About Tanya Mills
I am the author of A
Night on Moon Hill, a 2012
Whitney Finalist, and The Reckoning. The latter was
the 2010 Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Award
Winner for Mainstream/Literary Fiction, 2009 Indie
Book Award Winner for Multicultural Fiction, and 2008 Whitney Finalist in two categories.
I grew up overseas, in a
part of the world that has seen a lot of conflict–the Middle East–so the
pacifist in me tends to view the world in terms of what we have in common, not
what drives us apart. The stories I write will always reflect that in some
fashion. I’m most interested in writing “fiction that bridges cultures.” The
cultures may be national, geographical, religious, political, or even social.
It doesn’t matter. They all need bridging.
Most would describe me as
serious and thoughtful, but my family and a few close friends know better. All
I need is a lack of sleep, a fair amount of M&Ms (plain, not peanut), and a
lively game of “Shanghai” late at night, and my guard comes down. I can be as
silly as the next person as long as it doesn’t cost me a hand in the card game.
I grew up in a very vocal
family–one in which national and international events were often “discussed”
around the dinner table. My mom is a Republican, my dad is a Democrat. Most of
the kids followed in Dad’s footsteps politically, but not all…so family
get-togethers are still fun and, sometimes, rather charged.
I have two big weaknesses
among many: a lousy memory and an even lousier sense of direction. I have taken
to blaming my poor memory on my epilepsy (entirely under control, by the way).
As for the bad sense of direction, I understand that’s a common failing among
writers. I suppose we can only map things out in our heads, not the real world.
As far as I can remember,
these are the main facts of my life thus far (Warning–only read further if you
want lots of detail):
I was born in Libya on an
American Air Force base (since obliterated by bombing). Mom says the heat and
sandstorms were so bad that she took refuge in the base’s movie theatre. In
fact, when she went into labor she was slightly put out that she couldn’t
finish watching the film first. No wonder I love movies.
We lived in Greece (bad
economy, earthquakes, and fires), California (bad economy, earthquakes, and
fires), Turkey (earthquakes), Virginia (9/11 Pentagon), Iraq (revolutions,
war), Maryland (nothing…yet), and Lebanon (civil war, bombings, invasions). I
also lived in Italy for a year and a half (parts of the Coliseum are beginning
to crumble). Are you seeing a pattern here? I hope my own little family’s move
to the Pacific Northwest doesn’t forecast doom and gloom for the region.
After graduating with a
BA in Journalism from BYU, I worked for a PBS affiliate, a Catholic women’s
college, a non-profit relief agency, and then got back to writing as Assistant
Editor for Trade Publications with Sunset Magazine.
I met my husband in L.A.
and quit the job to start raising a family and begin formulating the plot for
what would eventually become The Reckoning. I wrote it while we were
living in Riverside, CA but it wasn’t published until after we moved up north
to Washington State. My next novel, A Night on Moon Hill (inspired
by my son with Asperger’s syndrome), was published last year by Walnut
Springs Press. I am currently at work on the first of an upper middle grade
fantasy series set partly in the real world.
Through it all, I’ve been
a proud, stay-at-home “mauthor” with two beautiful children (now grown), two
handsome cats, and a husband who supports and spoils me in every way.
Those are the facts to
the best of my memory. Then, again, I have a lousy memory. That’s why I write
1. Tell us a little about
I grew up
in several foreign countries due to my father's work, enjoying my happiest
childhood memories in the Middle East. Even though it's a part of the world
that has seen a good deal of conflict, the people there are warm, hospitable,
and family-oriented. I've always been creative and enjoyed reading and thought
I might end up studying either history (because of the places I've been) or
theater (because my family kind of has that tradition). I ended up taking the
practical route in college, however, and studied journalism. I live in
Richland, WA now with my husband, two children, and two cats.
what point did you decide to become a writer? Was there someone or something
that specifically inspired you?
to become a writer in college, but then my intention was a career in
journalism. I found I didn't like all the deadlines, however, so I counted
myself fortunate to be able to quit my job with Sunset Magazine (I was an Asst.
Editor for their Trade Publications) a year or two after I got married. I got
an idea for a novel around the same time, but didn't know how to begin it until
some 15 years later when I finally gave into my father's long-held desire for
me to visit his writing group. There, I took part in a writing exercise that
ended up revealing the way into my story. That was in January, 2003. Three
months later, after I'd gone back home and found a writing group of my own, I'd
finally completed the first draft of what would become my first novel, THE
RECKONING. My father had been writing in his spare time since I was a teenager
in Beirut, Lebanon. So he was definitely my inspiration, and I dedicated my
first book to him.
3. What are you working on now?
completed something entirely different for me--a middle grade fantasy with
potential for a series. I'm calling it THE ACADEMY OF THE ANCIENTS, with the
first book entitled THE HEYMAN LEGACY. An agent requested the full and I'm
hoping this will garner me representation. We'll see. In the meantime, I need
to flesh out the rest of the series.
do you write: outline or seat of your pants, and why?
