An Interview with Tessa Harris

BENEATH A STARLESS SKY out in UK paperback
on FEBRUARY 4th, 2021.

Hello and welcome to the inaugural interview of 2021! This is the third year for the Five Question Interview series here on (to read past interviews, click here). Today’s spotlight is on historical author Tessa Harris! Let’s dive in.

Your novel, BENEATH A STARLESS SKY, debuts in paperback tomorrow, February 4th (in the UK). For those who’ve never published anything before, does this debut feel any different from the release of your first story, the Dr. Thomas Silkstone series?

Yes and no! The strange thing is, I wrote this story ten years before I got the idea for Dr Silkstone and it’s taken me 30 years to get it out there! I sent it to two or three agents and got rejected. Over the years, I took it out of the drawer, rewrote it, sent it off again and got yet more rejections. It wasn’t until I’d finished the Silkstone series and moved on to my Constance Piper series that I gave it another rewrite and started trying again.

Even as the author of nine previous novels, it proved impossible to get an agent. I’d almost given up hope when I submitted it, without an agent, to HQ Digital. Two months later they contacted me to say they loved the book and wanted to publish it. I think the moral of the story is make your novel the best it can be, rewrite, leave it for a while, come back to it and if you really believe it’s worthwhile, never give up.

The ebook version is now available on Amazon Kindle for .99¢.

Has historical fiction always been your genre of choice? Have you ever experimented with other types of writing, both fiction and nonfiction?

I’ve been a journalist for almost forty years, working on national newspapers and magazines. I always wanted to write and when I realized it was hard to make a living out of writing novels, I thought I better do something to support myself!

Now that I have the luxury of writing full time, I’ve written my first contemporary psychological thriller, which is completely different from anything I’ve done before. My first love will always be histfic, but I have to say, not doing the huge amount of research I usually undertake, cut the writing time down by several months!

Social media is in everyone’s life, whether they like to admit it or not. Do you think social media actually plays a role in selling books, or does it hinder productivity more than help?

It’s a curate’s egg. What used to be called word of mouth has transferred to social media and certainly helps spread news about releases etc.

As for hindering productivity, however, I confess that I really have to stop myself from browsing way more than I should.

Do you think authors and those seeking publication should bring politics onto their social media platforms? Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but could those opinions sway potential publishers or agents away from representation?

It’s the individual’s choice.

What’s involved in your writing day routine? Do you listen to music/have background noise on or do you work in silence? Are you multitasking (researching + other chores to break up the time, etc)? Do you have any tips for staying productive?

Mornings are best for me. Sometimes I even stay in bed when I’m really in the zone and my wonderful husband takes care of the chores and let’s our dog out.

When I need thinking time, I go for a walk – that way I’m exercising but being productive at the same time. Walking really helps me get things straight in my head. 

And now for a bit of fun! Answer with the first thing that comes to mind with these Either/Or questions:

Chocolate or Vanilla: Chocolate every time.
Pudding or Pie: Pudding – as you see I have a sweet tooth.
History or Science Fiction: History, History and more History!
Coffee or Tea: Coffee: flat white
Flashbacks or No Flashbacks: Too many.
Spring or Summer: Love both. 
Fall or Winter: Autumn, as we say in Blighty 
Notebook or PC: I always keep a notebook but type straight onto my PC.
Rain or Snow: Snow.
First Person or Third Person: Either, depending on the story.

Many thanks once again to Tessa Harris for kicking off this year’s Five Question Interview series! I’m really looking forward to meeting more of you through Spring 2021.

Check back next week, Wednesday, February 10th to meet debut author Ayana Gray!

Interested in being interviewed? Message me here.

Let’s hang out


Tessa Harris read History at Oxford University and has been a journalist, writing for several national newspapers and magazines for more than thirty years. She is the author of ten published historical novels. Her debut, The Anatomist’s Apprentice, in her Dr Thomas Silkstone series, won the Romantic Times First Best Mystery Award 2012 in the US. She lectures in creative writing at Hawkwood College, Stroud and is married with two children. She lives in the Cotswolds, England.

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