Sunday, May 29, 2011

Author Insides - Tammy Salyer


Tammy Salyer's humorous short story, "A Brigand's Lament," appears in the Spring 2011 issue of The Battered Suitcase. Tammy is an ex-paratrooper who replaced the thrill of jumping with the thrill of writing about things that are even crazier than she is. She has a lot less bruises now and gets to have fun now, no matter what the weather is.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?  

Somehow, I’ve always known I wanted to write. It’s in my blood. I remember creating a life goals list when I was about eleven. It contained several goals I’ve already achieved, i.e., buy a motorcycle and get a tattoo. It also included meeting Stephen King (haven’t done that one yet), and of course, write. I left that one open-ended — I didn’t yet know that there was a vast territory of different types and styles of writing. So far, I’ve done quite a few of them, and just never get tired of seeing the magic of written words and how they create new realities.

Why do you write?
Writing feeds my soul in a way that nothing short of a near-death experience has. Is there anything more theory-based and creative than the inventions of the mind? Anything you wish for, you can make be if you put the time and energy into writing about it. Writing is truly more nourishing and satisfying to that metaphysical part of me than anything else could ever be.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
Being a writer seems to mean so many different things to different people, and even to myself on a given day. For me, some days being a writer means beating my head against my desk until the words shake out. Other days, it’s more glamorous; it’s more about the zen of creativity. But ultimately, when people call me a “writer”, that’s when I start to feel like I’ve achieved what I imagined writing would be. More of an identity than an occupation. Just like the phrase “being a writer” means many different things to people, the word “success” means different things. To me, in a more public sense, they are about the same thing. I know I will have achieved what I imagined being a writer would be when I achieve success.

What do you think makes a good story?
A good story is a combination of so many factors; it’s a perfect storm of a cadre of juicy characters, exciting plot, interesting setting, and the well-woven layers of all of the above. For me to really enjoy a book, there has to be both interesting (though not necessarily likable) characters and a story that intrigues me. Stories like Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” or Neal Stephenson’s “Snowcrash.”

What's your favorite genre to read?
None, all. I haven’t read in a genre that doesn’t contain gold. It’s not the genre that makes a good book, it’s the skill of the author.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
The list could go on forever. I find that most authors have something in their style that resonates with me, even if it’s just a turn of phrase or an amazing character. There is a nugget of brilliance in every book written. A couple of authors that I return to over and over are Neal Stephenson and Neil Gaiman. Also Jonathan Safran Foer and Stephen King. I’m eclectic in my tastes.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Ooh, what a magical question. It just makes me want to pull out all of my inspirations and reread them. I’ll start with Stephen King’s “The Stand” and “It.” Those two stories were masterful in the way they wove together so many marvelous characters as well as how they could jump around in time and place. I also loved his book “On Writing” which validated every hope I have in me to expose my writing out to the world. Then there is the Lord of the Rings trilogy which is the best example I’ve found of pure creation, both the physical and metaphysical. Tolkien’s brilliance was having had the imagination to create an entire world and its history and the talent to make them accessible in all their elegance to readers.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Inspiration for new stories strikes out of the blue. I can be mixing cream in my coffee or having a conversation with friends and some random thought or comment will trigger the idea for a new story. Most of the time, they’re really out there and I just get excited to explore the idea further with no idea where it will take me. In that way, writing is very much like being the word nerd equivalent of Indiana Jones. You’re always chasing some new imaginative artifact that could change the world (or at least, the imaginary world) and there are often obstacles in the way (like your real job). Writing is inspiring in and of itself just because it’s such an adventure.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
To get into writing zen mode, or the flow, I often seek out interviews with some of my favorite writers and read them first. This seems to placate my internal editor who thinks it’s all just a big waste of time. To hear / read about people I admire struggling and feeling doubt at times helps me realize I don’t have to be perfect and loosens the mental cogs enough to let me start just writing without self-judgment. That will come back in when I allow the internal editor back on the scene.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I often write science fiction and find the need to do research a challenge. I’d rather make up what I don’t know than hunt down the facts, but I’ve come to terms with the reality that readers expect certain rules to be followed. I think it helps people to know they can rely on a stable foundation of physical truth in order to suspend disbelief and accept some of the greater imaginative elements of a good scifi story.

What are your current projects?
I’m currently writing my first paranormal fiction novel. It’s set in Canada and Greenland and is based on an ancient blood feud between Inuits and Vikings. And I’m editing the second book in an action adventure series I started a few years ago.

What are you planning for future projects?
I’ll write the third and final installment of the action adventure series.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Believe in yourself. Join a critique group with like-minded souls. And don’t do it if you don’t love doing it.

Where can we find your work?
I have two other shorts published in Ghostlight Magazine and The Living Dead Press’s anthology “Emails of the Dead.” I also have a blog where I offer personal ramblings on everything from movie reviews to publishing at

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