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Friday, April 13, 2007

Novel Journey's Interview with-- Tasha Alexander

Tasha Alexander's first book And Only To Deceive was first published by William Morrow in 2005 and was greeted with enthusiasm by both Suspense/Mystery and Historical readers. It has since been re-released in paperback with multiple printings. Her second book, A Poisoned Season, released this Tuesday, April 10. There is a third Lady Emily Ashton book still to come, and Tasha has agreed to write a companion novel to the upcoming film, THE GOLDEN AGE, sequel to the movie ELIZABETH. She lives with her family in Tennessee.

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

My latest novel, A POISONED SEASON, was released by William Morrow this week. It’s the second in my series about Lady Emily Ashton, a young Victorian widow with a flair for solving crimes.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long did it take before your novel was published?

I always feel like I should make up something more interesting when asked this question! I finished writing the book and knew it was time to query agents. But I was rather unenthusiastic about writing a query letter. In the end, I sent a pretty casual email to the agent on the top of my list. She requested the full manuscript about an hour later, and before the end of the week, we were working together.

After doing some revisions, the book went out on submission and sold in a couple of weeks.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

I was incredibly lucky that my absolute ignorance about all things related to publishing did not hold me back. There’s a wealth of information available to writers—web sites like Backspace ( are invaluable for finding out the inside scoop on writing queries, finding an agent, what to expect during the publication process. Initially, I was entirely alone—it would have been better to have been less isolated.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Write a book you would want to read and don’t include any parts you would skip.

What is the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

I bristle whenever people get too caught up in absolutes: that you have to write a certain kind of book, or in a certain POV, that sort of thing. Find a compelling story and tell it well. There aren’t rules that, if followed, will guarantee success.

What is something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Early on I didn’t realize how long everything took. You’re so excited after your first book sells—you want everything to happen all at once—and don’t understand how much goes on behind the scenes getting a novel into print. From catalog copy to cover art to interior design. I’m much more zen about waiting for things now that I know what to expect.

What are a few of your favorite books?

CATCHING GENIUS by Kristy Kiernan
CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell
FINN by Jon Clinch
PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I couldn’t begin to tell you! First, I’m a terrible judge of my own work. Second, it would be like having to pick a favorite child. There’s a reason I only had one...

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

After I walk my son to the school bus, I crawl into my office, check my email, play online for a little bit reading blogs and that sort of thing, and then I get down to work. My goal is to write two thousand words a day—and I like to start by reading what I did the day before, revising as I go. I could probably write three thousand if someone took away my email and instant messenger...

I stop when my son comes home (unless I have a looming deadline) and like to read at night. Don’t like writing without reading.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

Oh gosh; there are so many. Where to start? I’d love to have Jane Austen’s wit.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I want my work to be successful enough that I can keep doing this until I drop dead from exhaustion.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I love the writing; there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. Least favorite? Proofing first pass pages. You’re still too close to the book at that point, and it just all seems awful. Ann LaMotte has a great bit about reading galleys in her fantastic BIRD BY BIRD. Read it—you’ll laugh out loud.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

It’s important to be out there supporting your book. I work with a fabulous publicist who’s helped me enormously with this. You want to meet as many booksellers as you can, to talk to readers, to spread the word about your book—but it’s important to keep in mind that the most significant thing you can do is to write a good story. You can’t let the marketing distract you from that.

Parting words?

Thanks so much for having me!

You can learn more about Tasha at: or


  1. Great tips, thanks Tasha. Congrats on your successes!

  2. Thanks, Tasha, for sharing your journey with us. I loved what you said about no absolutes, find a good story and tell it well.

  3. I LOVE your advice about writing: "Write a book you would want to read and don’t include any parts you would skip." Love it! Thanks for sharing your story with NJ readers.


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