What can I say about writer Tess Hardwick that hasn’t already been said?
She left Hollywood in the rearview so she could pursue a more fulfilling path as wife, mother, caretaker to Patches the Dog, and #1 Barnes & Noble best-selling author of Riversong.
Tess and I did not meet on the mean streets of Los Angeles, but we both come from there kinda. I say kinda, because we’re both from places originally that have a lot more to do with close families, big trees nestled amongst serene natural landscapes, and really good food.
In our day to day lives, Tess Hardwick and I could not be more different from one another. She’s a married mommy. I’m a single father raising Pop Pop Zanzibar the dog (okay, that’s kinda ‘in common’). She watches the Lifetime channel. I quit watching TV because I spend my nights down at my moonshine still guarding it against yetis. She drives a mini-van to zumba class. I’m building a functioning jetpack out of LEGOs. She said it best, talking about the two of us, on her blog, Inspiration For Ordinary Life, shortly after we first crossed paths on Twitter:
“Now, I don’t know him well, but my guess is he doesn’t drive a minivan. I’m fairly certain from his tweets and his blog that he’s quite adventuress and I’d have to guess does not live in the suburbs. He definitely does not write “feel good girl books” like me.
But strangely enough, we have a lot in common. We’re both trying to make a living as writers. We have highly developed senses of humor. We have generous hearts.
We both loved the show “Twin Peaks”. He figured out that I live near the diner featured in the show and asked if I would take a photo for him, which I did today. His request made me think about how on the surface, our differences seem to separate us but when we take the time to look slightly deeper, the commonalities we might share become all too obvious.”
Tess really did send me that picture! So yeah, we were both writing, we both got our books out, and we’ve even contributed to a book together now. Guess people from different locales and with different sensibilities can have things in common after all - except when it comes to yetis – neither Tess or I have anything in common with yetis.
Now, prepareth yourselves for the coming of the rain! I didn’t cut her any slack, and now Tess Hardwick sits in the golden tilt-o-whirl of truth as we unfurl another episode of…
11 Questions of Badassary!
1. So you wrote a book called Riversong. There’s intrigue and mobsters and Mexican food and starting restaurants and love. Explain?
Well, I’m sure if you’ve followed my so-called career at all you will see a major theme. I love food. I love to write about food. Whenever I can I mix the two, I do.
2. We’re both with Booktrope. Our books both came out in 2011. Both of our books have a birth scene in them. Can you compare and contrast?
Let’s see. My book has a brief description of a woman feeling like she’s being torn in half during labor. Your book has a birth scene where an entire hospital staff faces monsters, goblins, witches, guns, axes. It takes an entire group of friends to save the baby. Both our scenes are horrific in their own way. Having given birth, I’m going to have to go with your description as more accurate.
b. So your birth scene is more Twilight?
Will I get in trouble if I say I’ve never read it? I only like emotionally unavailable vampires like the one in Billy Purgatory.
c. Walton’s Mountain then?
Yes, definitely more Walton’s Mountain.
3. You went to college in LA and used to run around with KSears.
I’ve heard it told that you and I both met Shannen Doherty once or twice…
Yeah, she was in the backseat of a car sitting next to Christian Slater. I was in the front seat, a little tipsy I have to admit, and not really understanding how big they both were in those days. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with them as they were with themselves. No wonder Hollywood didn’t want me!
b. Christian Slater too? Was Scott Bakula there? What about Marni Mann?
Scott Bakula was not there. However, during that same time period, I worked as a waitress at a California Pizza Kitchen at the Beverly Center.
Scott Bakula’s former college roommate was our bartender’s ex-roommate. He used to come in all the time and sit at the counter, eating, and catching up with his friend. I was a little star struck because I LOVED him and his show. Now I can’t remember the name of it. C’mon, Jesse, you know which one I mean. He jumped into other people’s bodies and time travelled. It was awesome.
c. Was Marni painted green?
I can’t tell you the details because I pinkie swore with her that I wouldn’t. I’ll just say this. It was more of a pea green than an avocado green.
4. Riversong has some pretty heavy themes in it. A good portion of the book deals with deciding what do when your life goes through an upheaval and you’re forced out of your comfort zone and have to make tough decisions about how to start over. Was there a time in your life when you had to make similar decisions?
Gawd, only like two or three times now. The first was when I decided to give up on my acting dream and leave L.A.
It was hard to let go of this image I had of myself as an actress, having the sort of life where I was a working actress in theatre, especially. But I was terribly unhappy there and needed to make a big change.
I used to watch Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure on television and feel so homesick I thought I would die, so it was the right move.
Recently, we changed our whole life when I decided to give this writing thing a real shot. We sold our home and downsized considerably so I could stay home and raise the girls and write. It has been a leap of faith every step of the way.
b. Were you running from the mob?
Leaving L.A. felt like running from the mob. I felt like I might not make it, literally, out of there alive if I stayed one more minute.
5. I’m sure that the book was initially aimed at a female audience – but have you heard from a lot of men who read it? What do male readers say about the book?
I’m surprised and pleased by how many men have read it and liked it. I received a fan letter from a 50-year-old male cop saying that he loved it and couldn’t wait for my next book. That was pretty awesome. I think it’s the mobster thing that gets them. Or maybe the sexy parts? Never mind. I shouldn’t have mentioned that. I’m blushing now.
6. You’re a pretty busy lady – you’re a full-time writer, a wife, a mother to two girls & Patches, you blog obsessively, take Zumba class, school functions, drinking boxed wine with Ksears — How do you balance and stay focused?
