Last year, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog. (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.) I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Tom Wolosz, had some very fascinating responses which I’m sure will captivate you, as well. After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blog and follow him for a regular dose of his charm. And now, I pass the microphone to DocTom…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
My name is Tom “DocTom” Wolosz. I was born in Brooklyn, NY, but currently live in Plattsburgh, NY (a long stone’s throw south of Montreal, Canada) where I teach at the SUNY College at Plattsburgh. My field of interest is paleoecology (I’ve taught courses about the history of life on earth, dinosaurs, extinction and basic geology). I’ve been a life-long sci-fi fan. I find character driven stories the most interesting. This may seem a bit odd for sci-fi, but if you think about it sci-fi is the perfect genre to ask questions about people and civilization. I’m also a semi-pro photographer who loves taking pictures of the Adirondacks, especially at night. I’ve posted some of my pictures on my website.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
My website is http://tomwolosz.com/
3. How many books have you written?
Just one so far. It’s titled: The Agony of The Gods, Softly Falls the Snow.
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
It’s been published by Bookkus Publishing. It’s available December 1st from the Bookkus store at http://shop.bookkus.com/; Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Agony-Gods-Softly-Falls-Snow/dp/0991709462/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417099020&sr=8-1&keywords=wolosz ; and Barnes and Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/agony-of-the-gods-tom-wolosz/1120573287?ean=9780991709465.
5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?
I guess I’d call it semi-traditional publishing. William Yatscoff started Bookkus Publishing about 2 years ago with an interesting idea: let the readers decide what to publish. He’ll post your book for a couple of months, and after it accumulates a number of reviews, will decide whether or not to publish. I’d urge anyone with a manuscript that is close to publication-ready to try submitting it to Bookkus.com. In general, whether the decision is to publish or not, at least you’ll get feedback from readers, which is a lot more than you’ll ever get from an established publisher.
6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Probably in grade school I wanted to be a writer, but life intervened and I went on for a Ph D. in Geology. I always thought about story ideas, but never really had the time to do much with them. Then, after raising a family and then spending most of my free time taking care of an elderly family member for a couple of years, I found myself not really knowing what to do with myself when he passed away. So I sat down and started to write – probably as much therapy as anything else. But once I got started I kept going. The end result is “Agony of the Gods.”
7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
Well, writing is tough, often a struggle, but in the end I really enjoy it.
8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, Tolkien, Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard come to mind. Over the last few years I’ve mainly stuck to non-fiction though. I find that reading too much fiction tends to become incestuous when you write fiction since you tend to borrow ideas from other writers. History and psychology books give me some insight into people and their times which helps me make my stories a bit more real and original.
Right at this minute I’m reading “Demiurge, Blood of the Innocent”, a really neat paranormal thriller by Mike Hagan. It’s actually the second time because Mike and I have helped each other over the last few years (first on Book Country and then Bookkus) by critiquing each other’s work. Before I post a review I wanted to read the final version of the book which has just been published by Bookkus. Once I finish that I have another ms. I promised to look at, and then back to Brian Greene’s “The Elegant Universe”.
9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
Well, I’ve read with a Kindle, but I guess I just like the feel of a real book in my hands. Somehow turning pages and flipping back into the book to check something I had read a few minutes or hours ago just feels right. Guess I’m a bit old fashioned that way. I’ll also say that when I read the proof copy of my book (mass market paperback format) it just felt so different compared to reading it on a computer screen – a sense of reality, I guess.
10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
Currently a kind of hybrid. Most of my writing is 3rd person, but I tend to throw in direct thoughts from the characters in an attempt to help build character.
11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
To a certain extent it depends on what’s going on in my day job – I teach at a college and at times have loads of student writing to grade. When that happens I tend to stray toward video. It’s the end of the semester as I write this, so there’s a real load of grading on my desk, and I’m currently relaxing at night by binge watching Babylon 5. But then B5 is a kind of TV novel.
12. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
20 – 30? Really hard to say. Reading a textbook on Planetary surfaces or invasive species takes a bit longer than a Terry Pratchett novel, and since I’m committed to Bookkus I tend to read a number of manuscripts (entirely or in part, depending on quality) and review them.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
My current book is “Agony of the Gods, Softly Falls the Snow.” It will be published this month. I’m currently working on a sequel with the working title: “Agony of the Gods, The Village”.
14. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
Well, AotG is basically science fiction, but with an undercurrent of murder mystery. As one editor told me, it really doesn’t fit easily under any category because I’m trying to do something different. It’s written in a semi-literary style, concentrates on characters, but at the same time tries to ask questions about human nature. The closest thing I can compare this to is the story of the Krell in Forbidden Planet, except that instead of all the Krell staying on their home planet imagine if each individual was given their own world.
