Thirty-four year old Tammar was raised in Virginia with a passion for reading and a desire to do something about it. While studying English Literature at the University of Virginia, she penned a short story that earned first prize in a writing contest.
The tale became the inspiration for her debut novel, Light Years. But it took many years of trial and error before Light Years made it onto physical and virtual bookshelves in 2005.
“I won $400 for the writing contest, but little did I know it would be seven years before I made a penny for my writing again,” she admitted.
Stein, who moved to the area six years ago, has since gone on to author two more novels, High Dive (2008) and Kindred (2011); all three feature young adults dealing with complex situations and myriad emotions.
Success through failure
After completing the first draft of Light Years, Stein “realized it wasn’t any good”, so she rewrote it; when it finally made it into print, she said it was “a dream come true in every sense of the word.”
But the entire process was a learning experience.
“I learned a lot from that. It was like Writing 101,” she admitted. “I believe there are two personality traits you need to be a writer – stubbornness and an inability to lie to yourself. “
Stein encourages aspiring writers to read, a lot, and not just the so-called good stuff.
“You can learn a lot more from reading a bad book than a good book,” she explained. “Before you write a great novel, you have to know what a great novel is.”
Breaking the mold
The Young Adult, or YA, category used to have a somewhat negative connotation, with mature novels getting lost among children’s stories and softer themed books.
But with the success of series like Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games, YA now has cachet, and writers like Stein are benefitting by crafting gripping stories with mature themes and rich characters.
“Young adult is an amazing, vibrant field to be in. It’s what publishing used to be,” she said. “There’s not a subject you can’t address in a very intense way…and it tends to be very engaging, immediate and character based.”
Indeed well drawn characters play vital roles in Stein’s stories, which deal with decidedly adult themes such as war, isolation, religion, fear, foreignness and death.
"I've always been pushing at the older edge of YA," she explained. "I try to create characters who will stay with you for a very long time."
Stein recently completed her fourth book, Spoils, which is based in St. Petersburg and will be released sometime in 2013, and she is already working on her next novel.
She will be making a special appearance at the Safety Harbor Public Library on Tuesday, October 16th for a discussion on what it takes to be a writer.