Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Away from the Spotlight

Today's guest is Tamara Carlisle, a former attorney and business consultant.  Away from the Spotlight is her first published work of fiction.  She currently is working on two additional novels:  one is about love in the music industry and the other is a work of paranormal fiction.  Tamara currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her British husband and daughter.


What do you like to read?  Do you have any favorite authors or books?
When I was young, my father wanted to create a home library.  Our family library had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with books by my parents’ favorite authors and gilded leather-bound versions of classic novels.  Consequently, in addition to the classics that were required reading in school, I read even more at home, including The Count of Monte Cristo, Dracula, Jane Eyre, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, among many others.
Reaching adulthood (and after a three-year hiatus from reading for pleasure during law school), I started to read popular fiction.  My favorite genres were spy thrillers and adventure novels.  My favorite books are The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins and The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. 
When True Blood came out in 2008, I started to read the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.  The original Twilight movie was released soon thereafter and I read the related novels by Stephenie Meyer.  I became hooked on the romance elements in those books.  I then started to read all types of romance. 
Now that I have a Kindle Fire and selecting a book requires only a push of a button, I have become an even more prolific reader.  Over the course of the last year or so, I have started to read a lot of books by Indie Romance Authors. 
I tend to be captivated by the hero in romance novels.  If I’m really into the hero, I love the book.  Off the top of my head, my favorite heroes are Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, Kellan Kyle from Thoughtless and Effortless by S.C. Stephens, and Eric Northman from the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.

How do you develop your characters?

I started with the underlying premise that being famous would be tough in terms of the lack of privacy, the difficulties in engaging in basic activities without being bothered, and never knowing whether a so-called friend wasn’t really your friend, but with you solely for the perks and publicity.  With that premise in mind, I created a hero who initially struggled with fame and subsequently tried, to the extent possible, to live a normal life.  Since Will MacKenzie largely enjoyed a normal, grounded life, he was a genuinely good guy rather than the narcissist some famous people appear to become.
Creating Shannon’s character and backstory was easy.  I merely layered the overarching plot on my experience graduating from law school, studying for the California Bar Exam, traveling abroad after the Bar Exam, and commencing a legal career. In terms of Shannon’s appearance, I wanted her to be unusual.  Since Will felt different, I wanted to create a character who felt different as well.  As a redhead, I can relate to a feeling of otherness.  I therefore made Shannon a redhead to give Will and Shannon some common ground in feeling different.  In terms of Shannon’s personality, I made Shannon a fairly emotional creature because the story wouldn’t be so interesting if she looked at life, as I do, in a very logical, rational way.  She would come off like a robot on the page.  Also, Shannon’s insecurities make it clear that she doesn’t feel entitled to the lavish treatment bestowed on her by Will - she wouldn’t be very likeable if she had an entitled attitude.
In keeping Will grounded, I created a support network of a loving family and good friends around him.  When I was a third-year law student, I dated a Frenchman who shared a house with a two other French ex-pats in Pacific Palisades.  I therefore had Will live with two other British ex-pats in a house in Pacific Palisades.  Those friends, and their girlfriends, helped Will live a relatively normal existence for a twenty-something in Los Angeles, albeit in a little nicer neighborhood that most.
I also included a love triangle in the story.  I wanted to ensure that John Maher and Shannon were thrown together regularly so I created his character as one of Shannon’s co-workers.  I knew from experience that, in light of the hours required in the practice of law, you tend to become really close with your co-workers because they are there at the office burning the midnight oil along with you.  It makes sense that, with limited free time, a romance would blossom in that environment – and I speak from experience in that regard as well.  In terms of John’s personality, I wanted him to be different from Will.  Will is an engaging, outgoing actor.  I therefore made John a relatively shy person.  The fact that John was shy and reserved also helped to explain why he hadn’t made any moves on Shannon before Will came along.
Shannon’s friend, Rachael, is based upon a friend of mine who died as a result of complications of uterine cancer at the time I wrote the novel.  The fact that my friend had been a paralegal and my partner in crime at the various pubs in and around Los Angeles when I was younger made her character fit right into my story.

How did you get the plot idea for your book?
Around the time that the Twilight movie was released and for quite a while afterward, I couldn’t open my internet browser without seeing, front and center, some story about one of the actors or actresses in that movie.  Every detail of their lives, real or rumored, was published.  I wondered how they would date and ever know whether that person liked them or the perks and publicity of being associated with them.  I thought that they would have to date someone who knew them before they were famous or someone who didn’t know who they were.  However, considering how much press they were getting, who wouldn’t know who they were?  The answer then occurred to me:  a law student. 
A law student has little free time in light of the vast amounts of reading required and working part-time as a law clerk reduces that free time even further.  Based upon my experience, the last thing a law student wants to do in his or her limited free time is read or engage in any other sedentary activity such as watching television or going to the movies.  Consequently, a law student might not be knowledgeable about relatively new actors and actresses.
With all that in mind, the idea for the novel came to me:  a very famous, young actor meets a law student who doesn’t know who he is.  I couldn’t get the idea out of my head and finally decided to write it down.  Away from the Spotlight was born. 

In the closing weeks of law school, Shannon Sutherland meets handsome and charming Englishman Will MacKenzie. Initially swept off her feet, Shannon finds that Will has a secret that, once discovered and the consequences realized, could destroy their fledgling relationship. Will and Shannon take great pains to have a normal relationship but, ultimately, find it impossible to do so. Will the pressures of their careers and the temptations of others drive Will and Shannon apart? Can Will and Shannon live a happy life away from the spotlight?


“I met someone.  His name is Will.  He’s English, I think.”

“That would be different for you.”

She wasn’t wrong.  I had very casually dated a number of men I had met in the various pubs in Santa Monica.  They were from all over Europe, but not one of them had been English for some reason.  There were Scottish, Irish and Welsh men among them, but never English.  I had commented on occasion on the fact that I never seemed to meet English men at the English pubs I frequented.

“I’m going to see him again tomorrow night.”

“What’s he like?”

“Drop-dead gorgeous, smart, funny and with excellent taste in music.  Just my type.  Well, better than my type, actually.  It’s hard to believe someone that perfect has any interest in me.”

Please” Rachael said.  “You get hit on every time we go out.”

“That’s overstating things quite a bit.”

“You seem oblivious to it half the time.”

I guess I did ignore some of it.  When you spend time as part of a female minority in bars full of drunk men, it was hard not to think that some of them would have hit on me for no other reason than that I was female, regardless of how I acted, what I said, or what I looked like.  I therefore learned that getting hit on wasn’t necessarily a compliment and, the later it happened in the evening, the less of a compliment it was.

Tamara will be awarding two $25 Amazon GCs to randomly drawn commenters during the tour.

Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:

For further information about Tamara, go to 

Tamara’s Goodreads Author Page also includes a blog detailing trivia relating to Away from the Spotlight.