15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
I’ve also written a novella, “And The Last Shall Be First” set on a generation ship on its way to another star. It was inspired by the successes, over the last few years, achieved by the LGBT community in seeking equal rights. Basically, it’s a cautionary tale, reminding people that while minorities are the last to be recognized as having basic human rights, they are also the first to lose them when times change.
16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
All my stories deal with adult themes of humanity and its experiences. I would imagine that younger readers would be subject to nightmares. So for mature audiences only.
17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
The best way is to just give you the cover blurb:
Who is killing the Gods?
Man created The Machine. The Machine gave to each man or woman a world of their own design, to do with as they pleased. They became Gods – omnipotent, absolute rulers; but also vain, arrogant, hedonistic and brutal. Now someone is killing them. The enforcer, a servant of the Gods, is tasked with finding the killer, but first he must train a new apprentice. Given a list of worlds to investigate, they set out trying to find a key to the identity of a killer they cannot hope to overcome. In their travels they come across worlds dedicated to the study of butterflies, to the perfection of music, to eternal war, and to a magical storybook existence where animals talk and act like characters from a children’s story; and on each world they find a brutal disregard for the people who serve the Gods.
As the death toll mounts, and the pressure from their masters to find the killer increases, they learn more and more about the strange universe of The Machine, and about themselves. But soon they face the ultimate question: is the killer a monster…or a hero?
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
18. How often do you write?
Whenever I can. That’s unfortunately not often, due to the demands of my day job.
19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
Varies. I write until I burn out.
20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
I do a lot of self-editing, going through numerous drafts. I also got a lot of help from friends on Book Country and Bookkus, and from my sister, who is a dedicated bibliophile (and a pretty good editor).
21. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
Well, I never start a story unless I know two things – the beginning and the end. Sci-fi has always had a problem with stories that have a great premise, but are always a letdown at the end. So if I don’t have an ending, I don’t even start to write the story. I knew the beginning and end of AotG before I started to write it, I know the beginning and end of the sequel, and I know the beginning and end of the 3rd and final book in the series (but not much else). Once I have that, I work out a story arc connecting the two endpoints. In doing that I go chapter by chapter (although they may actually end up being multiple chapters in the final product), but not necessarily in sequential order, although I have a pretty good sense of where they will fit into the final book.
22. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
Music often helps me write. Much of AotG was written to the accompaniment of Liz Story piano music. While I deal with basic ideas, the visualization is often helped by things that just strike me. One scene in AotG was inspired by a PBS concert, another by walking through my local mall. While the inspiration gets me started, the ideas will morph with time into a final product that would be hard to recognize as being related to the original inspiration. For instance, as I said, one of my scenes in AotG was inspired by walking through a mall, looking at the mannequins. I wanted a scene where a trap had been set for my main characters, and one store had mannequins dressed in western clothes. The idea of the mannequins coming to life struck me as fitting, but then I thought about it and decided that had been done many times before, so dropped it. Over time I kept playing with the idea of a mall as a trap, and eventually it morphed into a chapter in the book, but without the mall. I’ll just leave it at that since I don’t want to give away to much.
23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
AotG took six years. I have no idea how long one would take if I could devote a full time effort to writing (but I’d like to find out!).
24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
No. I’ve always found such limits artificial. I work at it until I know it’s done.
25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
AotG has few names. The tags are all descriptive: the Imager, the Good Doctor, the inspector. It helps to aim at an everyman feel. In other stories I try to go with common names to emphasize the average nature of the characters.
26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
I keep notebooks for novels and try to write down all important details so I can maintain continuity through the story.
27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
Sometimes soft background music helps, but otherwise, no.
28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
When I’m banging through the first draft of a chapter I prefer using my old laptop while sitting in a large armchair. Revisions are always first done on paper (I guess I kill a lot of trees), but writing 2nd, 3rd, etc. drafts takes place at my desk using my PC. Just more comfortable that way. Looking back on it, I think of the first draft as the wild west – just go for it. Later drafts are work and require notes, etc. to be spread out before me.
29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
What real life?
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
Truthfully, none of them. I’ve read lots of books where I would have liked to have been a character for a day. It’s always because of adventure or love, or some other great activity they take part in. In AotG many of the characters do important things, but they’re a bit like Frodo in LOTR – he pays the price in the end, and so do they.
33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
None of my characters are real heroes, so it would require an actor who’s good at playing real people. That pretty much limits it. I guess the main character could be done by Tom Hanks, Danzel Washington or George Clooney. The female lead might work well for Sandra Bullock.
34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
That’s easy – reading articles from medical journals describing the damage done to the human body due to falls from great heights. If you read the first chapter of AotG you’ll know why.
35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
Sometimes just reading history and psychology books is difficult. The damage people have inflicted on each other over the centuries is often more nightmarish than the most grizzly horror story, because it’s true.
Thank you, DocTom, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.