Tam May on inspiration, psychological fiction, and strange thought train connections

Today I welcome Tam May to my blog. Here she is:

Let’s just dig right in, learn about Tam, what she writes, and how she does it. Without further ado…

Hi, and welcome! Tell us a little bit about where you’re from, what genre you write in, and how you came to be an author.

Tam: Hello, C.S., and thank you for having me! My background is a little funky . I was born in Israel but I grew up in the United States. I’ve lived in both countries on and off. Now I live in Texas but I consider the San Francisco Bay Area my real home. I write psychological fiction, which is a sub genre of contemporary literary fiction. I started writing fiction when I was 14. My sister’s best friend in junior high school was a writer and she got my sister interested in writing. I was fascinated by the idea of creating worlds of my own in a story. So I started keeping a journal and also writing a children’s story.

How cool! What an inspired beginning. Can you tell us who else is in your family?

Tam: My parents, of course, and I have an older brother and a twin sister who is older than I am by 5 minutes but far wiser.

I bet you have a million twinsie stories. Can you share with us something from personal life that inspired a particular work?

Tam: A lot of my work incorporates emotional realities that are true to me and people I know, though I rarely take an actual incident from my personal life and turn it into a story. However, that did happen with my short story “A Birthday Gift” http://tammayauthor.com/index.php/freeshortstories/a-birthday-gift/.

One year, I couldn’t be there for my mom’s birthday and my dad took her out to dinner, as he usually does. She later told me about the strange incident that happened after dinner and this became the crux of the story. Of course, I took a lot of poetic license but I wanted to capture the strained relationship between the middle-aged couple and the moment of revelation that the strange incident brings to Leanne’s life. But what that happens after the dinner was based on the story my mom told me.

Interesting. Now you have my curiosity piqued. How about your characters? Do you model them after yourself or after someone you know or do they all materialize into thin air from your imagination?

Tam: Honestly, I don’t think that any writer really does one or the other completely. Except for maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was known to have taken exact words that his wife Zelda used and put them in his fiction. For me, characters become a tapestry of people I know or have seen or read about and whatever my imagination does to fill in the blanks.

Is there a particular message you try to convey with your work, or do you write purely for the entertainment factor? Both?

Tam: The ideal is to do both, of course. You want to engage readers but you also want them to take something away. Not necessarily a moral or message, but a feeling, a better understanding of the characters, of human nature, and maybe even of themselves. I try to write stories that engage readers on a psychological level to give them an understanding of the strengths and flaws of human nature. Wrapped in an interesting story and characters, of course!

I agree. If you are able to both entertain and inspire something in others, you are able to give your readers a gift. How do life and art intersect on an ongoing basis for you personally?

Tam: I think it depends on what the author is writing and what their life is like. There are different degrees. For someone writing science-fiction or fantasy, for example, their art might be completely imaginary so their work becomes more of an escape for them and their readers than an intersection of life and art, which, if they and their readers enjoy that, is awesome. I write about psychological reality (https://thedreambook.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/psychological-reality/) where reality and imagination intercept, so I write about ways we build our own worlds according to our perceptions, illusions, dreams, etc. So I’m always watchful of how people react to things, how they see others in their own worlds through their own eyes. There’s a lot of integration of life and art in what I write but less in a literal sense and more in an indirect way.

Very cool. What’s one thing your readers and mine would find really interesting or unique about you as a person?

Tam: I have sort of a weird way of making associations and my train of thought sometimes makes strange connections. I actually didn’t realize this until last year when I started getting feedback from my critique group on my fiction. I hadn’t really had much feedback until then on the copyediting level and I got comments from my group like “I’m not sure I can really see this”. I write very visually with a lot of imagery. So sometimes I put images together that are jarring to readers, sometimes in good ways and sometimes not (which is where my critique group has become invaluable to me). I recently read a biography about Zelda Fitzgerald. I had read Fitzgerald’s novel Save Me The Waltz a long time ago and loved it and loved the off-beat word choices and imagery that she used. In the biography, many people Zelda knew remarked on the way she made strange associations and had odd ways of turning a conversation, though she was always interesting and coherent. It reminded me of how my mom speaks, as she does this as well. I realized it might be just a strange way my mind has of relating language and images. So now I embrace it in my writing, though I try to temper it so readers enjoy the prose and don’t get confused or put off.

What a cool journey in better understanding your own language and how it communicates. i love that writing is a continual process of growth in a variety of ways. Tell us what you have out and where we can find it (include social links to your website, book sales page, etc).

Tam: My book Gnarled Bones and Other Stories is out now. Here’s a blurb for the book:Gnarled Bones and Other Stories explores five tales of loss, fear, and guilt where strange and spooky events impact people’s lives in ways that are profound and unchangeable.   

In “Mother of Mischief”, a newly divorced woman goes back to school to begin a new chapter of her life only to find herself circling back to where she started. In “Bracelets”, childhood nostalgia mingles with brutal fear during a circus outing for a mailroom secretary and her friends. In “A First Saturday Outing”*, a lonely woman ventures out of her isolated apartment one quiet Saturday afternoon to an art exhibit that leaves an eerie impression on her psyche*. In “Broken Bows”, a middle-aged violinist reveals the mystery behind his declining artistic powers to a lonely woman on a train. And the title story, “Gnarled Bones”, paints a portrait of the complex bond between an orphaned sister and brother through journal entries and first-person narrative. For these characters, the past leaves its shadow on the present and future.

* This story was featured on Whimsy Gardener’s Storytime With Whimsey and can be found here:

The book is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon  

For more about me, you can visit my website www.tammayauthor.com and sign up for my newsletter.

Pretty cool stuff! Thanks so much for sharing with us, Tam, and hey everyone? Go out and sign up for her newsletter and grab some of her work if you’re a fan of psychological twists! I know I do.

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