Interview: Author Tiffany Quay Tyson

AuthorPhotoTQT_Credit Cat Hope PhotographyHi Tiffany! I want to thank you for taking the time for this interview. I’m so excited! It is an absolute delight to interview you on your evocative page-turning debut novel “Three Rivers”. I must say, Tiffany, your riveting tome is definitely a must-read for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Hint. Hint.

DM: When you first started writing, Tiffany, who were your influences?

TQT: I’m influenced by nearly everything I read. When I was in high school, a wonderful librarian introduced me to Ellen Gilchrist. Her stories about southern families are a definite influence. I also love Elizabeth Spencer, Ellen Douglas, Beth Henley, and, of course, Eudora Welty. Reading work by women who grew up in the same region where I grew up inspired me and gave me confidence.

DM: When you first started on your writing journey was there anyone in the writing world that you aspired to be like?

TQT: I can’t say there was any particular writer I aspired to be like when I was starting out, but I’ve learned to admire the writers who work hard and are generous with their knowledge. I aspire to emulate those writers. There are too many to name.

DM: Was there an author who encouraged you or guided you along with the writing process?

TQT: Yes. I am a longtime member of Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. Several of the authors on their faculty have been very generous with me. William Haywood Henderson, author of Augusta Locke and other novels, has served as a strong mentor for my writing. I’m very grateful.

DM: What type of support system did you have when you started penning Three Rivers? How has your support system changed or shifted since publication?

TQT: I have a very supportive husband and a wonderfully active writing community. That was true when I started writing this novel and it’s still true today.

DM: Who gave you words of encouragement when you needed it?

TQT: My fellow writers at Lighthouse have been unflagging in their encouragement. I also meet monthly with a group of writers to share work and swap stories about our writing lives. Sometimes it’s not the encouragement that keeps me going, but the shared frustration.
 Three Rivers
DM: What sparked the idea for Three Rivers?

TQT: I like to read newspapers for story ideas. I read them when I travel and I read them online. About 10 years ago, there was a story about a pastor who was electrocuted while performing a baptism at a church in Waco, Texas. While the death of the pastor was terrible, I was more struck by what the congregation must have felt witnessing such a thing. And what about the person being baptized? Did she feel responsible? Did she ever actually get baptized? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That was what led me to start writing this novel.

DM: Tiffany, what would you say is the essence of your novel?

TQT: Oh, that’s a tough question. I think it’s ultimately about faith, though not necessarily a religious faith. I set out to explore the thin line between religion and superstition. My characters really just want to believe in something. They want their lives to have meaning. That seems a universal wish, and I hope it resonates with readers.

DM: What are you hoping that readers will come away with?

TQT: Honestly, I hope readers come away thinking it was a good story. I’m all for finding greater meaning in books, but the story comes first. I hope it’s the kind of story they want to recommend to their friends. I think the highest compliment a book can receive is when one reader says to another: read this.

DM: Please describe your writing space.

TQT: I have a small office space in our home. It’s very cozy. My husband and I put in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves along one wall. The rest of the walls are hung with artwork from Mississippi, mostly Walter Anderson watercolors. My father built the desk I use, though I often end up sitting cross-legged in an upholstered chair rather than upright at a desk.

DM: Please share what you’re writing day is like.

TQT: I’m a morning writer. I like to get started first thing, before the rest of the world has a chance to get my attention. I rise early, usually around 5 a.m., and spend a few hours writing. I drink a lot of coffee. Around 9 or 10 a.m., I like to head out for a run or a yoga class, something physical. Often I’ll be hit with ideas or solutions to problems while I’m exercising. If so, I’ll come home and make some notes. I might tackle revision later in the day, but all the writing happens in the morning.

DM: How much does social media come into play when writing? Does it help or hinder your writing zone? Do you ever find yourself procrastinating on a project and getting lost in social media to escape what you need to get done?

TQT: It certainly can be a tremendous tool for procrastination. I have an app on my computer that shuts down social media access for a prescribed amount of time. I usually set it for at least two hours when I sit down to write. It takes away the temptation, which is very helpful.

