Friday, February 28, 2014

An Interview with K.M. Zahrt, author of Odd Man Outlaw

I always hear that you should "write something that you would want to read". I'm feeling that, as I get further into this novel, this is gradually becoming more true of what I'm writing. I would totally sit down and read this thing. The tricky part is making sure that what interests me will also interest others. Time will certainly tell.
I am also really psyched to already be able to bring you my next interview. I really hope that others are finding these conversations as helpful as I am. Today, I spoke with K.M. Zahrt, author of the newly released Odd Man Outlaw.

-Hi Kenneth! Thanks for chatting with us today. You just released your first novel, Odd Man Outlaw. This past fall, you put out Thanksgiving with Pop-Pop, a book of short stories. How does it feel to be out there and having people reading your words.
K.M.: It’s a crazy bag of mixed emotions. As a young writer, you work so hard to produce something of quality – really just to see if you can produce something worth reading – but when it comes time to publish it and make it public, and many of your friends and family members and acquaintances are going to read it and think of you by it, you hesitate. You worry. It’s crazy, but it’s good. It is rewarding.
-Has it always been a plan of yours to try and become a published author or is this something new?
K.M.: Yes, mostly. I’ve known I’m a writer for about ten years now. It’s something I discovered in college, but I wasn’t cut out for it at first. I started college in developmental writing courses, and I struggled. I took a storytelling class my sophomore year and barely passed. It wasn’t until my junior year that I learned what writing meant. Somehow I got inspired to write a satirical play about the Christmas story. I labored over it, and a professor encouraged me to submit it to a writing contest in the English Department. I took first prize and received a medal and $50. That’s when I learned why I struggled with writing early on: good writing is hard work. I wasn’t willing to put in the effort when I was a freshman and a sophomore, but after I got that award, I had a taste of the fruits of writing labor, and I’ve been pursuing it ever since.
-Specifically considering your novel, can you describe the path you took to getting published? From the time that you typed the first words of the book, how long did it take before you saw Odd Man Outlaw in print?
K.M.: I didn’t come to fiction right away. I was a communications major focusing on film production, but after I wrote that play, I shifted my focus to screenwriting. I begged an advisor to allow me write a screenplay for my thesis project. She was hesitant because students who tried that before never finished an entire script. I told her I would write two full scripts to prove her wrong, and I did - a comedy and a novel adaptation. But I was frustrated with the screenwriting-to-screen process. Too many people change your writing before a film is finished. That’s why I turned to the novel form. I typed the first word of Odd Man Outlaw on August 30, 2007 - about four months after I graduated from college. I handwrote the entire first draft in two composition notebooks because I was in China and didn’t have a computer. I dated my progress. The first sentence I wrote was: “Eddie turned the nob to high and felt the cool air breeze between his fingers.” There’s a version of that sentence on p.59 in the print edition. At the time, I never would have fathomed that little sentence would be published.I completed the first draft while I was in China teaching ESL for a year for my first job. Then I went to graduate school to study literature, and I didn’t even look at the manuscript for two years. I picked it up again in 2011, and I thought I finished it for the first time in February of 2012. But initial reader feedback said it wasn’t finished. That feedback was hard to digest, so I took another six months off from it. At last, I finished the book in its current form in October of 2013. It was quite a journey. Took me just shy of six years.