I wouldn’t say I’m well balanced. I work too much and don’t spend enough time just hanging out. I’m either writing, doing mommy and doggie and husband duties, exercising, or sleeping.
I’m a little obsessive about my work right now – probably because I feel like I still have so much to learn, and want more than anything to be good at this vocation I’ve chosen. I hope, as I gain skill and confidence that I’ll be able to chill out a little.
7. You left the Pacific NW and went to Los Angeles – then returned, to a place relatively close to home and familiar surroundings. Having lived in LA myself, do you think that you moving back ‘home’ allowed you the focus you needed to be a writer?
If I hadn’t moved back home to the northwest, I cannot imagine that I would be an artist, let alone just a normal, grounded person.
There was a soul-sucking component in Los Angeles (for me anyway) that was like a character or element in Billy Purgatory – somewhere between an emotionally unavailable vampire, Medusa and the Time Zombie.
b. I know having pulled a similar move, my writing output away from LA distractions has increased by 10X. You too?
I am absolutely inspired by the beauty of where I live. Also, the people here are real and down to earth. I hate bullshit and the whole ‘image’ thing and was slowly being suffocated from who I really am every minute I lived there. I would not be a writer if I’d stayed – I don’t think. Although, maybe all that angst I left there would have made me a better writer. Or a different type of writer. I don’t know.
What was I talking about?
8. What are you working on now?
I’m working on what I hope will be a final draft on my second novel, “Duet For Three Hands”. It’s historical fiction set in Georgia and Alabama between 1915 and 1934, told from six different viewpoints – a departure from Riversong in that it’s much more complex and ambitious. I also have a first draft of my third novel, called “Pea Soup” about an illegal adoption ring combined with a pregnancy pact amongst high school girls and a former actress who goes undercover to expose the entire operation.
9. Riversong hit #1 on the Barnes & Noble Nook charts – like above The Help and whatever trash Dr. Phil had out at the time. What was running through your mind when you heard and then logged in to see your book at #1?
Honestly, it didn’t seem real. I kept looking at BN.com’s site over and over to make sure it was truly there. And then, for it to last the whole week – that was just a gift I never expected. I’ll never forget the moment, because it was a long journey from deciding to take myself seriously as a writer to seeing it there. Of course, now I’m obsessed with why I’m not higher on the Amazon list. We writers are crazy this way. Or maybe that’s just me?
b. Did you feel vindicated? Come on, what was the bitch’s name who used to turn her nose up at you being a writer that you then got to rub her face in it?
I never had anyone turn up their nose to my face – it was more the silent, patronizing looks at dinner parties when I first started telling people I was writing. I know no one thought I could actually pull it off, so to see my book there, it felt pretty good.
Also, there was a professor at acting school when I was at USC that told me I’d never play anything but maids because of my low-pitched speaking voice and the fact that I’m not a long-legged, lean beauty. So now I feature vile women in my books based on her. So that feels good.
10. Virtually cast a Riversong movie for us.
Lee: Nicole Kidman
Tommy: Benjamin Bratt
Linus: Allan Cumming
Mike: An acting teacher I had at USC named Jim Wilson. No one but Sears will get that.
Cindi: Melissa McCarthy (the really funny one from Bridesmaids).
Zac: Seth Green
Billy: I have no idea. Jesse, you have to come up with this one. Someone goofy but sweet.
b. What if Riversong had a supernatural/horror spin on it. What monsters would you have attack Lee and the town?
Definitely ghosts. Like old logging and pioneer types with axes in their chests or oozing yellow stuff from rattlesnake bites; kind of Children From the Corn or something, all escaping from the town cemetery.
11. A song by Snow Patrol gave you the idea for Riversong. How Important is music to plotting out scenes in your head? What do you listen to when you write?
I love music more than I could possibly describe. I especially love what I call Americana music, which consists of folk, old country, southern rock-n-roll and sad girl singers like Patti Griffin, for example.
However, I do not write to music, because I find the poetry of it distracting – I don’t want other artist’s words in my head when I’m trying to come up with my own. However, I use it for plotting and story, and coming up with characters – not even intentionally but just when I’m either driving in the White Whale (my minivan) or out for walks (now with Patches) or cooking. Music inspires me and sometimes will just give me an image or an idea that blossoms into something larger, like the Snow Patrol song, “Chasing Cars” did. I had this image of a woman blossoming, I think because the musicality of the song reminds me of a flower blooming, like Lee does during Riversong, and also their line,“A garden bursting into life.”
And speaking of flowers blooming and stuff…
Write for the Fight: A Collection of Seasonal Essays … all author $$$ donated to charities fighting breast cancer! Buy a great read and help out people who could really use your love and support.
And, while your trigger-finger is on the book buying button…
When Lee Tucker’s husband commits suicide, he leaves her pregnant and one million dollars in debt to a loan shark. Out of options, she escapes to her deceased mother’s dilapidated house located in a small Oregon town that, like her, is financially ruined, heartbroken and in desperate need of a fresh start. Lee’s resilience leads to a plan for a destination restaurant named Riversong, to new chances for passion and love, and to danger from her dead husband’s debt as her business blooms.
Author Tess Hardwick assembles a colorful cast of endearing small-town characters and takes you on a journey that will make you believe in the possibilities of life – even in the face of overwhelming adversity and unimaginable grief. Lee Tucker is the kind of woman you find yourself rooting for long after the last page is read.
A surprising mix of romance, humor, friendship, intrigue and gourmet food – Riversong entertains while reminding you of life’s greatest gifts.
“Riversong is totally badass – Batman read it!” – Jesse James Freeman