Marianne Stephens

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Interview By: Tamazon

Date: January 26, 2011

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Guilty Survivor - Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall

Please tell us your latest news!

I'm pleased to announce the release of my ghostwritten nonfiction book, "Guilty Survivor - Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall"!


Tamerla Kendall is the woman you see rooting for her son at sporting practice. You might meet her in a grocery story. Perhaps you'll see her planting a garden behind her home. Or, talk to her at school or work. She's a student, worker, wife and mother.

Surviving a dark past is hidden by her fa‡ade of an everyday, average life. Reading her memoirs will reveal her true struggle to survive in a war zone, and is a testament to her courage.

Bosnian Croat, Tamerla Kendall, lived through the carnage and chaos in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Hers is a story of courage, fear, ingenuity, and survival. Difficult choices she made then still disturb her peace of mind and life today.

She made a few trips out of Sarajevo, only to return to keep the family restaurant business operating. One carefully planned, secretive trip was made to remove her daughter from the dangers of fighting, but this created a heartbreaking rift in their relationship. For her second trip, Tamerla masqueraded as a United Nations Protection Forces soldier and rode in a tank. A uniform and travel assistance came from a Ukrainian general.

Her hopes for a return to normalcy at war's end diminished as corruption and religious zealots took control. She married an American, and this marked her as an outcast by some she'd trusted. When her life was threatened at gunpoint, she faced a critical decision concerning her family's safety in her beloved country.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I'd love to add more to the book, but because of the delicate nature/safety of others concerning other events that happened to Tamerla, some material had to be left untold. It took courage for her to disclose what she did and allow some photos to be inserted in the book.

Do you have a specific writing style?

For writing both romance and nonfiction books, I like to put myself in the main female character's head and think/react as she would.

For this nonfiction book, I interviewed Tamerla and took notes while tape-recording our sessions. It's easier to have both when putting material on pages.

For romance books, I write a 15-20 sentence outline of events, then follow that as I write the books.

I actually enjoy writing in first-person! I feel a closer connection to the main female character in books I'm writing. I see the world through her eyes only, and can thoroughly focus solely on her perceptions.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I'd read so many biographies and romance books over the years. At one point, I decided to try writing a romance book. I had much to learn! I kept writing until I published my first romance book in 2007.

An opportunity to venture into nonfiction writing arose when a speaker for a women's shelter asked me to ghostwrite her story. I wrote that book in 1999. This nonfiction book opportunity evolved when a friend introduced me to Tamerla and she asked me to write her story.

Writing is something I do for me. It's my creative outlet! I no longer knit, sew, etc. I enjoy telling stories.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don't give up. Look for alternative publishing opportunities for your work. Getting that wonderful NY contract is everyone's dream, but there are other ways to be published and enjoy a writing career. Network. Network. Network. Get your website up and join writing loops/groups! And, get in a critique group.

Join some writing organizations. I belong to The Authors Guild, Romance Writers of America, Mid-America Romance Authors, and Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal.

How does your family feel about having a writer in the family? Do they read your books?

They read my mainstream romances and nonfiction books. No negative feedback, although some aren't interested in reading my erotic romance books...and I'm fine with that!

Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer? Or Still do?

I write as much "full time" as family responsibilities allow. Before becoming a writer, I taught grades K-3, remedial reading and math for grades 1-6, and computers to preschoolers (early 1990's when I was one step ahead of the kids!). I no longer teach school and concentrate on writing and family.

Do you have a favorite object that is pertinent to your writing? If so what is it and please describe it. (Pen, Coffee Cup, Pet, Blanket, Chair)

My favorite object is my comfy desk chair. It's set for my height, has soft cushions, and just allows me to concentrate on writing because I'm so comfortable. NO MUSIC! I don't like noise while writing.

Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example..get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place

I actually like writing at night when everything's quiet. Phone won't ring and there's less family demands to interrupt me. But, I have to be careful because I tend to make more typos at night! Always need something to drink...either cold water or juice. No coffee, tea, soda!

What main genre do you write in?

Nonfiction and Romance

Thank you, NOR, for interviewing me!