So let's see what he has to say shall we? I always love to get to know authors a bit better!
If you had to choose an animal to represent you, what would you choose and why?
I know it's cheating, but I'd choose a dragon to represent me. Now, mind you, dragons have received bad press as far as I'm concerned. For me, dragons are incarnations of the laws of nature, the forces that structure the universe. We look around us and see the energy of the universe functioning in predictable patterns. That order implies intelligence--so for me, dragons embody that intelligent, dynamic energy of the universe. Dragons aren't all that concerned with human beings but sometimes interact with people. A dragon, then, represents that cosmic aspect of myself, that part of myself that goes beyond the boundaries and is a creator. A dragon is the silent witness, that cosmic presence, the deepest part of who I am.
What inspired you to write Love Ya Like A Sister? Did you pull from your students' lives?
Actually, the idea came from those Charlie Brown movies with Snoopy and the gang. You never actually see an adult or hear an adult talking--maybe a leg and some mumbling in the background. The world of the young people is completely abstracted from the adult world. That's what I saw with my students: friends helping one another, and parents divorced or working too hard making a living to have time to be parents. That's a pitch that I use for the novel: "What to do when your parents are too busy, too divorced, too drunk, or too dead to help." There are no specific students or parents that I used as models, though. The characters made themselves up, you might say, or were born with the idea. A librarian friend asked me when I was writing the novel, "What happened at the end of chapter 5 between Randy and Beth. I replied, "I don't know. I didn't think it was any of my business." She replied, "I hate it when writers do that! Tom, you wrote the book! What do you mean you don't know what happened?" It was a really funny moment.
Would you say that there is any of yourself in the character of Randy?
I don't know if I'd say that there are parts of me in Randy. I could say the characters have emotional resonances with me--and also my feelings for what my son went through when his mom died. He was sixteen years old, and his mom had been very sick for eight years. Our most common family trip was when every couple of months we'd go to the University of Iowa Hospitals for regular procedures for his mom. We did this for eight years and came to know that hospital very well. It's a huge hospital, and we got to know all the little playgrounds and coffee shops and all the paintings that hang on the walls. Randy's life has some flavor of that--everything dipped in the emotional ache of loss. I also, actually, resonate very much with Gwen--her independence and bravery. I admire that. Perhaps I'm "in touch with my feminine side" because I came to care very much for the female characters: Beth and her inward emotions, Susie wanting to just enjoy life and not dote on the negative. I also admire Jonas, the old guy in the novel--the "gatekeeper," according to archetypal stereotypes. My joke with my friends was that if I had wanted to really make money (and cut a movie deal), I would have made Jonas a vampire! Maybe I'll do that some day--write Love Ya Like a Vampire and tell the true story of my novel!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
There is a higher order thinking skill called fluency. It means "having many and diverse ideas." It is the process of flowing. I think writers need to write regularly, to find a time to sit and put down the words, one after the other, sentence and sentence and sentence. That is my advice. The definition of writer is "one who writes." I would also say that aspiring writers should read. Read enough, and we will find passages that we really admire. That connection is a help when trying to expand our writing skills. Don't worry so much about being published. Write and then set it aside for a time--a day, a week, a month, a year. And then look at it again. Publishing is supposed to validate us as writers. If that's true, then there are a lot of crappy "validated" writers out there. Write for yourself, share with your friends, and seek publication at the end of the process. Ever hear how S.E. Hinton got her novel The Outsiders published when she was in high school? I heard her say this once at a reading fair. She was writing a chapter, bringing it to school for her friends to read; writing another chapter, bringing it school; and then she finished the first draft. And that was that. Then her sister said, "Do people pay money for a book?" When it was determined that publishers do pay, her next question was, "Enough for a Camaro?" The novel was sent off, and the rest is publishing history.
Can you give us a glimpse at what you have in the works?
I am working on draft 7 of a fantasy novel, The Stone Dragon. Here is the pitch for the novel: Dream magic is the most dangerous of magics because it is so difficult to control. Apprentice mage Glimmer—Not a Glimmer of Magic—realizes this when he discovers that his apparent lack of magical talent is because his magic manifests only when he is dreaming. His first attempt at dream magery conjures a dragon, and just before dying in dragonfire, Glimmer, in desperation, locks the dragon within the stones of his master’s house. How, though, do you live in a house that is also a dragon? And how can you even sleep—knowing that dream might slip to nightmare? The first chapters are on one of the webpages of my blog. The novel explores what I call "consciousness-based fantasy," connecting magic to one's enlightenment, to the idea that "magic" ultimately is just an extension of who we are.
A big thank you to Tom for stopping by today! To learn more about his book, go ahead and click the links below. Yup, I'll always make it easier for you to find great books.
Now for a giveaway!
Tom has offered up one digital copy of Love Ya Like A Sister to one lucky winner! This means I can open up the contest Internationally to all of you! Great, right?
Also, just by commenting you will earn yourself a discount coupon for the book. So go ahead, make that comment. You might win!
Leave a comment for Tom below to be entered. Please provide an email address to be used in case you win.
Giveaway is open Internationally. Ends 3/28.