I’m very privileged to have Tom Winton here on Writer’s with Vision today. Tom is the author of the wonderful books Four Days with Hemingway’s Ghost, Beyond Nostalgia, The Last American Martyr, and Within a Man’s heart. I’ve wanted to interview Tom on here for a while, ever since I read Within a Man’s Heart, but I wanted to read some of his other stuff first too.
Melanie: Tom, it’s great to have you here. Could you tell my readers a bit about yourself? (include details of family, hobbies, irrational fears, things like that)
Tom: It’s great to be here, Mel, thanks for having me. One fear I have, that so far has proven to be irrational, is that folks won’t like a book I’m working on. Fortunately up to this point, I’ve been wrong every time. As for my family, I’ve got three grown kids and I live in Florida with my wife Blanche and our aging terrier Ginger. I like to fish, love to get lost in the woods, and live to take long road trips.
Melanie: When did you start writing?
Tom: Unlike many writers who begin to write at a very young age, I didn’t start tinkering with the thought until I was about forty. Two years later I began my first “novel” attempt. As a matter of fact, five published books later, here I am working on a rewrite of that first manuscript. I thought it would be easy since the story was already written, but boy was I wrong. Almost finished with it now, I have “double doubts” this time around. Nevertheless, I know there are some really good parts. Title will almost definitely be ‘A Wrong Turn to Paradise’.
Melanie: Do you think any other authors have influenced your work? (Other than Ernest Hemingway)
Tom: I think determining how much influence other writers have had on me is a very difficult thing to pinpoint. I believe that all of us writers draw our techniques from the vast library of books we’ve read over the course of our lifetimes. Nevertheless, we all have favorite authors, and it only makes sense that they’d have the most influence on our work—whether we realize it or not. As for me, I would imagine that when I put a pen to paper, authors such as John Steinbeck, Jack London, Pat Conroy and Hem may very well send me subtle directions from their places in my subconscious mind.
Melanie: For those who haven’t read it, Within a Man’s Heart deals with very personal loss and finding the emotional strength to move on. I just wondered if you have ever experienced loss like that and, if not, how did you manage to capture the associated emotions and thoughts so well? I have experienced loss of a partner and feel that Tom did a great job. (although grief varies from person to person.)
Tom: No Mel, I’ve never had the misfortune of having a lover pass away as my main character Christian Crews did in Within a Man’s Heart. But I’m a very emotional person, and I have a reasonably active imagination. My life has been and endless procession of ups and downs. I know what it’s like to feel as if I’m on top of the world one minute and at the very bottom of hell’s flames the next. I’ve had countless relationships with women, dealt with a severely mentally ill mother for fifty years, and am all too familiar with hard times. I know about emotions. And I try my darnedest to pack each and every one of my books with them. As I’ve said before, my goal is to have readers not only read my words but feel them as well.
Melanie: You were a featured author on Wattpad a while back. Can you tell us a bit about that experience and how it has had an impact on your writing life and experiences?
Tom: I’ve been featured on Wattpad for two months now and still have four more to go. After my first thirty days on their “Featured Authors Program”, I actually had more followers than Margaret Atwood and Paulo Coelho—and they’d been on for over a year. Talk about being blown away! I couldn’t believe it. “Why,” I asked myself, “are so many readers following me?” I averaged over 600 new followers a day for that first month. Most authors with three, four, five million reads and more on Wattpad don’t have nearly that many followers. It’s slowed down considerably now, but I’m still stunned by the experience.
As for how my Wattpad experience has affected the sales of my books for the past two months, it hasn’t. I’ve seen virtually no increase. Wattpad’s 8,000,000 monthly readers are, by and large, very young people. And they’re scattered around the world. But who knows? Maybe down the road they’ll tell others who buy books about my stuff—maybe in a year or two, when they’re a bit older, with a little more spending money, they’ll buy them themselves.
Melanie: Are your family and friends supportive of your writing?
Tom: It’s just my wife Blanche and me here in our little place in Florida, Mel. And she’s my number one fan. Sure, she sometimes gets frustrated and angry about the fact that no big publishers have noticed my work and come knocking on our door with a six-figure contract in hand, but she’s been the greatest. For the past four years she’s been working so, so hard; trying to get my books noticed. This past year she’s been out of work, and when I say she spent hours and hours every day—seven days a week, helping me with promotions and the likes I’m not exaggerating.
