19 September 2007

Author Answers with Todd Stone

This week's featured author is Todd Stone, sometimes also known as T.A. Stone, and also as the leader of the Novelists Boot Camp.

For more on Stone and where to find Novelist Boot Camp sessions, go to his website.

WN: Tell us about your latest novel to hit shelves. What kind of reader will really like this book?
STONE: My latest mystery is No Place Like Home, the second in the Jonathan Kraag, reluctant PI series. Readers who like a fast-paced mystery that delves deeply into the mind of a troubled detective, manipulative criminal, and also goes behind suburbia's wholesome facade will enjoy No Place Like Home.
My most recent work, however, is Novelist's Boot Camp: 101 Ways to take your fiction from boring to bestseller. It's a military-themed "how to write a novel" book from Writer's Digest Books, and it helps aspiring and new authors take command of their novels with very practical strategies and tactics (Drills) that drive progress. There's all kinds of free downloads--like sample chapters, a battle plan for novel writing, and others--on our website http://www.storytellerroad.com/.

WN: Todd Stone. T.A. Stone. They are really both you, but what’s the difference and why use a different name for some books?
STONE: I received some advice--whether it was good or not time will tell--to use a different pen name for different genres. I wanted to use the pen name "Earnest Hemingway," but my publishers nixed that idea.

WN: From the looks of your website schedule, it seems you spend a lot of time teaching writing workshops. Why do you take the time to help aspiring authors?
STONE: I spent quite a bit of time presenting workshops and I wrote Novelist's Boot Camp for the same reason--to de-mystify the writing process. I guess it's the teacher in me--I was a writing instructor when I served at the US Military Academy at West Point and a creative writing teacher after that--and once teaching is in your blood, you never really leave it behind.

WN: What’s your writing process like?
STONE: Of course, Novelist's Boot Camp mirrors my writing process--although sometimes I struggle to practice what I preach. Because I have a day job, a lovely (and long-suffering wife), and other interests, I have to break my writing down into very small, very manageable pieces and then work on those pieces. I've found this planning and discipline actually lets me be more creative, and I think some of the awards my fiction has won is testimony to that process' effectiveness. That said, every writer has to find what works for them. The key here is what "works." If you have a process but you're not making progress on your novel, get a different process. I'd suggest you try the one in Novelist's Boot Camp, but I may be a trifle prejudiced.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid… what turned you on to reading/writing books?
STONE: Books were a great escape for me as a child, and I read everything I could get my hands on--from comic books to history to mystery to biography to treatises on the relationship between Zen and subatomic physics ("The Dancing Wu Li Masters") to the back of cereal boxes.

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
STONE: The best parts are crafting something good and then seeing people enjoy it--at least for fiction. For non-fiction, the best part is literally helping people achieve one of their dreams by helping them make progress in their writing.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
STONE: There's no way I could single out just one, but if I had to fill my rucksack with only a couple of books, you can bet The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance would go in near the top, with Lawrence Block's When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes right after that. The Bard's stories of and insight into the human condition -- and his craftsmanship -- are timeless. Pirsig's novel/philosophical tract on men and machines and madness is one to come back to again and again, and Block's tale of murder and modern demons that live at the bottom of a glass can't help but strike a cord in a man's soul.

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