Thanks so much to Tiffany Reisz for spending the month hanging out with us. We’ve enjoyed hosting her as our Featured Author. Be sure to check out the previous reviews of her backlist and the review of her brand new release, The Night Mark.
To conclude our March Featured Author segment, we chat with Tiffany about her early influences, her inspiration and the small warning she has for her readers.
Thanks so much, Tiffany!
LS: Thanks for joining us for this chat, Tiffany. I’d love to hear about the genesis of your writing career. Have you always written? What were those early stories like?
Thanks for having me! I’ve been writing ever since I could write. In the first grade I won a blue ribbon for entering a poem into the art fair. In the third grade, I dictated weird fractured fairy tale sequels to my mom. In high school I wrote weird erotic fan fiction for the TV show Forever Knight about a vampire cop. You can find little hints of the influence of that show in the Original Sinners series (fans of the show will know what I mean—sexy French club owner ring a bell, Sinners?). While I was a student in seminary, that’s when I really started writing. Erotica and romance stuff mostly if only as a quiet rebellion against the pretty puritanical rules we seminarians had to follow. Eventually those weird erotic stories started to mingle with my religious studies and then the Original Sinners was born.
LS: What in your childhood informed your writing? Did you read a lot as a child?
Oh yes, voracious childhood reader like most writers are. I would skip lunch in middle school and sit in the library and read while I snacked on food I brought from home. My favorite books from age 10-16 are still my favorite books—A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein, and everything Anne Rice wrote.
LS: As a reader, what’s the one book that you always go back to over the years? What makes this title so special to you?
The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein was a novel I picked up right after I started working at my town’s only bookstore when I was 16. I got the job because I was in there so much, the store manager told me I could have it if I applied. I already knew where all the books were shelved. I don’t know what it was about The Winter Prince that grabbed me. The cover wasn’t that exciting but the book drew me in. I was very young, like I said, only 16 and that book was the first time I encountered a sadist in fiction. He was a very strange enigmatic handsome blonde sadist with a complicated family life (it’s an Arthurian novel). It’s one of those rare books that gets better with age. The older I get, the more I find to appreciate about the book when I read it. It was a massive influence on me. I went about eighteen years between reads and when I re-read it just a couple years ago, I laughed out loud. The odd sadist hero, bastard son of King Arthur, calls his younger half-brother “Little One.” That’s a nickname a character in my Original Sinners calls his lover. I had wondered for years where I got that and when I re-read The Winter Prince, there it was. It’s amazing the stuff from our youth that sticks in our heads.
LS: Your Original Sinners series delves heavily with religion. I know you began your education at a conservative seminary. Was it your education alone that made you decide to write about characters immersed in the Catholic church?
My father’s massive family (he has ten brothers and sisters) are all Catholic and I’ve always found the Roman Catholic Church fascinating. Religion has always been a fascination. There’s just so much we don’t understand as mere human beings and so much more out there to be discovered. It’s foolish to think we know everything and it’s a great deal of fun to write Catholic characters who are so deeply immersed into their faith and yet their behavior is so at-odds with the Church’s teachers. And yet, they are moral in their own weird ways.
LS: Let’s talk about The Night Mark. How did this story come to you?
My husband Andrew Shaffer and I were on a quick vacation in Savannah, Georgia and we took one of those little bus tours of the city. The tour guide told us about Florence Martus, a local legend. She was the Cockspur Island’s lighthouse keeper’s sister. Supposedly she fell in love with a sailor and when he shipped out, she started greeting every ship that came into port with a white flag by day and a lantern by night in the hopes her lover was on board. He never returned but she never stopped greeting those ships. I was so excited about the story I told my husband that very day I wanted to write a romance set at a lighthouse.
LS: What’s the process like for you writing a standalone? Is it different than how you prepare to write a series?
Writing a standalone like The Night Mark or The Bourbon Thief is so much harder than writing a series book. Everything I want to do with a character or a plot, I have to do in one book. Everything must work together and there’s no second chances, no sequels to mop things up. It’s one and done. And it’s hard! Fun, but hard!
LS: Looking back over the book, did Faye and Will end up were you initially intended? How did the plot shift during the writing process?
Will was never part of the original idea for the book. He just appeared as I was writing. Faye was sad. I knew that. But I didn’t know why. I thought it was just her bad marriage that had broken her spirit but then I put her on the phone with her ex-husband and out of nowhere her ex says “I’m never going to be Will.” These things happen all the time in writing. That’s why I’m such a bad outliner. My books know more than I do.
LS: Has there been one stabilizing force that has kept you motivated to publish? Has that changed since your first book?
I love books. I eat them and drink them and dream of them. They’re my life. But the discipline to write as much as I do and publish as much as I do comes from the simple need to pay the bills. Writing is my passion but it’s also my job, my only job. If I don’t write and publish, me and my husband and our two cats don’t eat. It’s terrifying. Writing income is never stable. But it’s also hugely inspiring. You’re forced to finish what you start, keep working, keep writing, because there is no safety net. There’s no backup income. It’s just the books and that’s it. If I had a day job, I wouldn’t write nearly as much as I do.
LS: What is your idea of career fulfillment?
Freedom. Being able to write and publish everything I want to write an publish. Luckily, I’m pretty much there. If I have an idea for a book that won’t work as a traditional novel, I can self-publish it and vice versa. I’m happiest when I have trouble getting to sleep at night because I have a book idea keeping me up. That’s not just fulfillment. That’s a joy.
LS: Finally, what’s next for you?
The next book I have coming out after The Night Mark is The Red, from the Original Sinners Library. While The Night Mark is my most romantic and mainstream novel I’ve published, The Red is my naughtiest and most sexually explicit book. It’s wicked. You’ve been warned, readers…