Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Tambo Jones

I’ve known Tambo Jones for a couple of years now, making her acquaintance after I read her book, Spore. She is such a talented author, and someone who very much enjoys talking to her readers, so make sure you look her up and say hello.


Meghan: Hi, Tambo. Welcome to the new and improved book blog, Meghan’s House of Books. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Tambo Jones: Wow. The past two years have been all uppy-downy-uppy-squiggly, I guess. My husband and I have had some medical issues with our parents (they’re fine now, but it was touch-and-go with his dad for a while), hubby’s job sucks balls, our granddaughter is awesome, we have too many love-em-to-pieces cats, I’ve written two new novels (a quirky/snarky Women’s Fic and a SF Thriller), I haven’t sewn anything in about a-year-and-a-half, and I’ve begun rapid-releasing an interconnected, multi-timeline GrimDark forensic-fantasy series that’s partly books Bantam published years ago but mostly all new material. There are going to be at least five timelines that splinter off of a milkmaid found dead in the snow and it’s going to be amazing. The Children of Nall project has been in the works for almost a year now and I am sooooo brain fried!

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Tambo Jones: Does ‘boring’ count? I’m a wife, mom, grandma, quilter, and cat wrangler from small town Iowa. Mostly I’m at home doing boring at-home stuff.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Tambo Jones: I’m cool with it. Fwiw, some don’t talk to me much anymore because my stuff’s too scary/violent/weird, and I’m generally cool with that, too.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Tambo Jones: It’s both. On the ‘gift’ hand, I know a ton of utterly awesome and amazing people I never would have met or worked with had I not been a writer. Creative people are MY TRIBE, BABY and that’s probably the best thing. One thing that’s both gift and curse is the ability to see patterns and structures in things. I used to read voraciously, five novels a week, give or take, and now… Now I see the structure beneath the work and I spend more time tracking the pacing and character arcs and whatever and far less time enjoying the ride. Same with movies. I usually have a fairly good idea of how it’s going to end by the time the first act finishes up, which is great on a story-geek sense, not so great on an enjoyment sense. But it’s not just in story-based things. I’ve become pretty good at predicting what people will do, and how supposedly unrelated or barely-related items or events will impact each other and then bounce into this other thing. I can, sometimes, see the cascade of events before they happen. It’s not really like seeing the future, more an educated guess. My therapist says it’s because I’m an empath and I pick up on little cues most people miss, but I think it’s more that I’m a professional story teller and I understand the basics of correlation, causation, and prediction. I have to, it’s my job, and I have to be good at it or my books won’t hold together. I see patterns and story-structure everywhere. So, I guess, never being able to truly take a break from my job is a curse.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Tambo Jones: Oh boy.I’m not quite sure how to answer this in a coherent, cohesive manner, but here goes. I grew up ‘we-don’t-have-plumbing’ poor with one highly-dysfunctional parent and the other trying to compensate and fill in the lack while working several jobs to keep us financially alive (and fed). Being responsible for my siblings when I was very, very young has made me responsible (bossy), independent and quick-witted, but rather psychologically fucked up (we don’t need to go into that). Three of those qualities—rather fucked up, quick-witted/brainy, and independent—rapidly led me to creative endeavors where they could be expressed. Among the multitude of creative-stuffs I do or have done, I worked as a graphic designer/illustrator, I design and make quilts professionally, and I’ve been writing since I was a small child. Since my dysfunctional parent allowed no disobedience or defiance, I used many various creative outlets to express my own otherwise-silenced voice.My therapist says I used creativity as self-therapy. She’s probably right. My creative productivity really drops when things are going great in my regular life.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Tambo Jones: Genetic sequencing for brain electrical activity and what specific chromosomal parts and pieces impact development of brain structures and function. (It was super fun though since I am a science geek at heart)

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Tambo Jones: The beginning.