-Do you have any other books on the way and would you do anything differently in publishing a second novel?
K.M.: I’m in the middle of drafting another novel and adapting a short story into a novella. The novel is the first in a planned series of four books. I’m about 50% through the story arc on the first book, and it’s already almost as long as Odd Man Outlaw, so it’s going to be a larger work.
-Ok. I'm writing my first book. I am a young Luke to your Obi Wan. Can you give me some pointers so that I can get this thing published and avoid the dark side of the force?
K.M.: Truly finish the book first. I thought this book was finished twice before it was truly finished. Each time, I saved copies of it everywhere before I started hacking it apart, just in case I wanted to go back to the previous version. In both instances, I never looked back. So finish it - all the way to the end. If you write works that are fully finished, fully refined, and works that you’re proud of, many readers – including a publisher - will appreciate what you’ve done. Then it’s simply a matter of knocking on enough doors until you find that publisher.
-Are we what we eat? Do you read what you write, and vice versa?
K.M.: Yes, I think so. I’m a chronic reader. I try to write works that I would want to read. So, yes, I read my writing. Every time I peek into Odd Man Outlaw, just to take a quick glance, I find myself reading entire sections. It’s a book I enjoy reading.
-If you could have a sit down lunch with any author (living or dead) who would it be, what one question would you ask,  and what would you both be eating? Better yet, would you be cool if he/she double-dipped off of your plate?
K.M.: I’d like to say Mark Twain, because he’s one of my favorite writers, and I’d like to think we’d get along great. But the truth is, he’d probably have little interest in talking to me, and I’d get nervous, and it’d be awkward and terrible. And no, I wouldn’t let that tobacco-mouthed scoundrel double dip from my plate.
-Have you ever been to Funky Town? Be honest.
K.M.: Yes, I have, and my wife knows about it. She was there too.
-Favorite 80's hair band?
K.M.:Solo Ozzy Osbourne, especially the Randy Rhoads albums.
-Choose wisely, here. Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?
K.M.: Peyton Manning. I’m from Michigan, but I have no allegiances to Brady. I wrote about Manning leading up to this past Super Bowl on Michiganders Post, here: For better or worse, I stand by my choice.
-Incorrect. An acceptable response might have been "Tom Brady" or "Durrr, Tom Brady" or "Come on man, that's too easy... Tom Brady, of course." or "Not the Papa John's Guy". Anything else you want us to know about your book?  Why should we go out and buy it?
K.M.: I think Odd Man Outlaw is a reader’s book; it rewards the reader for continuing to read. It asks the reader to participate in the narrative, to respond to it. So I think most readers will be satisfied with their reading experience.
Brief teaser from Odd Man Outlaw:
When security guard Edward Waters is arrested for aiding and abetting a known fugitive, former college roommate, Citizen "Cid" Goodman, is shocked. The ‘Eddie’ he knew was ambitious, studious and straight-laced - the kind of guy you could depend on with your life, your money or your girlfriend. But what really pricks Cid’s conscience is how quick the local media and the public are to label Eddie as a criminal, trying him in the court of public opinion where he is guilty until proven innocent. Cid sets about the task of reconstructing Eddie’s story, from his time as a dedicated college student to the moment he is arrested, in an attempt to alter public perception. But as the case unfolds, and fantasy intersects with reality, the line between guilt and innocence blurs.
Where Can I Buy It?:
Odd Man Outlaw is readily available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and hopefully an independent bookstore near you (if not, tell them to order it in).
Thanks K.M!!!
Keep checking back, much more to come!!!
Follow me and retweet me @RimerTom

