Recently, I sat down with T.M. Simmons to talk about WINTER PREY, her latest paranormal suspense, her love of Native American culture and the latest twists and turns in her successful writing career.
Q: I'm impressed by your knowledge of Native American lore--how did you research this topic, or has this always been one of your interests?
A: I've always been fascinated with Native American culture and lore. As far as I know, I don't have any Native American ancestors, so I believe this evolved from my love of reading historical romances. One piece of advice you receive about writing is: write what you love. My first published books were historical romances. Mountain Magic has a lot of Native American culture in it. Winter Prey, of course, is a contemporary novel, but I tried to stay true to the heritage of my heroine, Kymbria. And these days, I truly enjoy the Indian casinos!
Q: Your characters have so much emotional depth--each faces personal struggles. Kymbria suffers from PTSD and Caleb is mourning the death oh his wife and child. Did you have these characters in mind before you created the plot?
A: To a point, yes, I did. However, I'm one of those writers who gets to know her characters as she writes about them. I usually end up re-writing the first 3-4 chapters several times as I do this, then the rest of the book just seems to flow. I wanted characters who would suffer terribly from their association with the windigo, even though I gave the windigo a touch of a redeeming quality. I start out with the idea, then my Muse works with me to develop the story. I'm one of those seat-of-the-pants writers, who doesn't outline. I pretty much only know the beginning and ending of the story before I start. It's captivating for me, too, to read each story as it develops. I can get lost for hours and hours as I write.
Q: How did you learn about the legend of the windigo?
A: I love the television show Supernatural. My family knows not to call during its showing, because they will only get the answering machine! One of their early episodes had a windigo for the evil entity Sam and Dean had to kill. Since we do a lot of camping in the deep woods, it scared me to think of one of these monsters attacking us. I researched windigos on line and found the legend. From that, the story took off in my head. Then I just had to do all that work to get it down for readers to enjoy!
Q: Are there really societies like the Midewiwin that are dedicated to preserving the old ways and traditions?
A: I'm not sure if they still exist or not in the Ojibway society. I would hope they do. I know for sure they existed back in the 1800's and early 1900's, since I found out a lot during research for another unpublished historical romance I intend to rewrite soon (Wolverine Wilderness). A few others were also fascinated with the Native American culture during that earlier time period, and luckily for us born later, they wrote several books, copies of which now rest on my research shelf. These are where I found the Midewiwin information. I also totally adore research, both reading and traveling to the sites. However, the Native American's are somewhat secretive about this aspect of their culture, since it is a deeply-held religious aspect. The men I talked to on my research trip were not at all forthcoming, but I met a wonderful woman who was a tribal historian. She spent hours with me and took me to different sites, although she didn't talk about the Midewiwin Society either. What I found, though, was extremely fascinating to me, and I felt it fit wonderfully well in my windigo story and made it a better book, even if I didn't have confirmation about that specific aspect still being a practice. I do know some of the other aspects, such as sweat lodge ceremonies, are used today.
Q: What was the inspiration for the ghost hunter diaries--it's really intriguing.
A: The ghost hunter diaries are all true stories. Years ago, thanks to my psychic aunt, Belle Brown, I realized I have a gift for dealing with the paranormal, something I both cherish and enjoy. Being a writer, I kept diaries of the more interesting events I experienced during paranormal investigations. At first, I only scared my friends with the tales, but they kept urging me to publish them. I wrote two paranormal mysteries, Dead Man Talking and Dead Man Haunt, initially published by Five Star. I republished those as ebooks last year. I decided to preview each release of these books with a volume of my true ghost stories. The true stories have actually been very popular with readers, so I published a third volume even before Dead Man Hand (the next paranormal mystery) was finished. I'm getting the fourth volume ready as I also finish writing Dead Man Hand.
My gifts have evolved over the years, as did my experiences, and I remain in awe of what I encounter and can do. I have even helped lost souls cross into the light instead of roaming our dimension as lonely, confused ghosts. If anyone would like to see me talking with a ghost, a friend put up a short video on YouTube at: http://www.tiny.cc/ba9ls. I promise, it's one of the fun experiences, not scary…unless you are totally afraid of any ghostly contact. J
Q: You've written in so many different genres, what's next for you. Will you be returning to your roots in romance?
A: Oh, I have so many stories I want to write! I'm working on Dead Man Hand now, but I also have another book similar to Winter Prey that's partially written. Silent Prey has a different sort of monster, a variation of the Spanish evil entity, Llorona (pronounced yoh RROH nah), one who frightens children. I've adapted her into a Native American legend. Silent Prey will be Keoman's story, the Midé from Winter Prey. I have three completed historical romance manuscripts that I love so much I want to rewrite and publish them as ebooks. All the stories I write have a romance theme running through them, even the ongoing romance in the Dead Man mysteries between divorced Alice and Jack. I think romance has a place in fiction because it's so very important in our own daily lives.
Q: I know you are a big supporter of the Armed Forces and you dedicated Winter Prey to them. Would you like to say something about this?
A: I very much admire the men and women who serve in every branch of the Armed Forces. I worked in a civilian capacity for a few years for a branch of the Air Force that did radar maintenance, and I got to know a lot of the airmen and women personally. I have a brother and sister who served, and nephews and their friends serving now. I feel these are the most important people to our freedom, and I can't say enough good about them. The National Guards are high up there, also, on my list of heroes and heroines. They are there during disasters and many more would suffer without them. We only write about fictional heroes and heroines. These brave men and women live heroic lives daily. They are such very special people.
Q: Is there anything you would like to be asked that you have never been asked.?
A: Wow. I've been asked so many different things during my 25+ years in publishing! Let me think…I don't believe anyone has ever asked me which brand of Godiva I enjoy the most. J Also, no one has asked if I will retire from writing some day. My answer to that would have to be a resounding no. I thought I had retired once a few years ago, after my relationship with my ex-agent took a disastrous turn. However, the stories kept percolating and demanding release. I remember the first story I ever wrote, back in junior high school. My teacher thought it was so good, she had me read it out loud, which embarrassed me to no end in those days. Looking back now, however, that started me down the writing path, and I don't ever foresee not writing. It's a vital part of me, and I enjoy the stories as much as I do my friendships with other authors and hearing from the readers. I don't believe I will ever take those warm fuzzies I get from readers for granted!
Q: Thanks so much for being with us. How can readers find out more about your books?
A: I have several places on the web.
For my romance writing, my web site is http://www.tranamaesimmons.com.
For my paranormal life, my web site is http://www.iseeghosts.com.
I'm on Twitter at @TMSimmonsauthor
My blog is: http://www..iseedeadfolks.blogspot.com
Thanks so much for having me, Mary. You are one of those warm fuzzies in my life, also!
Dr. Mary Kennedy is a licensed psychologist in private practice in the northeast, and the author of The Talk Radio Mysteries for Penguin. Visit her at www.marykennedy.net
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