Behind the Scenes with Tina Whittle

Tina Whittle

My Favorite Vacation:
My family claims I am the boringest person in the world for saying this, but my favorite vacation is the one where I go somewhere with a fantastic view (preferably from a balcony or patio), order up room service, open a bottle of wine, and write. Something about a fresh new environment really gets the creative gears turning.

Colorado

Snowbound in my Colorado Springs hotel! Woo-hoo!

I do put down the computer occasionally — one of my favorite non-writing vacations was a family trip to England, especially our trek through the Lake Country where I got to commune with Wordsworth’s famous daffodils in the garden of an old country church.

Daffodils

And then my heart with pleasure fills/ And dances with the daffodils.

London was a glittery exciting crush, absolutely stunning at night when the architecture cast silhouettes against the golden sunsets. We enjoyed afternoon tea at Southeby’s while two art traders discussed the Picassso coming up for auction that afternoon. We cruised the Thames and marveled at the wonder of the British Museum. My most profound moment, however, was to stand in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey and pay my respects to some of our most brilliant wordsmiths, including the master of masters, William Shakespeare.

Big Ben

Big Ben, that most faithful of timekeepers

I suppose I’ll be traveling again soon – my husband has an eye cocked toward the Emerald Isle, and I’ve been following the adventures of a friend who works as a river guide in Alaska. But as long as my room has a view and a place to put my computer, I’m sure I’ll be happy.

My Current Projects
I’m working on the fifth book in my Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series. Though the series is set in Atlanta, most of the action in this particular book takes place in Tai’s hometown of Savannah, Georgia. Spring in Savannah is a glorious time, an explosion of scent and color and pollen, and Tai is a girl who loves to be on the water, especially the tidal creeks and estuaries of the coast.

Marsh Sunset

Sunset at Turner Creek in Savannah

My other protagonist Trey, however, is an urban guy all the way – he’s not happy unless there’s concrete under his feet and a skyline in his view. Even though I’ve never lived in Atlanta, I love walking the city and seeing it through his eyes. There is certainly a rough-edged, chaotic beauty to the ATL, a vibrancy and hum that I find compelling.

Atlanta at Dusk

The serpentine ribbons of the ever-present Atlanta traffic

Tai owns a gun shop that caters to Civil War reenactors, so much of my research involves trekking through battlegrounds around both Atlanta, which was burned to the ground during the War, and Savannah, which was spared the torch. Both cities have long memories, but while Atlanta was eager to move forward – its post-modern skyline is constantly swinging with I-beams and crane – Savannah pulled its past around itself like a worn but once fine blanket. Little wonder it’s considered one of the most haunted cities in America.

Kennesaw

Confederate cannon at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Savannah and Atlanta are the yin and yang of Tai’s life, in the same way that she and Trey both complement and conflict. Her life is betwixt and between, a story still being written. Atlanta bookends this latest book, beginning and ending it. It is Savannah, however, that provides the tender and treacherous heart at the center.

Where I Live
I grew up in a small Middle Georgia town, with a cotton field in my backyard and train whistles calling in the night beyond the piney woods. Some people might describe this as quintessentially Southern. And they’d be right. I carry that small railroad town with me everywhere I go.

I now live near Savannah, and like Tai, I love being in the company of the marshes and squares of this historic city. We both appreciate the labyrinthine cobblestones alleys running behind River Street, the channels and rivers of the ocean-fed wetlands, the moss-draped squares and grassy cemeteries. We both feel a pull that is tidal here, as ancient as ghosts.

Savannah fountain

The fountain in Lafayette Square, with the spires of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist rising in the background.

My Work Habits
I am a night person forced to operate in a morning-person world, so I’ve adjusted my writing schedule as best I can. I get up an hour before I have to start getting my daughter off to school, but I’m too addle-brained to do much more than check e-mail and read my horoscope.

Once I settle down to actual writing, I spend equal time at the computer and on the front porch swing, where my ideas happen. I am a pantser all the way – I never know what’s going to show up on the page once I actually sit down – so I spend a lot of time letting things percolate in my head.
Because I write about characters whose lives have very little in common with mine, I also end up doing a lot of research. My favorite venue for learning about all things cop and criminal is the Writers’ Police Academy. There I get to spend a weekend clearing rooms SWAT-style, practicing my handcuffing technique, assisting with underwater evidence recovery and trying out my reflexes and my aim in the Firearms Training Simulator.

 

WPA 2013

Saving the day at Writer’s Police Academy with my orange plastic assault rifle

Not all the research is rough and tumble. Since one of my characters drives a Ferrari – and I don’t – I get to visit the Ferrari showroom, sit myself in the driver’s seat, and still manage to call it a day’s work.

Ferrari

A brand new Ferrari F430 coupe. If I only had a spare $250,000 lying around.