Welcome Coffee Time Romance Readers. Today I have the great honor of speaking with Marianne Stephens author of Guilty Survivor – Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall; a moving novel of war and survival. Hello Marianne, How are you doing this evening?
Fine! Thanks for having me here.
We at Coffee Time thank you for taking the time to answer some question about your release, Guilty Survivor-Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall. Why don’t you start off by telling us a little about the novel?
This book presents the memoirs of Bosnian Croat, Tamerla Kendall...now a US citizen. Her story of living in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War (1992-1995) is a detailed description of learning while adapting to the horrors and chaos war brings in order to survive. Grenade bombings of her restaurant, cleaning blood off the streets and buildings after random attacks, and witnessing people dead and dying, convinced her she'd be able to shoot the gun she'd bought for protection. When a gun was pointed at her head and her family threatened after the war because she'd married an American, Tamerla made the crucial decision to move to the United States.
First, I must ask you if telling this story was as difficult as reading it?
I wrote this in first person, so had to “get inside” Tamerla’s head and witness what she went through. Some things were too horrible to write about, and other events will remain untold to avoid disclosure repercussions.
This writing seems vastly different from your other books. What made you pursue such a difficult subject over the love stories you write so wonderfully?
Actually, I wrote another nonfiction book in 1999 about a speaker from an abused women’s shelter. Again, I wrote it in first person. For both books, ghostwriting the stories gave me more of a chance to convey the emotions felt by the lead characters.
As a side note, when writing these nonfiction books, I couldn’t write romance stories at the same time. I found myself trying to turn the nonfiction books into romance books…and that could not happen. I needed the distance.
The voice of Tamerla Kendall is strong as it is her story. Is it difficult to write a memoir in someone else’s voice? Another words how much different is it to write a memoir vs. fiction romance?
Once the research was done and I got into Tamerla’s head, I could “see” and “feel” all the emotions she experienced. As long as I put myself in her place (and not respond like an outsider), I could stick to the facts and write her story.
Writing nonfiction means being less creative since facts have to be followed. Writing romantic fiction allows me to unleash my creative side…and take the hero and heroine through their bumpy road to love!
It seems it would be as difficult for you to record the story as it is for Tamera to tell it though neither could be considered easy. On your website you stated you “ghostwrote” this story. Could you explain to us exactly what that mean?
I interviewed Tamerla for many months. Also interviewed her second husband. I did research on the Bosnian War. After organizing statements/events into chapters, I put myself in Tamerla’s head and wrote as she would have told her story. We had some language difficulties, but managed to communicate. With every word I wrote, I was Tamerla’s voice.
I also noticed on your website that you use two pen names. Why the different names and what is the difference between the writings of the two?
Marianne Stephens writes mainstream romance and nonfiction. April Ash writes erotic romance books.
Many writers say they are inspired to write by their dreams or the characters chattering away in their head. What inspires you to write the stories you create?
Definitely the voices in my head! They won’t stop until I tell their stories.
Do you have a method by which your write? Surrounded by music, dim lighting, snuggled on the couch, time of day, etc.
No music…I don’t like noise. I like a lot of light and a cold drink nearby. Early morning (if I get up!) or late at night seem to work best for me. I write at my desk.
The romance genre is on the rise and I know there are a lot of retreats out there for romance authors, aspiring writers and fans. Do you ever meet with other authors or readers to discuss romance writing? Are there any upcoming events we can find you at?
I just returned from Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention…had a great time. It’s so wonderful to see friends again, and make new ones. Lots of discussions were held about romance writing. Paranormal is still big, and Steampunk seems to be gaining an audience. Also, YA is hot.
Don’t know where I’ll be going next!
I happen to love the romance genre. Is there anything that you have not written but you would like to? Anything you would never even try to write?
I’ve got this idea in my head about a shape shifter story…not cats, weres…something different and on the humorous side. I have no desire to write vampire stories…maybe because I don’t like blood???
It would appear by your bio, you sat down one day and wrote a story. What led you to give writing a try? Do you remember the first story that you wrote? What gave you the inspiration to sit down and write the story?
All four of my kids were teenagers at the same time for a three-year period…drove me nuts. I needed a sanity outlet and decided to do something just for me. I wrote an awful book, sent it to agents, and got rejected. One agent was kind enough to tell me I needed dialogue in a romance book! I had much to learn.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there who are looking to break into the romance genre and battle with all the competition?
Everyone is looking for that “big NY publisher” contract. Nice goal, but difficult. Try an epublisher. Get your name “out”. Keep writing!
What projects are you working on that we should keep an eye out for in the future?
I’m working on another psychic romance book. I couldn’t work on it while writing Tamerla’s story, so now have to get my “muse” going and finish the book.
Do you have anything to add or say to our readers?
Thanks for reading my interview. I hope you’ll check my websites!
Marianne, thank you for spending time with Coffee Time Romance today. It was our pleasure to talk to you about your experience writing on such a difficult but moving subject. Your responses have been meaningful and gave myself and readers an opportunity to get to know you and Tamerla better. Have a wonderful day!
Thank you for having me here!