DM: Are you a morning, afternoon or evening writer?

TQT: Morning, definitely.

DM: Do you outline?

TQT: Never.

DM: Did you know the ending of Three Rivers before you started writing it?

TQT: No. I’m definitely not a plotter. I discover the story as I write it. It’s not very efficient as I end up writing an awful lot of scenes that never make it into the final manuscript, but I don’t know another way. Too much planning makes my writing feel flat and uninspired.

DM: How did the writing process for Three Rivers start out? Did you start with the characters or research?

TQT: I start with the characters and with a basic idea for a scent.

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

TQT: No.

DM: Did you research torrential rain and flooding across the globe or strictly focus on the Mississippi Delta?

TQT: I focused on the south, and mostly the Delta.

DM: Did you feel a connection between yourself and Melody? If so, was there a period in Melody’s life or scene that stands out as the a-ha moment where you were both in sync?

TQT: I feel some connection with all my characters. Melody is really trying to figure out what to do with her life. She’s disillusioned and disappointed. There was definitely a time in my twenties when I felt the same way. I used that to inform her character.

DM: What do you like the most about Melody?

TQT: She wants to do the right thing. She isn’t always sure what that is, but she tries to do right by the people who really matter to her. That’s a good quality, I think.

DM: Tiffany, are you happy with the way Three Rivers turned out?

TQT: Yes. It’s not perfect, but it’s the story I wanted to tell. I’m thrilled that people will be able to read it.

DM: What is the best part of writing and worse part of writing for you?

TQT: I like the process of discovery that comes with writing. I’m constantly learning new things. The worst part is that there’s no immediate gratification. It takes years to write a novel and the publishing process is long. That leaves a lot of room for self-doubt and insecurity to creep in, and those things can be debilitating.

DM: What is your favorite part of being a writer?

TQT: Telling stories.

DM: What three goals do you wish to accomplish with your writing career?

TQT: 1. Write another book. 2. Publish another book.

  1. Repeat.

DM: What is the one piece of advice you would give a budding writer on the road to publication?

TQT: It will be harder than you imagine, but it will be worth it.

DM: What do you think is the source of your own inspiration and energy?

TQT: Coffee and a strong will.

DM: Do you have any plans for another book? If so, what will it be about?

TQT: I’m working on another book now, but it’s still too soon for me to discuss what it’s about. I don’t like to talk too much about the details until the story is solid on the page.

DM: How do you handle your editing process?

TQT: Patiently.

DM: What was your inspiration for Three Rivers?

TQT: The idea began with the newspaper article I mentioned earlier. I’m not sure there was any one thing that inspired me. I’m a writer. This is the story I had to tell.

DM: How did your Mississippian culture Influence this book?

TQT: It influenced every part of this book. I am a Mississippian, even though I don’t live there anymore. I couldn’t have written this book if that weren’t true.

DM: Do you have a spiritual philosophy or a way of viewing life that guides you?

TQT: Not really. I work hard. I don’t give up. I try to keep learning new things. I keep an open mind. That’s how I get through life. It works for me.

DM: What do you do to pamper yourself?

TQT: Get a massage.

DM: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

TQT: Staying in my pajamas all day long on a Sunday and doing nothing more strenuous than the crossword puzzle. I don’t feel guilty about it, though.

DM: Salty or sweet?

TQT: Both. Think sea salt caramels and dark chocolate.

DM: Which season do you identify with the most and why?

TQT: Fall. I like the cooler days and the changing leaves. Also I get to wear boots. I love boots.

DM: Beach or mountain?

TQT: Mountain.

DM: Walking or cycling?

TQT: Walking

DM: What three novels are on your nightstand?

TQT: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle and Contenders by Erika Krouse.

Again, thank you so much, Tiffany.

Visit Tiffany’s website for the latest news.

Copyright © 2015 by Diane Morasco

Interview first appeared on Blogcritics.

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