Friday, February 22, 2008

Author Interview: Tamra Norton

My wonderful friend, Tamra Norton, is the subject of the Author Interview today. Tami is a multi-published Young Adult and Children's author who lives in Texas with her husband and family. Her latest book, Make Me a Home, was just published by CFI.

Welcome, Tami! What made you start writing?
Did I have a choice? No, but seriously, I do believe there is something within me that has to be manifested through the written word. I suppose singers and artists feel the same way.

How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
It’s been an evolved process for me—almost to the point of full circle. (I’ll explain that in a bit.) I started writing for children—mostly picture book manuscript (all unpublished, but this was a great starting point for me). A few years later when my sweetie was working on his masters (we had 4 young children at the time), I was working as a Lactation Specialist for the WIC program in Pocatello, Idaho. This was a brand new program and as part of it, I proposed that I write a monthly newsletter. This was a different type of writing, but I found it very fulfilling and received great feedback. A few more years later I landed a gig writing a “family life” column for a local freebie newspaper. My little humorous column ran twice a month—now I was really hooked. All of this happened over about a 10 year period. Then I finally got the courage to write a novel, Molly Mormon? For the past few years my focus has been children’s novels. I’ve come full circle, now writing for children again. But this time with more experience—a few bruises and a few muscles to show for it. :-)

What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
I generally have an idea or basic concept, but I fly by the seat of my pants from there. I “walk into the mist,” hoping I’ll find my destination by page 200. Thank goodness for word processing where I can go back and clean up little messes along the way.

There is only one exception to this—my current work in progress (WIP). I’ve completed a 5-page synopsis and pretty much know exactly where I’m going with this story as well as specific events along the way. This is all new territory for me.

How do you choose your characters' names?
I borrow a lot of names—from my kids or from friends. I also use names my sweetie wouldn’t let me name our kids (he has NO say in my character’s names). :-) In my first book I named the “bad guy” Chad Hanks. My bishop at the time was Bishop Hanks and he is definitely a “good guy” so it was kind of an inside joke.

What is your daily schedule like?
Depends. Right now I’m mostly doing marketing since my book was just released. When I’m working on a book I try to get a little writing in sometime during the day after we’ve finished with homeschool. The problem there is that it’s hit and miss because life is hectic with seven children. My most productive writing time is definitely at night after the kids are in bed. Weekends are good too. I grab my AlphaSmart and head to Whataburger—a great writing spot! (And their food’s not bad either).

How do you handle life interruptions?
I just take things one day at a time. If there’s an interruption, I deal with it. That’s why I like to write at night—not so many interruptions. Some months I’m more productive than others. That’s life as a mom.

Do you write to music? If so, with lyrics or only instrumentals?
No music—unless I’m in Whataburger and then for some reason I’m able to tune it out. Otherwise, I really don’t like to write to music. I find it very distracting…probably because I love to listen to music at other times and sing along. It’s just doesn’t work when I’m trying to write.

What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
OY! Okay, this is a major downfall of mine…so here’s the list of favorites: raw almonds (that’s where the nutrition ends), kettle corn, Good ‘N Plenty, Nibs, chocolate covered raisins… Yeah, those are the favorites.

What one thing do you like most about writing?
Printing out the finished manuscript—pure joy!

The final edits of a manuscript. It never seems like “the end” will come. Mistakes keep popping up the more you read it. At some point you just have to say, “Enough—it’s good!”

What is your next project?
I’m working on a “fairy tale”—literally. That’s all I’ll say for now on that one. I’ve also started another LDS YA that is really fun!

What is your advice for other writers?
BIC—Bum In Chair—especially when you’re feeling uninspired. That’s generally where I start every writing day. It’s not till I read through what I write the previous day that any creative thought even manages to surface.

Tell us about your new book.

Make Me a Home—my new baby. Honestly, I’d have to say that she’s my favorite. I’m very proud of this story. I had some fantastic critique buddies who really helped me define this story and its characters. It was quite a process, but in the end, I feel it’s that much stronger.

Make Me a Home is about 12-year-old Allie Claybrook as she deals with the year-long deployment of her soldier father to Iraq and her family’s struggle to carry on. Told through a child’s eyes, this story helps to define the true meaning of family, friendship, heroes and home. Yeah, this sounds really heavy and serious. Actually, I’ve inserted a lot of humor into the story (and even a little tweenage puppy-love). It was recently reviewed on Meridian Magazine by Michele Ashman Bell if you’d like to read a more detailed review: .

Technically, Make Me a Home is the sequel to Make Me a Memory, but we’re not really marketing it that way because it definitely stands on its own. I also feel it’s a stronger story.

What other work of yours has been published?
Molly Mormon? (CFI, 2002)
Molly Married? (CFI, 2003)
Comfortable in My Own Genes (CFI, 2004)
Molly Mommy? (CFI, 2005)
Make Me a Memory (CFI, 2005)

Thanks for a great interview, Tami. It was such a pleasure.

Tami's website is found at, and she blogs at


  1. Fabulous interview! Tami has long been an inspiration for me. I love her style (and her hair).

  2. Marsha,
    Nice interview. I was glad to hear Tami say she doesn't listen to music when she writes because she starts singing along. She's not alone in that boat! :)


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