From Bailiffs Calling to Becoming Best-selling Author – Tamara McKinley reveals the Secrets of her Success

By TONY FLOOD

International best-selling author Tamara McKinley will be launching the 20th in her Cliffehaven series about war-time romances, written under the name Ellie Dean, at the Hydro Hotel, Eastbourne, on Tuesday March 26th.

And to show her appreciation to her supporters, she will be offering signed copies of Love Will Find a Way at the greatly reduced price of £5. The book will be available on Amazon for £8.27 as a paperback and £2.99 as an e-version..

Talking to me at her home in Jevington, where she resides with her cat Mia, Tamara revealed the secret of her success.

Mia

She said: “Obviously the main reason I have sold 25 million copies of my books is because readers like my writing style. But three key factors behind my success have been dedication, persistence and sheer hard work. It’s not enough to be a talented writer – you have to persevere no matter what obstacles are put in your way.

“I had dozens of rejections and five of the first six books I wrote never made it into print.

Her Cliffehaven series about trials and tribulations during World War Two and based in an English south coast boarding house are now in the best-selling lists in the UK, France, Denmark and Holland. All the books in the series have been in the top ten Sunday Times Best-selling list.

The latest Ellie Dean saga, Love Will Find a Way, is being officially released on March 28, but signed copies can be obtained at the launch being held at the Hydro Hotel, Eastbourne, on Tuesday, March 26th from 7.30pm when Tamara will be speaking at a special meeting of Anderida Writers, of which she is patron. Guests are welcome to attend.

Tamara (Ellie) revealed: “I usually spend six or seven hours a day during the week writing my books, most of which contain approximately 100,000 words. So it takes three months to write each book and another week to edit before my editor gets hold of it.

“My advice to other authors is, even if they go out to work or have children to look after, try to find at least an hour a day to write their books.

“Don’t panic if you get a mental block. I remember having one myself when writing The Waiting Hours, the 13th in the Cliffehaven series. It wasn’t because I had run out of ideas, but because the timeline in the book was wrong.

“With a deadline looming, I got soooooo stressed, but I stuck to the task and it all worked out OK. So perseverance is the answer.”

Tamara’s lovely garden in Jevington

The 76-year-old Australian-Brit has overcome two major traumas in her life. The first was having to battle back from the verge of bankruptcy.

She recalled: “I was facing bankruptcy in the mid 1990s and had bailiffs banging at the front door of my home in Seaford. But I carried on writing and ignored rejection letters from publishers until I got a two-book deal with Hodder and Stoughton for my thrillers Reap the Whirlwind and Queen’s Flight, under the pen name of Tamara Lee.

Mia

“After three more rejections and a complete change in genre, my first Australian multi-generational saga, Matilda’s Last Waltz, was published in 1999 under the name of Tamara McKinley. It changed my life, with the book being translated into 16 languages and selling world-wide – it’s since sold over eight million copies.”

Tamara’s second trauma came with the death of her husband Ollie Cater on December 6th, 2020 after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019 and complications followed an operation.

The talented Sunday Times best-selling author was so upset she announced her retirement in 2021, telling her loyal readers: “The time has come to say goodbye. I’m retiring from writing. The past 18 months have taken their toll and I just don’t have the fire or the energy any more.”

But tributes poured in from around the world, and she eventually succumbed to requests to carry on writing by coming out of retirement a year later!

She has since told me: “Following Ollie’s death I lost the will to be creative, and couldn’t imagine writing again. But the writing habit was difficult to overcome, and 18 months later my publishers, Penguin, were delighted to issue number 19 in the Cliffehaven series, A Place Called Home. To my delight, it went straight into the top ten.”

Tamara with Tony & Heather Flood of Anderida Writers

She has also been an inspiration to fellow authors and given great encouragement to members of Anderida Writers, where she was once chairman. Her personal advice was so helpful to me when I wrote my crime thrillers Stitch Up! – Killer or Victim? and Fall Guy – Who really killed his wife?”

Tamara commented: “I work closely with Anderida Writers Chairman Tony Flood. Both Tony and I give the group a great deal of time and effort, but it’s worth it to see the improvement in members’ writing – as well as publishing successes.

“It was as a member of Anderida many years ago that I learnt how to prepare my work for publication, and became club Chairman. I like to give something back to an industry which has served me so well. I have provided individual help to budding authors by advising on editing, plotting and general lay-out.”

Meanwhile on-going sales of her books will ensure that Tamara leaves a legacy for future generations to enjoy.

 

Author

  • Tony Flood

    Author Tony Flood, who lives in Eastbourne, has spent most of his working life as a journalist, initially on local and regional papers and then on nationals. He was also editor of 'Football Monthly', Controller of Information at Sky Television and enjoyed a spell with 'The People.' In his celebrity book My Life With The Stars - Sizzling Secrets Spilled', Tony recalls: “My work as a showbiz and leisure writer, critic and editor saw me take on a variety of challenges - learning to dance with Strictly Come Dancing star Erin Boag, becoming a stand-up comedian and playing football with the late George Best and Bobby Moore in charity matches.” My Life With The Stars provides revelations and amusing anecdotes about showbiz and sports personalities including Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, George Best, Kylie Minogue, Eric Morecambe and Des O'Connor. Tony also writes in other genres and his crime thrillers have been endorsed by best-selling author Peter James. They are Triple Tease, Stitch Up - Killer or Victim? and Fall Guy - who really killed his wife?, and all feature compassionate copper DCI Harvey Livermore. In addition, there's a fantasy adventure for youngsters called Secret Potion and a book Tony has co-written with wife Heather, aptly titled Laughs and Tears Galore - short stories and poems with twists! Recently, Tony joined The Collective of seven local writers all contributing one character to family saga Driven by Desire, which is full of conflict, fierce ambition and passion as well as a dramatic kidnap. Tony also writes theatre reviews for the Eastbourne Herald, Brighton Argus and BourneFree Live, as well as playing veterans football for Sovereign Harbour Veterans. He is the oldest - and slowest - player in the team.

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