An untraditional path to writing leads Red Tash to write unconventional and fascinating books

Thanks to RED TASH for being with us today. First, would you tell us a bit about yourself? What area of the country do you live in, do you have a family, pets, etc. Are you a coffee fiend, or do you have another “addiction” you must have on your desk at all times? What’s your education, if it’s relevant to your writing, and how does that education help you/or do you find that you can write well even without the diploma others might think they must have?

Thanks so much for having me, first of all. I am filled with appreciation for your interest in my work, and for this chance to reach your readers.

Red Tash is my pen name. I chose to write fiction under this name because my real name is misspelled more often than not. In my other life, I am an extremely happily married lady, mother of four, and I was a working journalist until I took maternity leave in March of 2010, when my youngest baby was born. My husband Tim highly encouraged me to seize the opportunity to try out this “Amazon KDP thing” and give publishing my old manuscript a try.

I guess because I have such a history with marketing and PR and journalism, it’s been a joy promoting my book, but WOW, what a full-time job it has become!

You asked about coffee—YES, indeed. I used to write in coffee houses, then I got a Keurig at home, and now I’m a two cup a day addict. I just love it so much. I made the protagonist in This Brilliant Darkness a java junkie, as well. It figures prominently into the story, and I found a lovely gal to do some sweet “coffee” promo shots for the book, as well:

In the book, she keeps getting messages “from beyond” in odd places, so I thought “Why not in the foam of her coffee?” Look closer, and you’ll see the answers to the crossword puzzle are from the book, as well.

You asked about education. I was one of many frustrated creatives who let an overbearing parent predict that writing was something I’d never make money at. Since I have always had excellent scholastic aptitude, I was able to study any subject I wanted—except for the one I truly wanted. I only took the minimum of writing courses in college, including poetry—and although I continued to receive awards for my writing, even then, I was still told constantly by someone I trusted that I could never earn a living doing what I do best. So…I got my degree in accounting, instead. I know, right? Ugh.

The good news is, the business degree has served me well as an entrepreneur, and business writing for magazines and business journals, as I experimented with what direction I wanted to take my writing career.

One thing I did invest in, in terms of writing education, was a thorough tour of the writing conference experience. I attended several, and I met a variety of authors, agents, publishers, and fellow writers. I also took part in critique groups, both at conferences and independently. My work was pounded and shaped and remarked upon ad nauseam, and eventually, instead of walking away with a lovely framed certificate, I walked away with a focus, and a direction. I experimented with that vision by testing out stories and techniques for various audiences, including in blogs, in a newspaper column, in podcasts, and in videos. It had the cumulative effect of helping me find my “voice.”

So, no, I don’t think you need a diploma to be a writer. I do think that there are many writers who improve their skills by getting an education, but the actual practice of writing with the intention of performing, entertaining, educating, inciting, etc—that was the thing that really taught me best how to tell a good story.

My brother-in-law is a professional singer. He went to college for some training, but that’s not why he’s a talented tenor. We just each have to recognize our gifts, and then do the best with them that we can. Academia, as much as I appreciate it, doesn’t turn us into writers or singers, dancers or painters. Take it or leave it, but education is not a shortcut to writing success, nor is the lack of education an excuse not to pursue your dreams.

Tell us about your most recent publication.

Well,I’ve just released the paperback version of This Brilliant Darkness. It was quite fun to put together, actually. I started laying out books on the computer while in high school. In college, I worked for a newsletter company and continued my page layout skills. As the owner of a photography business and marketing professional, I’ve been laying out pages and graphic design for ages. It was so fun to finally be assembling my own manuscript for print!

The only thing more fun that I can imagine, would be signing a big publishing contract and getting those hard copies in the mail for the first time.

This Brilliant Darkness is a very different story. I wasn’t sure how to classify it, honestly, but eventually settled on “dark fantasy.” It’s fast, different, funny, and it’s not dumbed down whatsoever. I’m extremely proud of it, and the reception it has received from readers.

What inspired you to write this story? What interesting thing did you learn or research to write it that you didn’t know before?

The inspiration for This Brilliant Darkness came from almost everywhere, it seemed. I think because it was my first book, I hadtrouble filtering out a lot of good ideas—and thusly, the first draft became bloated with details and ideas and witticisms. Editing much of that out was painful, but eventually I cut it down to just the parts that move the story along.