I generally know a vaporous shape and direction of the book before I get too far in, but until I nail the beginning, it doesn’t want to move forward. I almost always FIGHT beginnings (or maybe they fight me) but once they work, the rest of the book usually churns forward and I scramble to keep up. If I can get the beginning, I’m golden. If I can’t, I’ll set aside the project until I can.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Tambo Jones: I tend to write what I call character-driven narrative (but a few readers have said I ‘heavily plot’ – dafuq??) in that I start with: A character with a problem and a complication. Boom, there’s the concept. I let that stew around in my head and I’ll often make some loose notes, not so much plot events, but more something like ‘there’s a brown dog on a porch somewhere’ or ‘It’s raining. Lots and lots of raining’ and other weird little things that don’t make much sense when you look at them, yet they really matter to the story. The characters tend to show up as themselves and I just write what they show me. I learn more about them as the story progresses, just like the readers do. I start right off, first scene, with that character/problem/complication—in SPORE it was: A comic artist on a deadline (character) wakes to find used-to-be-dead people walking into his yard (definitely a problem) and he becomes responsible for them (complication)—but I didn’t really know any of the DETAILS about Sean’s comic or his life situation or why the used-to-be-dead people showed up or what they need/want or who the antagonists were or any of it until his book opened up for me. I had utterly no idea about Mindy at all, let alone as a major character, or Mare and her ball bat, or Todd and his daughter, or Sean’s mother or any of it other than when I started that first sentence Sean walked on as himself and his comic was titled GhoulBane and he lived in a teeny town in rural Iowa just like me.HE dealt with the people in his yard and I just kept typing.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Tambo Jones: ?? There is not outline plan, not really, and if they’re not leading me where I think it’s going, I backtrack until I see where THEY say it needs to go. Sometimes I lose a few pages, but never more than that. It doesn’t take long for them to refuse to cooperate because we’re on the wrong track.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Tambo Jones: Every day is a new adventure in writing avoidance and too much caffeine consumption. I am not, nor have I ever been, a ‘happy writer’, but I do manage to get my ass in my chair and my word document open and get the job done by deadline. Then I’ll sleep for a week.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Tambo Jones: I used to be. Now I want to red-pen the prose and I usually see the structures and it’s just work. DAMMIT. I am enjoying the heck out of my Audible account though.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Tambo Jones: I mostly l read Horror, Thrillers, some SciFi/Fantasy, and a little off the Women’s Fiction and fiction bestseller lists. I don’t often finish books, though.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Tambo Jones: As a viewer, I usually don’t get too upset when they obliterate the original story, but I decided long ago that if one of my books would ever get made into a movie, either I would maintain control (ala Rowling) or they’ll have to pay me enough money that I won’t care they’d butchered it.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Tambo Jones: LMAO. YES. All things serve the story. Nothing and no one in my books are sacred or safe. The characters all know this before they sign up.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Tambo Jones: Um, that’s kind of my job? What’s the point of story if it’s EASY for the characters? Pain, struggle, and failure ARE the guts of story. I don’t pull punches. Ever.Well, not unless a publisher is paying me to ‘not be so mean’. I had to not-kill a character once due to editorial direction. It still perplexes me.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Tambo Jones: Ever? Wow. Um… I honestly don’t know, they’re all unique, but I recently wrote an adorably-married, gay, viciously-ruthless, corporate hitman-for-hire anti-hero. His name’s Huey and he’s awesome.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Tambo Jones: Write to please yourself. It fits both questions.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Tambo Jones: I love them!! I have so, so many fans who’ve become great friends. {{hugs}} for everyone! However, I have had stalkers and stalkers SUCK. Don’t be a stalker. Just don’t. The WRITER decides the boundaries, not you.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Tambo Jones: Nick Andros from The Stand. He needs an ending with a little hope.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Tambo Jones: Back to Stephen King’s The Stand (which is my fave book of all time). I’d like to write (well, read) what happens to the survivors and how they’re really not done with Flagg.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Tambo Jones: Please note my answers to question above on environment and upbringing. I tend to take charge and don’t generally work well with others. I’ve never been a good employee and I know I can be difficult and determined (bossy/opinionated/cranky/belligerent). Of all the writers I know, there are none I’d want to subject my pain-in-the-assery to, I love them too much.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Tambo Jones: I’ve recently received the rights back for my entire backlist, so I’ll be re-releasing some of the titles soon, and I have two complete new novels but I’m also dancing with an agent for them and I can’t say more there. BUT. I’m taking the forensic-fantasy series originally published by Bantam (which had barely a passing nod at what I originally wrote) and repackaging ALL OF IT into a sort-of Choose Your Own GrimDark Adventure with five-to-seven separate timelines as novella-length episodes under The Children of Nall banner. There will be a new episode every six weeks and we’re guaranteeing a minimum of twenty-one episodes in three timelines between this September and October of 2021. I think it’ll take about eight years of episodes to weave all the timelines back together into one brutal ending, and it’s going to be awesome!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Tambo Jones: Amazon ** Website ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram ** Mewe ** Emenator