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Interview with Suzanne de Montigny, author of The Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy

I start today's post with a heavy heart. Actor/writer/director, Harold Ramis, an emblematic figure from my childhood, has died. He was a comedic giant and the best Egon Spengler that ever was.
                                       RIP Harold Ramis. "We had part of a Slinky. But I straightened it."

Some lighter news: I am busting through this novel. Just finished Chapter 11... approx. 16,000 words in. Feels so good to be moving along with this. Currently struggling with a potential dilemma, though... to prologue or not to prologue? Is it totally necessary? Can I get by without it? There is information that I desperately want the reader to have... but, I'm weighing the pros and cons of giving away too much up front against letting it develop more organically later on. More to come on this front soon!!!

Okay, on to our third interview!  I was lucky enough to speak with Suzanne de Montigny, author of The Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy.
-Hi Suzanne!  You are the author of The Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy. Is this your first novel?
SUZANNE: It is indeed.
-Where did the inspiration for this book come from? 
SUZANNE: It was based on a novel I wrote in grade six. It was supposed to be just a story, but I got carried away and wrote a six-chapter novella. I always kept this little book because I knew that somehow it was special. And it was. After my father died, I was stricken with hyperscribia, the intense need to write, and so began my unicorn stories.

-Could you share how you came to find a fit with MuseItUp Publishing?
SUZANNE: When I felt my novel was ready for publication, I sent it to two agents who rejected it. Then, on the advice of a friend, I checked out the Muse. On their website, they had this magical banner of a giant Pegasus. When I saw that, I knew I had found the right home for my book.

-Do you have any tricks/helpful hints in querying potential agents/publishers?
SUZANNE: Keep it short, concise, and to the point. Don’t bore them. One page, three paragraphs. And your synopsis must be only one page. Make life easier for the publisher.

-How difficult is it to create a new world, totally from scratch? Is there a lot more planning involved with writing a novel like this?
SUZANNE: I don’t plan anything. I just know a few things that will happen, and then I start writing whatever pops into my head. Mind you, I really suffer afterwards trying to make sense of it all. Sometimes I write myself into a corner, and then have to retrace my steps to change things so it will all work.
-When a new writer has a finished MS and decides it's time to try and get it published, what advice can you give them?
SUZANNE: Let it sit for a long time, a few months, and then go back and read it again. Fix it up, and then let it sit again. Your subconscious will keep working on it whether you are sitting at your computer or not. Then have several people read it and tell you what doesn’t work.
-How difficult is it to write something new, that hasn't already been done and played out over and over again?
SUZANNE: I don’t care if it’s been written before. Perhaps my telling will be more interesting than the last, or perhaps mine will teach something the others didn’t.

-Was there an author and/or book that you read growing up that has influenced how or what you write today?
SUZANNE: C.S. Lewis, I guess. I also loved everything by Lucy Maude Montgomery. And of course, Clifford the Big Red Dog.
-Can you share any stories (good or bad) of people/fans responding to your book?
SUZANNE: The most entertaining review I’ve ever had was a woman who said it was the weirdest book she ever read, but that she really liked it. Another woman found me on my website and told me the ending just killed her and to please keep on writing.
-What audience is your book geared toward?
SUZANNE: It’s really geared toward middle grade readers – 9-12 years old, but it’s been hailed a story young adults and adults will love. My son, 13, started reading it last night and is totally hooked.
-You're stuck on an island for the rest of your life with one book, one person, and one song playing continuously. Which book, which person, and which song?
SUZANNE: How depressing. Okay, some sort of survival guide, my husband, and Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
-Thoughts on the Kool-Aid Man?
-If you throw a cat out a car window, does it become kitty litter?
SUZANNE: Awwww. I’m an animal lover. I’d never throw a kitty out the window. (Pouting)
-Ok.  Serious question.  Have you ever read any of the books in the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan ('cause I freaking love those books)?
SUZANNE: Nope. Guess I’d better check them out.

-Anything else you want us to know about your book?  Why should we go out and buy it? 
SUZANNE: It’s a fast and intense read. Guaranteed you’ll cry at the end.

Here's a brief teaser from The Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy:
A loud, hissing sound filled the air. The unicorns looked up, their eyes filled with horror.
Azaria, a unicorn colt, is intrigued when the young, clairvoyant dinosaur, Darius, foresees a terrifying change to their world. When a giant fireball smashes into the earth, the unicorns struggle to survive the hurricanes and starvation that follow. But nothing compares to the danger when the creatures-that-walk-on-two-legs settle in the valley, and their leader discovers the healing power in the unicorns’ horns. Greedy and ruthless, Ishmael will stop at nothing in his pursuit of wealth – even the complete extinction of the herd. Azaria must find a way to outsmart Ishmael before it’s too late.

