Tag Archives: novel

Author Interview: Tom Wright

Author Tom D Wright lives in the Puget Sound area with his wife. When he’s not writing Science Fiction, he works in IT for a prominent IT company in Seattle. Tom is also privileged to serve on the board of the Cascade Writers, a writer’s conference dedicated to providing educational seminars and workshops for those interested in writing and publishing original works. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Tom WrightI live in the stunning Pacific Northwest and support my writing obsession with a day job in the IT industry. Although I have worked in technology for a couple decades, I got my Masters degree in Counseling Psychology at Bowie State University. Since I could not afford the huge pay cut to change careers, now I just provide therapy for my characters; but like most clients, they don’t pay attention and just do whatever the hell they want.

My wife and I have a cat who doesn’t listen either, and a small pack of dogs. At least the dogs listen to me.

When and why did you begin writing?

I first began writing in my teen years, and it grew out of my love of reading science fiction. Throughout my childhood I voraciously consumed all the Edgar Rice Burroughs, Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Silverberg, Ursula K Le Guin and Isaac Asimov I could lay my hands on, just to name a few. While reading, I would spin up stories of my own and began trying to put them down on paper, which is always much harder than you expect.

That came to an abrupt halt in High School, when an English teacher gave me a scathing response to a creative writing assignment. My creative side shut down for decades until I started challenging my self-limiting beliefs, and began writing again about ten years ago.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

The first few years after I resumed writing, I spent learning the craft and creating drafts that were more exercise than art. It was when I completed my first short story that I considered myself a writer, because atrocious as it was, I had an actual work of art.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I describe The Archivist as a post-apocalyptic “Indiana Jones” type of story, so you can expect a fast-paced adventure tale, with romance, twists of misfortune and wry humor sprinkled throughout.

Beyond that, it is about a man struggling to reconcile with what he has lost, and the cost he must pay to get it back. It is also the story of people trying to build lives in a broken world; one that evokes either the best or the worst in humanity—and that we all choose which path to take.

What inspired you to write this book?

The seed for the story came when I listened to Bob Seger’s song, “Turn The Page” and decided to write a story that captured that feeling of perpetually being on the road, thinking about someone left behind and constantly moving from place to place. My first opening wrestled with a character traveling from planet to planet, so I localized the setting to a post-apocalyptic Earth, thirty years after the sudden and complete collapse of all technology.

But who wants yet another gloomy doomsday novel? So I drew from Thomas Cahill’s book, How The Irish Saved Civilization which makes the case that Ireland, being (relatively) isolated out in the Atlantic Ocean, escaped much of the turmoil of the Dark Ages and thereby preserved the knowledge which later fueled the Renaissance. Similarly, in The Archivist, a group called The Archives has established a base on a remote island and sends out representatives called Retrieval Archivists, to recover and retrieve the knowledge and technology which will one day spark a Second Renaissance.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My writing style varies from piece to piece, depending on what the story demands. For instance, The Archivist is written in First Person Present Tense, and this is the only piece before or since which uses that particular POV. For some inexplicable reason this story demanded it, but in general I would say that my prose strikes a balance between providing enough description to bring color to the tale, while leaving room for the reader to envision it in her or his own way.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The main character, K’Marr is a Retrieval Archivist and when in the field, is simply referred to as an Archivist.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Many post-apocalyptic stories end with a dark outcome. While The Archivist does have some rather dark, indeed disturbing moments where I acknowledge that there is evil in the world, I also wanted to make the case that there is much good as well. And the biggest challenge that good faces, is not to give up.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

There are numerous anecdotal elements scattered throughout, woven into the tapestry of the story, but my lawyer tells me they are all coincidental.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

A few authors that particularly influenced me were Ray Bradbury with the enchanting tales he wove, Alastair MacLean with his blend of action and suspense, Robert Heinlein’s elegant use of voice and narrative, and the way Anne McCaffrey used world-building.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I would have to say the late Jay Lake. During a panel at a conference, he said that if someone wanted to be truly serious about the craft of writing, you had to practice it every day. When I took his advice and started a one-hour commute (each way) to work on a train, my writing improved by quantum leaps. His advice transformed my work.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The artwork was done by J. M. Martin, who is not only a prolific writer himself, but does a damn good book cover! As far as why, you would have to ask my publisher but I don’t really care because it is an amazing cover.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I would give this advice to any creative person. Do not give up something that is your passion. If the demands of life force themselves upon you, as they will, put your passion on the back burner—but never take it off the stove.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Never, ever ever let someone else define who you are and what you are capable of. I spent way too much of my life defined by self-limiting beliefs which I allowed others to impose on me. And always be generous—it costs little to be kind, but it costs your soul to be mean.

