By the time Marta Tandori reached fifth grade, she was an avid reader and writer with a stack of short stories collecting dust in a box under her bed but it wasn’t until she began studying acting in her early twenties at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York that Marta realized acting wasn’t really her passion – writing fiction was. What followed was years of writing workshops as well as correspondence courses in writing for children through the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut. She credits the award winning author, Troon Harrison, as the instructor who helped her find her literary voice. Marta’s first work of middle-grade fiction, BEING SAM, NO MATTER WHAT was published in 2005, followed by EVERY WHICH WAY BUT KUKU! in 2006. With her more recent endeavors, Marta has shifted her writing focus to “women’s suspense”, a genre she fondly describes as having “strong female protagonists with closets full of nasty skeletons and the odd murder or two to complicate their already complicated lives”.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Trixie Belden mystery books inspired me to write my first “book”. Between the ages of nine and 13, I was very much into reading Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew mysteries. When I was eleven, my family moved to a remote hundred-acre farm with a barn and several outbuildings and nothing in the way of close-by entertainment. One of those outbuildings was a small storage shed that was full to the brim with empty beer bottles. That’s all it took for my overactive imagination to kick in. Suddenly, I was living in Trixie’s world. I had the farm chores, the requisite pain-in-the-butt little brother and now I had my first mystery: The Mystery of the Empty Beer Bottles. The finished product was pretty awful but at least it kept me occupied that entire summer!
What books have influenced your life the most?
Books really played a huge part of my formative years simply because we lived on a farm literally in the middle of nowhere. We got two channels on our television – and the reception on one was sketchy at best – so aside from doing chores, annoying my parents, fighting with my siblings or listening in on the party telephone line, there was little else to do but read.
I would have to say that the books that influenced my formative years the most were those by Judy Blume, especially, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. There was also a book called THE SECRET LANGUAGE, a story about two girls in boarding school who make up a secret language that I cherished and read over and over again. I loved that book because as a kid, I’d always wanted to go to boarding school. I also loved mysteries like Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, etc.
What are your current projects?
My new book, TURN A BLIND EYE will be coming out shortly. My family has been vacationing in Florida since the early eighties and I consider the state my second home. For any of you who know anything about Florida, timesharing, theme parks and sea salvage are cottage industries in that state and I thought I’d do a story that revolves around those themes – with a murder or two thrown in for good measure!
My next book after that, which I think will come out in the later part of this year, is called ANONYMOUS. It’s going to explore the concept of “whatever happened to…?” against a backdrop of murder and mystery. That’s about all I can say at this time.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I don’t think I would. The interesting thing about CONTINUANCE, and certainly the most controversial, has been the concurrent story lines set in dual time periods – one in 1905 and the other in present day. Although both stories are different, and set over a century apart, they are connected by murder.
Readers either love the way the book is written or they find it distracting. When I had written the book, I never imagined this issue would stir up such strong emotions in readers.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Not to take criticism personally and to develop thick skin. Writers write with emotion. They nurture their stories and by the end of their books, their characters seem real to them so it’s very difficult as a writer not to take criticism about their “babies” personally.
What has been the best compliment?
A reviewer recently compared my writing to that of Tess Gerritsen. She’s a very successful writer of medical thrillers as well as the Rizzoli and Isles books. I’m a huge fan of her work and having my writing compared to hers is the ultimate compliment to me.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Keep reading and never ever stop writing. Even if you’re fed up and want to throw in the towel, go read something, suck it up and then get back to the keyboard.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I am extremely disciplined (except about my diet and exercise but that’s a different interview and probably requires a twelve-step intervention program somewhere!).
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
I have been known to jump to conclusions – and not always the right ones!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
If you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken GPS and map, I’m your go-to girl but if you buy something from Ikea and need it assembled, God help you if I’m your last resort!