I'm married, with grown children. Living on the East Coast, in Maine and North Carolina. I made a feature-length documentary. I've done broken-tile mosaics and stained glass and watercolors. I've lived in two "intentional communities," acted in local theater, and performed stage-combat in Pirate Festivals. I play the drums and sing. I've studied anthropology, religion, science, filmmaking, and philosophy. These days, my focus is almost entirely on my writing career. My stories and characters call to me to write them, and I'm fascinated by the process by which an author finds his or her readers.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My current project is called Rumi's Field, due out this summer. It's the second book of a planned trilogy I call None So Blind. It picks up the story I began in Book One, All of the Above, after three years have passed. I had a good idea where Book Three would go, but needed first to bring my characters to some vital choice points, the results of which would set up the conditions for the rest of the story. I also had a character who was demanding to be heard.
|Coming Summer of 2016|
How would you categorize your book?
For the purpose of marketing, it goes into the broad category of Science Fiction. Subcategories would include Adventure, Alien Invasion, and Dystopian Future or Post-Apocalyptic. But while there is truth in all of these labels, they feel inadequate as descriptors. The story is an adventure, to be sure, with kidnappings and chases and confrontations. There are aliens present in human affairs, but their "invasion" is not the sort we've been taught to think of, with fierce battles, exotic weapons, and nasty creatures. And while the slow unraveling of present social structures serves as the background against which my characters move and act, my books don't use a grim, post-collapse landscape as a character unto itself. To my mind, the books are also a philosophical romp, of sorts, and an attempt to ask deep questions about our present collective situation, about who we shall be in this time, and about the rising of a new paradigm through which we might view the nature of reality itself. Above all, my first responsibility is to tell "a rollicking good tale" filled with a "cool cast of characters" that people can love and relate to.
Introduce us to your series characters. What is it about these characters that appeal to you as a writer?
The trilogy follows the American President, Linda Travis, as she learns about, and then confronts, the deep human-alien conspiracy hidden in the unseen folds of the fabric of world government and power. Along the way, she meets Cole Thomas, a widower with three children, who aids her in her task and eventually becomes her husband. In All of the Above, they must confront Agent Theodore Rice, a rather entertaining but very dangerous sociopath. In Rumi's Field, their opponent is known as the Fisherman, a "kinder, gentler" member of the hidden elite ruling class. While there are lots of secondary characters, these four stand out as primary.
In terms of appeal, all four of these characters fascinate me. They're exploring options of who and how to be in the face of extreme circumstances, finding inside themselves qualities, limitations, motivations, and talents that they didn't know they had. I was especially interested in seeing how a really "good" President - smart, open-minded, unburdened by special interests - might respond to the present world situation.
How did your books come to be titled and how do the titles relate to the stories?
|Available at Amazon or Smashwords|
The title All of the Above is a way of speaking of the presence of many and varied "non-terrestrial intelligences" active in the Cosmos, and some in human affairs. It's also a way of speaking of the complex, paradoxical, multifaceted, and often seemingly contradictory nature of experience and truth.
The title Rumi's Field comes from a famous poem by the Persian poet Rumi, which begins "Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." The main conversation between Linda Travis and the Fisherman centers around the future of the human species, and the many "rights" and "wrongs" we assign to certain ideas, words, and possibilities.
Tell us more about the cover design. How involved were you with creating the cover?
Pretty involved. Both my wife and I are visual artists with lots of design experience. Sally's especially good with fonts. For All of the Above, we had her daughter helping as well. I'm happy with the cover for Book One, as it looks great as a tiny thumbnail. I've only got a mocked-up rough draft of the cover for the new book, but really like the colors.
Tell us something about your book that isn't mentioned in the synopsis.
All of the Above has copious amounts of f-bombs, to the point that one reader did a count and wrote to tell me about it. As a personal challenge, I've written Rumi's Field without a single f-word. It was instructive, and quite fun, to do so. And I think that that difference in language mirrors the difference between the major protagonists of these two books. Agent Rice is a walking f-bomb of a man. The Fisherman is much more measured and calm.
Give us a summary of your book in a tweet.
That's a fun challenge!
All of the Above: President Linda Travis confronts an alien-human conspiracy, an unraveling global infrastructure, and the nature of reality itself.
Rumi's Field: As the world unravels, President Travis meets with a member of the secret elite to discuss the reduction of the global human population.
How much of your experience is in your book series?
I can find parts of myself in all of my characters, and they're all experiencing challenges and exploring situations and ideas which have long been of interest to me. And I've drawn on people and details of my life as I've written. I have, for example, like Cole Thomas, lived in an intentional community. I've been a primary caregiver to three children. Cole's brother Obie was inspired, in part, by a good friend who has since passed on. Linda Travis has more than a little of my second wife in her. And I have my own nasty yet witty impulses, like Agent Rice.
Describe your writing process.
I've likened it to remote viewing, that so-called "paranormal" art of viewing other parts of time and space from the vantage point of a non-localized consciousness. I tend to get ideas and hear voices and see situations and notice characters, as if they are downloading into my mind, and then I follow my characters around and watch what they do. Lots of writers have described a similar process. I don't start with much. I gather some notes. Jot down a few ideas about where I think it's going. Then I close my eyes, tune in, and watch it unfold, doing my best to write down what I see and hear and experience. And then I do it again and again as I edit, trying to see and hear with ever-greater clarity, and to express it in a way that the reader can share the experience. It's a very fun way for me to go. Lots of surprises.
