Welcome author Tom King! He has a very interesting background he uses to find inspiration for the comic books and novels he writes. Sit down, grab a cup a coffee, and get to know him!
What inspired you to write?
I oddly spent my 20s in the CIA working counter-terrorism operations overseas. Like millions of others, I joined up to fight the fight after 9/11 hoping to do some good. When I had my son, I left that life. Having gone through that, I wanted to write about it—about what it was like to be scared and brave, to be in the dirt, trying to dig out; however, for all the obvious reasons, I didn’t want to write about my experience directly, so I wrote about it using super heroes as an allegory for a world of eternal violence struggling for peace. A Once Crowded Sky, a story about a bunch of superheroes who lose their powers, is what came out.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
When I first left the CIA, I became a full time dad, first to my son, then to my son and daughter. As such, I worked during nap times and at night, usually between 12am and 3am. I always tried to write just a page a day, that way after six months you have a first draft and after a year you have a good draft. Now, I have the privilege to support myself full time as a writer—and I still like to work in the middle of night. Usually during the day I take care of marketing matters and all the little distractions.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?’
I put myself in an isolation chamber when I write: lights off, head phones on, music blaring—I want everything but the screen in front of me blocked out. Also, and it’s fairly silly, but when I start writing I try to pretend my keyboard is a piano and I’m just playing the notes to a lovely song. I don’t know why, but this helps.
Are you a pantser or plotter?
I guess I’m a pantser, though I often live to regret it. My basic process is I come with the world, then the characters, then the general plot—where I want to start, where I want to end. After I have those three elements, I write a little bit, see if I can find a voice that works for the project. When I’ve found the voice, I go back to the plot and pick out maybe half a dozen beats I want to hit, then I write freely to those beats, fixing plot problems as I go. I kick myself every time for not thinking things totally through before writing, but I feel that if I did that, I’d never actually start writing, which would cause me to kick myself with even more force.
Are your stories based on experiences based on someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share and example?
I believe powerfully in the role and grace of imagination, but for me, all great writing comes from personal experience, from putting part of yourself into your words. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about, the emotions behind it, the great themes you are exploring, should always connect to your own failures and triumphs.
My first novel is about super heroes, which seems rather far from anything going on in our real world. That said, when I write abut my main character, Pen, struggling to decide if he should fight to save the world or if he should stay home and take care of his wife, I’m drawing on conversations I had during my time in the CIA, exact moments when I had to choose between my job and my family. The superhero situation is extreme and dramatic, but the moments put on paper are the small moments that affected me, that changed me, perhaps for the better, perhaps not.
Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Master your own grammar. It sounds annoying and stupid (mostly because grammar is annoying and stupid), but the better grip a writer has on all the rules of grammar, the easier it is to just sit down and write. Take two weeks, buy two or three grammar books, and just go through them until you understand the basic rules of when to use a comma, a semi-colon, a colon, etc.
Once you understand the rules, decide for yourself, what will be your grammar: in your writing when will you use a comma, a colon, a semi-colon? Grammar, annoyingly and stupidly and sometimes brilliantly, is subject to the author’s manipulation; but you have to decide how you are going to consistently manipulate it. Once you’ve decided how you will use grammar in your work, the words will come a little faster to the page.
MJ: Great advice! I’m sure there’s a few editors out there who’d love to shake your hand right now!!! 🙂
Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?
I am traditionally published through Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. I went through the whole traditional process of query letter, agent, publisher, editor. I’m honestly not sure what is the best way to get your stuff out there, but that’s the way I did it.
What are your current projects?
My new novel is a war novel about our current war. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written, and I can’t wait for people to see it. I’m also working on some comic book projects and a few short stories.
Find Tom King at these links!