Tag Archives: Tamar Hela

If You Could Save Only Eight Books… Part Four

13 Dec

It’s my pleasure to welcome the third of my guests, talking to me about the eight books that they’d salvage from their collections if they had to leave home in a hurry. And this time, it’s the turn of Tamar Hela. Tamar very kindly interviewed me over on her blog at tamarhela.wordpress.com so I was  pleased to be able to return the favour and invite her onto my blog.

As with all of my interviewees so far, Tamar has been writing since an early age, ten in her case. That’s nearly twenty years, she tells me and she’s been doing so professionally now for the last four years. So what has she completed thus far? “I have written all kinds of things,” she says. “I’ve written poems and have had one published. I have also written a young adult novel, Feast Island, which came out last year and is about to be re-released this month. I also blog on a personal blog and write health articles at examiner.com.” Tamar gained valuable writing experience while working in education and marketing. And while she enjoys writing in the fantasy and young adult genres, she is currently working on a dystopian novel aimed at adults.

I was interested to know how she goes about her writing. “I am becoming more disciplined with setting aside writing time every day,” she says. “After all, it’s now my means of income since I decided to go freelance. Even if I’m not working on one of my books, I am writing something—a blog post, an article, copy for a client, etc.” And it turns out that she shares one of my writing habits. “I like to write at coffee shops,” she tells me, “because I am less distracted there than at my home office.”

Tamar says that C.S. Lewis and his Narnia series were a “huge influence” when she was growing up. Stephenie Meyer proved influential for different reasons. “When I read the Twilight series years ago, I thought: ‘Okay, this is a decent book, but there are better things out there—why don’t I give writing a go too and see if I can become published?'” 

And what about the future? “I have quite a few novels in the works,” she answers. “Either they have a few pages or synopses written, or exist as a few phrases I jotted down in a notebook so I don’t forget. I would love to be able to earn enough from my fictional works so I can pay the rent and travel whenever I’d like (ah, wouldn’t we all?). I would also love to get into travel writing. Something you learn as you move forward in any career is that overnight success happens as a result of years of planning and preparation. I’m getting closer and closer to that success, I think!”

So let’s move onto Tamar’s choices. A novel by one of my favourite authors features on Tamar’s wide-ranging list (my copy is signed by the Nobel Prize winner himself!) alongside one for whom I have a real blind-spot and others that I’ve never heard of and shall be tracking down…

B and N Poster T

Tamar puts her background in marketing to good use…

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

When I was 10, I started reading Little Women during my Christmas break from school. I continued to do so, every year, into my late teens. I loved the story and was very enthusiastic about the length—it’s very long (in case you’ve never read it). I loved the real life circumstances the book portrayed and fell in love with all of the characters.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

I could read this book over and over until the Apocalypse. Seriously. I love the romance that builds between two very different people, and courtship and romantic drama during the 1800s are quite fascinating. Being rude to someone by using clever language is a lost art form.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

I enjoy a good devotional every now and then, and this book is quite exceptional. If you don’t affiliate with Christianity/Catholicism, then it may not be for you, but I expect that deep thinkers and philosophical types would enjoy it as well. The book is very short (I think 120 pages or so?), but it took me about eight months to get through—it’s that deep.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

This is an interesting take on Hell and/or Purgatory and Heaven. I used to teach through this book with my eighth grade students when I taught religion classes. The imagery is very well done, and come on: it’s Lewis for goodness sake. He really makes the reader think, and I love that.

