Interview // Author Tara East
I’m so excited to share this latest author interview with Tara East – an Australian author celebrating her debut book. I featured her book on Tuesday via a book review, Every Time He Dies. Go check out the review AFTER the interview! Enjoy
From your about page, you have written non-fiction, science fiction, and now a mystery novel. Do you see yourself writing in another genre?
Such a great question! Right now I am working on a hybrid novel that draws upon tropes found in science fiction, fantasy, cli-fi, and magical realism, but delivered with a literary voice. I’ve tried my hand at romance in the past, but it wasn’t a natural fit. That being said, I would love to write a novel about a complex romantic relationship, I have a few ideas for what this may look like but don’t think I have the chops yet to pull it off!
Where did you draw inspiration from to write your latest release Every Time He Dies?
The kernel of inspiration came, unfortunately, when a close friend passed away. It wasn’t the first time I’d lost someone, but this particular loss felt different. Two things happened: 1) I knew that I could no longer delay my desire to write a novel and 2) I needed a way to process my grief.
As Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
While my own grief spurred the writing of ETHD, the novel is not a fictionalised version of my life. That being said, my thoughts and feelings about time, family, death, grief, memory, and identity are imprinted on every page … more or less!
What was your most satisfying moment while writing Every Time He Dies?
Finally nailing the opening paragraph! The importance of having a cracker first page is drilled into newbie authors, and it took me five years and a stroke of luck to come up with what is now the opening.
In the seven years it took to write and publish ETHD, only twice did I experience what could be described as a visitation from the ‘muse.’
The day I wrote the opening paragraph I was determined to sit down at my laptop and write for 8 hours straight, but once I got to 7.5 hours … I was definitely phoning it in. Basically, I was just scrolling through the document, eyes glazed over, making minor tweaks here and there and waiting for the 8 hours to be up.
Then, with ten minutes to go, the opening paragraph literally dropped into my mind. I frantically scrolled back to the beginning of the manuscript and bashed out that opening paragraph before it had a chance to disappear into the ethers forever! Those first five sentences are the same today as the moment I wrote them.
Did you find Every Time He Dies stayed along your chosen path or developed into a completely different book once completed?
The version of Every Time He Dies that I am publishing today is totally different from the novel I set out to write. In fact, the novel’s premise changed dramatically — twice!
First, it changed from a novel about two teenage boys to a novel about an adult woman and a ghost. Then it changed again from a novel about a group of strangers coming together to create a community to a novel about disintegrated families, told through a dual perspective of a father and his daughter. Don’t worry, I kept the ghost.
The thing is, I am a fast writer and a slow reviser. I wrote the first draft of this book in a matter of months. I then spent years considering how the story could be different. What could I do to make it stronger, better?
It took a while to figure out whose story it really was, what voice I wanted to use, the perspective it should be told in, the mood and so much more.
The first time the premise changed, I was excited. The second time, I was exhausted. Probably because I knew how much work would go into changing the story. That being said, the story is so much better now.
Do you have a favorite character from this book? Why this specific character?
This is a tricky one. There is a minor character in the novel called Heather Miller and she seriously has all the best lines and she is so wonderfully kooky! Melissa Sweet is another favourite because she’s pretty much who I want to be when I grow up: a psychic rock and roller drenched in leather and too much silver jewelry. Both of those characters were so much fun to write, and yet, it is the relationship dynamics between Daff, Liam and Lawrence that make the heart of the novel … ultimately, I have to go with my three protagonists.
If you only had one sentence to capture a new reader for your books, what would it be?
Every Time He Dies features badass psychics, moody cops, greasy bikes, a dry leading lady and a ghost experiencing an identity crisis.
Do you have a favorite genre you like to read?
I was a huge horror and fantasy fan for a really long time, but lately, I seem to be reading a lot of historical fiction! I also love literary fiction that draws on genre tropes. There are so many novelists right now doing really interesting things, people like George Sauders, Angela Meyer, Jane Rawson, Carmen Maria Machado … I appreciate that this is not an especially new trend, but I do find this combining of genres very exciting!
Can you tell us your favorite book and why?
That is so hard. For fiction, I would say Pet Sematary by Stephen King. That probably seems like a VERY odd choice, but Pet Sematary was the first time I’d read a book that literally scared the crap out of me. Fiction can evoke emotion, but prior to reading that book, I didn’t think that literature was an effective medium for generating fear … boy was I wrong!
Lauren Beaukes’ Broken Monsters was another huge one for me. What I loved about that novel was the randomness that lasted from the uncanny opening crime scene to its otherworldly ending … I won’t spoil anything!
For non-fiction — and especially for all you writers out there — I’d say Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I feel that this book contains a certain kind of magic and I have read it so many times! Maybe this is a bit superstitious, but I try really hard to not read this book unless I absolutely have to. I don’t want to become too familiar with it and use all the magic up!
What author has inspired you the most in your writing?
Stephen King. That VOICE! I believe that’s why King fans keep returning to his work because there is a warmth, a “come along kids, I’ll tell you a story” quality to his writing. I also admire the diversity of his work: horror, crime, fantasy, historical fiction, short story, and epic series. That man has done everything!
What one book do you recommend that every mystery lover read (not including your books)?
Oh, gosh that’s hard! The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler is a classic, but a more contemporary choice might be Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. The narrative centres on the murder of a young girl, but the novel is about so much more: abuse, racism, friendship, secrets. I loved this book so much that I actually wrote an article about it here: https://the-artifice.com/australian-literature-fear/
Of course, we have to know, what is in-store next – books, events, etc.?
I am hosting a book launch at Avid Reader in West End, Brisbane on December 7. Details can be found here: https://avidreader.com.au/events/tara-east-every-time-he-dies. Right now I am working on a novel that is separate from ETHD, but I certainly have intentions to write a follow-up novel. Rest assured that Daff’s story is not over yet!