Tamsen Schultz is the author of The Puppeteer and “American Kin” (a short story published in Line Zero Magazine) and is a three-time finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association annual competition. She worked in the field of international conflict resolution and co-founded a non-profit prior to attending law school. Since graduating, she has worked as a corporate attorney and, like most real lawyers, she spends a disproportionate amount of time thinking about what it might be like to do something else. She lives in Northern California in a house full of males including her husband, two sons, a cat, a dog, and a gender-neutral, but well-stocked, wine rack. A Tainted Mind is her second novel and her third, These Sorrows We See, is tentatively scheduled for release in late 2013.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
I’m a planner. Definitely. Although, once I have a plan down, I tend to go with the flow and only revisit the plan if I find myself getting stuck somewhere or am feeling unmotivated (which does occasionally happen )
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
My secondary characters like to take over A LOT. They don’t take over the story but I’ll find myself writing a scene with one of them in it and then the next thing I know the secondary character’s entire backstory and future just pops into my head. I love it because it’s fun, but there are days where I would just like to tell them to mind their manners and wait their turn :)
What is your favourite food?
At the moment, Mexican. We just moved back to California and after nine years in the Pacific Northwest, I think my family and I may singlehandedly be keeping the taco truck in town in business. That said, ask me tomorrow and I could say sushi, or steak, or Indian food. Or wine.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Morning person through and through. I think I may be the only mother on the planet who is looking forward to her boys becoming teenagers so they’ll sleep in late and I’ll get even more time in the morning to myself.
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
Everywhere. Seriously. I have a friend living in Senegal right now that I would like to visit. I’ve never been to South America or Vietnam. Some girlfriends and I are talking about renting a massive house in Scotland for our 40th birthdays next year. And someday soon, my husband and I will take the kids to Yosemite. I love to travel far and wide and thankfully my family loves it too. Though I do wish I didn’t have to fly everywhere, but I guess you take the bad with the good.
Do distant places feature in your books?
Most of my books are set in the Northeast US. I don’t live there now but spent a lot of time back east as a kid then went to college at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts. After college, I moved to Boston and lived there for four years. I make it back every year now and though California is my home, the Northeast holds a big part of my heart and imagination. That said, and much to the dismay of my left-leaning liberal tendencies, I have a MASSIVE crush on the Deep South. I love Southern history, the land, the culture and, of course, the food. Someday I’ll set a book there but not until I feel like I can do it justice.
Do you listen to music while writing?
Nope. I’m a sensory deprivation kind of girl, especially when writing. I dream of buying myself a pair of those ear protectors/noise cancelers that ground crews wear when working around airplane engines. That might just make it quiet enough for me.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
“A Tainted Mind” is a romantic suspense novel set in the fictional town of Windsor in the Hudson Valley of New York. Dr. Vivi DeMarco happens to come across a dead body buried under the road when she pulls over to change a flat tire in the middle of a storm. She and Ian MacAllister, the Deputy Chief of Police, work together to uncover a serial killer they think is responsible for the deaths of twenty one women. And since it is a romance, there’s a little bit of falling in love going on, too.
Originally I set the book in the Highlands of Scotland because it seemed like the perfect atmosphere for this kind of mystery – remote, a bit isolated, and somewhat unknown. But after thinking on it long and hard, I opted to set it in a part of New York State I know and love. It’s atmospheric in a different way and “A Tainted Mind” will introduce you to the town of Windsor and its people who will continue to show up in the next several novels.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
The first thing that comes to mind is “trust.” I know, kind of a strange thing to say, right? But since entering this world, I’ve come to know and love several other writers. Many of them sit down and write every day and keep track of their word counts. I tried that, I really did. But what ended up happening was that I started to feel anxious if I didn’t write or if I didn’t write whatever it was I thought was ‘enough.’ And then my anxiety turned into frustration and then to guilt. Like many women, I’m very good and letting myself feel guilty for any number of things.
And then one day I realized that I just needed to trust myself. I needed to trust that I would write when I could and in a way that worked for me. I don’t write every day now. There may be a few weeks that go by where I don’t write anything. But when I feel I need to write, I find the time and get down to business. And after having written three more books in this way, it works for me. I love writing, I still feel like I can do it with all the other things going in my life, and I like the stories I’m writing.
But to get there, I had to learn to trust myself which we all know can be kind of scary at times.
Is there anything you would do differently?
