For Part 3 in my series about day jobs for writers, today’s interview is with Tamara Lush. Tamara works as an AP journalist, and she is also a highly successful romance author.
Tamara, you have a highly demanding full-time job, and you also publish romance novels. How do you juggle all of that?
It’s interesting, because I don’t see it as a lot of work. I should explain that! I don’t have a lot else going on other than my day job. Over the years, I’ve engineered my life to be super simple and as stress-free as possible. My husband and I don’t have children. We live in a 750-square-foot home and have zero debt. My husband does all the housework. I cook because I love to. He takes care of me, our dogs, everything but the food. I’m able to focus on journalism and my creative projects. His emotional and physical labor, and that we don’t have to worry about money, are probably the biggest factors in being able to focus on writing fiction outside of a demanding day job.
I’m not writing these things as a humblebrag — I think it’s important for writers who have great privilege to acknowledge that. If I had children, debt, and many things to do around the house (on top of a day job), I would likely not be writing fiction.
You recently took a sabbatical from your AP job to write full time. How long was your sabbatical and what was that like?
It was an interesting nine months! It was the first time since I was 20 that I wasn’t working in journalism in some capacity, and it felt strange. The first six months without news were blissful, then I started to get itchy, and I wanted to know what was going on in the world. I was more than ready to return, at the end.
I wrote a series — five, 50,000-word books — during my sabbatical. I released four of them and spent a lot of time learning about marketing. I also traveled for a month to New England, Quebec and California, and that was amazing.
What advice do you have for fiction writers who think they are failing if they maintain a salaried job other than full-time novel writing?
You are not failing! Most of history’s great writers had day jobs. I feel like I’m a better fiction writer with my day job. Something I discovered during my sabbatical was that I didn’t enjoy being at home by myself every day, with just my computer and dogs for company. Having a day job gets me out into the world, around other human beings. Now, some people are wired to want to be alone most of the time, and that’s great. I’m not. I assumed that not having a day job would make me happier, and that wasn’t the case.
Day jobs, for better or for worse, also bring us a measure of security. Not having to worry about health insurance (if you’re in the U.S.) is a big deal. I’m personally more creative if I don’t have to worry about money.
You are one of the few romance novelists who writes under your real name. What have been the pros and cons of this decision?
I struggled with whether to write under my real name at first. Fortunately, I have a family that is embarrass-proof, sex positive, and eccentric, so that wasn’t a concern. I was more worried about what my colleagues would think and what my journalism sources would think.
In the end, it all came down to laziness. I decided to write under my real name because of social media. I didn’t want to maintain two social media profiles, and I already had a fairly extensive social media presence. It seemed like a lot of work to launch a pen name and new social media, so I decided to take the easier route.
I also didn’t want people “discovering” that I wrote erotic romance, and potentially revealing it as a “deep, dark secret.” I’m not ashamed of what I write, and I figured I should be open and transparent about it.
By the way, none of my co-workers or sources cared — many of them have bought my books!
That’s terrific! How long have you been writing romance novels and how many books have you written?
I started writing romance in the summer of 2014. I’ve written thirteen books.
What’s your favorite writing advice?
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King
“What kind of life do you want to have, and how do you want to spend your life every day? Maybe our job is to do the things that make us come alive.” — Cathy Heller
What’s next for your career?
Over the coming months, I’ll be moving everything off all eBook platforms and publishing my entire catalog on Wattpad. Some books will be free; others will be in the Paid Stories program.
Why am I doing this? The answer: Joy.
Over the last year, I’ve focused heavily on my indie publishing career. I’ve spent a lot of money and time learning to be an indie author. I’ve run ads, taken courses, hired people, and attended conferences. And you know what? I don’t like it.
Don’t get me wrong: I love writing. I love readers. I don’t love running a business. And to be a successful indie author, you really need to be a businessperson. It’s something I never desired.
Now, I know that I need to promote my stories. That’s a given for indie and traditional authors. But now that I’ve gone back to journalism, I don’t have the time or energy to report the news, write fiction, and run a business. Some people can do this amazingly well. I cannot. I’m all about focus, if you haven’t noticed.
And this is where the joy part comes in. I’m incredibly lucky to have ties already with Wattpad, an amazing company that is devoted to helping writers grow. When I met Wattpad CEO Allen Lau at Wattcon in 2018, I felt I was in the presence of a visionary. The company is doing some amazing things, and I am proud and humbled to have a small part in that.
Wattpad brings me immense joy. It makes me feel alive to post my work there, much like when I’m reporting. So that’s why I’m taking my books there, and why my future romance releases will happen there.
Until your books are all on Wattpad, where can romance readers buy your books now?
Right now, readers can find the Paradise Beach series on Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Google Play. They will be on those platforms through February. My other books are all on Wattpad, and eventually, all of my books will be there.
Other interviews in this series:
Part 1: Day Jobs for Writers: Fraud Risk Analysis and Autobiographical Essays