Name: Tlotlo Tsamaase
What you Write: Speculative fiction, sci-fi, magical realism.
Agent: Naomi Davis
Why BookEnds? I was mesmerized by their astounding experience and track record of success they’ve accomplished for their talented authors and illustrators. Another reason is their visibility online, which is quite informative and engaging; as well as their strong presence in the publishing industry. I was especially and strongly drawn to some of the richly woven and highly diverse works they represent, and felt my work would feel at home.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I write irregularly, although if I have a couple of deadlines, I write five days a week. If the deadline is tight, I fit my writing into whatever pockets of the day and night every single day to meet it. When there are no deadlines, I can go for weeks possibly without writing! During this break, I’m no longer a recluse, so I nurse my burnouts with glasses of wine. I watch films and tv shows and music videos, which are quite inspiring and part of the writing process even though I’m not writing. To exercise my creative muscles, I read books and genres I love and sometimes genres and books I don’t normally gravitate toward to broaden my knowledge.
Where can readers find you on the web and social media?
I’m most active on Instagram (Tlotlo Tsamaase) and Twitter (@TlotloTsamaase), but you can also find me on Facebook (Tlotlo Tsamaase).
Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g. burning a candle if you’re having trouble getting started at the computer or writing longhand first if you’re feeling uninspired.)
My easiest writing ritual involves me sitting at my desk with a cup of black tea or ginger tea, playing specific music to assist with the flow of whatever genre I’m writing and tapping away at my laptop. But when the words are difficult to come, the blank page is my hell. So I growl and cry at my laptop until my muse caves in; I wish it were that easy, but my most difficult writing days are aided by reading short stories, snippets of my favorite novels, or even watching music videos. I follow it up by writing paragraphs of utter nonsense until finally one line out of a whole mess of words births the beginning of a story. Then I desperately hack at the story until finally the form of characters and a world show, which is where the hard work begins.
What do you love about writing speculative, sci-fi, magical realism?
I love the freedom of creating your own universe, the rules, characters and how they overcome their adversities, well sometimes their adversities bury them. It feels empowering to manipulate that fictional world into what you want it to be, either to explore a “what if” question, or to experiment with a different perspective to reveal and emphasis societal ills, mental health issues, cultural issues, etc., through the scope of these genres. It feels cathartic to authentically represent someone who looks like you on the page.
What is the hardest part about writing When you don’t feel like writing, but you have to. I think some people believe writers enjoy the process a 100 percent, because it’s apparently a “hobby”. Also the editing stage can be a roller-coaster ride, from fun to a hellish experience as you’re trying to refine the story.
What was the most important question you asked when interviewing agents? If they were a career-based agent or book-by-book agent because honestly, I had this long list of questions and Naomi Davis just blew me away by how they answered most of my questions without my asking. On top of that, before our call, I’d visited their website, which really provided answers to questions I had, such as the clients they represent. I was mostly looking for authors who looked like me, as well as the type of books Naomi was interested in representing. As a querying writer you’re able to picture yourself fitting in there or not. Sometimes you don’t readily get this information when you research other agents. But I think the most important part of the call was how they really got the story, the message, the themes, the characters, and especially the specific scenes I wrote with intention. They just got it, as if they wrote the book. And so I could trust their vision for it.
How did you know your book was ready to submit?
I’d edited it a million times. Edited it again after my critique partner (Cheryl Ntumy, who’s such a smart and insanely brilliant author) provided very thoughtful constructive criticisms. I then submitted it to a professional editor. Then did one final round of editing based on her edits. By then I believed I’d done everything I could to make it as perfect as it could be to capture an agent’s interest. But honestly, one important thing that made it ready was due to how I’d evolved as a writer from all the short stories I’d written and the mentorships I participated in. I knew what my strengths and weaknesses were, and so I obsessively tackled them.
Photo credit: Tumisang Ramakoloi