Q&A With Tanya E Williams
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Q&A With Tanya E Williams
I have the honor of doing a Q&A with Tanya E Williams. Tanya E Williams loves writing historical fiction novels and loves getting lost in time with them. Tanya’s novels are “Welcome to The Hamilton,” “A Man Called Smith,” “Becoming Mrs. Smith,” “All That Was,” “Stealing Mr. Smith”.
Q: What made you want to write in the historical fiction drama? When did you realize that your calling was to be an author?
A: At heart, I am a history nerd. I began reading historical novels as a teenager and I was immediately hooked. When it comes to writing, I continuously find myself drawn to the similarities of the human experience despite the much advancement throughout time. Creating a world set in the past reminds me that human beings continue seek out similar wants and needs and thus have a fairly repeatable habit of creating their own drama. That fascinates me. I think I knew I was called to write from a very early age. One of my earliest memories is of my five-year-old self crouched low beside an alfalfa field telling a story to the chirping yet hidden grasshoppers. When did I actually embrace this calling though is another story altogether. I took the scenic route on my journey to becoming an author and let fear of judgment stop me before I could really get going. Upon receiving genuine praise for my writing early on, I became paralyzed with fear and decided it was safer to keep my stories to myself. It took seventeen years and a life altering event to push me back on course. The lesson, though hard won, is not something I will easily forget and I remind myself regularly that healthy fear is a great motivator.
Q: Which era was your favorite to write about and why?
A: I adore the entire twentieth century for its vast scope of topics but if I had to pick one decade specifically, I would lean toward the 1920s. Mindsets changed dramatically in the roaring twenties and though not everyone was a flapper or dancing to the wee hours in a speakeasy, there is a sense of the world and everyone in it taking a great big exhale. The First World War had ended and I imagine having a clear idea of how short life could be catapulted the changes that occurred in the decade. Prohibition alone is said to have created an economy for mobsters yet the other side of prohibition was the inclusion and respect for differences between people in those clandestine establishments. Race, religion, and sexual orientation mattered little when everyone in the club was there illegally. I think it is the thread of hope about the 1920s that keeps me coming back for more.
Q: If you were to collaborate with another author who would it be with and why?
A: Great question. I would choose Lisa Genova. She isn’t a historical fiction author, I realize, but she tells the most poignant, emotionally captivating, and real to life stories and I would love to collaborate with her just to learn how she does it. It takes a significant amount of fortitude and courage to push past the comfortableness of a hard to write emotional scene and I think she may have the secret sauce in how to push on for the benefit of the story and the enjoyment of the reader.
Q: What advice do you give to anyone wanting to write historical fiction? What advice do you give to anyone struggling with writers block?
A: No matter what genre someone chooses to write in, I would recommend they start with something that interests them deeply. Historical fiction is research heavy and before you start writing, you will be diving into facts, figures and history in general. While you write though, the research does not magically stop so being comfortable with the rabbit holes that pop up as you write is also an important consideration. Not everything you research will appear in a novel, nor should it, but as the writer you need to have a clear understanding of the era you are writing in. I suggest writing about what interests you not only because you will be reading a lot of history, but also because you will be reading your own work over and over again. The process can be challenging on its own, but if you aren’t interested in the story’s general topic, then I imagine the rereading might feel like torture. It is important to keep perspective as well. You don’t know what you don’t know until you stumble upon it, so give yourself grace to learn, improve, and try to be humble should an error be pointed out. We all make mistakes and historical accounts alone are not always a true indicator of actual events. I try to remind myself that history is often told from the perspective of the victors but there is always more than one side to any story. This, I believe, is the reason for the plethora of World War II novels. The perspectives from that particular period of time are vast and even still now, there are stories left untold. When it comes to writer’s block, I have to be honest and say that I try not to fence myself in with the idea of being blocked at all. A change is as good as a rest I have found so if I am going in circles over some aspect of a story, I change locations. I mean, I physically move my computer and self somewhere else. Sometimes I change from my laptop to pen and paper. I have a multitude of methods when it comes to keeping the story flowing but it is important to note that sometimes the stall with words come from the subconscious knowing that something about the novel isn’t working. If that is the case, there is no other option but to stop, investigate and fix it before moving forward. Other than that, I would recommend making a solid habit out of writing. Sit down every day at the same time and write. It really is as simple and as challenging as that.
Q: What other eras in historical fiction would you like to write about in the future?
A: I would love to delve into the 1930s. The stark contrast from the twenties is intriguing to me. The challenge though is writing a story that isn’t as depressing as the decade’s identity is known to be.
Q: What advice do you give to new and aspiring authors dealing with negative feedback whether it’s negative reviews, online trolls and/or family and friends who are unsupportive?
A: Negative reviews can be useful tools to help an author improve their craft and this should not be discounted. However, there is a certain amount of needing to put blinders on when it comes to what others think and say about the novels you write. You are not your novel and though readers sometimes think you must be like your character, you have the advantage of knowing how the story and characters evolved. A talented writer can create characters with personas that are not at all like their own and that is one of the things that make them great writers. It is also important to note that sometimes a story, or a character, has a life of its own. As the writer, your job is to recognize when a story is asserting itself and simply get out the way so the story’s best interest can come through. Understanding that your novel isn’t going to be for every reader is also a helpful mindset. The key is to find your readers and then give them what they want. When it comes to negative reviews, sometimes it helps to look at the review with an inquisitive mindset and ask, is this review about my novel or is it about the reader? As writers, we have no control over who reads our books, what their life experiences may have been, or even if they had a bad day. Once you release your book into the world, it is no longer your story; it becomes a story filtered through the lens of each individual reader who encounters it. Perspective helps but if bad reviews are really troubling to a writer, I suggest they don’t look at their reviews, ever. The advice above only works for readers who you do not know personally. It is far more challenging to navigate an unsupportive family member or friend. That being said, I recently saw a post that nailed the sentiment for me. “No one else is supposed to understand your calling. It wasn’t a conference call.” With that in mind, if someone in a writer’s life is truly undermining their efforts in an unhealthy manner, it is time to examine the relationship and determine which is more important to you, the relationship or the writing.
Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so can you reveal any details?
A: I am currently writing book 2 in the Hotel Hamilton Series. Meet Me at the Clock takes place in the autumn of 1927, a few months after the first novel, Welcome to the Hamilton, ends. I can tell you that this story is told from a dual perspective with both Louisa and Clara’s voices being featured throughout. The sisters continue work at the hotel but new insights and discoveries have them questioning who they are and who they want to become.
Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?
A: Hollywood has not yet come calling, though I would be delighted if they did. I think having a novel made into a movie or a tv series closes the loop of the story within the writer’s head. The story begins, at least for me, with imagery so compelling that I have no choice but to write it, so seeing those images on screen has the potential to be deeply gratifying.