Sunday, May 22, 2022



I want to thank Tamatha Cain for taking the time for this interview!


Tamatha Cain is a former musician and bandleader. She graduated with honors from the University of North Florida with a concentration in Writing for the Entertainment Industry, and her work has appeared in national and international publications. 

Winner of the 2020 Royal Palm Literary Award for unpublished fiction and first place in The Experience Poetry Competition, she also writes reviews for Southern Literary Review. She is a member of WFWA and FWA. 

She is a wife and mother of three and lives in a hundred-year-old bungalow in North Florida, in close proximity to the historic locations found in her debut novel Song of the Chimney Sweep, available August 2022 from Orange Blossom Publishing.

When and how did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write in some form or another, but I also wanted to be a vocalist. I remember winning an essay contest in 6th grade and having that feeling of, “Yes, this is who I am. I’m a writer.”


Did you have any influencing writers growing up?

I read so much when I was growing up! I loved Louisa May Alcott, and the Ingalls family series. By middle school it was Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. The drama! I also loved biographies and true crime, which my mother didn’t like at all.


Are any of your characters based on people in real life?

Yes. Yes, some of them are.


Where do you draw your book inspirations from? 

I’m a people-watcher, as are most writers. It can be an overheard conversation, a scene playing out on a front porch or in a park as I drive by, a news story. Anything. Little vignettes spiral out into what I imagine is going on. I’m unabashedly interested in other people’s business.


Do you use have a basic outline when starting a new story or do you let the characters lead the way?

I do have a basic outline, or at least a plan for the main storyline and how it will resolve. That said, it’s always amazing how the writing of the thing uncovers new and deeper elements that feed the story in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

I think the scenes that are lead most by the characters are those with more dialogue. I will imagine how the conversation might play out and start writing, then write down what I hear the characters saying to each other in my head.


When you are picturing the characters in your book, do you have a cheater photo for inspiration?

No, I really don’t, but as they grow I do tend to start seeing them as some actor or another, or as similar to a relative or friend of mine. Sometimes they become this strange mixture of different people, with elements of each all rolled together. 

While it does help sometimes to imagine who would play this character in a movie, for instance, it can also hinder the process because you don’t want to fall into writing a character who looks and speaks exactly like someone very popular. The fun is creating a unique character who will remain in the reader’s memory for a long time.


Many people read as a form of escape and relaxation.  What is your favorite way to sit back and relax?

I do love to read. I also enjoy music and movies. True crime podcasts are my jam, as is evident in Song of the Chimney Sweep! 

My husband and I love to have a glass of wine and watch baseball, or work in the garden. We absolutely love to travel, and go on cruises, and explore new places. 

We’re go shark tooth hunting whenever we get the chance (like Betty in Song of the Chimney Sweep).


Who are your favorite current authors to read?

Most recently I’ve read a lot of biographies. The last few years I’ve read everything about Oona O’Neill Chaplin, the last wife of Charlie Chaplin, as I worked on a biographical novel about her fascinating life. 

For fiction, I’ve enjoyed Liane Moriarty, Ann Patchett, Ruth Ware…a big variety. I read some John Grisham recently because he has a home near where we live, and several of his novels are set in the area. Since Song of the Chimney Sweep is set in North Florida (where I live), I wanted to see how other writers have portrayed the area. 

I have two more on the TBR for that reason: The Fortune Teller’s Daughter by Lia Shaara and A Justified Murder by Jude Deveraux.


What are your favorite books by others?

This is a hard question! But the book that blew me away the most as an adult was Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I still can’t get over the genius of that book.


Do the locations in the stories have any meaning to you?

The locations in my stories definitely do have meaning. My first two novels were set in Florida, which has been my home since I was 18. Before that, my family moved a lot. My dad was in the Air Force, and I definitely draw on the places, the homes, the people of my childhood in my stories.


Do you write in single or multiple POV?

I’ve done both. My debut Song of the Chimney Sweep is multiple POV, with one set in the past and one in the near present.


What do you find to be your best research tool?

Google! And personal interviews. 

Oona O’Neill Chaplin’s daughter Jane has become a good friend via the internet, as she told me things about her mother that weren’t found in any biography, book, or movie. She was a wonderful source in bringing her mother to life in my book.


Do you write under a pen name?  Also, do you write under more than one name?

I don’t


What genre do you write and why is this your preference?

I write in different genres, but I do tend to like some sort of mystery threaded through any story. Even if it’s just something like, “Why does this character do what they do?” That’s the core of story, and people are a never-ending mystery to each other.


Tell me something about yourself outside of writing.  Jobs, accomplishments, family, quirky trait...what led to you being you?

There are a lot of musicians in my family. I was a vocalist and bandleader for years. I even recorded a demo with producer and song-writer Larry Butler. 

Later, I opened a custom cake shop because I was good at it and loved making sugar flowers, and it was a good way to help our kids with college. I won several awards in that field, and my work was featured in international magazines. 

In writing, I won gold in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards and several poetry awards. I do have a stash of songs I’ve written, so maybe one day I’ll do something with them! 

I wrote the song at the center of Song of the Chimney Sweep.


What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

You have to believe in your stories, and have a thick skin. This industry is very tough, and it takes a lot of internal strength to keep going sometimes. 

But if you are a writer, and you have to write, then don’t give up.


How do you deal and process negative book reviews?

I guess I will find out when my debut’s start coming in. There will be negative reviews. It’s part of the process, comes with the territory. There’s nothing you can do about it. Everyone has different taste, and not everyone is going to love your work.


What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

That middle time, about 30,000 words in, when I suddenly realize there’s so much left to do and no going back. 

The first time, it seemed like there was no way I would get to the end of that novel. But now, with experience, I know I can do it. Still, when you get to that point and it can be overwhelming for a few days.


What do you need in your writer’s space to keep you focused?

I actually let myself lose focus when it seems like I need to. I’m not into turning off the phone and silencing notifications, etc. I’m more distracted by the fact that my kids couldn’t get ahold of me if they needed to than by beeps and popups, to be honest. I let my people know when I’ll be writing, so they tend to respect my work time.


What is your naughty indulgence as you are writing?

Hmmm. Maybe I should find some.


If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?  And why?

I’ll say Kristin Harmel. She just seems to have so much all together. Her books are great, and she is a big part of Friends and Fiction, which I admire a great deal. She seems so good at publicity, too. I’d love to see how she spends her day and fits everything in.


What is your schedule like when you are writing?  Do you have a favorite writing snack or drink?

I tend to really get into the day’s writing in the late morning and then go all afternoon. I usually have a big Tervis of coffee beside me. Have to be careful with the snacks, though. :)


Do you listen to music when you write – what kind of music is your favorite?

I used to try to listen to music when I write, but as a musician I can’t turn off the listening and let it go to the background. It’s extremely distracting, more than any texts or interruptions, really. But I found a few channels on Youtube which have hours of peaceful sounds, like the ocean. That can help when I really need to drown out the world.


Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?

Yes. The cat sits on the keyboard and the dog stares at me until she gets a treat.


What is your kryptonite as a writer?  What totally puts you off your game?

Finding a plot hole. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I just want to lie down with a blanket over my head.


Have you ever killed off a character that your readers loved?

No. Not yet.


How do you celebrate after typing THE END?

I take a picture of my laptop screen and post it on all my social media. I also send the pic to everyone I know.


I hope you enjoyed this interview!

Check out all my interviews/reviews for Tamatha Cain!

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