By Tony Flood

International best-selling author Tamara McKinley, who lives in Jevington, launched Love Will Find A Way, the 20th in her Cliffehaven series of war-time sagas, written under the name Ellie Dean, at the Hydro Hotel on Tuesday.

So what is the secret of her success? Tamara revealed: “Obviously the main reason I have sold 25 million copies of my books is because readers like my writing style. But three key factors behind my success have been dedication, persistence and sheer hard work. It’s not enough to be a talented writer – you have to persevere no matter what obstacles are put in your way.

“I had dozens of rejections and five of the first six books I wrote never made it into print.

Her Cliffehaven series about trials and tribulations during World War Two and based in an English south coast boarding house are now in the best-selling lists in the UK, France, Denmark and Holland. All the books in the series have been in the top ten Sunday Times Best-selling list.

Love Will Find a Way is officially released this week, on March 28 – two days after it was launched at the Hydro Hotel, Eastbourne, where Tamara spoke at a special meeting of Anderida Writers, of which she is patron.

Tamara (Ellie) revealed: “I usually spend six or seven hours a day during the week writing my books, most of which contain approximately 100,000 words. So it takes three months to write each book and another week to edit before my editor gets hold of it.

My advice to other authors is, even if they go out to work or have children to look after, try to find at least an hour a day to write their books.”

The 76-year-old Australian-Brit has overcome two major traumas in her life. The first was having to battle back from the verge of bankruptcy.

She recalled: “I was facing bankruptcy in the mid 1990s and had bailiffs banging at the front door of my home in Seaford. But I carried on writing and ignored rejection letters from publishers until I got a two-book deal with Hodder and Stoughton for my thrillers Reap the Whirlwind and Queen’s Flight, under the pen name of Tamara Lee.

After three more rejections and a complete change in genre, my first Australian multi-generational saga, Matilda’s Last Waltz, was published in 1999 under the name of Tamara McKinley. It changed my life, with the book being translated into 16 languages and selling worldwide – it’s since sold over eight million copies.”

Tamara’s second trauma came with the death of her husband Ollie Cater on December 6th, 2020 after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019 and complications followed an operation.

The talented Sunday Times best-selling author was so upset she announced her retirement in 2021, telling her loyal readers: “The time has come to say goodbye. I’m retiring from writing. The past 18 months have taken their toll and I just don’t have the fire or the energy any more.”

But tributes poured in from around the world, and she eventually succumbed to requests to carry on writing by coming out of retirement a year later!

She has since told me: “Following Ollie’s death I lost the will to be creative, and couldn’t imagine writing again. But the writing habit was difficult to overcome, and 18 months later my publishers, Penguin, were delighted to issue number 19 in the Cliffehaven series, A Place Called Home. To my delight, it went straight into the top ten.”

She has also been an inspiration to fellow authors and given great encouragement to members of Anderida Writers, where she was once chairman. Her personal advice was so helpful to me when I wrote my crime thrillers Stitch Up! – Killer or Victim? and Fall Guy – Who really killed his wife?, resulting in it being endorsed by another best-selling author, Peter James.

Tamara commented: “I work closely with Anderida Writers Chairman Tony Flood. Both Tony and I give the group a great deal of time and effort, but it’s worth it to see the improvement in members’ writing – as well as publishing successes.

It was as a member of Anderida many years ago that I learnt how to prepare my work for publication, and became club Chairman. I like to give something back to an industry which has served me so well. I have provided individual help to budding authors by advising on editing, plotting and general layout.”

Meanwhile, ongoing sales of her books will ensure that Tamara leaves a legacy for future generations to enjoy.