Here’s the situation… You have been a freelance writer for over a decade, and have penned various articles on life, love and relationships. As an Office Manager, you have experienced the after-hour environment of steamy office romances. You have also dabbled with political commentary and poetry, and have decided to release your debut fiction novel.
The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino caught up with Tiss Devane to discuss her writing career thus far, and what will follow her Stitching Love book series.
Michelle: Tell us a little about yourself.
Tiss: I was born, raised, and still reside on the Southside of Chicago. I’ve been writing for most of my life and have written in various genres including poetry, political commentary and relationship articles. But, my latest literary venture has been in the world of urban romance/suspense. Writing is something I do for my personal enjoyment, but am more than happy to share with others. That sharing has been well received as readers have embraced my first novel, Stitching Love, which was released on January 13, 2015. The sequel in this series, Stitching Love II, Undressed, will be released on March 17th, and I’m very excited to share this novel as well. I do consider myself to be a hopeless romantic, which is at the core of all my novels. I choose to focus my attention on urban romance because romance and love is something even the most hardened girl or guy wants. I like to put a hood/urban spin on how they go about finding and holding on or letting go of it, if it turns out to be toxic.
Michelle: As stated in your bio, you have penned several relationship articles. What types of things do you write about when it comes to relationships?
Tiss: My relationship articles range from controversial subjects such as child support to finding the right time for single parents to introduce their child(ren) to their significant other. Because there is rarely one solution that fits every situation, I always try to inform, encourage and shine a light on the different angles a problem/issue can be viewed from to find the right solution for the parties involved.
Michelle: Your debut novel is titled Stitching Love. How did you come up with that name?
Tiss: Initially, the book had a totally different title because I really like one word titles. But after discussing it further with my Publisher, she felt we needed something more unique/and or catchier. I totally agreed. Stitching Love was something I had in the back of my mind as I thought about how similar building a relationship is to constructing a garment. You have to stitch the two pieces together, cut out foolishness, iron out wrinkles, deal with dangling threads from the past, unravel the truth, etc., The challenge was in coming up with sewing terms to insert into the chapter titles, but I enjoyed the challenge.
Michelle: Tell us about the main character, Skyla Richards. What’s her story?
Tiss: Skyla Richards is always going to try and lead with her best foot and do the right thing. That doesn’t always get her very far as her first marriage fails after six years. Shortly after, she suffers another personal tragedy and the last thing she’s thinking about is finding a new relationship. But, like in real life, that’s when loves finds her by way of younger co-worker, Jonathan Bass. The problem is that he’s engaged to be married in six months. She does her best to resist his advances, but soon finds herself giving in to his charms.
Michelle: What sparks the romance between Skyla and co-worker Jonathan Bass?
Tiss: I think at the beginning of all romantic relationships, it is pure human attraction that draws people together. That attraction can be physical or mental. In Skyla and Jonathan’s case, they soon discover that it’s both. Jonathan would like to intellectualize the attraction and call it, kinetics. Really, it is just pure, unadulterated physical attraction and lust on both parts. He reveals that he’s been checking her out for some time, while she’s been going about her merry way distracted by her own issues. But one day, something happens in the office that thrusts them together physically and forces them to deal with the attraction between them.
Michelle: Was it easy telling this story from both a male and a female point of view?
Tiss: For me, honestly it was. I was raised in a male dominated household (dominated in gender with dad and three brothers against me and my mom/not emotionally dominated), so I know a little something about how males think and react to things. One of my favorite books is Disappearing Acts by Terry McMillian. I loved this book so much because it gave women a chance to see what was going on inside the hero’s head and it answered that age old question we always have, which is, what the hell was he thinking? Whether you agree with Jonathan and his decision making, he lets you know exactly what he was thinking and why.
Michelle: Why did you decide to write Stitching Love as a series, as opposed to a stand-alone novel?
Tiss: I didn’t feel that Skyla and Jonathan’s story was over after Stitching Love I ended. I felt they had enough passion for each other and compassion for the community to take their story into a second novel, and span it over a lifetime.
Michelle: When can we expect to see the second installment, and what will we find between its pages?
