I recently reviewed a few of Tom’s books and was so impressed that I contacted him to come for an interview. Here is a link to the review of Four Days with Hemingway’s Ghost.
Hello and welcome Tom. Please tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did?
Christoph, the first time I wrote something was two years after I decided to take a crack at writing. For those two years I could only look at the same blank page of a spiral notebook. I just didn’t know if I was qualified to string words together, or even where to start I’d read quite a bit and had a hard time finding books that could hold my interest to the very end, so I thought to myself, Hell I can do better than most of these guys. Ha! That’s easier said than done when first you’re starting out.
Tell us about your first book? How did you decide on the characters, plots and title?
My first published novel was Beyond Nostalgia and parts of it are what they call “autobiographical fiction.” Some of the book’s characters are based on people I’ve known, some are not. Some of the scenes I have lived out, some I embellished, and some are purely imaginative. As for the plot, I got into the main characters shoes at the outset and walked in them all the way to the part that said “The End.”
When did you decide to publish your stories?
Many folks have heard the story about how, after three literary agents rejected it, I threw the manuscript for Beyond Nostalgia into a closet for eleven years, so I won’t go into that. But finally, after reading a magazine article about online writer’s groups like Harper Collins’s Authonomy and Random House’s YouWriteOn, I carried the paper manuscript out of that closet and posted the opening chapters. Right after they were posted on Authonomy I was blown away. Most folks absolutely loved what I had done. Nevertheless, although Beyond Nostalgia was well on its way to the top of the site’s 6,000 book heap, I soon burned out from having to do so many reads and stopped participating. Shortly after that, I uploaded the book onto YouWriteOn and in just five weeks it became what they called “a best seller” and was in the running for their book of the year.
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
What sort of influenced and encouraged me to become a writer was a phone call I received one day. Ten years before I wrote my first word of fiction I owned a fishing tackle and marine supply store on Florida’s West Coast, and the man who wrote the weekly fishing column for the local newspaper asked me if I’d fill in for him because he had to go into the hospital. I wound up writing a half dozen articles and one day an old timer I hadn’t seen for quite some time called me at my store. He said he loved the articles. He called them lively, and told me that I had talent. Again, I didn’t rush right into writing at that point, but his words replayed in my mind quite often.
What do your family or friends say about your books. Do they mind you taking so much time to write?
During the four years I’ve now been back at writing, my wife has taken more than her share of lumps. When things aren’t going well at the keyboard, I’m not the most pleasant person to be around. If I have a few bad days in a row, watch out. It’s deep depression time. On the other hand, on the days when I have a good writing session I’m not all that hard for the missus to love. I walk around all afternoon with this tremendous uplifting feeling of fulfilment inside. It’s what I call “a writer’s high.”
When did you decide to write in this genre?
Commercially, it’s unwise to jump genres. A writer who sticks with, say, mysteries or romance books has a far better chance of creating what they call “a brand” and being successful. But I can’t do that. The hardest thing for me is to come up with an idea that I feel is worth racking my brains over for six to nine months. But, when I finally do get that idea, I run with it. I don’t care if it’s a bouillabaisse of seven different genres.
As for the books I’ve written so far, I suppose they could be called a combination of romance and suspense with a slight literary edge. Sometimes there’s a bit more romance, sometimes there’s more suspense. But no matter how someone wants to categorize my stuff, what’s most important to me is that readers are moved by what I write. That’s my main objective. I want them to feel the words as they read them.
Would you say there is a message in your books beyond the story? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?
The funny thing is that even though I never set out to write stories that will teach lessons quite a few readers seem to think my books do exactly that. For example, when I was writing Four Days with Hemingway’s Ghost the farthest thing from my mind was for the story to be inspirational. But if you look at some of the books 299 reviews, you’ll see that many readers have said they found the story to be very uplifting. Now that they have said that I can clearly see why they felt that way.
Did you have it all planned out before you write your stories or do the characters and story surprise you?
All I have to work with when I begin a book is a very rough idea what it’s going to be about. Some authors like to have an outline, but if I were to do that I’d feel like I’d been there and done that, and I’d quickly get bored with it. Sure, I like to know where I’m headed when I’m writing, but I don’t like to know what route I’m taking until I get on it. It’s like taking a long road trip. Who wants to go up the same highway they’ve been on a dozen times when there’s another available route? Why numb the senses with the same old same old when you can stimulate them?
What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing?
The thing I like best is typing The End. Ha! The thing I like least is being stuck somewhere and not sure where the heck I’m going. I’ve learned that, when I’m stumped like that, I shouldn’t wring my brain out too much. Yes, I often become disgusted with myself when hitting those roadblocks, but a terrific idea of how to progress always seems to come to me—usually when I’m not even thinking about the book. Ya gotta let your subconscious do its job sometimes. It’s constantly working, even though you usually don’t realize it.
What are you working on now?
For the first time ever I have three books going at once—two that I had previously abandoned and one newbie. Which one will I give the most attention to and publish first? That’s totally up to my muse. I can’t argue with him. Stubborn and vindictive as he is, he’s the one who makes all the decisions at the desk we share. It’s got to be that way. If I don’t stroke him often and give him enough breathing room, I can get into some serious trouble. My muse is touchy. And if I aggravate him he’s got this irresponsible habit of going AWOL when I need him most.
Thanks so much for having me here today, Christoph. I had a really cool time.
Tom on your Amazon site ( his books are universally available)
His Website http://tomwintonauthor.com/
Two strong characters and smooth writing drive the story along as Dean falls for Theresa. Young and stupid Dean loses Theresa but never gets over her.
As simple as the story is, it is very well written and the sentimental and nostalgic tone made this a very beautiful read. The side characters, such as Theresa’s mother, are impressive, as is Dean with all his honesty and his flaws.
With a very authentically portrayed setting back in the 1960s the story is well accomplished and worth a read.