Wow, I’ve had a real lineup in the last few days, and today it’s my pleasure to have Thea Atkinson with me. Thea told me she was thrilled to be here, but that’s really my line–I’m thrilled to have her. At least there aren’t any scary animals on her covers.
LP: Good morning, Thea. Tell us a little about yourself. Where you live now, and where you grew up?
TA: I was brought up in a small Nova Scotia community on the tip of the
province, which means almost everything in my life has something to do with water. I lived in a fishing community even though my father was a brick layer, I worked in fish plants from the time I was 14 until I was in my 20s. My mom was a floor lady in a fishplant. I married a fisherman.
LP: That’s just so cool. Seriously, it sounds like something out of a romance novel.
TA: I have 3 brothers who threatened any boy who came near me with romantic intention. The ones who came near me to partake in teasing and tormenting, throwing balls at me, or sticking me in hockey nets for endless hours: those ones they left alone. Consequently, I didn’t have a boyfriend till I was 15.
So you can imagine most of this comes out somewhere in my fiction.
LP: Well, so much for romance, thanks to big brothers. Do you feel that the environment you were raised in has any effect on your choice of genre?
TA: There’s the spirit of some great Nova Scotia and Atlantic writers that haunt me, of course. All literary: but I’ve learned not to say that out loud if I want people to sample my books. Grin. You can’t live in an environment so rich with heritage and living metaphor and be a writer and have it pass you by.
LP: Wow, I’d never really considered that that could be obstacle. Just the words Nova Scotia brings up images in my mind of romantic water, gorgeous sunsets, and yes, beautiful words of description to share those with the hearts and minds of readers. Sorry, I got a little sweaty there.
When and why did you begin writing?
TA: I have no idea. I remember writing an essay in grade 3 as an assignment and the teacher was planning to submit the best of them to our local radio station. My best friend won. I was so thrilled for her that I wanted to pull her hair out. Maybe I wanted to work at my writing so that I could get as good as her. She was always the better writer. So no matter what the actual motivation was, I wrote some little thing every year until I took it up seriously when I was 26. At the time the Internet came to our community. That was really the catalyst for me. I discovered other writers to network with. I learned a lot in the first two years and I still remember some of the names from the listservs I was on, and I still keep in touch with some.
LP: What inspired your first book?
TA: Oh, this one’s rich. It was a teen romance that I wrote when I was 15, inspired by the thought that I might actually have a boyfriend someday….see question 1.
LP: Oh, that is rich. I went through something similar after my divorce that whenever a man came up to me one of the boys would walk over and stand beside me. And both my boys were right at 6′ so they were kind of intimidating. I used to joke with them that this one had teeth, so they should have given him a shot.
How do you come up with your titles?
TA: They need to give me a visceral reaction. One Insular Tahiti was the only one that was inspired by literature: Moby Dick, and the quote it’s found in says everything I wanted to say in the novel in way less words. “Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”
Despite my agent wanting to change the title, I retained it because it meant something to me that could explain the theme of the novel to any reader.
LP: Good for you. It’s a beautiful quote, and I’ve always believed that authors should have final say on titles and covers.
Is there a specific message in your novels that you’d like the reader to grasp?
TA: I look for light in the darkness. Many of my novels are dark. (My agent asked me this same question.) I figure the light always looks better when you’ve been in the dark so long. That’s the enduring message, I guess. That the light is coming.
LP: How much of your book is realistic or based on real life issues?
TA: All of it, really. I study relationships and self. One of my novels was inspired by one of my brother’s own struggles but it’s not about him. I was just so deeply affected by what he was going through, that I had to explore it. A Secret Language of Crows is the result.
LP: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
TA: When I first published a piece of fiction. I was thrilled. Then I moved into nonfic, and it was easy to call myself a writer because I had so much work. But I always consider fiction my calling.
LP: Do you have a specific writing style?
TA: I think every writer has. They can’t help it. Can I define mine: Not a chance.
LP: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
TA: A very close writer friend: Sandra Phinney. She’s very talented and encouraging. She’s a poet at heart and a travel writer, but she’d be it.
LP: What book are you reading now?
TA: Lots. All indies. Mel Comley, Suzanne Tyrpak, Susan Gottfried, LarryEnright. Oh, too many.
LP: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
TA: Same answer. Grin
LP: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your first book?
TA: Everything. But who has the energy?
LP: Are you currently working on a new book, and if so, can you share some of it with us?
TA: YES! I’m thrilled to be working on a historical novella set in ancient Egypt. I plan to use to open up a series that will travel to different locales in history. I’m hoping it will be out the first week of March. I had planned for it to be released in February, but I ended up adding another few thousand words that of course needed to be edited.
LP: That sounds amazing. So what is the most challenging part of writing your current work in progress?
TA: The research is a bear.
LP: That I can imagine. Who are your favorite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
TA: Annie Proulx, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates. One word: characterization.
LP: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
TA: I wish.
LP: It would be nice, wouldn’t it? Especially with your new series.
Do you design your own covers?
TA: Yes. I love to mess with graphic design. I could probably get a pro and then get some interest, but for now, I think they’ll do.
LP: I think your covers are great. I love all of them. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
TA: Committing. When the writing’s easy, so is commitment. When it isn’t, I have to dedicate myself to it. I’ve never been a good dieter; no willpower.
LP: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
TA: Anomaly taught me the most. The main character is a transperson and I had to do a lot of research and a lot of empathetic study. The main thing I discovered is that prejudice is everywhere–even in the special communities.
LP: Do you have any advice for other writers?
TA: Write every day. Study other writers. Pay it forward whenever you can. Always assume your writing needs to be edited and then accept with grace the comments others give you because every comment can help improve the work in some way even if you don’t agree with it.
LP: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
TA: Anyone who has read me has had to take a risk. Thank you for taking that risk and for spreading the word when you thought it paid off. I don’t write genre, so each comment: good or bad, is appreciated because it helps me improve. I do care about my craft.
Thank you, Thea. I think it’s wonderful that with the ease of digital publication more and more readers can take a chance on an unknown author, and many are finding works they love. We’ll all look forward to your new release, and I hope you’ll stop by and let us know when it’s out.
Read to download a sample–or better yet buy now?