In writing? There are always things I’m thinking I should do differently and inevitably, just as a book locks down, I think to myself “Oh, I should have added that one scene or that one line.” But as for the process, I love my publisher, Booktrope and the creative team that works together to get my books out, including my Book Manager, Sophie Weeks, so I wouldn’t do anything to change that. I like having more creative control over my books and working with the team to set deadlines and release dates rather than having it dictated to me.
If the question was meant to ask if there was anything I’d do differently in life, the answer isn’t all that different. There are definitely things I wish I had done differently, but as I get older I’m getting more and more comfortable with the fact that we all make mistakes and for all intents and purposes, we’re not here on this planet for very long so we better make the most of it while we are here. We’ll hurt people and we’ll get hurt. We may do dumb things (or at least I know I will) but as long as I stay focused on being a good person, a good parent, partner, friend, colleague and all that I may stumble along the way, but I think I’ll have a good time getting to wherever it is I’m going.
Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
It’s hard to narrow it down because my influences are so broad. Certainly being an avid reader myself has influenced my writing, but so have friends, family, and just other random people and events (including television and movies). I can get an idea from just about anywhere or anyone.
But if you are asking about personal influences (and not book idea influences) I’d say that while my family is uber supportive, my girlfriends are the shiznit. My girlfriends have encouraged me from the get go to write and follow this path. They’ve cheered me on, read my books, given my books to family members and friends and have always, always been there. But they haven’t just promoted and supported my writing. In our quiet (or not so quiet) conversations, in our girls’ nights out or girls’ weekends away, there’s always a kind of freedom and strength that comes from being together. And I think it’s more that strength – the strength to explore, to grow, and to make mistakes and know you’re still loved - that has been one of the biggest influencers of my writing.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
There aren’t any secrets about writing. There aren’t any tricks. You just have to do it and do it in a way that works for you. Then take a deep breath and start sharing.
What are three words that describe you?
Loyal, adventurous, and perceptive (I think : )
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
There are so many it’s hard to say which is THE favourite. Some books I regularly recommend are Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s “Shadow of the Wind,” and Mary Lee Settle’s “Choices.” “The Historian” is also a good read and I tend to like old Russian satires such as Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita,” and Nikolai Gogal’s short stories. My romance favourites include authors such as Carla Neggers, Heather Graham, and Lisa Jackson. That said, I don’t like to read romantic suspense while I’m writing so tend to pick up more historical romances. If I’m talking to someone who likes more traditional mysteries, I always recommend Julia Spencer-Fleming who has a fabulous series set in upstate New York.
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book
Short Blurb from “A Tainted Mind”
The irony of her situation did not escape her. Whatever was compelling her to stay and find answers on the side of this country road was the same thing that had gotten her here in the first place. She didn’t like to let things go, and because she couldn’t let things go, she had almost destroyed herself with her last case. She’d taken to the road to escape, to maybe find some balance. If she were to hazard a guess, though, she’d say that whatever balance she’d found in the past few weeks was about to be tipped.
And, as if to give weight to the direction of her thoughts, about fifteen feet away from her position and about halfway down the embankment, her light landed on a small collection of rocks. No, not rocks, pieces of road that had broken away from the winter-weakened, rain-pummeled lane and tumbled down to rest a few feet away.
Vivi kept her beam trained on the pile as she walked closer. Tracing a line up the embankment, she could see an approximately two-foot by one-foot section of the road cracked and starting to cave in, the edge beginning to break away.
As she contemplated the small sinkhole illuminated by her flashlight, a gust of wind picked up. Her wet jeans pressed against her legs, her ponytail lifted, and her skin broke out in bumps from the sudden chill. Another piece of the road cracked and tumbled down the slope.
And there, at that crumbling edge, barely visible in the dark and shadows, was theunmistakable form of a human hand.
List of previous books if any
The Puppeteer (2012)
Any websites/places readers can find you on the web.
by Tamsen Schultz
OBSESSED with her job as a medical examiner and lead consultant with the FBI, Dr. Vivienne ‘Vivi’ DeMarco is a woman running from her own demons. And finding the remains of a body on the side of a road in rural upstate New York wasn’t part of her plan.
FRUSTRATED that the ghosts from his past won’t leave him alone, Ian MacAllister makes for a reluctant Deputy Chief of Police of Windsor, New York. But as more victims are discovered, all women that bear a shocking resemblance to Dr. DeMarco, he knows he’ll need to call on all the skills he learned as an Army Ranger if he wants to keep her safe.
DENIED over and over again of the one thing he desires most, a killer may have finally reached his breaking point. The only question that remains is, will he take Vivi and Ian with him?