (and yes, mine does have some), and full of sex just for the sake of having sex in it. Now if it fits in with the plot, then yeah, I’m okay with it. But generally, I’m not a big fan of that type of story-telling. So, when I began my writing career, I chose to write pretty much what I enjoy reading.
Tess: I love that. There is famous quote from Toni Morrison – something like if you can’t find the book you want to read, write it. Along that same line, I often crave a story and movies etc. for that matter, that have redemptive characters. I can’t cheer for a soulless character, even if they’re cool and smart. And if a character isn’t learning something, becoming better, then why present it in story?
Sharky: I absolutely love that quote.
Tess: I know! Me too.
Sharky: As a reader, I have my favorite genres, but sometimes I enjoy branching out and exploring others. Aside from romance, what other genres do you like to read? And have you ever toyed with the idea of writing a novel in a different genre?
Tess: Yes, I love a lot of different genres, including mystery, suspense, literary fiction and most especially historical fiction. If I could, I would write one historical fiction a year and give up on the romances. Unfortunately, they don’t sell as well. My first historical fiction, Duet for Three Hands, was released last year. It was a labor of love that I worked on for four years. I would love to write the sequel, but they take so long because of the research.
Sharky: It’s kind of how I feel about my first novel Pursuit of a Dream (which was supposed to be a series). It will always be my favorite, because it was what launched my writing career. It hasn’t sold well at all, so I continue to write in the horror genre because it is more popular right now. However, I do plan on going back to my original novel to write the sequel next year. It may not sell, but it’s a story that I need to finish. Do you have any stories locked away that you planned on writing, but never started or finished?
Tess: Yes, the two follow-ups to Duet for Three Hands are partially written and almost completely plotted. I want to write them so much my fingers itch. But Duet hasn’t sold, even though it’s by far my best work. I guess that’s the nature of the beast. You have to write what sells.
Sharky: It’s definitely a tough business to be in. I always like to tell aspiring writers to think about what their goals are, and if making money is high on their list, I kindly encourage them to rethink their goals. I say this because it is so easy to get discouraged when you focus on sales (or lack of sales). What advice would you give to budding authors, particularly those who write in your genre?
Tess: I always say the same thing when asked this question, whether it’s in my genre or not. Read authors who are better than you. Write and write and write. You can’t expect to just pump out a romance, for example, because they seem so easy to write and they sell so well. Yeah, it doesn’t really work that way. There is craft and expertise that comes from reading and writing as a habit, and with excellence as your primary goal, no matter the genre. As far as getting rich quick, which I think a lot of amateur writers seem to think is not only possible, but easy, they’re sadly mistaken. They’ll learn. 🙂
Sharky: Ha ha! Absolutely. I’m still learning. Writing the novel is the “easy” part. Getting it in readers’ hands is the hard part.
Tess: Amen to that.
Sharky: Okay, one final question. Well, actually two, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Who is your favorite author and why?
Tess: Well, I’m fickle this way because I love so many authors in so many genres. So, I’ll just tell you my favorite right this minute. Rosamund Pilcher. She’s an english romance novelist that’s been putting out books since the early 70’s. I’m currently reading her entire catalog and getting ‘schooled’ on how to do this romance stuff right. LOVE her.
Sharky: In my genre, Stephen King is right at the top of my list for many of the same reasons. I normally end Chumming with Sharky™ with a hypothetical scenario to see if I can stump my guest, but (and this is some behind-the-scenes info), Tess actually stumped me. We’ll keep that between us. 🙂 So, being that today is Valentine’s Day, do you have a favorite memory to share?
Tess: I’ve been divorced for 3.5 years. Several years ago I started the online dating scene, which is basically like the plot of one of your horror novels. But finally, one year ago, February 6th, to be exact, I met a man named Cliff for dinner that I’d corresponded with on Tinder. We met at a wonderful local restaurant called Flat Iron Grill. I was nervous as anything and really wondering why I’d come out on a cold winter’s night instead of spending time with my cats and Downtown Abbey. But from the moment he first made me laugh, he’s had my heart. Last week we went back and had dinner at the same place on our anniversary. I will never forget that first dinner – what we ate, what we talked about, what we drank. It was a perfect night, although not as perfect as the one we had last week when we spent most of the time talking about our upcoming WEDDING. Yes, this coming August we’re getting married in Hawaii, proving that love is alive and not just in my novels. I’ll save the horror for you, Sharky. 🙂
Sharky: That’s awesome, Tess! Congratulations on your engagement! This is the first I’ve heard of this. I’m very happy for you, because I know how hard the divorce was on you.
Tess: Thanks, sweetie. It was rough, but so worth it. And yes, this is breaking news. You’re the first to know! And now all your readers. Hear it here first, people.
Sharky: I think this calls for some champagne!
Tess: You had me at champagne.
Sharky: Of course, I’m sure you’d be just as happy to get that glass of wine you ordered from Anchor. Where the heck is he?
Tess: France? Now that’s dedication to your job!
Sharky: That hammerhead shark has been giving me a hard time about getting a raise. He may have just earned it. We’ll celebrate later.
Tess: Okay, sweets, I should go. Need to make the princesses some dinner. Thanks for thinking of me. I had fun!
Sharky: It was a pleasure. It’s dinner time for me, too. Stomach is growling. 🙂 Have a nice evening.
Tess: You too!
Sharky: And to my readers, thank you for taking the time to hang out with me and Tess on this special 💘Valentine’s Day💘 edition of Chumming with Sharky™. Be sure to congratulate Tess on her engagement in the comments, check out her books, and stalk her social media. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Tess Thompson is the bestselling author of Romantic Suspense novels, including the River Valley Collection. Since 2011, she has released eight novels. She lives in suburb of Seattle with her daughters and two cats, and is currently working on her ninth novel.
Tess writes in her home office six days a week, sipping countless cups of herbal tea, with two naughty but adorable cats, Mittens and Midnight, in a basket on the desk. She loves to hear from you. Drop her a line, or visit her Facebook Fan Page, or follow her on Pinterest and Twitter.
Robert “Sharky” Pruneda is a native Texan, video game “enthusiast” [addict], and fan of all things horror. He left a career in the newspaper industry in 2011 to pursue the life of a nocturnal author, brainstorming new and creative ways to creep out his readers. He doesn’t only write horror though. He also pens the occasional family-oriented tale just to keep from going completely nuts with all those creatures of the night whispering in his ears. When he’s not pulling ideas out of his twisted brain, you’ll likely find him on social media or fighting alongside his fellow gaming buddies where they all get shot up into Swiss cheese (or turned into little bite-sized chunks because of “Sharky’s” obsession with explosives). Medic!
Pursue your dreams . . . and never look back.
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