December 03, 2013

Chatting with Charlene Tess

We're very pleased to welcome Charlene Tess, who has agreed to be grilled by our editor's inquisition today.

Electric Scroll: Introduce me to your favorite literary character (yours or anyone’s).

Charlene Tess: My favorite literary character is Atticus Finch. This character, created by Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird, has always reminded me of my own father, Kenneth Bourland.

Atticus was known for being the same at home as he was in public. He made honorable decisions, even when those decisions were unpopular. In Atticus’ words: “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

He taught his children by example. He was honest, compassionate, kind, and fair. I was so fortunate to have a father just like Atticus Finch - a man who lived with integrity every day of his life.

ES: If you had unlimited money, what’s the first thing you would spend it on?

CT: I would spend it on my family members who could use a little help. Circumstances have made life difficult for some of the people that I love very much. I would help them ease their financial burdens. I am also very concerned with the level of hunger in the United States. I would make sure no one is ever hungry.

ES: Tell me a little about yourself as a person.

CT: I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. I have two beautiful daughters and three wonderful grandsons. I taught English and creative writing to high school students and adults for 35 years, and I am now retired. I write grammar books, lesson plan units, and novels full time and spend time traveling with my husband. I have been writing all my life, and my first nonfiction book, Simple Steps to Sentence Sense, was published in 1996. My first novel, The Van Winkle Bride, was published in 2001. I have four published nonfiction books and five published novels. I co-wrote one of the novels with my sister under the pen name Tess Thompson.  All of my books are available from All of my educational materials are available from

ES: Tell me about your most recent published work, and why people should buy it.

CT: My most recent novel, Our Hearts Remember, is the story of the unshakeable bond between a mother and daughter. I have two daughters of my own and a stepdaughter who passed away in 2007, so I have a little experience in this area. It is an uplifting novel that explores a close, loving family in crisis after a small child dies in a tragic accident. The book sells for only $2.99 and it is a satisfying read.

ES: What’s your writing tool of choice?

CT: It depends upon where I am. I write all the time in my head. Many of my best ideas come while I am taking a morning walk. I used to carry a small tape recorder with me in my pocket to record my ideas, but now I just speak into my iPhone.

Two of my novels are set in the mountains of New Mexico, and I wrote both books on legal pads while sitting under the tall Ponderosa pines. When I got home, I typed them into my computer. On trips, while my husband is driving the car, I write on legal pads.

If I am at home, I use my Macintosh computer and MS Word. 

ES: Reading: Paper or Electronic? Why?

CT: Although I don’t think eBooks will ever completely replace paper books, I find that reading an eBook is a very rewarding experience. One of the best things about having an eBook reader is that you can load it with lots of titles to take on a trip and do not have to fill your suitcase with heavy books. That can only be a good thing for writers and readers.

I much prefer reading an eBook on my phone because the books cost less, they are easier to take along with me, and I have a built in night light as I read. I can preload my Kindle Reader on my phone with several books before I travel.

I now sell all of my books as Kindle editions, and no longer offer them as paperback editions.

ES: What do you like to read?

CT: I am a voracious reader, so it would be impossible to name all the genres and authors. I especially enjoy mystery, thriller, and suspense novels. I really enjoy reading James Lee Burke, Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons, Jonathan Kellerman, John Sanford, Diane Chamberlain, Barbara Delinsky, Nora Roberts, Michael Connelly, and John Grisham. I also like to read new indie authors like L. C. Hayden.

I am usually engrossed in three books at one time. The one I am reading on the Kindle reader on my phone, the one I am listening to on Audible, and the one I am writing.

ES: Make a confession.

CT: I confess that I have been losing and re-gaining the same 10 pounds my whole life. (Okay, maybe 15.) I do all right for a while, and then I give in and eat all the carbs I have been denying myself. I love to bake and I love pie. I keep two sizes of jeans in my closet at all times because I am so short that even a couple of pounds takes me up a size in jeans.

Charlene mentioned her most recent book Our Hearts Remember, earlier in the interview. Here's a little more information about it.

Patricia Gillespie’s life revolves around her husband, Mac; her daughter, Alaina; and her precious five-year-old granddaughter Patti-cake. A tragic accident and a devastating illness change everything in Patricia’s life, and she must deal with the possibility of losing all three of her treasured family members. Patricia’s journey is sometimes sad, sometimes humorous, and always honest as it explores the greatest gift of all: the resilience of love.

You can buy Our Hearts Remember here for $2.99.

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