Interview – Tiffany Reisz
It’s become something of a tradition: I read a Tiffany Reisz novel and I immediately must interview her. I can’t help it. I need to KNOW what she was thinking when she wrote her masterpiece! I need to know what inspired her and motivated her. I just NEED TO KNOW! So I asked. And Tiffany, gracious being that she is, between deadlines and getting married, answered. And I’m so excited to share those answers with you now. So in honor of Bethany Loves Tiffany Reisz Books-And-Everything-And-Anything-Else-She’ll-Write, here is the (long) Q&A. Enjoy!
LOVE the new FAQ page on your website, tiffanyreisz.com. I especially love your answer to the writing process question. Have you found that your writing process has evolved a lot since you began? You mention that The Siren, your first full-length novel, was the most difficult to write. Do you think it had anything to do with the approach?
THE SIREN was the most difficult to write because it was my first novel, and I had no idea how to plot. Basically the original draft of THE SIREN was Nora and Zach having interesting conversations for 90,000 words. My agent originally rejected it but said if I rewrote it and put a, you know, PLOT in it, she’d re-read it. I learned how to plot fast. Since I had to gut THE SIREN and rewrite the entire book and it worked, I learned that deleting big chunks of the book or tossing entire drafts and starting over is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, sometimes it’s the only way to write the book.
You’ve written an insane amount of stories in just a few years. You have novellas, full-length novels, short stories, essays. Do you think you’ve become more confident as a writer? Or do you feel like you’re still battling the same demons you had when you first started? If it’s the former, can you pinpoint the moment that you began to change? And if it’s the latter, do you think you (and writers in general) can ever shake off whatever doubts or personal writing demons they may have?
I have no demons. Really, I’m quite boring psychologically. I wrote a lot of stories and books in a few short years because I wanted to and people were paying me to. When writing pays your bills and you have no other job, you learn to write fast and leave the angst and writer’s block behind.
Totally technical question: how do you write so much when Honeytoast is laying on your arm so much? And also, editing. Talk to me about editing. Writing a novel and editing one are two totally different things! Any tips and tricks that you’ve developed over the years you want to share?
Honeytoast is very lightweight and sometimes I move to a different chair where she just sits right behind my neck. She’s so cute and weird and sad, she makes all writing sessions better.
As for editing, look for cause and effect. Events should flow from one to another in your book for a reason. Say you have a scene where a heroine gets in a fight with her mother and another scene where your heroine goes to the beach and fifteen pages she’s at the beach and meets the hero. Two separate scenes that are un-connected, right? Find a way to connect them. Maybe the heroine’s mother used to take the heroine to the beach and the heroine goes there to try to calm down and remember better times with her mother and that’s why she’s there when the hero is. Two unconnected scenes are now connected. So that’s a good way to make your plotting tighter in an early draft.
After you’ve done all the work on the book you can do by yourself, you need to find some smart, honest beta readers to read your draft. They aren’t proofreaders. This isn’t about finding typos. These are readers who will tell you want isn’t working in your book. If they tell you something like “This chapter seems unnecessary” or “The resolution to this conflict is unbelievable” or “This confused me” or “I don’t like the hero because___” you need to listen to them, take those comments seriously, and make changes. Do not argue with your beta readers. If you don’t agree with the comment, that’s fine. You know your book best. But you should do some serious soul-searching. My books are improved exponentially by making changes suggested by my beta readers.
The Pool/Baptism scene. We’ve got to talk about that. It is one of my favorite scenes of all time in any sort of medium. Movie, book, live theater, Broadway show…I’ll put that scene up against them all and it will come out as one of my favorites. How did you…where did you…when…Okay, let me start again. (Deep breath.) You crafted that scene beautifully. It ran the gamut of every emotion. It contained incredible dialogue, great character growth, and a huge turning point for Kingsley. Did King surprise you at all in that scene? Did you expect his answer when Søren asked him that question? Did you know he’d get so dark and become so miserable with his life? How much time and effort did it take for you to nail that scene, because damn, you nailed it!
The baptism scene was one of the first ones that came to me when I was thinking out the book. Some scenes come to you almost fully formed. Those scenes are gifts, and you should just say thank you to whatever higher power you pray to when you get one.
As for being dark and miserable, it was already established in the canon that Kingsley had been shot the year before he and Søren reunited. One doesn’t not overcome the trauma of being held captive, tortured, sexually assaulted, and shot overnight. It would have been unrealistic. And, as I said in an earlier answer, cause and effect makes a book’s plot better. Søren returns to Kingsley because he needs Kingsley’s help but it turns out Kingsley needs Søren’s help. Because Søren returns to Kingsley, Kingsley starts to feel things he’s buried. At the moment of his most hopeless, Søren reminds him that he does want to live. Søren’s return causes Kingsley to figure out what he wants to do with his life which causes him to start looking for a kingdom and so on and so on. Everything’s connected.
Søren is a priest, after all. And a sadist. Drowning/baptizing someone simultaneously seemed like the perfect combination to show who Søren is.
You also really delivered with the scene when Søren and Kingsley meet again for the first time in so long. How was writing that nice jolly piece of heart-ripping, gut-punching prose?
As much as I love Søren and Kingsley as lovers, I love them even more as friends. There’s something very pure about their friendship. They get more raw and honest with each other than they do with anyone else. When Søren embraces Kingsley and whispers the promise that he’ll never leave him and will always ben his friend? Oh my God, I sobbed writing that.
