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Portrait of Tina Tamman: January 2016 Author Spotlight

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Author Tina Tamman
Tina Tamman on Facebook
Brian Giffey

Happy 2016 everyone! Today, The Review Board is pleased to feature author Tina Tamman. Here to conduct our first Author Spotlight for the New Year, Harmony Kent.

Harmonious Kent

1. You came to live in the UK from Soviet Estonia when you were 26, with little knowledge of Britain: how difficult was the transition for you?

I arrived in 1974 and the first few years were very difficult because even the simplest things took me forever. I had never seen so many foods pre-wrapped – this made them unrecognisable. Also, in the Soviet Union all shops were clearly labelled according to their line of business; there was no chance of mixing up grocers, barbers and restaurants. And I had no friends to speak of. 

2. Did you already speak English, or did you have to learn it on the fly?

I had a degree in English but on arrival realised that language is much more than just words and grammar.

3. What would you say the highlights have been in your new life?

The best thing is that I learnt to love the English people. I had no option. I had to make friends. It is not easy to get to know the English; it takes a great deal of perseverance. Today’s immigrant may not take the trouble, may just mix with  fellow émigrés, and that is a pity.

4. What gave you the idea and inspiration to write ‘Portrait of a Secret Agent who knew Kim Philby’?

So many things in life happen by accident. When I was doing my PhD in Glasgow, I was much excited by the discovery that the diplomat I was researching had intelligence connections. Brian Giffey was one of those connections and this is how ‘Portrait of a Secret Agent’ came about. It is the biography of Brian Giffey.

5. Did you already have a keen interest in British—Estonian political relations, or is this something that developed while you were studying for your degree at the University of Glasgow?

My interest in British-Estonian relations goes back to my time at the BBC where I worked translating and editing news for 20 years from 1986. I had no prior interest.

6.  Do you plan to write more books? And, if so, will they be on similar subjects or do you plan to branch out?

I have written biographies of three good guys, so maybe it is time for something different. I would like to write a good thriller.

7. What is the single thing you wished you’d known but didn’t, before emigrating to the UK?

I had imagined that the UK was pretty much the same as Estonia, except that there were goods in the shops. It was a shock to learn that the two systems were fundamentally different, even people’s expectations were different. However, had I heard this beforehand, I probably would not have believed it. I had never been abroad before.

8. Since becoming a published author, what or who has been the most helpful person/organisation for you?

My most ardent supporter is my husband Alan, an excellent listener. Unexpected encouragement has come from David Boyd (DKR Boyd) who was the first to review my book. He said it was ‘a little gem of a book’ and this was music to my ears. There have been other kind reviewers and a few encouraging emails.

9. Your book, ‘Portrait of a Secret Agent who knew Kim Philby’, is full of information and it is obvious that you put a lot of research into it. How long did the whole thing take you, from first putting pen to paper to seeing it into book form?

Research took much longer than writing up. Writing and publishing took probably a year while research took at least two years. Research involved a lot of travel.

10. What was the hardest part of the process?

Being rejected by trade publishers.

11. What was the most enjoyable part?

Writing up the love story and selecting photographs.

12. Did you have any difficulty in obtaining all the information you needed for the book? Or meet with any animosity? Or were folks generally supportive and helpful?

My information came primarily from archives and living relatives, and both were friendly. The intelligence community, however, is tightly knit and doesn’t like giving anything away. I suspect there is a lot of information to which outsiders are denied access.

13. In one line, can you tell us: Who is Tina Tamman?

I’m like a dog with a bone: a journalist who perseveres.

14. If you could give fellow writers any advice, in one line, what would that be?

Plan marketing well ahead of going to print.


Thanks for checking out our 1st Author Spotlight for 2016. Feel free to share, like, and subscribe. Have a fantastic day and Happy New Year.


About nolabels

I have an appreciation for the unique, love for all types of art, and fierce attractions to brilliant intellectuals (from book smarts to street smarts). Lover of humanity but feel humans have lost their way, just trying to stay true to myself as conformity threatens to take me away. Simply one head, many crowns: Author. Reviewer. Columnist.

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This entry was posted on January 1, 2016 by in author spotlight, January and tagged , .

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