Much of the stuff that got cut were the really interesting bits about string theory, quantum physics, time travel, wormholes…as it stands, someone who knows a little about these things will recognize the science in the book, but gone are the chapters that were turning it into a Carl Sagan book!

The main inspiration for the book was Indiana University’s campus and the city of Bloomington. There is a small wood in the oldest part of campus, probably about 15 acres or so. It’s criss-crossed with brick-lined paths, beneath dense trees, and even though I have a great sense of direction, I always seemed to feel lost, trudging through it. I also always wanted to go back and walk every path, just explore those paths until I knew it like the back of my hand. I went and spent a week on campus, and ended in including locations from much of the original campus area, and the popular Kirkwood Street that runs between campus and downtown Bloomington.

While I was in the process of editing the book, I also took a trip to the Abbey of Gethsemani in rural Kentucky. Next thing you know, I’ve got a mystical monk as a major character, and there was no shaking him. The book felt like a kind of magnet, drawing characters and settings from all over. I have this huge binder filled with post-it notes, photos, newspaper clippings—it all fed into the book.

It was a lot to manage, but it’s paid off with the fantastic reviews, and I hope it’ll be helpful in the coming weeks when I get into the business of writing the sequel.

How would you best describe your books?

Well,I just finished my second book, Troll or Derby. It’ll be heading into edit/formatting stage soon, and can’t wait to hear what my beta-readers think.

Those are my only two books so far. When I think about them as a generalized body of work (which is tough, since there are only two), I think of them as dark and funny, with an underlying sense of optimism. My characters do not necessarily always find a “happily ever after,” and topics like romance and good vs. evil are anything but pat—so readers consistently tell me they are surprised.

On This Brilliant Darkness, I found a discussion between readers online wherein one man called it “… kinda like marshmallows and mustard, a little out of the ordinary but quite good…very well-written.” I try to warn people that This Brilliant Darkness is weird, but that if you like weird, you will love it. Readers say it always makes them think, often for weeks after having read the book. To me, that’s just the biggest compliment.

Troll or Derby is my next book. It’s much lighter, not as complex (it’s not a thriller, in my opinion, although there’s a tense climax, of course). It’s a rollicking adventure through everything we love to hate and have to love about life in the Midwest. Monster trucks, hair bands, flea markets, meth labs, Bingo halls, fairies, trolls, and roller derby, all rolled into one. It’s a book for kids that adults will relish, I think, as light reading. But, we’ll see—the proof will be in the reviews, I’m sure!

What is your favorite genre to write? To read?

I enjoyed both adult dark fantasy as well as YA fantasy, the most! I had non-fiction projects lined up to writenext, but I think I’m going to go ahead and just write the sequel to This Brilliant Darkness, then the sequel to Troll or Derby, and if I’m lucky, the wild fiction ideas will keep coming! I really enjoy being creatively strange, satirical, and non-stop over-the-top, in turns.

As far as reading goes, I gravitate toward the fast paced YA fantasy, but I will read anything that interests me, and I think it’s silly to get hung up reading one genre of book, just like listening to one genre of music, or eating one kind of food for dinner every night. You’ve got to mix things up a bit. I am very active on Goodreads and I draw my recommendations from friends there, as well as from my Readerly Friends group on Facebook.

What would you write if you could do write anything you wanted to write?

I’m already doing that, praise God. I’m so thankful for the opportunity. I might someday return to journalism, and I do hope to eventually finish my memoir and a book based on my old newspaper column, but for right now, I’m so happy writing novels about fairies and monsters.

What do you most like about writing? Least like? When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I love when a new idea comes to me mid-stream. I think I’m sitting down (or standing up—I type standing up, a lot) to write a scene about X, when idea Y forces itself into the mix, and the result is a chaotic explosion of energy on the page. That, to me, feels better than most anything I’ve ever done.

What I don’t like? I don’t like that I only seem to be good for one chapter a day. I wish I could write several, back-to-back. There are people writing a book a month right now. I can’t do that. I wish I could. I just don’t have that kind of sustained creative energy. It comes in one big burst and then I’m spent.

My first novella was hand-written in a notebook when I was in elementary school,so I suppose I knew then what I wanted to be someday. I was just told repeatedly that it was impossible. I won’t be doing that same disservice to my kiddos!

Tell us a little about your path to publication. How many books have you published?How many books did you write before selling one?