Melanie: There are several dead authors you could have written a story about, for example Four Days With Agatha Christie’s Ghost, so why did you choose Hemingway? What is your favourite of Hemingway’s writings?
Tom: That’s an easy question to answer. I think Ernest Hemingway was an amazing man. Not only did he singlehandedly revolutionize modern literature, but he lived one hell of a fantastic life as well. In all honesty, I have read far more books about the man than I have his actual works. Nevertheless, I first read The Old Man and the Sea when I was ten years old, and it’s my favorite of all his books. Another of my favorites is one of his least known works—To Have and Have Not.
Melanie: We’re often told that we never forget our first love. Did you have this thought in mind when you wrote Beyond Nostalgia or did that gem of a book come from another thought process entirely?
Tom: When writers sit down to do their thing, all they have to work with (besides a pencil and paper, or a computer) are three things—memories of events they lived out, stories they’ve heard from others, and whatever ideas they can cull from all the clutter that whirls around their hyperactive imaginations. That’s it, just those three things! And yes, when I wrote Beyond Nostalgia I did put more than a few of my lifetime experiences into the stew. Now…is the book based on my first love? Yes and no.
Melanie: What writing projects are you currently planning or actually working on?
Tom: I’m now finishing a rewrite of the very first novel I ever wrote, A Wrong Turn to Paradise. When I completed it seventeen years ago, I sent it out to agents and actually had three willing to take a look at it. But there were no takers. Six months ago I went to work on it again thinking that since it was already written it would be a piece of cake to dress up. HA! Was I wrong! At any rate, I’m hoping to have it “out there” in four to six weeks.
Melanie: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Tom: If you want to write that story that’s been in your head for so long, don’t tell yourself that you could never write an entire novel, biography or whatever. Just sit down and write one sentence. Write it in a way that will set the stage for your story. Once you do that, you just might find that you can write a second sentence, then a third and so on and so on. Don’t worry about how you’re going to come up with fifty, seventy-five or one-hundred-thousand words. Just take it one sentence at a time.
I’m particularly proud of the opening sentence of my Beyond Nostalgia and I’d like to share it with you. I think it’s a good example of the stage setting I mentioned in the previous paragraph. “I once believed soft, warm, beautiful things could never flourish in an environment of hard concrete and cold dark bricks.”
Melanie: I know authors hate questions like this but which is your favourite of your books and why? Do you have any characters you are especially fond of?
Tom: After I pulled my Beyond Nostalgia manuscript out of a dark closet (where it had collected dust for eleven years) I had my wife upload it onto Harper Collins’s Authonomy website for writers. For three months I left it on there, and it did exceptionally well, receiving 400 mostly terrific reviews. When I finally got burnt out on the site I remember a message I put on my profile page. I said that if a big publisher didn’t pick up BN I would give up writing. That I could never again write another book that could compare with it.
Well, I was wrong. I went on to write three more books, and I’m as proud of each of them as I am of Beyond Nostalgia. As a matter of fact, I’ve been fortunate in that all three of my full-length novels have become Amazon bestsellers—several times each.
Melanie: What was the last Indie book you read?
Tom: I hate to admit it, Mel, but I haven’t read an entire book in well over a year. I’ve been so busy writing, networking, and promoting that there just hasn’t been time. I have read excerpts from quite a few indie books though, and one of several that stands out in my mind is Ian Roberts’ Catch the Sun. Again, I haven’t read the entire novel, but Ian has a way of putting a reader right smack into the mind, body and soul of his main character, and whatever situation he happens to be in.
Melanie: Well, thank you for joining me today Tom. Could you provide links to where potential readers can learn more about you e.g blogs, Amazon author pages, Wattpad profile etc?
Tom: It’s been a pleasure to be here, Mel. Thanks so much for inviting me. What follows are some of the links where folks can learn a little more about me and my books.
Amazon Author’s page: http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Winton/e/B005H2T7AA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Wattpad profile: http://www.wattpad.com/user/TomWinton
My website: http://tomwintonauthor.com/
Tom’s books are also available at most other retail outlets.