Describe your writing environment.
I wrote the first draft in Mac's word-processing app Pages on my iPad while lying on my stomach on the floor, to preserve my back from long bouts in a chair. I'm doing my editing and marketing from a loveseat in the sunroom, with two monitors, for lots of space to edit, research, design, etc. Always, I have headphones on, and music playing. What I don't have is a cat, to cuddle against my legs and get in my way. I need one. Except I don't.
How much research did you put into your series?
I use research mostly as a way of getting clear about, or confirming, what I "saw" while "remote viewing." As an example, in All of the Above, I watched my characters flee to Canada, get on a train, and travel to Ottawa, all of which came as a surprise to me. On the first draft, I just wrote what I saw as best I could. But I knew very little about Canadian border crossings, the Canadian railway system, or the streets and buildings of their capital city. So I did enough research to allow me to add useful and particular details to the tale. I felt like I was winging it, but one Ottawa resident told me that it all sounded right to him. All praise to the mighty Internet.
What are your hobbies, interests outside of writing? Do any of these activities find their way into your books?
I think my writing springs directly from my lifelong fascinations with the world environmental situation, the UFO enigma and other "fringe" topics, and the psychology of humans and human groups and institutions. When I finally started drumming rock beats on a kit a few years ago, I was served by a lifetime of listening. As I write science fiction, I am similarly served by a lifetime of reading and study. As I like to say, and as I've named my blog, "everything is research." Anything I might learn or encounter or practice or be fascinated by can show up in my stories.
What is the best advice and harshest criticism you have received as an author?
Best advice: keep going, said to me in a variety of ways by many people over the years.
Harshest Criticism: I should go back to doing what I was doing before, said by an Amazon reviewer of All of the Above, who did not care for my abrupt right turn from serious documentary to science fiction, or at least my science fiction, which was termed a "blarney of fairy tales."
What I have learned: I can't please everyone.
What advice might you give aspiring authors?
Don't change who you are or what you write in an attempt to please, placate, entice, or satisfy your fantasized audience. Write as you must write, as fully yourself, and trust that there are others out there who will resonate and align with your words, and who will find you only if you are true to yourself.
What kinds of books did you read as a child? Did the genre you read most influence your decision to become an author of the kind of books you write today?
While I've read widely in many genres, my first and truest love is for science fiction and fantasy. These are the realms, to my mind, in which the most compelling examinations of human psychology and culture unfold, and in which the deep spiritual questions of meaning and purpose, future and past, and the nature of reality itself, are being asked. That's the realm I wanted to live in, so naturally I've written myself right into it!
What specific authors or books influenced how and/or what you write today?
Hmmm... who pops to mind right now? Stephen R. Donaldson. Kurt Vonnegut. Larry Niven. Arthur C. Clarke. Orson Scott Card. Douglas Adams. I love how Daniel Quinn put compelling conversations in the mouths of fictional characters, and try to do the same. Card does this as well. I love Vonnegut and Adams for their humor, and may try my hand at something more akin to Vonnegut's spare, funny, yet tragic and richly-nuanced style in some future work. I can be pretty wry in person, but haven't really tried to make that happen on the page, though I must admit that there's a cat in Rumi's Field, Mihos, who quite cracks me up. I love Donaldson's rich world-building and Niven's pacing and adventure. There are so many to love. I just soak them in, and trust that they are changing me somehow, making me ever better at my craft.
What types of books do you read now for pleasure?
Right now I'm reading and very much enjoying a couple of Indy sci-fi novels: LifeformThree by Roz Morris and The Journal of Dr.Colwyn Rhys-Myers by Iain Walsh. I plan on writing full reviews of both when I finish with them, and publishing them on Amazon, Smashwords, and on my blog. I feel like it's important, as I work to find my own "Indy" audience, that I be familiar with, and supportive of, my fellow Indy authors. Let's help raise the tide of quality and lift all the boats, bringing the acknowledgement and respect due to those self-published authors who really deserve it.
What is next for you?
Publish Rumi's Field this summer. Continue working on the first draft of Book Three: Imbolc. Continue to school myself in the "entrepreneur" side of the self-publishing gig. I'll continue to write my almost-daily blog, Everythingis Research, in which I'm exploring not only my novel writing, but my experience of Asperger's Syndrome, with the long term goal of writing a non-fiction book on the subject.
Beyond that, I have my "compelling vision" of getting the None So Blind series of novels turned into series television. I've already written a pilot episode for that, to help me explore the possibility, though I'd really rather not write the translation from book to video myself. And I'm working on the pilot episode for a totally different series idea I have, something more in the Parenthood/ Transparent vein. Somewhere bouncing around out there, waiting to be "remote viewed," is a second series of science-fiction novels, loosely connected to None So Blind. And there are other books, like the above-mentioned novel inspired by Vonnegut.
You can reach Tim at the following places:
Blog: Everything is Research
Publishing Company: Blue Hag Books
All of the Above is available now at Smashwords or Amazon