How did you start writing? What first inspired you?
When I was in grade school, I would fill spiral notebooks with stories and ideas for stories. I made up plays for my cousins and me to perform for our relatives. I think I always wanted to be a writer. I loved books and movies. I still do!
Who or what has helped you the most with your writing career?
I taught creative writing to high school students and to adults, so I have many years of instruction behind me. I read and studied as many writing instruction books as I could get my hands on. I especially liked Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephen King. I attended many writers’ conferences and listened to tips and hints from successful authors. One of the best writing teachers around is Bonnie Hearn Hill, and I heard her speak several times and learned so much from her. She was gracious enough to edit one of my short stories.
Do you write everyday?
Yes, but sometimes it’s only in my head and not on paper. Even when I am not sitting at the computer, I think about the characters or the plot of the novel I am working on at the time. I sometimes speak into a tape recorder app on my iPhone while I am taking my morning walk.
Do you have a special place to write (office, dining room, etc.)?
I write in my home office, in the den with the computer on my lap, while sitting out on the patio, and in the car while my husband is driving. My best ideas seem to come to me when we are in the mountains. Two of my novels are set in Timberon, New Mexico, and I wrote much of them on the weekends while we were there. I usually write at my computer keyboard, but while in the car or in the mountains I write on a legal pad.
Typically, how much do you write a day?
I try to write a scene or revise a scene five days a week. The number of pages varies. I also work on creating educational lessons most days.
Do you use an outline? If not, how do you keep your story and characters together?
One thing I always do is to develop extensive character sketches before I begin to plot the novel. I keep detailed notes on each character. Then, I sketch an outline. I like to plan the plot and divide the whole book into tentative chapters. The plan is often revised several times before the book is finished and new chapters and scenes are added.
How much do you rewrite? How many drafts do you typically have?
I rewrite extensively. The rewriting is the most important part of the writing process. The initial draft is like a canvass. Each rewrite adds a layer of color and depth. Typically, the manuscript goes through three drafts, and I always give it to a few people I trust to be first readers.
How do you feel about writers’ groups and have they helped you?
It has always amazed me that successful published writers are such generous mentors to writers who are just beginning the journey. Writers’ conferences are the easiest way to meet agents and editors and to meet and talk with published authors. Entering contests can provide invaluable feedback when you are first starting out, and once you are published, writers’ groups can help you market your books.
What drew you to your genre of writing? A specific author, influence?
I started out writing romance because that was the genre I read for many years. Then, several years ago, I started reading mystery and suspense, and now I am completely hooked.
What authors do you like to read?
I am a voracious reader, so it would be impossible to name them all. I really enjoy James Lee Burke, Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons, Jonathan Kellerman, Diane Chamberlain, Nora Roberts, and John Grisham to name a few. I also like to read new authors. L.C. Hayden is a good mystery author. Charles Bourland writes great humorous novels and screenplays.
Who is your greatest support?
My husband Jerry is amazing. He is my first reader, my best editor, and my best friend. My whole family has been behind me from the beginning and is very supportive and encouraging. Of course, my sister is my writing partner, and she and I encourage each other.
What do you think of ePublishing?
I think it’s great. Finally, there is a chance for more talented new writers to be discovered. I also like the fact that eBooks are so much more affordable and easier to handle. I load my Kindle with books before I take a trip.
Is ePublishing a good place to start for an unpublished writer?
Sure. Start wherever you can. Whether one’s work is published in hardback, in paperback, or as an eBook, it is still an accomplishment and requires hours of hard work and dedication.
What methods do you use to market your work?
I have a website, a twitter account, a Pinterest account, and a Facebook Fan Page. I also have a Kindle Author page on Amazon.com, an Author’s Den website, and I sell my nonfiction books on TeachersPayTeachers.com. You can find links to all of them if you Google my name.
What are you working on currently?
My sister, Judi, and I are writing the third book in the Chance O’Brien Mystery Series and I am writing educational lessons and workbooks.
What advice would you give to beginning writers?
Read extensively in the genre that you want to write. Study many other writers’ techniques. Subscribe to The Writer and Writers Digest magazines. Both are filled with advice and “how to” articles that are very valuable and instructive. Go to seminars and writers’ conferences and listen to published writers who have already made the journey you plan to take. Read everything you can find written by expert writing teachers such as Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, and Nancy Kress. Pat Conroy’s My Writing Life is a fascinating view into what it takes to be a writer. Take online writing courses and courses at a local community college or university.
And the most important advice of all is just to keep writing every day and never give up. Your best book may be your next one.
Charlene Tess’ Book List
Click here to view my novels including:
The Van Winkle Bride
The Rebecca Bride
The Cowboy’s Treasure
Our Hearts Remember
Accidental Angel (Written as Tess Thompson)
Second Daughter (Written as Tess Thompson)
When an Angel Whispers (Written as Tess Thompson)
Student Body (Written as Tess Thompson)
Click here to view my nonfiction books including:
Simple Steps to Sentence Sense for High School
Simple Steps to Sentence Sense for Middle School
Simple Steps to Sentence Sense for Elementary and ESL Students
Simple Steps to Sentence Analysis