I've always written by the seat of my pants because it allows the story to grow
more organically. I find that once I start with a character in an interesting
situation, the story and other characters tend to develop on their own. And
it's almost as if something higher is at work in my creative process. For
example, in my last novel, A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, I decided I wanted my main
character, Daphne, to take a book with her for comfort when she goes to meet
young Eric for the first time. I figured that since she was an author who was
uncomfortable with strangers, she would take something like that with her. So I
had to pick a book. I looked back on my shelf and "randomly" picked
out "Look Homeward Angel" by Thomas Wolfe then realized when Eric spies
it in Daphne's hands that it's the perfect book to spark a conversation between
them because he's passionate about angels. Not only that, but as I wrote the
dialogue between them, I had him question the title. That made me do a bit of
research so Daphne could tell him where the title came from, which led me to
Milton's poem, "Lycidas." It was such a perfect fit for the novel,
given its beginning involving a drowning. It was like serendipity! But I know
it's more than that. I really do believe that the Spirit assists in the
however, I'm having to write a series and I simply can't keep everything
straight without an outline. I wrote the first book in the series without an
outline, for the most part (though I sketched some plot points out in my head
as I got 2/3 of the way in), but now I know I'm going to have to re-read that
first manuscript, jot down all the questions raised and left unanswered (there
aren't too many), and then outline the rest of the series to make certain
everything I have in mind is revealed at the right time and nothing is left
unanswered at the end. Part of me still fights the outlining, however, and I
won't be surprised if I get partway in and then let the story take over.
5. Do you
have any advice for others who dream of being an author?
and patient with yourself. Don't be afraid to go to conferences and retreats
and, above all, remember that, in the end, if you want it badly enough and are
willing to revise, revise, and revise again, you will get published. Also, getting
published is only the beginning, not the end. So be very certain of your goals
6. Do you
belong to any writing/critique groups? Do you suggest them for authors?
I belong to
a wonderful critique group, Writeminded, that meets weekly by Skype at 7 pm
each Wednesday. We formed it about three years ago and it's been immensely
helpful for each one of the six of us. Before that, when I lived in Southern
California, I belonged to a larger critique group (probably too large) which
also met weekly. I also belong to ANWA, including a local chapter I
began--Columbia River Writers--which meets monthly, LDStorymakers, and LDS
Indie Authors. Writing groups are essential for most authors, for we tend to
live in our own worlds and we need that kind of contact to keep us grounded and
enthusiastic about our craft.
a random fact about yourself that could surprise your readers.
mission to Italy and before I got married, I was accepted to Johns Hopkins
School of Advanced International Studies for their Middle East Studies program
in Bologna, Italy. It turned out to be too expensive, but had I taken out the
loans and gone, I have a feeling my life would have turned out entirely
Journalist Theresa Fuller has epilepsy, but this hasn’t slowed
her search for stories of injustice to broadcast to the world. When she and her
cameraman, Peter Cranston, are captured inside Iraq in August 2002, and
imprisoned by the Mukhabarat–Iraq’s
secret police–she is cut off from her medication. Seizures resume, and dreams
and visions of her childhood in Baghdad begin to haunt her. Tormented by the
relentless Colonel Badr, she is forced to focus on her own father’s death years
before in a Baghdad prison.
The strain of her own captivity and torture is relieved only by
her growing attraction to Tariq al-Awali, the Iraqi captain who took charge of
her capture. The more she learns of him and his family, the clearer her
troubling dreams become, and the more puzzling her past. Before American bombs
begin to fall, throwing Iraq into even darker chaos, Theresa must find a way to
escape the cruelty of Colonel Badr and save those she cares for most.
The 2010 Writer’s
Digest International Self Published Book Award Winner for
Fiction, the 2009 Indie Book Award Winner for Multicultural Fiction, and a 2008
Whitney Award Finalist, The
Reckoning brings home the horrors of political injustice and the
courage that it takes to resist despotism in all its forms. It shows what’s
possible when people are called upon to find the best in themselves during the
darkest of times.
Swimming is Daphne’s one refuge–
Until the night she finds a dead body in her pool.
University professor and renowned author Daphne Lessing has never felt at ease in society. But a disturbance in her once calm and controlled existence suddenly unearths events from her past and thrusts an unusual child into her life.
Without wanting to, Daphne soon finds herself attached to Eric, a ten-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome who is obsessed with fishing and angels. Daphne is faced with a choice: Does she leave him and return to her solitary, ordered life, trusting others to do right by him, or does she allow this bright child to draw her into the world she’s tried to shun?
And what about the man that entered her life with Eric? Will she be able to shut him out as well?
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