As many of you may know, I’ve been on an indie author reading binge and LOVING it. Yes, I still read traditionally published novels, but there is a special place in my heart for the indie novel. They so often tell stories the legacy houses do not touch. These are the stories so common in the souls of readers, though not often voiced and too often hid in the shadows. Stories that need to be shared so each can find healing in them.
Tammy L. Gray is an author who tells these stories and boy am I glad her books were recommended to me. After a week of consuming all four of her novels, I decided to see if I could cajole an interview from her. She agreed!!! She has an interesting story … one only a great God could design. Here it is …
Tammy, let’s jump right into the thick of it. What made you decide to write a book?
I honestly never expected to become a writer, and the way this whole career has played out is none other than God’s mighty hand. When I decided to write my debut novel, Shattered Rose, it came after a very hard weekend for me mentally and emotionally. I was struggling with a sin that I just couldn’t seem to overcome and was broken over it. At the same time, I am an avid reader, and had just hit a wall with the publishing industry in my desire to find good, quality romances that didn’t contain explicit sex. I was so tired of reading about these girls who were broken like I was, but found a guy or sex healed all their hurts. It was a lie.
Amen to that!
So I sat down that Monday after and started writing. And I had two goals. One, I wanted to show the analogy between Christ and sin. How even when we know it’s wrong, we are pulled back in over and over. Second, I wanted to show girls out there that the guys portrayed in all these books will absolutely break your heart. Eight weeks later, I had a novel. I sent it to a few friends and they went crazy over it. Told me I had to keep writing. So, I did.
Writing has become more than a one book anthem, like it started. It’s about offering fiction that is culturally relevant and includes messages of hope and healing. I believe fiction can inspire us if the message is authentic, which is what I try to be.
You have definitely accomplished that.
How many books do you have published and where can they be found?
I have self-published my Winsor series, which is three books (Shattered Rose, Shackled Lily, and Splintered Oak). All three are available on Amazon in kindle and print on demand. Shattered Rose is permanently free and can be found at all eBook retailers: iBook, nook, etc.
My newest release, Mercy’s Fight, was traditionally published by Waterfall Press. It can be found online at pretty much all retailers (Amazon, B&N, etc), and I know that Hastings carries it in the stores.
My next book will be released in early June. It’s a fun summer romantic comedy that I’m doing with three other authors, so mark your calendars!
Please note, I am in the process of changing my author name, so you will also see my books listed under Tammy L. Gray.
Tell us about your latest book.
My newest release, Mercy’s Fight, is a lot different than my previous series. First, both my characters are Christians and they are older, 25. While my Winsor series showed the struggle of non-believers, I wanted to also showcase how even the most faithful believers can struggle. Especially when they’ve been victimized in some way.
My hero, Matt Holloway, is a tatted up, former bad boy, who is as Alpha male as they come. He’s strong, confident, and has a heart of gold. He comes from an abusive home, got in trouble as a teen and spent two years in juvie. Yet, he turned his life around and is devoted to helping others heal. His only fear is love. He is terrified that his past will destroy anyone who dares to love him.
Grace is just the opposite. She comes from a life of luxury, where she was adored by both of her parents. Raised in a Christian home, she never really experienced heartbreak until her fiancé of 4 years cheats on her. Determined to find her way, Grace moves to North Carolina, but she is naïve and completely out of her element.
Matt and Grace come together through their mutual love for troubled children, and show that not only do opposites attract, but they can also bring the best out of each other. Matt shows Grace how to be a fighter and Grace shows him how to let go.
Ahhh, the Body of Christ in action. Love it!!!
This story is absolutely my most favorite romance I’ve ever written. The book is centered around 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you; for power is perfected in weakness.”
That it is!
In three words describe your style of writing
Character-driven, Message-driven and Contemporary.
Yep, that sounds about right.
Does your faith affect your writing? How?
Yes! As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen more masks than I care to count and behind each one is a story. Usually a story of heartbreak, struggle, failure and victory. In Christian circles, we tend to only show people our shiny parts, not the ugly, rusted sin that mars all of us.
My characters epitomize the word, “flawed” which is probably why we can all relate to them. Nothing is more beautiful than when we see a person expose all their challenges and mistakes, and then watch what amazing things God can do with each one of them.