Where Can I Buy This Book?:


Barnes and Noble:



Muse It Up Publishing:

Coming soon from Suzanne de Montigny:
I’ve nearly completed book 2 of The Shadow of the Unicorn series. It’s entitled The Shadow of the Unicorn: The Deception. In this story, Azaria’s Legacy has been altered by a corrupt leader by creating a false God. Ulysees and his friend Teo must search for the truth. I’ve also got a YA novel near ready about a child prodigy in classical violin growing up in a small town. When Kate McDonough, the red-haired fiddler, bewitches the town with her mysterious Celtic music, only Kira seems to know who has been vandalizing the town leaving dead and gutted birds as a calling card.
                                                                                   Suzanne De Montigny
Thanks, Suzanne!!!
More author interviews coming soon and further insight into my own adventure. Keep checking back!!!
Follow me on Twitter: @RimerTom

Saturday, February 22, 2014

An Interview with Travis Hightower, author of Prime Time Spies and Bastion of Terra

...and we're back!  This is our second interview in a series where we speak to authors, agents, and publishers in the field who might be able to give a bit of insight to those of us just starting out. I recently started writing my own novel and the advice that I've been receiving from people who have already been published multiple times over has been extremely helpful. Alas, I have no new teases from my own manuscript as I wrote nothing yesterday.  Bad form, Tom.

 Yesterday, we met Troy H. Gardner and Erin Callahan of the Mad World series and received some seriously valuable insight.  Today, I'd like to introduce you to Travis Hightower, author of Prime Time Spies and Bastion of Terra.

-You are the author of Prime Time Spies and Bastion of Terra. Was becoming a published author always in the cards?
TRAVIS: I find that cards are limited in their ability to predict the future. They are only a tool. The best gambler can win with any hand, and a true fortune teller barely needs them, if at all. Publishing my books on Amazon was part of a process, a single step in a relentless journey to have my stories told to the world. I believe in time the right agent and or publisher will fall in love with my work, and my characters will be a household name soon after. I believe this happens by following one simple rule - never stop writing.

-At what moment in your life did you realize that getting a book published was something that you would want to do?
TRAVIS: I realized I had the talent as an undergraduate in college, where I found my words could motivate and make true positive change happen. However, it was around the time of the birth of my first daughter (who is now ten) that I realized fairy tales and stories had the power to inspire, teach, and influence the course of history. I chose to start writing to become part of that change.

-What is it like to have so many people reading and spending time with something that you have worked so long and hard on?
TRAVIS: I wouldn't rank my number of readers as "many" just yet, but I will say that even one person reading my story and saying, "Wow that was great!" makes all the hours worth it. It means someone else saw what was in my imagination and shared that vision - at that point, my characters aren't just figments of what was in my head. They are now alive.

-When a new writer has a finished MS and decides it's time to try and get it published, what advice can you give them?
TRAVIS: What exactly is a "finished" manuscript? The concept makes me chuckle because it seems like I am forever tinkering. And now to answer the question: My advice is to be vigilant with it - make it painstakingly perfect, and query, query, query. Finding a literary agent who shares your vision and is passionate about your story is paramount. Be prepared for rejection, and lots of it. Self publish if you just can't wait, but beware of the "template agency" or publisher.  Their aim is to make money off the author, not the books themselves.

-What are some mistakes that you made as a first time writer?
TRAVIS: Using a template agency. I spent thousands publishing and marketing a book that truly was not ready yet, and now I can't totally get rid of that stain. Learn to show when you are telling. I was a tell happy first time author, meaning I got bogged down in technical details that could have been covered in a more entertaining and efficient way.

-How difficult is it to write something new, that hasn't already been done and played out over and over again?
TRAVIS: I am a firm believer in the literary principle that states there are only seven fictional stories. Coming up with something "new" requires voice and imagination, but you have to realize nothing is really new at the core of the story. It comes easy for me because I never worry about the word "cliche" ... I embrace it, and then add that little twist you'd never expect ... Like how awesome piƱa colada mix tastes in original flavored fresca. (Try it you'll like it)
People tell me all the time "Oh Bastion of Terra is just like Independence Day!" ... But is it? By chapter 3 they realize something far more unique and interesting is taking place.