Taliesin (Book 1 of the Pendragon Cycle) by Stephen R. Lawhead

You like Medieval settings? Check. You want battles and gore? Check. Romance and suspense? Check. Amazing mythology with real-life hardship? Double check. This book begins a King Arthur series and marks the beginning of my life-long romance with fantasy fiction. I read this book in junior high, even though it’s an adult book. I am still just as in love with it 20 years later. So, so good. The best King Arthur mythology I’ve ever encountered.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I actually like this book better than The Three Musketeers, and I love The Three Musketeers! I think the revenge factor and crazy plot twists are what made me become obsessed with this book. I first came across it in high school and read it one summer—just for fun. One of the best book discoveries I’ve ever had.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

You know those books where you go back and re-read scenes because you can’t get enough? THIS book was like that for me. A writer friend recommended it to me just this past summer and I fell in love! I am anxiously anticipating the third and final installment of this series, due out in January of next year. I hate waiting.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I admit that my imagination can be twisted at times, which is why this is my final choice. Lord of the Flies is one of the very few “required reading” books I actually read in its entirety in high school. With me being an avid reader, lover of books, and a writer, you’d think I would have read all the assigned books. I shamefully admit that I hated most of the “classics” and read notes on pinkmonkey.com the night before my exams rather than actually read the books. But LOTF was a winner in my mind—and I read it from beginning to end! The corruption, the suspense, the gritty gore—I loved it all! It gave me chills as I neared the end and I enjoyed the thrill of the story.

It only remains for me to thank Tamar for sharing her book choices with me and to wish her good luck with her writing and a cool Yule. Happy reading!

Photo © Tamar Hela 2013

Thoughts on Ten Thousand Words…

17 Apr

In my experience, it takes a long time to write ten thousand words. I’ve noted that my manuscripts take an eternity to produce. As a writer, then, working on a manuscript, that figure appears significant. It signifies that something of weight, of greater length than a short story, has begun to emerge, that the results of one’s labours are starting to take shape. And two people have mentioned this particular figure in the last week. Firstly, my Internet acquaintance, Tamar Hela (see Tamar’s WordPress blog here) mentioned on Facebook that she’d completed ten thousand words of her second book. And secondly, an acquaintance who shall remain nameless and who also writes fiction (blimey, we’re all at it, aren’t we?) told me that during the recent break she’d started work on a new book. I asked her how it was going and she told me that she’d got ten thousand words. ‘Wow’, I said, ‘and how long did that take?’ I invite you now to guess how much time she expended on it. Suffice to say, it wasn’t long. All will be revealed in the next paragraph.

I’ve ranted on this subject before. In my post, November: Can a novel be written in a month?, I cast doubt upon the quality of anything that might be produced in such a time frame. It seems to me symptomatic of the mindset that art can be created with a minimum of endeavour. You don’t have to put time into learning your craft. Nor do you have to spend much time on producing it. Looking at Tamar’s Facebook posts, I see that she began her current project back in September. Ten thousand words in eight months – now that sounds like crafting to me. And my unnamed acquaintance? ‘Six hours,’ she replied, ‘on the beach with a laptop’. Six hours? Who knows, perhaps she’s a genius? That might explain the ‘light bulb’ moment, the 1% of genius that is inspiration. But what about the other 99% of Thomas Edison’s equation? Where’s the perspiration? Philip K Dick and Jack Kerouac were both supposedly able to write with great speed, but let’s be honest, their work would suggest that was exactly how it was produced…


The writing desk in a previous, temporary location (curtains not of the author’s choice)

I began work on my second fictional work over twenty years ago. My God, I’ve been writing forever! There’s a sense in which my current project could be considered my seventh work of fiction, though I’ve ‘disowned’ my first three efforts. I began writing it in October and I now have 36,000 words (see excerpts here and here). This represents spectacular progress for me, though it’s worth noting that it’s nearly five years since the idea occurred to me, so it’s been slow baking for some time in the Rayburn of my subconscious. And as noted in previous posts, like my writing friend, Mari Biella, I’ve adopted a twin-pronged approach to writing this time. So I have 15,000 words of a further work-in-progress that I began in summer. That would make fictional work no. 8!

I’m sure there’s a simple phrase that sums up the moral here – something to do with the swords of a thousand men, perhaps. No, that’s not it. The words of a thousand pens, then? Nope, not that either. The pen is mightier than the sword? A picture tells a thousand words… Hmm, it eludes me. Once again, it’s suggestions on a postcard time.

All words and image © PSR 2013