Blog Tour Post #3: Tamela Ritter

Ashes Cover

Dan asked me to talk about my book, how it started, how long it took to finish. I feel like I never shut up about it, and yet, when I went online to see what I’d already said, there wasn’t much there. I think because I’ve been carrying this story around with me for so long, that it grew up with a large collection of writers who over the years has read it and heard about it for so long that I feel I’m tiring people out.
But Dan asked.
From These Ashes started as a collection of writing exercises about a boy. It was also a way to exorcise these thoughts and feelings I had created around the myth and fable of my brother who had died when I was 10—he was 14.
When I put all these pieces together, I realized that they were telling a compelling story but they were missing something. You can’t tell a story about longing, finding home and the pieces we miss when we lose ourselves if I didn’t give this boy a family. And since the main reason this story existed was to tell a story of a brother, I gave him a sister—and Naomi was born. And then she sort of took over.
She is in no way me. I mean, sure, she has my smart mouth, but her struggles were not my struggles, her dreams are not mine. And (my mother would very much like me to point this out) Naomi’s traumatic childhood was not even close to mine. That book will have to wait until my mother is no longer with us. (I KID, MOM, I KID!)
But seriously, I started the book with no goal of actually writing a book, and of course it’s the one that became one. The ones I’d written before that and believed would be my first and second best sellers, still sit here on my hard drive mocking me in their terribleness. That is, seems to me, how it works in this world.
From the first word until I typed “The End” took a little over a year. Of course, it wasn’t really the end for a long time after. I workshopped it with a large, eclectic writers’ group in Connecticut—where I was living at the time—editing and adding to it as I went. Then I shopped it around for agents. Got a few nibbles but mostly it was that they didn’t know how or where to sell it.
So, I found a smaller, more concise writers’ group, a group who was as dedicated to getting published and being the best we could be as I was. I workshopped it again, made it better and dabbled with a few small presses, but I had no idea how to go about it.
So I let it sit.
And sit.
I wrote other things, had some short stories published, won a few awards, started a literary charity, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. All the while that novel sat there silently chanting that it not be forgotten, constantly reminding me that no matter what else I wrote and what accolades I received from them, this book was still to date, the best thing I’d ever written.
But where? How?
I did what I did with my other novels, my terrible novels. I put it away and started to write other stories, other books. I fell in love with other characters, ones that weren’t brother and sister, weren’t broken in the same ways, weren’t looking for the same things. I wrote lots of other things. Or more precisely, I started lots of other things.
I really don’t know what I would have done if one day, almost 10 years after I had written those words, “The End,” I hadn’t received an email from someone who years before I had workshopped the novel with. What would my life have been if she hadn’t, in the years that passed, gone on to get her Masters in Publishing, hadn’t started working as an editor for Battered Suitcase Press, and hadn’t remembered me and my novel?
It’s not something I even want to think about. Not anymore.
Thankfully I don’t have to. It is done, and I have done it.
Hallelujah.
***
Tamela J. Ritter was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, her debut novel From These Ashes was published in March 2013 by Battered Suitcase Press. She now lives and works in Haymarket, Va. You can find her on Twitter or on Facebook

1 Comment

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One response to “Blog Tour Post #3: Tamela Ritter

  1. What a great peek behind the curtains. So many of you brave writers cover issues that are personal and touching. I applaud your courage, and your talent. Great post, Tamela!

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