Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesdays Writer ~ Tanya Parker Mills

Tanya Parker Mills

Tanya Parker Mills grew up overseas, and the stories she writes inevitably reflect the clashes of culture, religion, and values that her LDS family witnessed, first-hand. Her first novel, "The Reckoning," (set in Baghdad, Iraq, where she lived for five years as a child) was a 2008 Whitney Finalist in two categories and won the Indie Book Award for Multicultural Fiction. She lives and writes in Richland, Washington, sustained by her husband, two children, two cats, and a continual supply of M&M's.

CRW:  Writers Mirror welcomes Tanya Parker Mills as our special guest on  Wednesday's Writer.

Tanya:  Hi Cindy.

CRW:  Hi Tanya, I know you have an interesting and vairied background that gives you much to draw from for your writing. Please tell us about it so we can begin to get to know you.

Tanya:  Shortly after my parents got married, my Dad had a choice: go to work for this new broadcasting company called NBC...or work for the government's newest agency--the CIA. Guess which acronym he went for? Of course, I didn't find out about his undercover work 'till I was getting ready to go off to BYU. It certainly lent a new perspective to our years abroad in Greece, Turkey, and Iraq! (By the time we went to Lebanon, where I finished high school, he had left the agency and gone "legitimate," as they say.)

CRW:  Wow!  What stories your Dad could tell, that is if he was allowed to tell them. No wonder you have so much to write about. What inspires you to write?

Tanya:  Knowledge. Ever since I was a kid, I loved reading encyclopedias and you can get a ton of ideas for stories simply by reading history and biography. I find that when I come across an interesting fact or piece of history, I simply have to start writing about it in some way, in order to better understand and remember it. (It was also my best method for studying in school.)

CRW:  You must have been a great student with such interesting study methods.  Do you try to write daily, and if so, do you set a goal of a certain number of words?

Tanya:  Yes, except on Sundays...but even on Sundays, I try to post to my blog. I try and write from 9 am to 11 am (except on Wednesdays when we go to the temple...then I write from 11 am to noon), when my mind is freshest. I shoot for 3-5 pages, but don't always make it.

CRW:  What gets in your way of writing?

Tanya:  Not my husband. He knows not to bother me during those hours. Now our cat, Peach, is a different matter (He's high maintenance, unlike our other cat, Anastasia). I'll be in the middle of a really good scene and he'll come and jump up and park himself right in front of the monitor.

CRW:  Looks like Peach got caught here in this picture, but that he really doesn't care.  So much like all the cats I know. So what do you do with the feline situtation?

Tanya:  I have to call out to Michael to come and take Peach away.

CRW:  What makes you CRAZY about writing, other than Peach?

Tanya:  I can't turn the story off in my head sometimes. Today, for example, I was sitting reverently in the temple and suddenly I found myself second guessing the way I'd written a particular scene in my current story. Bad girl!!! I had to really double down to refocus on the session.

CRW:  How long does it take you to complete a book?

Tanya:  Too long! I hear about all these other authors who put out a book every year. "The Reckoning" really took me four years. And I've been working on this second one now for three years (though I really stopped working on it for a year or more, so I'm not sure that should count). Barbara Kingsolver is my hero...she takes her time with her books, too. (Of course, she's famous and can afford to!)

CRW:  You have already told us about your rich background, but where else do you get your ideas for your books?

Tanya:  Things that have happened to me...things I read about. "The Reckoning" is somewhat autobiographical in that I spent part of my childhood in Baghdad and some of Theresa's memories were mine (some, not all!)...also, I have temporal lobe epilepsy like Theresa and something similar to the opening chapter occurred to me.
          Now, the idea for my current novel, "Laps" came during a walk past all the homes with pools in our previous neighborhood in Southern California. I got another idea for an historical novel from listening to an NPR broadcast.

CRW:  Where do you get your character’s names?

Tanya:  I need to improve in this area. For my first novel, I picked names that seemed to fit my characters, but they're not very memorable names (at least not the American or Canadian ones). I gave it a little more thought for "Laps," particularly with regard to surnames, striving for some symbolism.

CRW:  What is your favorite writing food?

Tanya:  M&M's, hands down. I couldn't have finished the first two drafts of "The Reckoning" in 3 months without huge bags of M&M's. (I dieted later.)

CRW:  I love it. Chocolate seems to be the number one writing food!  But, some of us don't bother with the diet afterwords, 'cause there is no afterwords. Why are you a writer?

Tanya:  Because I think best and communicate best through my fingers.

CRW:  This gives an extra meaning to the sense of touch. Who do you hope reads your work?

Tanya:  Everyone! But if you mean a particular person or group of people, then I'd have to say all Americans who have never lived abroad. I'm not aiming my work at the LDS market, though I'd love to have LDS readers, because I want to help bridge the gap between LDS and non-LDS, and I think I can do that best by writing for the mainstream in a way that hopefully reflects my values.

CRW:  I love your philosophy. We need to reach out with good works. What would be the best complement you could receive from a fan?

Tanya:  "Your book really taught me something about _______ that I didn't know before.

CRW:  That would be nice.  What is the topic of the project you are now writing?

Tanya:  Asperger's Syndrome.

CRW:  Please tell us more about it.

Tanya:  I have a son diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, and so I wanted to write a story about an undiagnosed adult who comes to better understand herself when she crosses paths with such a child.

CRW:  That sounds like a very much needed book and tough to write sinse it is so close to the heart. Good luck with it.  Please tell us about the current book you are actively marketing.

Tanya:  Even though "The Reckoning" was published last year, I'm still marketing this story of an American journalist who gets imprisoned in Iraq before the U.S. invasion. While in prison, she gradually comes to realize that one of her captors is connected to the death of her father years before in a Baghdad prison. It's a real page-turner and I'm hoping to put together a good book trailer for it in the next couple of months that will help garner attention on YouTube.

CRW:  Please give us your elevator pitch.

Tanya:  An American journalist sneaks over the border into northern Iraq with her cameraman to get a story before the U.S. invasion, but they get captured and turned over to Iraq's secret police. Denied her epilepsy medication, she begins to have vision flashbacks of events from her expatriate childhood there and, gradually, she comes to realize one of her captors is connected with the death of her father years ago in a Baghdad prison. Will she get to the bottom of the mystery and somehow escape before the bombing begins? "The Reckoning" is a tale of love, betrayal, and redemption so full of twists and turns that you won't want to put it down.

CRW:  Where can our readers go to buy your book?

Tanya: for now. "The Reckoning" is also available on Kindle.

CRW:  Thank you for sharing with us on Wednesday Writers. For more information about Tanya Parker Mills see the sites below.

Tanya's website:
Tanya's blog:


  1. Wonderful interview, Cindy. Thanks for exploring Tanya's world for us.

  2. I can see why you chose Tanya to interview, Cindy. What an interesting person with such a rare and unique background to use for her stories as well as living her daily life. She sounds like someone true to her calling and true to her faith. Thank you for your wonderful interview. I look forward to adding her novel, "Reckconing" to my bookshelf for reading.
    Barbara B

  3. Thanks for your wonderful comments. Tanya was easy to inteview, I mean, look at her life. Thank goodness you write well Tanya so you can share some of your insight with us all!

  4. And thank you, Cindy, for providing authors like me such an excellent forum!


  5. What a wonderful interview.
    Reckoning is now on my need to buy list. Such a timely subject. Great job.


Thanks for your comment!
When finished, please go back to "Home" and click "Follow" and come back often!
It's time to spin the world around!!!