-Was there an author and/or book that you read growing up that made you say, "I want to try and do that,"?
TRAVIS: I'm a big Star Wars nut, and I always wanted to have my own sci fi epic that was in actuality a big fairy tale. I am also heavily influenced by old school Japanese Anime, and in recent years Naruto, in particular.  But I'm not there yet. I ended up starting with what I knew best - The tactical world of the US Air Force, and I moved on to attempting an espionage story with a huge reality versus fantasy motif. But I have plans. I always have plans.

-What audience are your novels geared toward?
TRAVIS: My science fiction epic, Bastion of Terra, is aimed at probably around ages thirteen and up. Prime Time Spies is adult commercial fiction, and has some rather strong language. My next book,  String Theory will be for young adults, but I feel it will be something all ages can enjoy.

-Who would win in a tag-team match-up of Charles Dickens & Batman VS. Edgar Allan Poe & Aquaman?
TRAVIS: Holy dead poet’s society Batman! Dickens is at a clear advantage with Batman on his team, but not because Batman would kick Aquaman’s butt. Dickens is going to understand Batman and work well with him because he gets orphans and he gets the class struggle Batman faces being a rich boy who fights for the poor and oppressed. Now, Poe of course is going to understand his enemy, but understanding how to work as a team with Aquaman. Nope. Raven of the Teen Titans would be a much more interesting fight. Aquaman is in the wrong setting in this bunch, so don't carry any Great Expectations for him. Quoth the Raven, "What a bore."

-Favorite bad 90's action flick?
TRAVIS: Jurassic Park. I think. It’s hard to choose. I suppose to choose a “good” movie is my first instinct. But there were a lot of bad movies that were terrible but fun.

-If you could meet any President of the U.S. (living or dead) who would it be (and please don't say Calvin Coolidge)?
TRAVIS: Probably Lincoln. He seemed so far ahead of his time. Plus, I think he was a vampire hunter or something. And that is awesome.

-Anything else you want us to know about your books?  Why should we go out and buy them?
TRAVIS: The stories I weave are full of strong female characters, intense action, and intrigue that will keep you guessing until the end. In particular I rarely reveal the true intentions of the villain, or even who the main antagonist is until near the end. Since I am a big champion of the reality vs. fantasy motif, I love to keep the reader guessing as to what is real and what is fiction for the characters. Run over to Amazon now and buy my ebooks for the amazing five dollar price if you want to be wowed and kept guessing. Plus, all proceeds of the first royalty will be donated toward free long distance travel for veterans.

Brief teasers from Prime Time Spies and Bastion of Terra and where you can pick them up:
Prime Time Spies
CIA agent Victoria Kingsley is assigned to become a contestant on Spy Games, America’s number one new TV show, on which eight men and eight women compete in fantasy spy missions for a million dollars. When her routine mission to discover the plan for a military grade weapons deal turns deadly, the would-be reality TV stars have no idea just how dangerous their fifteen minutes of fame will become. This season the villains are real, and they won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in their way. The mission becomes personal as Victoria discovers the man responsible for the death of her former lover is conducting business with the network. Yet her cover is mysteriously blown while the show is being recorded in Las Vegas, and her superiors set into motion a plan to remove her from the operation and abort the mission. She is faced with a choice: Obey orders and risk losing her chance at justice or find a way to remain on the show and endanger anyone who comes into contact with her. Even if she can somehow avoid the plan to have her voted off the show, she will have to win a rigged game in order to complete her mission and prevent the most guarded weapons secrets of the United States from falling into the wrong hands.  The fantasy of the game becomes reality as her only chance of success may be to trust in a few starry-eyed amateur prime time spies.
Bastion of Terra
The world is torn out from under Air Force fighter pilot Duke Devron when, during a training mission, an interstellar war between two alien races descends upon the earth. Forced to eject from his fighter jet as city after city is swallowed whole by weapons of terrifying power, he is called upon by a desperate alien defender and entrusted with the task of completing its mission to activate ancient defenses long hidden on the earth. Duke is not willing to take this sojourn at first, as his priority is to rescue his wife and young child from the alien onslaught. When he discovers his family has been pulled into oblivion, he has nothing left to live for except vengeance. His death wish is interrupted when an emissary of one of the five Elder Races of the galaxy makes contact and convinces him that he is the only one who can save his world. He will have to cross half the devastated landscape of the United States on horseback with an alien general tight on his heels to succeed. Along the way, he learns that an ancient race of dark beings from a dimension of chaos are the true orchestrators of a war that has consumed the galaxy, and that the real threat is not to humanity alone but to all peace-loving life in the Milky Way. Duke must learn to let go of all he fears to lose, including his wingman, surviving friends, a new love, and even the tiniest of hopes that his family is still alive in order to save the bastion known as Earth.
Also Travis at my website at
Twitter- @Highspeed0516
Thanks, Travis!!! More to come soon as I figure out how to get this book written and harass yet another unsuspecting author.
***oh yeah! and find ME on Twitter: @RimerTom
I'll put all my blog posts and interviews there.  Know another author and/or agent that would be a good interview for this series?  Drop me a line!!!***