The Archivist Book CoverTom D Wright
Tacoma, WA

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The Archivist

Cover Artist: J. M. Martin
Publisher: Evil Girlfriend Media

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Creating the Outline of a Novel: From Notebook to Scrivener

A novel always starts out in the back of my mind as a nebulous zygote. A character or a single scene is the seed from which a beautiful child (novel) will be born. It grows there in my mind without my noticing it until one day it solidifies. I say to myself, “Ah ha! There is a story there to write.” It is time for the birthing process to begin. For some people, this means “pantsing” a rough draft without any thought beyond the original seed. For me, I prefer the outline process to give myself a solid foundation with which to build on.

I like to begin the outline process with pen and paper or in Word on my desktop. The pen and composition books are easier to take with me and give an extra layer of creative play that I’ve come to value. There is something about the feel of paper and a pen in your hand that is comforting. It slows down the process enough to allow you to think the details through. I always use a pen, not a pencil. I do not want to be able to easily erase what I’ve written. This is not a time for editing, but for allowing unhindered expression to come forward. I can not do this on a computer due to my fast typing speed. Lately, I’ve been favoring the notebook method over using Word on the computer to outline.

When starting a notebook, I will put the name of the novel at the top, the year I started working on it, and what volume this notebook is. Sometimes there is only one volume, sometimes there are more. For my first novel, I barely had any notes at all. Most of my ideas were in my head alone. Now I find that there is more value in putting the ideas down on paper as best I can. A novel can stretch out over a few years time in the the writing of it. That is a long time to remember tiny details.

My novel’s beginnings are a scrawl of different things. Mind maps where a central character or scene is at the center and I ask myself “what if” questions and then write down ideas as they come no matter how strange around the central idea. Most of these “what if” scenarios are cast off as illogical or too far fetched. Ideas that I like, I highlight, but otherwise simply leave them in the notebook. I sometimes will write down narratives of scenes that have come to me. I don’t go into details, that will come later with the writing of the novel itself, but I try and capture the essence of what is percolating in my subconscious.

I start doing “interviews” of the main characters as they come to me. It is a method that I learned in a creative writing class last year. I make a note of the character’s physical features and find an actor that he can be loosely based on. I begin to formulate the personalties and emotional and intellectual goals and ideals of each character. I write down phrases that would be common to them alone, gestures and other habits that help make the character his own person.

Since I write science fiction and fantasy novels, I find it helpful to rough out a map of the land I’m writing about. Nothing of great detail, enough so that I know where everything is located and can have a good idea as to how long travel time is between the different locations in the story. If I decide that a map will be useful to the readers later, I either will create a better one myself or hire an artist to draw one for the book.

At this point, I open up a file in Scrivener and start to set up the project. In the research area, I create files for the character sketches, the location descriptions and decide on keywords to represent each character, location and special object. This helps me to track information during the revision phase of writing. I also like to print out this information to fit into my writing filofax journal so that I can take my research information with me when I write outside my home. I consider the Scrivener files to be the master copies and my filofax the copy. When I update the information, I update Scrivener first and then print out a new page for the filofax. I like to use the filofax since I don’t have to worry about electricity or waiting for the information to load up in a computer. What I need is all there organized in my writing journal without distraction of the Internet.

Once the research information is in Scrivener, I start an “outline” file in the research area. I write a short paragraph of each scene of the novel from beginning to end based on the highlighted areas of my mind maps from the notebooks and the short scenes that I’ve already written down on paper. The master outline is one file in the research area of Scrivener and a copy is printed for my filofax writing journal. At this point I’ve closed my paper composition notebooks and am working completely in Scrivener.

The final step, before I begin drafting, is to take each outline paragraph and create a separate file for it in the drafting area. I will give the scene a title, write a short synopsis of it in the scrivener card and then paste the entire description paragraph into the document notes section of the inspector. I also label and put in the status of the newly created file.

Every writer uses a different method to create their novels, this is the way I cobble together mine. I consider Scrivener and my filofax writing journal to be the key elements of the system. Scrivener organizes my research and novel information and the filofax is its backup shadow that comes with me everywhere. Together, they form the backbone of my creative process and help to make writing my novels easier.