LAUNCH: Tamar Anolic’s The Lonely Spirit
INTERVIEW BY LESLIE S. LOWE
Tamar Anolic is a writer who specializes in historical fiction and military fiction. Her short stories have been published in several literary journals. Her historical books focus on the Romanovs and include The Russian Riddle, a nonfiction biography, and the novels Triumph of a Tsar, Through the Fire, and The Imperial Spy. Her military fiction includes The Last Battle, about a female veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and The Fledgling’s Inferno, a science fiction novel about a gene that runs in military families and causes superpowers.
Tamar latest book, The Lonely Spirit, takes a different direction and is a collection of short stories set in the Old West.
What is your ‘elevator pitch’ for The Lonely Spirit?
It’s a short story collection about L.S. Quinn, a half-Comanche U.S. Marshal hunting criminals across the Old West. He’s the best marshal they have but he’s struggling to find peace in two worlds when he doesn’t really belong in either.
What inspired you to start writing and what has been most rewarding about it?
I don’t know if there was a single event that inspired me to start writing but I always read a lot as a kid, eventually making up my own stories. I was writing them down by the time I was in high school. The most rewarding part has been connecting with readers and hearing their feedback in reviews.
What attracted you to writing historical fiction?
The historical figures, such as the Romanovs, drew me to it. First, Nicholas and Alexandra and Rasputin, then many of the other Romanovs that you don’t hear as much about. With The Lonely Spirit, I was drawn to the time period and the characters. The Old West is a period that’s unsettled and violent. My main character is a U.S. Marshal. I was drawn to tell stories of the criminals he chases and why. Quinn is also half-Comanche, so I was drawn to his backstory, his parents, how they met, and how he got to be a Marshal. I was also drawn to Quinn as a character who had one foot in each of two worlds at a time when those two worlds were in conflict with each other.
Why the switch from Russian history now?
I started writing the stories of The Lonely Spirit over a decade ago. The inspiration came from a single line in the Coen Brothers’ version of the movie, True Grit. In a scene, the main character, Maddie, asks the sheriff of Fort Smith, Arkansas, who is the best U.S. Marshal. His responses included a half-Comanche marshal who is a really good tracker and brings his prisoners in a lot. I thought, “That guy sounds like an interesting character!” I still love the Russian history but it’s been fun to switch it up.
Will there be a sequel? What are you working on now?
I’m not planning a sequel right now, but I’m certainly open to the concept! The manuscript I’m working on currently is actually a sequel to one of my earlier novels, The Fledgling’s Inferno.
Does any part of your own life experiences connect with any character or events in the story? What difficulty did you have in writing it?
Unlike with my previous book, Tales of the Romanov Empire, there isn’t anything about my own life experiences that connects me to the main character or events of The Lonely Spirit. Because of this, I had to take extra care in researching and writing this book to be sensitive and not employ stereotypes. In addition to researching the Comanche in particular, I ended up searching out materials by Native authors and scholars on how to write Native characters well. I also submitted the manuscript to a sensitivity reader at the company Salt and Sage to get feedback on that aspect of it.
Is there a key historical event you found in researching that inspired you to write this story to portray a key message prevalent now?
The Old West has always intrigued readers, and there are still a lot of westerns being published today. For me, it was less about a specific historical event and more about researching the Comanche culture, as well as researching all of the interesting people who filled the Old West. This included reading Chris Enss’ book, The Doctor Wore Petticoats, regarding female physicians who practiced in the Old West and deciding to have a female physician as a major character in these stories as a result. This research pushed me towards unexpected and three-dimensional characters, and away from the stereotypes you so often see in Westerns. I think that is a key message that is important today.
Every author has her own publishing journey. Tell me about yours (process, handling rejection, success).
I usually start my publishing process by submitting the manuscript to agents. The rejection is tough, but at the end of that part of the journey, I’ve still believed in the characters and wanted to get my work out there. That is why I’ve self-published my books. My process with The Lonely Spirit was different because so few agents take short story collections. As a result, this was one of the few books I did not submit to agents before self-publishing. I self-published because I really like my characters and want to share them with readers.
What advice would you give to other aspiring historical writers?
Find a historical period or a historical character you’re passionate about. If it’s something you love, that will come across on the page. Research and accuracy are also very important. Having tiny details in your writing that portray your character’s humanity will really make them come alive.
What is the last great book you read?
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner.
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