Friday, February 21, 2014

An Interview with Troy H. Gardner and Erin Callahan, Co-Authors of The Mad World Series

 As part of my journey toward getting my own book written and eventually published, I will be interviewing other authors, agents, and publishers to get their input on some questions that I and, presumably, many new authors have. For the most part, I will be asking these interviewees to share their experiences, good and bad, in the hope that those of us just starting out might learn a little.

Before I begin this interview, I should just say that I am now 50+ pages into my novel. Never before in my life have I gotten so far and I feel that the story is just writing itself at this point. Hopefully, with the help of this blog, I will not allow the typing to stop. I need to keep going.

Ok, enough of all that.  Our first interview is with Troy H. Gardner and Erin Callahan, co-authors of The Mad World series.  Their first book is Wakefield.
-When did you finally realize that you were going to be a published author?
TROY: The moment I realized it was when Erin forwarded me the acceptance email from MuseItUp Publishing. We came up with a batch of agents and publishers and split up sending query letters, so we ended up forwarding the rejections to each other like soldiers commiserating after a lost battle. I think Muse’s response was the very last one from the batch, and I assumed Erin had send me another rejection, but I reread the email (three times) before I felt victorious.

ERIN: I found out just a few minutes before Troy, but I don’t think it really sank in until we got the galley for Wakefield. At that point, the document started to feel like a real book.

-What was the most difficult part about writing your first book, Wakefield?
TROY: For me, it was getting the details down. There’s that saying “write what you know” because it’s so much easier to describe a house if you picture a place you’ve really been. My YA horror novel The Sylvanville Spirits was easy to write partly because I set it in a town very similar to one I’ve lived in. Wakefield is set in a facility for troubled teens. Thankfully, I knew nothing about such a place, except for misconceptions from the media. We set the book there because Erin and her husband worked at a similar location, so she knew all the ins and outs, but I had to check with the two of them on a hundred different little facts.

ERIN: Even though we’d had long conversations about them, it took me a while to get a grasp on our characters. Astrid’s voice came pretty easily to me, but I struggled with most of the secondary characters. I think they came off as one-dimensional in many of my chapters until we started revising. I also had to let go of a lot of academic habits that don’t lend themselves to fiction (like over-explaining everything), and get over my fear of actually putting words on paper and letting people read them. 

