Author Interview: Tamara Passey, The Christmas Tree Keeper

"If we all waited until we were smart enough, there wouldn’t be any books!" -Author Tamara Passey on why you shouldn't wait to write that book you've always dreamed of writing.

Writers like Tamara find inspiration around them, and in turn, inspire others around them.

Tamara's childhood family and now a family of her own have both inspired her writing. And now she has realized that one of the best parts of being a published author is hearing how her writing has inspired her readers.

Like many other first-time authors, getting started was a challenge, but Tamara felt amazing when her first manuscript was finally finished. As she explained, "If it is your dream, don’t wait." Baby steps to the goal.

Learn more about her at

1. How many books have you published and when?

The Christmas Tree Keeper

November 2014

Mothering through the Whirlwind

April 2015

2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?

I started writing The Christmas Tree Keeper in 2009. I remembered how magical it was when my parents would put up the Christmas tree. The idea stayed with me and I wondered what it would be like if the trees were magical and what it would be like if you were the one that grew the trees.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?

The hardest part was never having done it before. The biggest hurdles for me were figuring out how to plot and getting my writing process figured out. Also, staying with the manuscript until the end. I enjoyed writing poetry before novel writing. So I had to change from writing one page of poetry and working on a few lines all week to writing entire chapters and working on numerous scenes.

4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?

Cheered. Really, after typing “The End” I got up from my chair and announced to my family “I did it!”

5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?

Overall, it was a good experience. As a new novelist, I knew I needed help and thankfully I had a great editor who gave me lots of it.

6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?

Rewriting is different than initial writing in the way that building sandcastles is different than architecture school. One is playful and pure creative fun. The other is serious hard work—but necessary to create a structure that someone can live in. Rewriting feels harder for me, but I know that if I want my readers to be able to “live” inside the world I’m creating, I have to do the work.

7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?

Yes, many. I got a lot of valuable feedback that most likely alleviated some of the work my editor need to do.

8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?

Cover design is your #1 marketing tool, so I’d say very important. I hired designers for both books and maintained creative direction for both covers.

9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?

I chose to self-publish. Why? I wanted the freedom to publish when I wanted to, to maintain creative control, and I wanted to keep a larger portion of the royalties. Also, the genre of my books played a part in the decision. Some genres do better with traditional publishers, some do well in the indie market. I created the imprint Winter Street Press so I could own my ISBNs.

10. How have you marketed your first book?

By trying a little bit of everything. Social media, digital ads, a book launch, blog tour, holiday book blitz, sending it out for reviews, some paid marketing services. I did my research to find the best exposure for the least amount of money.

11. How was the initial feedback from readers?

Lots of four and five star reviews. Several people read it and then bought multiple copies to give as gifts. Several book clubs have read it and invited me to join their group when they’ve discussed it. Of course I’ve had some not-so-happy book reviews, but that’s pretty normal.

12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?

Sales have been good. The Christmas Tree Keeper is a holiday book so it had strong sales the first season and then during the second season it became a #1 Amazon Bestseller in Contemporary Christian Romance. It’s always hard to say what helps sell books as there are so many variables, but marketing and promotions make a big difference. I like to say that no one can buy a book if they don’t know it exists. They have to hear about it somehow.

13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?

At least 80% of my sales are ebook. However both my books have slightly higher print sales due to readers wanting to give them as gifts.

14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?

I set the prices. I researched similar titles and priced accordingly.

15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?

I’m currently writing the sequel to The Christmas Tree Keeper and not sure when or how I decided—I’ve had a lot of readers ask if it is out yet or done. It has taken fewer years, but it is still demanding work for me. Demanding yet rewarding.

16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?

No, but I do have a YA novel I’ve written and I may seek a traditional publisher for it.

17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?

When I won a poetry contest in high-school. My sister made me include in my bio “award-winning poet” and that seemed to send a clear message to my psyche that I was a writer!

18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?

Every chance I get. Hopefully every day. What motivates me? The thrill of creating a story that wouldn’t exist except for me thinking about it and getting it on the page. The satisfaction of doing something that challenges me and allows me to use my talent. The humility I feel when a reader tells me something I wrote helped them, cheered them up or kept them awake at night.

19. What do aspiring authors ask you?

How to get published. Mostly people tell me it’s something they’ve always wanted to do but didn’t think they were smart enough. That always makes me a little sad. If we all waited until we were smart enough, there wouldn’t be any books!

20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?

If it is your dream, don’t wait. Even if you can only take baby steps, do something to nurture that dream. Also, writing schedules--set one for yourself and treat a writing appointment like an appointment with the doctor. Set it and protect it. As for writing, pour your heart into it. As for feedback, don’t take any of it personal, use it to get better. As for publishing, it will change your life, but you will still need to figure out what’s for dinner and push your own cart at the grocery store.

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