Tiss: I’m pleased and excited to say that Stitching Love II, Undressed was released on March 17, 2015. My thought process for the book centered on that Third World/Bob Marley song, “Now That We Found Love What Are We Gonna Do With It.” Sometimes, these negative forces are subtle and you don’t see them coming at all. At other times, they come boldly with signs you can see from a miles away. But we still for whatever reason, sometimes let these influences get in between what we cherish. The second novel is also about friendship and having the courage to embrace love if/when it does present itself to you.
Michelle: What do you like best, penning novels, or writing articles?
Tiss: I enjoy tackling hot button topics, and giving my opinion in articles. But articles are fact based and require research. Not much challenge there for me. However, writing novels require me to think and feel. It demands emotion and imagination, which I love.
Michelle: What do you hope readers walk away with once they have read Stitching Love?
Tiss: After reading a Tiss Devane novel, I hope the reader has been entertained. I hope they read something funny or saw an in-your-face comment that encourages them in some way, or makes them think and look at a situation differently in their own lives.
Michelle: How important is editing when it comes to your writing?
Tiss: Editing to me is everything, because mistakes and slip-ups can change the meaning of what you intended to say. I learned so much about this process that I didn’t know when I first started out. I also learned how anal I am about it, so much so that there is a different…more polished version of Stitching Love I out on Amazon.
Michelle: How do you feel when you read poorly edited articles and/or books?
Tiss: I wonder if all the parties involved are aware of the mistakes/errors, as often times tasks are delegated to people who are responsible for the editing. And if there is trust and no follow up, things often fall through the cracks. I realize that in the hustle and bustle of life, time is often a factor. Still all effort should be put into cranking out a quality product which is what people pay their hard earned money for.
Michelle: What advice can you give to someone who is looking to become a freelance writer?
Tiss: Freelance work of any kind requires research. The internet has made this much easier than it used to be. First, write your article. Then find the publications that cater to what you’ve written. View the submission guidelines and stay within them. Then submit. Submitting is often a numbers game, so the more Publishers/Publications you submit to, the higher your chances of finding one that wants to publish your work.
Michelle: How about a writer looking to have their first novel published—what advice can you give them about the querying process?
Tiss: The same advice applies to novel publishing as it does to freelance writing. The one thing I would add is, KNOW YOUR GENRE! Knowing which genre your novel falls in can save you a lot of time. Research other novels similar to yours and see who published them. Get it as close to perfect as possible. Then pray over it, have your momma lay hands on it and have faith. Then submit and expect something amazing to happen! If rejection letters start pouring in instead of that contract you were expecting, don’t worry/panic. Rejection is part of the process. Listen to what the rejecter is saying and go back and revise. It’s kind of like a job interview. If you don’t get the job, at least you’ve brushed up on your interviewing skills. The same holds true for writing and submitting.
Michelle: What else can we expect from Tiss Devane in the future?
Tiss: I am working on a coming of age tale with younger characters (at least they start out that way). I hope to finish it later this year. I am also mentally working on an “I love Jesus” book, which I will publish somewhere in the near future, as I have a lot to share that I believe might help some folks. I am constantly getting new book ideas, and am excited to see where these ideas will take me!
Michelle: Please tell our listeners how they can follow and/or contact you.
Tiss: I can be reached at:
Blog – tissdevane.com/
Facebook – Tiss Devane
Pinterest – @Tissd
Michelle: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.
I was engaged to be married in six months, eleven days and five and a half hours. Yet, here she was in my arms with those haunting black opals looking up at me. Truthfully, I’d fantasized about this moment, but this wasn’t exactly how I envisioned it. Still, I didn’t care. This was an experience I’d longed to have with her, even if I’d gotten it by default during an emotional meltdown.
We’d shot the morning breeze at the coffee machine and at different office functions, but I honestly struggled to ignore her beauty every time I saw her. But now, in this moment, I could allow my eyes to travel the smoothness of her honey colored skin against the back drop of her shoulder length hair and explore the curvature of her breast and hips until our chemistry naturally united and formed an undeniable bond. Then, the door swung open.
“What the hell is going on in here?”
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About the Author: Michelle Cuttino
Body Positive Advocate Michelle “Big Body” Cuttino, author of six books, works with authors and experts who need free publicity to promote their new releases, and grow their business. Once a month, she emails writing tips, free promos, and information about upcoming literary events. Subscribe at www.MichelleCuttino.com.
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