Gnarled Bones and Other Stories is a collection of five short stories where strange and spooky events affect people’s lives in ways they could not have anticipated.
A newly divorced woman goes back to school to begin a new chapter of her life only to find herself circling back to where she started. A mailroom secretary and her friends spend a day at the circus where childhood nostalgia mingles brutal fear. A lonely woman ventures out of her isolated apartment one quiet Saturday afternoon to an art exhibit that leaves an eerie imprint on her psyche*. A middle-aged violinist reveals the mystery behind his declining artistic powers to a stranger on a train. And the title story weaves journal entries and first-person narrative to paint a picture of the complicated bond between an orphaned brother and sister.
These stories leave an impression of how the past shadows the present and future.
* This story was featured on Whimsy Gardener’s Storytime With Whimsey and can be found here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW9mgw4qhuA.
About the Author
Tam May was born in Israel but grew up in America. She has a B.A and M.A in English and worked as a teacher before becoming a full-time writer. She started writing when she was 14 and writing became her voice. She writes dark psychological fiction about characters from the inside out. She currently lives in Texas but calls San Francisco and the Bay Area home. When she’s not writing, she’s reading classic literature and watching classic films.
The Writing Life Interview with Tam May
Why do you write within your chosen genre?
My genre is a little off the beaten path, as I write psychological fiction. I write in this genre because I like to write about characters from the inside out. I like to explore their personality, what makes them do and say the things they do and say. Equally important is what they don’t do and say. Psychological fiction is about a character’s psychological reality, what he or she feels, thinks, sees, analyses, dreams, obsesses over, etc. I build a story from that. I’ve written stories that were more plot-based and they were fun to write but I didn’t feel my writing voice was really coming through or that I was really communicating in the way that was right for me. That’s why I turned to psychological fiction.
Do you write a book sequentially, from beginning to end? Or do you sometimes write scenes out of order?
I write sequentially because my fiction builds from the character’s inner world. But when a story starts to develop, I usually have some peak scenes in mind that I know I want to put in the story, though I often times don’t know just where they will go. For example, I’m working on a series right now and there is a scene I already have planned for the second book, The Claustrophobic Heart, where the main character and her aunt encounter an elderly couple on the beach. I have ideas about how the scene will go and how it will fit into the overall story but I have no idea where exactly it’s going to go. It might go in the middle or near the end of the story.
Do you outline first or take an idea and run blindly?
I do a little of both. I used to be more of a “pantser”, that is, I used to just run blindly with an idea and while that’s really fun to do, it makes for a very chaotic first draft! So now I prefer to make some notes. I usually have a main storyline and plot in mind as well as some key characters. I also make notes on the main locations and do a little preliminary research if I need to before I start. And, as I mentioned before, I usually have some specific scenes in mind, including the opening of the book and an idea of what I want the climax to be. All of this is subject to change as I write the book, of course. I try to leave my imagination open to wherever the story wants to go and where the characters, as they reveal their psychological make up, lead me.
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere! Seriously, even for an introvert like me, wherever I go and whatever I do, what I read, see on TV or in a movie, overhear outside my door, everything has potential to make its way into a story or a character. For me, it’s all about observation. I’ve always been more of an observer than a participant. I like to absorb what is going on around me. I’m sometimes conscious that something will become part of a story and sometimes it comes up without my realizing it until I revise later on. For example, a short story on my website called “A Birthday Gift” was inspired by a true story my mom told me about a birthday celebration for which I couldn’t be present. Of course, I changed it, emphasized different things, took it down another track, but the germ of the idea came from the story she told me.
Do you set your books in real locations or do you make them up?
A little of both. My favorite place is the San Francisco Bay Area. I really found my autonomy and started to develop my writing voice when I lived there for 5 years. I love the landscape and the diverse population and the acceptance of who you are, whatever you want to be. So the majority of my stories are set in Northern California and the Bay Area. However, I don’t always use real locations from there. For example, I’m revising the first book of my Waxwood series, The Order of Acateon, and the book has several locations that are firmly planted in the Bay Area but aren’t real. Waxwood isn’t a real place. There is also a small town that the main characters visit that is based on Sausalito.
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