This month, I had the pleasure to interview the self-published and prolific author, Tabitha Ormiston-Smith. I had the opportunity to meet Tabitha on the Facebook page called The Better Writer’s Group. She has multiple titles in various genres under her belt, and also has a job as an editor.
After reading more about her, I find that she is very straightforward and not afraid to say what is on her mind. She knows her strength and weaknesses, does not believe anyone should do a task if it not their expertise (like designing your own book cover if you are not an artist), has a sense of humour and a love for animals.
Now on to the interview!
Short Bio:Tabitha Ormiston-Smith was born and continues to age. Dividing her time between her houses in Melbourne and the country, she is ably assisted in her editing business and her other endeavours by Ferret, the three-legged bandit.
Dance of Chaos, Gift of Continence, Grammar Without Tears, Once Upon A Dragon, and various short fiction.
(List of books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tabitha-Ormiston-Smith/e/B004TE35RS)
When did you begin writing?
I have always written; I wrote my first stories in high school. No, they weren’t any good!
Did you receive any special training or attend a school?
Many, but nothing related directly to writing. However, my degrees in law and philosophy both demanded a certain degree of facility in the written word which probably did me some good as a writer.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
From life; I think as a writer, one tends to have a sort of internal ‘what if’ thing going on. It is from that ‘what if’ question that stories come.
Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)
I always have my Shorter Oxford handy, although I seldom refer to it. I write always in MS Word. I sometimes use Excel for planning, but really that’s about it. I try to avoid wasting my limited time on playing with fancy tools. I’ve not often wanted to do anything I couldn’t do with Word and Excel, and I could do without Excel if I had to.
What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?
I am really not sure. Of course the rules of English grammar are needed, but in my view, if one hasn’t thoroughly internalised those to a point where it is not necessary consciously to advert to them, one is not ready to start writing. I do think it’s important to bear always in mind the fundamental theme of one’s book. For example, if its purpose to entertain, you don’t want to be sticking in all kinds of things that are not at all entertaining. A notable offender against this rule is Robert Heinlein with his dreary polemics.
What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?
For me, and I think for many, many writers, it is the challenge of disciplining oneself to keep at it. There is always some excuse available for taking the day off. Every writer needs a toolkit to help with this. I’ve found Camp NaNo to be a help, but only up to a point; the thing where it tracks your progress is wonderful, but the mindless chatter of people in the ‘cabins’ and the relentless pestering with trite messages from the site are nothing but a distraction. I’ve distilled out the good part by developing a spreadsheet that does everything the NaNo website does.
Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)
At first I did try to get an agent. However, I was not successful in interesting an agent in representing me. Apparently my work did not fit neatly into the genre categories. One big agency was prepared to take me on IF I made substantial changes to the book to force it into the list criteria. I was not prepared to do this; it would have spoiled my vision of the book.
Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?
As editing is what I do for a living, I edit my own. Please note that I do not recommend this to anyone. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, KIDS!
How did you get your book published? (self-published, Vanity publishing, Mainstream publisher).
Self-published, with KDP, Smashwords and Createspace.
Do you handle your own marketing?
In the sense that no one else handles it for me, yes. In the sense of actually doing any, no.
What is your best marketing tip?
Writers write; marketers market. If you’re serious about your work as a writer, then that’s what you need to be spending your time on.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. Be sure that you really are a writer before investing a lot of time. Ensure that you have the prerequisites: a solid command of your language is absolutely necessary. Trying to write without it is like trying to build the Taj Mahal out of wet paper bags. And whining is not a substitute for anything. If there is some handicap that prevents you from writing well (dyslexia, lack of formal education, or whatever) then it is your responsibility to address that problem; writing is not like golf, where you get a handicap. Take responsibility for your own work and its quality. And don’t whine about reviews. And don’t whine about ‘writer’s block’. You do not see paramedics refusing to work because they have ‘ambulance block’.
In closing, I would like to thank Tabitha for taking the time to take this interview. As someone who is building himself from the ground up to be a writer, I found her quite inspiring and motivating. I look forward to hearing more about her in the future.
Until Next time,