-When a new writer has a finished MS and decides it's time to try and get it published, what advice can you give them?
TROY: That’s a great question, because I remember being so excited to write a book, and then going through the months creating it, but then there comes a moment when you have a finished manuscript and you go, “Okay… now what?” Be prepared for a ton of research and rejection. Research submission techniques, publishers and agents. Any agent and publisher will tell you that they receive hundreds of book queries about projects that don’t fit them in the slightest. If you write a YA sci-fi book, for example, then you really should find publishers or agents who are interested in that, otherwise you’re wasting your time and going to get guaranteed rejections, which is only discouraging. You can also save yourself some problems down the road by checking out publishers’ reputations at Preditors and Editors (

ERIN: Troy’s advice is spot on and I’ll add that patience is the name of the game. It took us over a year of rejections to find a home at MuseItUp Publishing. Though I think finding an agent who
will present your work to a traditional publishing house is still the way to go if you can swing it, small houses, like Muse, that are willing to take a chance on new and inexperienced authors are a great place to get your feet wet. We’ve learned a ton from the editing and publishing process and I think it’s made both of us better writers. 

-What are some mistakes that you made as a first time writer?
TROY: We had too many characters for readers to keep track of, which was one of the great points our editor made. We ended up merging something like eight minor characters into three. Looking back now, the Wakefield title may have been a mistake from a marketing point of view because I’ve noticed books with more descriptive titles tend to do better.

ERIN: I agree with Troy that the title may have been a mistake. Though I think it makes sense to name each book in the series for a physical location since setting plays such a key role, it’s not the kind of title that’s going to grab the attention of a potential reader who’s browsing on Amazon or Goodreads. In addition to the title, there are oodles of sentences in Wakefield that make me cringe now. As an extremely inexperienced writer, I overused adverbs, relied too heavily on state-of-being verbs, and engaged in way too much ineffective telling verses evocative showing. But I think the fact that I can look at our early work and say, “I’d never write it that way now” means I’ve grown a lot as a writer.

-How difficult is it to write something new, that hasn't already been done and played out over and over again?
TROY: Since there’s billions of stories about every subject ever, it can be daunting to capture the originality. The most frustrating part is when you write something and describe it to someone, and they say, “Oh, that sounds just like (name of book or movie here).” If I know the book in question, I can quickly say that it’s completely different in feel, plot, tone, whatever, but if I’ve never heard of the book before, you start to panic.

ERIN: I love this question. Troy and I have had pretty heated discussions about this because he has admitted he doesn’t mind relying on the tried and true, while I frequently try to push the envelope and end up in wacky territory that’s bound to alienate or confuse readers. We balance each other out fairly well, because readers like what seems familiar even if they’re also craving a new twist on an old favorite. I’ll also second Troy’s frustration with, “Oh, that sounds just like…” When we starting writing Wakefield, I actually did some pretty extensive research to ensure the concept was unique. Then, about a year after we started writing it, a YA series with a very similar concept came out. I freaked out a little, then bought the book and realized it was quite different from our series in terms of tone and overall story arc. That said, reviews have still compared our series to that one. There’s only so much you can do.

-Was there an author and/or book that you read growing up that made you say, "I want to try and do that,"?
TROY: I can’t think of any one book in particular. My mom’s an avid reader and so she took me to the library a lot when I was a kid (back in the days before Amazon and ebooks). I read quite frequently and just started coming up with my own stories.

ERIN: I don’t think I can pinpoint a single book or author, but I reread some of my favorite YA books while I was in college, including The Goats by Brock Cole, Wise Child by Monica Furlong, and The Cuckoo’s Child by Suzanne Freeman. Around that same time, Troy told me about The
Perks of Being a Wallflower, which kind of blew me away. I remember thinking, “These books are great. Maybe someday I’ll write YA fiction.” But that probably would have remained a daydream if Troy hadn’t said, “Hey, we can do better than Twilight.” 

-What audience is the Mad World series geared toward?
TROY: Our series is aimed at readers who want more than cookie-cutter klutzy teen girl falls for dreamy perfect guy who acts as a portal into a world of wonder. The books are subtle and so we’re geared toward readers who like to focus on characters’ journeys and relationships (friendships are important too, not just romance). It’s planned out as a six book series, and so the stakes, action, and romance are slowly developed to better pay off than having explosions in every chapter.

