The Round Earth Series
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Willow Words
Date of Publication: January 31, 2015
Number of pages: 472
Word Count: 130,000
In 1885 Iowa, Sara Moore is a dutiful daughter, but when her father tries to force her to marry his younger partner, she must choose between the partner—a man who treats her like property—and James Youngblood—a kind man she hardly knows who has a troubled past.
When she confronts her father, he beats her and turns her out of the house, breaking all ties, so she decides to elope with James to Kansas City with hardly a penny to their names.
In the tradition of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Earth’s Imagined Corners is a novel that comprehends the great kindnesses and violences we do to each other.
Available at Amazon
Anamosa, Iowa, 1885
Sara Moore should have nothing to fear this week. She had been meticulous in her entering into the ledger the amounts that Minnie the cook requested she spend on groceries. She had remembered, just, to include her brother Ed’s purchase of materials to mend sister Maisie’s doll house and to subtract the pickling salt that she had purchased for sister Esther but for which Esther’s husband Gerald had reimbursed her. She stood at her father’s shoulder as he went over the weekly household accounts, and even though her father owned Moore Grocer & Sundries from which she ordered the family’s groceries, he still insisted she account for the full price in the ledger. “No daughter of mine,” he often said, though sometimes he would finish the thought and sometimes his neatly trimmed eyebrows would merely bristle.
Despite the buttressing of her corset, Sara hunched forward, somewhat reducing her tall frame. She intertwined her fingers so that she would not fiddle with the gathers of soft navy wool in her overskirt, and she tried not to breathe too loudly, so as not to bother him, nor to breathe too deeply, in order to take in little of the cigar smoke curling up from his elephant-ivory ashtray on the hulking plantation desk.
As always, the heavy brocade curtains armored Colonel Moore’s study against the Iowa day, so the coal oil lamps flickered in their brackets. Per instructions, Sipsy the maid lit them early every morning, snuffed them when he left for the grocery, lit them again in anticipation of his return at seven, and then snuffed them again after he retired. It was an expense, surely, but one that Sara knew better than to question. The walls of the study were lined with volumes of military history and maps of Virginia and Georgia covered in lines, symbols, and labels carefully inked in Colonel Moore’s hand. In its glass case on the bureau rested Colonel Moore’s 1851, an intricately engraved pistol awarded to him during the War of Northern Aggression. Sipsy dusted daily, under stern directive that not a speck should gather upon any surface in the room.
Sara’s father let out a sound between an outlet of breath and a groan. This was not good. He was not pleased. Sara straightened her shoulders and took a breath and held it but let her shoulders slump forward once more.
“My dear,” he said, his drawl at a minimum, “your figures, once again, are disproportionate top to bottom. And there is too much slant, as always, in their curvatures. I urge you to practice your penmanship.” His tone was one of indulgence.
Inaudibly, Sara let out her breath. If he was criticizing her chirography, then he had found nothing amiss in the numbers. The accounts were sound for another week. Later, when he checked the numbers against the accounts at the grocery, there was less of a chance that she had missed something.
He closed the ledger, turned his chair, and with both hands held the ledger out to her. She received it palms up and said, “I will do better, Father.”
“You would not want to disappoint to your mother.” His drawl was more pronounced.
So he had regretted his indulgence and was not satisfied to let her go unchecked. His wife, Sara’s mother, had been dead these five years, and since then Sara had grown to take her place, running the household, directing the servants, and caring for six year-old Maisie. Ed needed little looking after, as he was older than Sara, though unmarried, and Esther, the oldest, was married with two daughters and farm of her own.
Sara straightened her shoulders again and hugged the ledger to her chest. “Yes, Father,” she said and turned and left the room, trying to keep her pace tranquil and unhurried. She went to the kitchen, where Minnie had a cup of coffee doused with cream and sugar awaiting her. Minnie gave her an encouraging smile, and though Sara did not acknowledge what went unsaid between them—one must shun familiarity with the servants—she lifted her shoulders slightly and said, “Thank you, Minnie.” Minnie, with the round figure and dark eyes of a Bohemian, understood English well, though she still talked with a pronounced accent, and Sara had only heard her speak the round vowels and chipped consonants of her native tongue once, when a delivery man indigenous to her country of origin walked into the kitchen with mud on his boots. Sara tucked the ledger in its place on a high shelf and then allowed herself five minutes of sipping coffee amid the wonderful smells of Minnie’s pompion tart. Then she rose, rinsed her cup, and applied herself to her day.
