Like the characters in Deep Down Things, the author Tamara Linse and her husband have lost babies. They had five miscarriages before their twins were born through the help of a wonderful woman who acted as a gestational carrier. Tamara is also the author of the short story collection How to Be a Man and earned her master’s in English from the University of Wyoming, where she taught writing. Her work appears in the Georgetown Review, South Dakota Review, and Talking River, among others, and she was a finalist for Arts & Letters and Glimmer Train contests, as well as the Black Lawrence Press Hudson Prize for a book of short stories. She works as an editor for a foundation and a freelancer. Find her online at tamaralinse.com and on her blog Writer, Cogitator, Recovering Ranch Girl at www.tamara-linse.blogspot.com
Deep Down Things, Tamara Linse’s debut novel, is the emotionally riveting story of three siblings torn apart by a charismatic bullrider-turned-writer and the love that triumphs despite tragedy.
From the death of her parents at sixteen, Maggie Jordan yearns for lost family, while sister CJ drowns in alcohol and brother Tibs withdraws. When Maggie and an idealistic young writer named Jackdaw fall in love, she is certain that she’s found what she’s looking for. As she helps him write a novel, she gets pregnant, and they marry. But after Maggie gives birth to a darling boy, Jes, she struggles to cope with Jes’s severe birth defect, while Jackdaw struggles to overcome writer’s block brought on by memories of his abusive father.
Ambitious, but never seeming so, Deep Down Things may remind you of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.
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Q) What inspired you to write this story?
A) Deep Down Things is about a woman who’s up against rough circumstances (as you know, since you were one of the first to read it!). She’s trying to save her son and save her marriage. Her son was born with spina bifida, one of the most common birth defects. It’s when the spine doesn’t form correctly, and it’s as if the baby had a spinal cord injury in a car crash ~ it can never be fully healed but it will stay the same unless there are complications. However, there are often complications. What inspired the story was that I worked with a wonderful woman who had a boy with spina bifida. He was such a lovely baby, but he died when he was 6. And his mother was and is one of those ideal mothers, exactly who you would want to have as a mother of not just this child but any child. Watching what she went through was entirely heartbreaking. Couple that with the fact that my husband and I had five miscarriages, the first at five months. This novel was my way of working through the grief, but it was more than that, too. I wanted to make sure it had lightness too, as you don’t want a novel that is entirely darkness. You have to have the contrast.
Q) How long did it take you to write?
A) It was written over the course of four years. The first draft was a mess ~ four points of view and two concurrent time frames. It was very confusing for the reader. I got some great advice from an editor with whom I had a mentorship at the Tin House Writers Conference. She said to help the reader out. Make it less confusing. Also have more reflection so the reader knows what to take away from a scene. And so I totally rewrote it. Because of the way I’d written in the first place, I had the beginning and end written but not the middle, and so that was an interesting way to write. And then I had a freelance book editor go through it, whom I made cry in public places in New York City, before arriving at the final plot and form.
Q) What is your favorite thing about writing?
A) Having written! I’m only half-kidding. Getting started is the hardest part, but once I’m into something I absolutely love it. Hell before, heaven during and after. Also, that it’s like reading, only moreso. More intense, brighter, more everything. You’re in this world that has its own logic and characters. It’s this amazing place that only exists in your mind till you write it, and as you write it it becomes more alive than the actual world. Finally, I love the fact that writing and reading is as close as you can get to the inside of another person. It is the only technology that shows us another’s subjectivity, their insides. Speaking and writing and art is the only way we can project what’s inside us to the outside, the only way we affect our worlds. It creates connection and empathy, and in that sense writing and reading is love.
Q) What is your least favorite thing about writing?
Getting started (see above).
Q) If you could be any famous person for one day, who would you be and why?
A) I don’t want to be famous ~ or maybe I should say I would like to be just famous enough to connect with more readers. But if I had to choose I’d choose a famous writer or artist or musician. I fall in love with minds, and so I would love to be a famous person, not because they’re famous, but to see how they create their art, what goes on in their mind and heart as they do this amazing thing that is creating art. That’s one of my motivations for writing too ~ to see why people do the things they do. Even if they’re serial killers, they have logical or emotional/logical reasons for doing things. That’s why I’m a writer ~ to figure that out.
Q) What is the oldest thing in your fridge and how old is it?
A) I would like to say that I have two-hundred-year-old sourdough that was passed down from generation to generation, mother to daughter, since my family came over from France to England and then to Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, and Wyoming. But I can’t say that!
Q) What can readers expect from you in the future?
A) Great question! So many things. First, I imagine there’ll be a lot of procrastination and a few times in the depths of despair, but then there’ll be those moments of glory when the writing is flowing and characters are running across the page. That’s not what you meant? Seriously, thank you for asking. I’ll be coming out with a historical novel in January 2015, the first book in a trilogy tentatively called the Round Earth Series. Set in 1885 Iowa and Kansas City, Earth’s Imagined Corners is about Sara, whose father tries to force her to marry his younger partner. Instead, she elopes to Kansas City with a kind man who she just met named James. Little does she know, he has a troubled past. Finally, I’m also working on a young adult series called the Wyoming Chronicles, which are re-imaginings of classics set in contemporary Wyoming. The first, called Pride, is Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in present-day Jackson Hole.