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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Author Interview: Margaret Tanner

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Margaret Tanner with us. Margaret joins us from Australia, where she works as a medical typist in addition to writing. She shared she’s recently reduced those hours in order to spend more time on her writing.

Margaret told me she’s always been interested in writing. “I think I must have been born with a pen in one hand and a dictionary in the other,” she said. So, there wasn’t anything in particular that got her interested in writing in general. But, writing romance... that was a different story. “Over a cup of tea with a neighbor,” she told me, “we complained to each other about the awful stories, even though we still kept devouring them, and decided we would write our own. She gave up after a couple of chapters; I persevered.”

Margaret shared with me that she can’t remember when she wasn’t writing something. “Even if my handwriting was bad,” she said, “and it was—my stories were good. I used to write these sad little poems when I was about eight, hide myself away and cry over every word.”

She won several writing competitions when she was young, including some with very interesting prizes. “One competition I won,” Margaret revealed, “the prize was $50 worth of men’s clothing. My father and brother loved it, but all I got out of it was a pullover/jumper. It was a boy’s, but had some pink in it, so it was possible for a girl to wear it. Another time I won a heap of underclothing. That was a killer. I couldn’t even show people my prize—not if I was wearing it.”

Having a great imagination is critical to good writing, according to Margaret. “Without it,” she said, “I don’t think you could write a story at all. I know people whose grammar, punctuation, etc. is perfect, yet their stories are virtually unreadable because they haven’t used their imagination. You have to be able to become your heroine, feel for her, cry, scream, whatever it takes to become her.” She added, “Just don’t let anyone hear you, or they will think you are crazy.”

She told me that’s why she can’t write if there is noise around her. She told me, “I always write best if I am n my own away from everyone, even if it is just in the back yard. If I was in a restaurant, for example, I couldn’t write a word to save my life.”

I asked Margaret what the hardest part of writing her first book was. “Doing the research,” she said. “I love history, but there was no internet then. I had to go to the library and trawl through old tomes. I had to read 200 pages to get a few lines of information. My favorite historical period is World War I, so I interviewed a couple of elderly relatives—not easy when they are 90 years old and almost stone deaf. Hard to believe that these old wizened-up men were once fine young soldiers, who sailed over 12,000 miles across the sea to fight for the mother country (England). One old auntie kept the letters her then-fiancĂ© wrote from the trenches of France and generously loaned them to me, which was wonderful. I wrote Devil’s Ridge and Shattered Dreams years ago and they lay in a cupboard for years. A couple of years ago I got them out, dusted them off, and sent them off to publishers. Devil’s Ridge was accepted by Whiskey Creek Press and is out now. Shattered Dreams has been accepted by The Wild Rose Press and will be released this year. Before I sent these books off, I had the privilege to tour the battlefields of France and Belgium, and Gallipoli in Turkey. It was a truly poignant experience, but one which I found invaluable. It gave me a real feel for what these old men had been through in their youth.”

Margaret said that, because of her job as medical secretary, she has to go to bed at a reasonable hour. She added, “Also, going to bed a bit earlier lets me mull things over in my head. Most of my best ideas for writing occur in bed and, no, I don’t write erotica.”

Since Margaret is Australian, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that her favorite animal is one that is unique to Australia—the kangaroo. It’s also on the Australian coat of arms. It always seems tame when you see it in pictures, but Margaret told me that in the wild, they certainly are not tame. “The largest kangaroos can be taller than a man,” she said. “They have very strong back legs, to propel themselves along, often at very great speeds, and have been known to kill or seriously injure people.”

I asked her if she’d ever cried at movies. “Man, have I ever,” she told me. “I have wept bucket loads at some movies and I like to watch ‘golden oldies,’ often in black and white. Mrs. Minerva, Waterloo Bridge , I just about sobbed all the way through them. My husband thinks I’m an idiot. I truly think I would rather cry at a movie than laugh. Little Woman, I loved that. Cried heaps when Beth died. What can I say?”

She told me she can’t recall ever making a crank phone call, especially because she’s not very good at disguising her voice. Her son, however, she said, “can make you believe black was white and white was black. He can look you in the eye and tell you the most outlandish stories, and you know you shouldn’t—but somehow you believe him because he is so plausible. He certainly doesn’t get this talent from his mother. Some recessive gene, maybe?”

Finally I asked her what her favorite food is. “Now you are talking,” she exclaimed. “I love food and pizza is one of my favorites—after chocolate, that is. I think I’m a chocoholic. The waistline certainly says so. I love the tropical pizza best. That’s the one that has pineapple and ham on it.”

You can keep up with Margaret on her website,

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