Join me this morning in getting to know Tinney Sue Heath, author of ‘A Thing Done’
Writing is such a challenging endeavor. What got you started on it and what keeps you doing it?
Story has always been important to me. My parents could get me to do anything when I was little, as long as they pretended I was Cinderella and they stayed in character as Prince Charming or the Fairy Godmother (“You need to pick up your toys before you can go to the ball.”). Later, I was always lost in a book. I mislaid one entire family vacation in Washington DC because I was reading Kristin Lavransdatter, and all I remember about that trip is medieval Norway. Later still, I became deeply involved in historical reenactment, which is sort of like acting out an evolving story. If story is that powerful in a person’s life, that person needs to create her own. There’s almost no way not to.
What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Do you still have them?
I still have a few. Others are mercifully lost. I think I managed to recreate virtually every literary cliché there is, before I realized they were clichés.
What made you choose to write in the genres/time periods you write in?
I was fascinated by Renaissance Florence. In fact, that would probably have become the setting for my writing, except that I discovered Dante. I believe that his work contains the seeds of what came later, and his life and times hold clues for why and how Florence became the jewel of the Italian Renaissance. Besides, Dante’s Divine Comedy provides no end of story ideas, so I think I’ll be Dantecentric for quite a while.
What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?
What I love best is when I’m on a roll – when the writing just flows, and the words come faster than I can get them down. It’s the best feeling in the world. What I dislike? Marketing. But the community of readers and writers is full of wonderful, generous people, so even with marketing there are good moments. Still, it can be a slog, especially for those of us who are a little shy and not tech-savvy.
If you write in multiple genres how do you make the switch from one to the other? Do you find it a welcome change, crazy-making or a little of both?
My novel is historical fiction but all of my published short stories are fantasy. I enjoy switching back and forth – I find it relaxing, and it helps me recharge my batteries. I may not feel that way, though, if I attempt book-length fantasy or historical short fiction.
Historical fiction takes a lot of research. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?
I am addicted to research. I can easily get lost in it and forget to do the actual writing. I blog about historical fiction research, and many of the gems I find become my blogging topics. One thing my research has made me realize is that even a major city of the middle ages is something like a small town today. Everyone knew everyone else. There were no secrets. Dante knew Giotto, Dante’s political nemesis was his wife’s cousin Corso Donati, and Corso and Dante’s best friend Guido Cavalcanti, whenever they weren’t trying to kill each other, coexisted in the same political party and the same neighborhood. We read about these people as if they lived separate lives, but in fact everyone was connected.
What do you do to keep all your research information and plot ideas organized and accessible?
I laughed when I read this question. I only wish I did keep my information organized and accessible! I often find myself reinventing the wheel because I can’t lay hands on something I need and I have to find it all over again. I recently found a notebook page with a date I had been searching for, and with it were a phone number (I have no idea whose), a short shopping list, a recipe for a mango smoothie, library call numbers for two books, and the title of a friend’s blog. How, exactly, am I going to file that?!? I think I can safely say that organization is not my long suit.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Read your work out loud.” (And the other part of that is “Really listen to yourself.”) It’s amazing how much you can find by doing that – inadvertent repetitions, clunky sentences, not enough variety, too much variety, awkward phrasing, the fact that you’ve changed a secondary character’s name somewhere between Chapter 1 and Chapter 15. It’s revelatory.
Tell us a little about your current project.
I’m working on a book based on the life of Gemma Donati, Dante’s wife. She – and their children – were caught up in the political upheavals that divided families and neighborhoods and led to Dante’s exile from Florence. I’m exploring where her loyalties would lie, and why.
What’s up next for you?
It depends on whether Gemma’s story evolves into one long book, or two or three shorter ones. If the latter, they will keep me busy for quite a while. Whatever I follow Gemma with, it’s likely to be something out of Dante’s life or work. I do have long-range plans for something different, though: one or more fantasy novels involving the Etruscans.
Thank you, Maria Grace, for letting me share these thoughts on your blog!
To learn more about Tinney’s work, see her website
or her blog
or her Fireship Press Author Page
A Thing Done is available from Amazon and other online sellers, or it can be ordered through bookstores.
In 1216 the noble families of Florence hold great power, but they do not share it easily. Tensions simmer just below the surface. When a Jester’s prank-for-hire sets off a brawl, those tensions erupt violently, dividing Florence into hostile factions. A marriage is brokered to make peace, but that fragile alliance crumbles under the pressure of a woman’s interference, a scorned bride, and an outraged cry for revenge.
At the center of the conflict is Corrado, the Jester, whose prank began it and who is now pressed into unwilling service by both sides. It will take all his wit and ingenuity to keep himself alive and to prevent the unbridled ambitions of the nobles from destroying the city in a brutal civil war.