Fwiw, I’m most active on Facebook. Shoot me a friend request and let me know you’re a reader! ❤

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

Tambo Jones: You always ask great questions, but I’d like to remind folks to check out Weight of the Castellan’s Curse, the beginning of my multiple-timeline Grimdark Fantasy series in paperback and Kindle. Thanks, Meghan! ❤

Tambo Jones started her academic career as a science geek, earned a degree in art, and, when she’s not making quilts or herding cats, writes grisly thrillers. Despite the violent nature of her work, Tam’s easygoing and friendly. Not sick or twisted at all. Honest. Check out her Grimdark Children of All multi-timeline fantasy series, with a new episode every six weeks. Available in paperback and Kindle exclusive.

The Winter of Ghosts & Ghosts in the Snow 1: Weight of the Castellan’s Curse

For Dubric Byerly, aging head of security at Castle Faldorrah, saving lives has become a matter of saving his sanity. A silent, unseen killer stalks his castle, mutilating servant girls while leaving no clues or witnesses—only the gruesome ghosts of the victims. Ghosts only Dubric can see. 

Caught in the grisly tangle is Nella, a linen maid working to free herself from a tortured past—if she can survive the invisible killer and pay off her debt to Lord Risley Romlin, grandson of the King and Dubric’s prime suspect. Every snowy dawn brings a new victim, a new ghost, and Dubric must resort to unconventional methods to unravel the few clues. With the future of Faldorrah and countless lives at stake, including his own, he can’t afford to be wrong. And if he’s right, the entire kingdom could be thrust into war.

The Winter of Ghosts 2: Protection of the Holy Knights

Haunted by the ghosts of mutilated servant girls, desperate Castellan Dubric risked his page to look for ghost-stuff and catch their invisible killer. His bold move failed, and his page, Lars, nearly died. But Lars saw a scratch on Dubric’s prime suspect, Lord Risley Romlin, grandson of the king, who has motive, opportunity, a weapon similar to the killer’s, and an obsession with linen maid Nella.Each morning, another servant girl dies under the killer’s razor, each murder more vicious than the last and their bodies left in the snow. Details of the murders suggest dark magic is involved, magic Dubric had fought a war to defeat, and soon guards are murdered beside the women they were ordered to protect. Meanwhile Risley, determined to win Nella’s heart and ensure her safety at any cost, makes a bold move of his own.

Ghosts in the Snow 2: The Lord Apparent’s Razor

Haunted by the ghosts of mutilated servant girls, desperate Castellan Dubric risked his staff to catch their killer. His bold move failed, and page Lars Hargrove nearly died. But Lars saw a scratch on Dubric’s prime suspect, Lord Risley Romlin who is grandson of the king and Faldorrah’s lord. Risley has motive, opportunity, a collapsible razor similar to the killer’s, and an ever-increasing obsession with linen maid Nella.Each morning brings another dead servant girl in the snow, each girl missing her kidneys and hair, each razor-slashed more viciously than the victim before. Residents of the castle grow angrier every day and demand Risley’s arrest, but Dubric has to be certain of Risley’s guilt before risking war. At least until Dubric’s own guards are killed beside the women they failed to protect.

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