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Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Tess Thompson, This Month's Author Interview


Spotlight on Tess Thompson

Mother, author, and Zumba Queen, Tess Thompson is the author of Riversong and Caramel and Magnolias. Coming to novels after working as a playwright and actor, Tess brings an ear for dialogue and love of characters to everything she writes. And clearly it's working for her - Riversong reached #1 on the Barnes and Noble Nook Book Chart in October 2011. And keep an eye out for the sequal to Riversong, Riverbend.


Publishing, First Novels, and Writing advice!


Scroll Down to Read Part II

Tell us about your relationship with BookTrope:
Booktrope is cofounded by one of my best friends from theatre school, Katherine Sears. We lost touch after college; she moved to San Francisco and I moved to Seattle. When I was shopping Riversong to publishers, out of the blue, I received an email from Katherine. Turns out we’d been living eight miles from one another for five years. She offered to read Riversong and convinced her co-founder Kenneth Shear to publish it. The rest, as they say, is history. Booktrope is the perfect publisher for me (I plan to be with them for as long as they want me) because they put a team of people together consisting of a stellar editor, marketing manager and book cover artist that rival any bigger publishing house. Their model is unique in that we’re all compensated as a team when the book sells – so we all have proverbial skin in the game. The main thing they’ve done is create an environment where I can do what I do best – write – and the rest of our team does what they do best – figure out how to get my books in readers’ hands.  

What do you know now, you wish you'd known before you sat down to write your first novel?
Don’t waste time worrying about if you’re any good or not. Just write. Hard. Every day. Like you’re the finest writer on the planet. Pretty soon you’ll earn the right to be called a writer.

What are you working on now?
The sequel to Riversong, called Riverbend. It features the chef, Annie, from Riversong as the main character. A mysterious man arrives in town and, well, you’ll have to wait until May to find out the rest.

Final Words of Wisdom
Talent is less important than discipline. 

Writing process, Genre, Writing Style


Part I

Take us through your writing process.
I start with character sketches, fleshing them out carefully and then make a story arc of the plot. I write the first draft fast, usually 2500 words a day. After I have it splashed onto the paper, I then start from chapter one and refine. I’m a ‘putter inner’ rather than a ‘taker outer’.

You started as a playwright, then made the leap to novelist. What caused you to make the change? How did/does one genre inform the other?
I was trained as an actress and director at USC drama school. I thought I would have a life in the theatre as a playwright, actress and director. However, after my first play was produced, I realized the kinds of stories I wanted to tell and how I wanted to tell them were better suited for novels. Which, in hindsight, makes sense, as my love affair with novels started at a young age. My background in the theatre influences my writing a great deal, especially as it comes to detailed characters and dialogue. And story arcs are the same in any medium.

Your work combines "romance" and "intrigue" and "character studies" - how do you define your writing style? And how did that develop?
My aim is well-written page-turners that explore complex characters in suspenseful situations. I write what I like to read, which is to say, I’m interested in the dynamics between people and what motivates and influences them, as well as the redemptive power of love. My writing style leans toward the lyrical and poetic but not at the expense of story. One must never be so in love with their sentences that they let the reader’s attention sway for even one second. Get them to turn the page. Always. I developed this style by writing. A lot. Over time, your voice emerges. 

Check back April 15 for Part II