Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tina Tamman: The IAN Interview

Tina Tamman was born in Estonia, which even today is a little-known country. Ever since embarking on her PhD at the University of Glasgow, she has been studying historical links between Estonia and Britain, the country where she’s been living now for 40 years and where for half of this time she worked for the BBC.
















IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Tina Tamman: “Portrait of a Secret Agent” is a biography with an intelligence officer at its heart. His name is Brian Giffey, a man who has been a real discovery. Not a relation, a mystery man, a womaniser who fell in love with a girl half his age and, surprisingly, stayed true to her. So it is also a love story.

IAN: Is your book published in print, e-book or both?

Tina Tamman: Available as paperback and as e-book.

IAN: Where can we go to buy your book?

Tina Tamman: At Amazon. www.amzn.to/1n9qn6C  

IAN: What inspired you to write Portrait of a Secret Agent

Tina Tamman: It was by accident that I stumbled across this man, Brian Giffey. The more I learnt about him, the more interesting he became. He’s a true eccentric.

IAN: How long did it take to write Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: There was a lot of research involved, so it took me 2-3 years. Some of it was spent travelling: Giffey’s private papers, for example, are in Sweden. Also, securing photograph rights and getting copies done took time.

IAN: How did you come up with the title?

Tina Tamman: That was very difficult. I wanted something catchy but truthful as well, since it is a biography. There are so many spy thrillers around and I didn’t want my reader to expect more than I could deliver.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: I hope they will think about secrets, even if briefly. We are all used to Freedom of Information requests but not everybody knows that our secret service is outside the system and no questions of any description are allowed. And so the reader remains in the dark as to why Brian Giffey has not been named in intelligence history even though he died in 1967 and has no living relatives. Is he linked to a scandal that has to be kept secret?

IAN: How much of the book is realistic?

Tina Tamman: It is all based on fact; there are also numerous photographs to illustrate the story.

IAN: How is your book different from others in your genre?

Tina Tamman: Secret agent biographies are not that numerous, although there are a great number of biographies of well-known traitors. What sets my book apart is Brian Giffey’s loyalty to the Crown. There is no reason why the public focus should fall solely on those individuals who betrayed work colleagues. Men like Brian Giffey deserve to be known as well.

IAN: What book are you reading now?

Tina Tamman: Very appropriately I’m reading “The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad. Cleverly and beautifully written, it is not really a book about the secret service - it’s a police story.

IAN: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Portrait of a Secret Agent?
Tina Tamman: I would allow myself to add some imaginary scenes, blend in a little fiction. I also think the title needs changing.

IAN: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Tina Tamman: Having no access to intelligence sources is very frustrating. It limits the field. While a fiction writer can invent, a biographer is not at liberty to do so. However, I cannot see MI6 opening its archives to researchers in my lifetime.

IAN: Did you have to travel much concerning Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: Travel is an inevitable part of research because archives are dotted all over the place and private papers can be in people’s homes, either in the UK or abroad. Such travel allows thoughts to develop and new questions to arise. All very stimulating.

IAN: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Tina Tamman: Most people have heard of James Bond but the world of intelligence is much more complex, also much more interesting than Bond. The more you know, the more you want to know.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Tina Tamman: It will be a venture into fiction. A stand-alone novel, it will be about inheritance. And once again both Estonia and England will come into play, as will history.

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