Fun fact: I wrote the scene where King sees Søren in the dark at the piano four years before I wrote the rest of the book. It came to me even before THE SIREN was published.
It was so cool to finally figure out who Sam was! You’ve been hinting about her since the release of The Mistress Files, your awesome collection of short stories featuring Nora and her clients. The Case of the Brokenhearted Bartender is the one where “the new Sam” is mentioned, and reading that in conjunction with The King was so much fun. Tell us about the evolution of Sam. I like how you said in a past interview that Kingsley likes having sex, and it was fun to surround him by people he couldn’t have sex with. 🙂 How was writing that dynamic between Kingsley and Sam? Any surprises? And did she ever buy Kingsley a coffee mug? 🙂
Sam absolutely bought Kingsley a “World’s Greatest Boss” coffee mug. Honestly I can’t remember where Sam came from. I only remember having the idea that it would be fun to pair Kingsley up with a woman who simply could not be seduced. Sam’s kind of my dream girl. I love sexy women with short hair who dress in suits. No wonder King adored her. She’s a fox!
I love how The King isn’t a typical genre book. It’s a bromance, but still has some scorching love scenes in it. It’s a suspense tale but manages quite a number of laugh out loud moments. And it’s an erotic story but also showcases one of the best coming of age journeys I’ve read in a long time. Then again, Kingsley isn’t like any character I’ve ever read, either, so how could his book be anything but atypical? 🙂 MILD SPOILER: I have to confess, I really just wanted him to kill that Reverend Fuller guy! Tell me he got his comeuppance in the end! Tell me lightning struck him or he got hit by a bus or fell down a hole! What’s that jackass up to now?
Oh, like most televangelists, he eventually got caught with his hand in the till. He served a few years in a minimum security prison. I’m sure he’ll write a book blaming his wife for all his problems and he’ll go on the Christian lecture circuit which, to me, is the very definition of Hell on Earth.
You’ve branched out beyond the Original Sinners books/characters several times. You have a rom-com riff of Romeo and Juliet, a fun and sexy short that re-imagines Much Ado About Nothing, and the gothic and suspenseful The Head Master. Now, I hear that you’ve written a book called The Angels’ Share, a tale of love, sex, bourbon and revenge set in Kentucky. So first: is this the start of a new series? And second: will there be a character in there as awesome and sexy and wild as our dear Kingsley? 🙂
I’m not sure what I’m going to write after THE ORIGINAL SINNERS. I have a ton of single-title books I’d love to write like a male/male marriage of convenience romance and a “sequel” to The Story of O. I have more ideas than I have time. But I’ll keep you posted when I know for sure what’s coming up next. First things first, I have to finish writing THE QUEEN which is the 8th and final Original Sinner’s book. At least…for now…
I know you don’t set your tour schedule, but if you ever come to Pittsburgh, can I bake you cookies and show you the sights? You do have one stop left on your tour, which is May 16, 2015 at the RT Convention. Know what you’ll be talking about yet?
I don’t think I’m doing any programs at RT. I’m just signing and hanging out. I hope to make it to Pittsburg someday. Yes to cookies!
Crossovers are big right now. I just watched the Arrow/Flash crossover and it was amazing and delightful. Do you think you’ll ever team up with a fellow NLA-er and write some epic crossover? You already wrote some fanfic featuring Jesse from Miranda Keneally’s world, so how about Soren listening to the tortured confession of Gigi Rowland of Sherry Thomas’s incredible Private Arrangements, or Kingsley wreaking sexy havoc in some Ashlyn Macnamara story? 🙂
Fun idea! I could definitely write fan fiction of authors I love but I couldn’t co-write. I’m too much of a control freak. I feel madly in love with Jesse in Miranda Keneally’s upcoming JESSE’S GIRL but she writes YA in first person present tense. No kink or explicit sex in YA. So I couldn’t write with Miranda because we write such different stuff, but I love stealing Jesse and throwing him in bed with my ladies.
In your bio, it says you’ve been arrested twice. Care to elaborate? 🙂
Boring silly arrests. One was for a fine I’d paid but didn’t get recorded correctly. The other was a paperwork error after my car was side-swiped by a semi. Both were paperwork errors. Nothing exciting or sexy. But I do think it is funny (now that I’m out of prison, of course).
One of my favorite quotes of yours you ever wrote in an interview is: “Life sharpens a person’s edges”. How would you say life has sharpened yours?
I’m more savvy than I used to be and much less open. Especially online. I see people put their entire lives online and I wonder if they have anything private, anything they keep to themselves anymore. I play my cards closer to the chest now.
You’ve mentioned who your writing inspirations are in previous interviews. And now, you are people’s writing inspiration! You’re definitely one of mine. In fact, I’m writing a series right now and I have an Original Sinners quote as the epigraphs at the beginning of each. 🙂 What do you hope people take away from your books?
That’s so cool about the epigraphs. As for what people should take away from my books…really I just hope they enjoy the ride. Yes, the books have theology and philosophy “lessons” in them, I suppose. The books mean something, if only to me. But they’re just stories. Pure fiction. I wrote them so you could meet some interesting new people and have a fun sexy adventure with them. I hope that’s what my readers get from them. There’s nothing in the world more enlightening than living someone else’s life for awhile. And if you’re going to be someone else for 500 pages, damn, Nora’s the girl to be.