God in His Glory turning our brokenness into gold. Nothing more beautiful!
I consider myself a coming of age writer, exploring deep subjects and struggles in every book, yet keeping the content clean enough to pass on to your teenage daughter. But at the same time, I want to fill the huge gap between mainstream and Christian romance, so I will include issues that a 2015 young adult is dealing with, like sex, identity, alcohol, drugs, peer pressure, etc.
There will also always be an inspirational message in my books because I believe God is at the center of any true healing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Yes! First, I would tell them to take a Margie Lawson class. Then I would tell them to join a writer’s critique group with people who will be constructive in their comments. I wrote my first two books in a vacuum, and while I had friends and family give comments and advice, my writing did not grow. During my third book, I started networking with other authors, and have grown exponentially since.
… And yet your first two books are fantastic reads.
… If they are choosing to self-publish, I would advise to have at least 3-5 books ready before they hit publish. Quantity is key in the indie world.
Great advice. I wish I had known it when I published my first.
… Also, as much it pains the pocket book, you must hire a good copy editor. My biggest mistake was having friends and family edit my first two books. I’m still getting flogged for editing issues. Not worth it!
If they are choosing to go traditional, get thee to a conference. You need to network and meet agents/editors in person. Email queries do not work. Also, a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! This is on the publishing side as well. Don’t just accept any publisher. Make sure they are a good one.
I’ve noticed you often write your stories from the point of view of a non-believer or someone who is resistant to the Christian faith. What is it about that POV that draws you to write this way?
I became a believer as an adult, so my college experience was pretty wild and dark. You could say that in a way, I wanted to show the Christian community what they sometimes refuse to see: the mess our children are growing up in. I also find that we tend to judge people less when we see things from their point of view. So introducing Avery, a “good” girl who has no real foundation, was intentional. I wanted to show how the world can swallow up our kids if they are not guarded, how easy it is to find self worth in the world, when they don’t have it rooted in Christ.
I also wanted to show the amazing healing power of God. So often in Christianity, we only talk about what everyone else shouldn’t be doing, and we have this perception of being judgmental, elitist, and disconnected. What we fail to show is how amazing God is in our life. Because to show His glory, we have to first admit we’re flawed and broken.
My hope is that someone can identify with one of my characters and then desire that same peace each of them find on the end of their journey. A peace that is only possible with Christ.
You speak my heart, Tammy!
Your first series was independently published. Tell us why you chose this path.
By default really.
After I finished Shattered Rose, I started the daunting process of looking for literary agents. After a million rejection letters, I spoke to my brother who is a media marking specialist. He is a major fan of self-publishing and encouraged me to move forward and publish my book independently.
I really was ignorant to what I was doing to be honest, which is why I know God had a plan, because despite all its flaws, the Winsor series did really well, and I found myself with this growing audience.
Now, I have an agent, have traditionally published a book, and am much more knowledgeable about the writing world. And, I can happily say that if I could go back and do it all over, I’d do it the exact same way.
I am a huge fan of indie and consider myself a hybrid author. I look at each book I write and decide what is the best path for publication. Sometimes, it’s traditional, other times it’s indie.
We are so blessed to be in a season where the author really is the master of his/her books.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
I would just like to encourage other authors to stay true to who they are. So often, authors are expected to change themselves or content to fit into this square box of publishing. That is not the case anymore. Indies are a respected part of the market, so if a publisher isn’t ready for you, then go out on your own. You can do it!!
At the same time, a good quality book should be the goal, whether independent or traditional. Take the time to produce your best product. The secret to a long career in this industry: Write good books and keep improving with each one.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Tammy. It has been really informative and a great pleasure to get to know you.
Other posts you might like:
Interview of Samantha Hart, from “One Among Men”
Welcome Jonathan Cohen from Jennifer Slattery’s Newest Release “When Dawn Breaks”
Tammy L. Gray is the kindle best selling author of the Winsor and Set Apart series. Her mission is to provide clean, culturally relevant romances that incorporate messages of hope and healing.
When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.
Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on. For all the latest info, visit her website at http://tlgray.com/
I’d love to hear from all of you! Come join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tlgraybooks or twitter @tlgraybooks
If you’d like to read a little on my testimony, follow this link: http://tlgray.com/healing-the-broken/