The driver had Father’s horse and gig waiting, as always, at twenty minutes to nine. As Father stretched his fingers into his gloves, pulling them tight by the wrist leather, he told Sara, “When you come at noon, I have something unusual to show you.”
“Yes, Father,” she said.
It seemed odd that he would concern her with anything to do with business. He left her to the household. He had long tried to coerce Ed into the business, but Ed’s abilities trended more toward the physical. He was a skilled carpenter, though Father kept a close rein on where he took jobs and whom he worked for. All talk of renaming the business Moore & Son had been dropped when Father had recently promoted the young man who was his assistant, Chester O’Hanlin, to partner. Mr. O’Hanlin had droopy red muttonchops and a body so long and thin he looked a hand-span taller than he really was, which was actually a bit shorter than Sara. Mr. O’Hanlin didn’t talk much, either, and he seemed always to be listening. He held himself oddly, cocking his head to one side, first one way and then the other, his small dark eyes focusing off to the left or right of the speaker. His nose, long and wedge-shaped, seemed to take up half his face. “Chester, the Chinaman,” Maisie called him outside of his presence because of the way he stooped and bobbed whenever their father entered the room.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Oh, I wish I was one of those people who could say that they always wanted to be a writer! Books have always been my passion. I. LOVE. BOOKS. They are my raison d’etre. I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always written, but I didn’t think of myself as a writer. Writers were these numinous beings who lived Somewhere Else. No one I knew was a writer. They were ranchers and waitresses and teachers and nurses. I didn’t know one could BE a writer. In fact, I firmly believed myself to be invisible. But, then, when I was almost thirty, I started to allow myself to dream just a little. Could I? Could I do it?! Growing up on a ranch, I thought I might be a veterinarian until I graduated from high school. Then when I went to college I was officially in almost every college on campus. I loved English, but heavens you can’t make a living with an English degree, I thought. Turns out, you can. It took me 13 years to get my bachelor’s and then 2 to get my master’s.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
Around the time I turned 30. I had always written and had even won prizes for my writing but I didn’t claim it. I think that’s a problem for people in general ~ they don’t let themselves dream and they are their own worst enemies. They undermine their own success, sometimes passively and sometimes actively. It’s as if they’re saying, “I’m such a horrible person I don’t deserve any goodness and so if there’s any possibility that there will be success I’ll make sure I fail.” But it’s all unconscious.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
Ha! Well, I started seriously writing fiction in 1999 and it came out last year, in 2014, so 15 years. When I began writing, I almost immediately started a novel. Then, immediately after that, I realized I didn’t know the first thing about writing a novel, though I had been reading them my whole life. At the beginning, it was one long resistance against writing the first thing that comes to mind, against cliché. And so I began writing a lot of short stories too. Short stories are great because they force you to learn fiction writing in a way that novels don’t. They have to be so perfect on a sentence- and effect-level. It took me seven years of writing and then sending out to agents before I gave up on that first novel ~ which is actually Earth’s Imagined Corners. It garnered minimal interest. And so I began writing another novel. This second one is Deep Down Things, which came out last year. Once again I wrote and revised and sent it out to agents. Finally, the wonderful Dystel & Goderich Literary Management took me on! That was an exciting day! The agent search took 11 years. I totally rewrote both novels, and we sent them out to publishers, but no one wanted to publish them. I finally had a totally creative collapse. I couldn’t even read. Out of the depths of depair, I finally thought, screw it, I’m going to self publish. And I haven’t looked back. My first was a short story collection called How to Be a Man, and now the two novels. I’m so thrilled about where I am and where I’m going, and I still have my lovely agent, Rachel Stout at Dystel & Goderich.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
Yes, you gotta eat. I am an editor for a foundation, and I love it. It’s a great place to work, and it’s close enough to but far enough away from my fiction writing that it contributes, rather than takes away. When I was teaching, it drained my brain and emotions too much. I write every day, whether it’s marketing or fiction, and I really believe in what I’m doing, which is promoting education.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Earth’s Imagined Corners - A novel that comprehends the great kindnesses and violences we do to each other. Like Willa Cather and Zora Neale Hurston.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
Oh, I have the best publisher. They just get, you know?! Seriously, I’m self-published, or indie, as they say. I continue to pursue traditional publishing through my agent, and I hope to be a hybrid author, someone who chooses the publishing route depending on what’s best for the project. I find self-publishing very rewarding, but a lot of work too. Overwhelming at times. But my background is ideally suited to it. I’m a writer and editor. I’m a marketer. I have a background in art and document design. And I’m into computers and a bit of an early adopter. It all comes together in this one great thing. Plus I ask for a lot of help.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
A long time. I’ve finished a manuscript in five months, but that was on a second draft written from scratch, just keeping the plot. All my books, from conception to finished product have taken at least seven years. I’m trying to shorten that eternity, but life keeps getting in the way.