Because of the changing landscape of publishing, right now I’m not looking for an agent or a publisher, actively. I might try again when edits are finished for Troll or Derby. I just knew from being a marketing person,and studying the market, that This Brilliant Darkness had little in common with the best-sellers on the rack in the grocery store—and most agents were looking for their ticket, the next Nora Roberts or Stephen King or JK Rowling. I’ve always felt I had the capacity to becommercially successful, but my first book definitely did not shape itself out to be the next Harry Potter. Publishing it myself on KDP has been extremely rewarding. Troll or Derby is going to prove to be much more commercially viable, so I really haven’t decided yet which way I’m going to try to place it. I love that we live and work in a climate, though, where you can actually choose—do I want to go the traditional publishing route, or do I want to do this one myself?

How did you receive the Call?

At a writing conference, the wonderful author and writing professor Heather Sellers asked me if I had spent a lot of time playing alone, as a child. At first I was afraid to answer honestly, but then I confessed that yes, I had. She said she could tell. She said that was why I was a writer. I was left alone,out-of-doors, to fend for myself for hours, on a mini-farm in the country. I became Laura Ingalls, a cast-away, many other characters. According to her theory, that storytelling impulse was born in me because I needed to entertain myself in an otherwise lonely, boring life.

I think of The Call as a voice you can’t ignore, and I guess I didn’t really feel it overwhelming me and pushing me to achieve my fiction goals until about seven or eight years ago. Until then, I’d been able to push it aside for things that I’d been encouraged to be “successful” at. But here I am, finally doing my thing, and it feels terrific.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today? Any special memories you have in the creation of it?

I love the reader reaction, and I’m looking forward to getting the sequel mapped out. I lived with the characters Christine, Greachin, Tom, Richard, and lesser characters for years, and they truly became like friends. The sequel will involve a much-referenced fictionalized pop culture reference from the first book, heavily, and I have looked forward for years to writing his parts in the story! It should be exciting.

What would you like to tell readers?

Right now, I’d like to say, look—don’t be afraid to try ebooks, and don’t think you have to give up paperbooks, if you do. We’re always going to require printed reading material for the beach and the bathtub, and for so many other reasons. I love bookstores, and I love books. Hey, the whole purpose of this interview is to announce the release of This Brilliant Darkness in paperback, right? But at the same time, we are experiencing a true explosion, in the ebook phenomenon. There are a lot of really amazing reads out there, waiting to be discovered—more than ever. Thanks to the popularization of the ereader, there are millions more books released every year than there were just a couple of years ago. It can be a little overwhelming, but stick to the books with the great reviews, stick to Goodreads or reading groups like my Readerly Friends group, and you’ll find lots of great stuff to try. Don’t be afraid to try something new, whether that’s a new author, a new genre, or a new readingdevice.

To buy This Brilliant Darkness click here.

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For a signed copy, video reviews, a color map of the Bloomington setting & more:



  1. Lyndi

    We’re so glad to have Red here today! Much better than paying attention to the snow falling in huge clumps outside. :)

  2. Thanks for having me, Lyndi. I am loving the snow, and I’m really grateful I don’t have to be out in it! :)

  3. I love hearing about new authors making it in the printing world. I hope I can get my hands on a copy!

  4. Heather C. Cox

    what a great interview!! i love an author’s backstory, it makes you feel like you knw them a little more and more apt to trying their books! as for the Keurig? LOVE LOVE LOVE mine! might i suggest a seasonal flavor that just came back out? Green Mountain’s Golden French Toast! it seriously tastes like a full breakfast!! i know, this is about your books and not coffee, but hey, YOU mentioned it lol again, awesome interview and thanks for the opportunity to win your book!

  5. Heather

    I’m loving this snow too Red! It’s about time the Midwest sees some of this snow! My husband loves his Kindle, I have yet to venture to the ereader, but I know I will in the future! I look forward to reading TBD!

  6. Kathy Fieser

    I also have attributed my creativity to a childhood left to fend for myself on a small farm in PA. Though loneliness often ruled my moods, I was enriched with a pack of memories I would not trade for the world!

  7. I have always wanted to be some what of a writer. All everyone wants is money,money,and more money for everything in this life and world! I have a high school education, some college and I can write and I think well enough. I would love to be able to write about my life’s experiences and my book would simply be called; “?”.There are people out there who will know who you are once you are exposed.

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