ERIN: LOL. I laugh because I see Troy trying to justify the pacing of the series, which a few reviewers have complained about. But I fully agree with him. All of my favorite books reveal themselves slowly and explore characters deeply. We write for readers who value those same things. I used to say our series was for fourteen-year-old girls, but everyone reads YA now, so I’m not sure we’re writing for a specific demographic so much as inquisitive readers who appreciate nuance.

-Favorite kind of cheese?
TROY: The sharper the better.

ERIN: Agreed. If it’s cheddar, it must be sharp. I also enjoy the smokiness of gouda.

-Best album of the 90's?
TROY: It’s a tie between David Bowie’s Hours… (1999) and Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993).

ERIN: Awesome question! Since Troy cheated and picked two, I’m going to do the same. I’ll go with Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998) and Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted (1992).

-Anything else you want us to know about this (or other) books?  Why should we go out and buy it?
TROY: If you don’t have the time for novels, you can always check out my shorter fiction. I have two ghost stories (The Locked Door and The Control Room), as well as a series of fantasy/comedies about fairytale creatures working as office drones (Guardian of Cupid’s Heart and Guardian of Suffrage Celebration).

ERIN: While Troy plugs his short fiction, I’ll continue to plug Mad World. If you have an interest in epic stories with compelling characters, you should check it out. If you’re not yet sold, come peruse the amusing characters interviews on our website. We also have character compiled playlists you can listen to via Spotify.

A little about Wakefield:
Orphans Astrid Chalke and Max Fisher meet when they’re sent to live at Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teens with psychiatric and behavioral problems. Astrid’s roommate cuts herself with anything sharp she can get her hands on and Max’s roommate threatens him upon introduction. Just as Astrid and Max develop a strong bond and begin to adjust to the constant chaos surrounding them, a charming and mysterious resident of Wakefield named Teddy claims he has unexplainable abilities. Sometimes he can move things without touching them. Sometimes he can see people’s voices flowing out of their mouths. Teddy also thinks that some of the Wakefield staff are on to him. At first, Astrid and Max think Teddy is paranoid, but Max’s strange recurring dreams and a series of unsettling events force them to reconsider Teddy’s claims. Are they a product of his supposedly disturbed mind or is the truth stranger than insanity?

Where can I get it?


Thank you Troy and Erin! 

Please check back soon for updates on my journey and more interviews for new authors!!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Let's begin...

Yes.  It's true.  I recently turned thirty and realized that my dream of writing and publishing a book... an actual book, had never quite materialized.  Sure, I'd had ideas over the years.  I'd even attempted to jot something down, here or there.  The problem was that I never really loved anything that I'd written.  I liked a few ideas... but I was never under any illusion that other people might actually want to read what I had put to paper.  For thirty years (well, maybe that's an exaggeration... I'm sure I wasn't toddling around with novel ideas), I have tried to convince myself to really dive into this.  I love writing and have just been waiting for that one amazing idea to break through.  I've been patient... I've waited... and then, one day, driving home from work with my wife (we carpool some weeks), it hit me.  There it was, as clear as the lenses on my glasses used to be before I became a father and started forgetting to clean my lenses.  My novel novel idea.  As it turns out, a sci-fi-ey-YA novel novel idea. Weird, for a guy who hasn't read The Hunger Games, Twilight, Percy Jackson, yada yada... I could go on. But I'm not going to stamp out an idea that's finally shown itself.

I scratched out a bunch of notes as quickly as I could and soon after started writing.  Not bad, I thought.  I think someone else... not my mom... might actually like this.

And so, with this blog, I invite you to join me on this adventure. Like everything, I got on this blog train and twitter thing kind of half-way through the process.  If you're willing to hop onto this already started party, great.  I can use all the advice and criticism you want to toss in my direction. Though I'm not close to sending out queries, or even entertaining the thought of letting anyone see my MS, I may just finally be at a place where (whenever I do finish) I'll be willing to show it off.

As my newly created twitter handle says: I'm a teacher, an aspiring writer... but, most importantly a husband and a father.  I hope that I can make Kacee and Alice proud of me.


find me on the twitter thang:  @RimerTom