What can we expect from you in the future? I.e., more books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
What a great question! I’m so glad you asked! I have loads of ideas, but these are the two I’m pursuing right now. I’m starting a young adult series called the Wyoming Chronicles that are rewrites of classic British novels set in contemporary Wyoming, half for girls, half for boys. The first is called Pride and is Pride and Prejudice set in Jackson Hole. The second will be Moreau, based on The Island of Dr. Moreau, set in the Hole in the Wall country. It would be great to put these novels out in a double digest format, half Pride and half Moreau. The other project is the second in the Round Earth series after Earth’s Imagined Corners called Numberless Infinities: “In 1890 Kansas City, Sara and James Youngblood have built a life for themselves, but then James’s yearning for the West gets the better of him. He accepts a contract to supply ties for the burgeoning railroad, and off they go across Nebraska and the Dakotas. Life on the road is hard, and Sara cooks for the crew, but then she discovers she’s pregnant—she lost a baby before and almost died. The crooked railroad boss refuses to pay, and James’s crew revolts, and so they are stranded on Indian lands with the rising tide of the Ghost Dance religion. Numberless Infinities may remind you of Jane Kirkpatrick’s All Together in One Place and Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man.
What genre would you place your books into?
I would place my books in the genre of literary fiction. Different genres have different goals, and as I see it the genre of literary fiction is trying to portray lived reality, what it’s like to be in a room and all the tensions and subtext and things we do to each other. It’s trying to balance what life is really like with a satisfying art object. I’m going for subtley and nuance and also to challenge received notions of the world. Other genres go for entertainment and to work within an established formula, which is a wonderful goal in and of itself, but that isn’t what interests me. I’ve written fiction set in contemporary times, historical fiction, short stories, young adult, and kids books, not to mention all the marketing and professional writing I’ve done.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I think the reason I chose literary is because I’m fascinated with trying to portray my experience of real life. I’m trying to talk about what goes on and then what goes on underneath that. I was acutely aware as a child how the things we say we are are so much different from what I found them to be, and then when I read fiction, people would talk about those things that were left out of the accepted story. Plus I find fiction to more closely represent real life. Nonfiction often portrays a received narrative, and it leaves out the complexities and nuances, though there is some longform nonfiction that is just as good as literary fiction.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
Oh my gosh. That’s like trying to choose a child as your favorite. No, I can’t say as I do have a favorite. I’m a good girl, and so it’s easiest for me to write good girls and good boys like myself, but writing antagonists and bad girls and bad boys are a lot of fun. You get to channel things you don’t normally express. What does it say about me that the characters that are the liveliest and most fun to write are the farthest from myself?
How long have you been writing, and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing my whole life. The first story I ever wrote was inpired by a grade-school friend of mine named Cami. She turned me on to the British mystery writer Joan Aiken, and together we read every one of her books. Cami wrote a story that ended with a head rolling in a gutter, and that made me think, hey, maybe I can write a story. My first story was called “The Silver Locket” and it was about a girl who goes back in time to become her own great grandmother.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I certainly write best when I have a routine, when I write for a couple of hours every day first thing. However, life doesn’t often let me. And I’m not in general a schedule person. So I wish I could say that I was that person. I write on the computer and I write long-hand. I steal a moment here and there. I like to go to a certain café and go to a side room sometimes. It’s really hard to get started, to get the ball rolling, but once I do I go full bore. I’m thinking about it all the time. It’s as if the world goes in black and white, and the world I’m writing goes technicolor. It’s like reading only even better. For me, the struggle is to deny the demands the world places on me and do the work I know I need to do.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I do, and so far everyone has been very kind. The books I write don’t seem to engender passionate opposition. I’m sure that will change, and someone will rip me a new one someday, but for the time being, everyone has been so kind. I often see the merit in the constructive criticism that is offered. And I can’t express how thankful I am for the people who take the time to review my books.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Titles come fairly early on for me, if not the first thing. They may change along the way, but something about arriving at a title sets it for me.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Characters’ names are very important. I often look for the unusual name that conveys something about the character. The name has connotations of the character of the character. I’ll think long and hard about those names. I’ve used everything from Apple to ZoLilly as character names. As for place names, I’m often setting things in real places, so the names are chosen for me, but if I’m choosing the place name I’ll give it the same consideration as character names. I had a fictional Wyoming town in which I was setting stories called Last Chance, which seems both like the name of a real town in Wyoming and also evocative of the stories.
Are character names and place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
No, I almost always come up with the names early in the process, and they don’t often change. Like the titles, I have to have them in place before because they are indicative of the character of the character. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve changed character names, and this was because another main character had the same first initial. People confuse characters whose names begin with the same letter.
Do you decide on character traits (i.e., shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
Yes. My books are very character-based, and so I need to have a pretty firm grip on who they are from the beginning. That doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes change a bit as their backstory develops during the writing, but their basic character remains the same.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is…")
I don’t have morals in them per se, but I’ll often have something I’m riffing on. For example, Earth’s Imagined Corners is hung on the basic facts of my great grandparents’ lives. Those are a jumping off point. For my previous novel Deep Down Things, the story of Jesus is deep down in there. You wouldn’t probably even know it if I didn’t tell you. It’s not a religious book, but I took the facts of Jesus’s life as a jumping off point. I’ll also sometimes add homages to the writers I admire. I think of them as grace notes. For example, the moon rises like a “fired pine knot” during the lynching scene in Earth’s Imagined Corners ~ that’s an homage to Jean Toomer and his story “Blood Burning Moon.”
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
For publishing or for reading? For publishing, I try to get my books out in as many formats as possible, including paperback, kindle and epub and pdf, and audio. I don’t do hardbacks because they are too expensive for the reader. I also try to get as broad a distribution as possible ~ worldwide. For reading, I used to be pretty wedded to paperbacks or hardbacks, but I’ve really come around, and I’ll buy one format or another depending on what I’m looking for. If I can’t wait, I’ll order kindle. If it’s something I know I’ll love and go back to, I get paperback ~ or if I have to , hardback. Plus I love the Bookbub and Midlist emails because I try a lot of books in digital format that I wouldn’t otherwise because they are inexpensive.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
I cannot choose, sorry! There are so many favorites, and it’s often the last book I read. However, I will say that Hemingway and Woolf are my writer gods. Hemingway is my natural inheritance, growing up in the West, and I have his sense of brevity and emotional distance ~ too much so, if I don’t watch it. Woolf tries to portray social situations with such grace and charm, and that’s what I try to do. I adore VW.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
I think my books would transfer well. They tend to have a dramatic climax and strong characters. Things happen. Most often, in general, the book is better than the movie, but movies that have been amazing in their own right, in my opinion, are The Shining and Cold Mountain and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Forest Gump. Because they’re such different forms, the book form and movie need to diverge quite wildly to be effective, generally.
Your favorite food is?
I’m a carb person. Give me a huge bowl of mashed potatoes with butter or sweet creamy tea with buttered toast, and I’m happy.
Your favorite singer/group is?
I like so many different genres. I like rock and jazz and classical and alt and blues and so much more. It depends on my mood.
Your favorite color is?
You may not credit this, but I really don’t have a favorite color. I feel like I should. I wear a lot of black, if that helps.
Your favorite Author is?
Don’t make me pick!
Tamara Linse jokes that she was raised in the 1880s, and so it was natural for her to set a book there. She is the author of the short story collection How to Be a Man and the novel Deep Down Things 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 an 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.