Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blog Tour Author Interview: Tom Kepler

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Tom Kepler
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Tom Kepler's Books
Love Ya Like A Sister [Buy] [My Review]
Bare Ruined Choirs [More Info]
The Stone Dragon [Read]



What inspired you to become a writer?
The desire to write really kicked in when I was about 14-15 years old. A young woman student teacher took over my English class when I was in the 9th grade. I thought she was beautiful and intelligent and . . . well, you get the idea. She had us write in journals every day--anything we wanted to write, just between student and teacher. Totally private. I started writing all these love poems. The ability to write out strong emotion--not a story or an event, just emotion--was a powerful experience. So there I was, sitting in class, a teenager who was gaga over the teacher and handing in these torrid, emotional out-pourings . . . And she was classy enough to let me write. She didn't laugh at me or tell me to stop being silly and get a life. She let me write. The result was that I experienced a truth--writing is a powerful inner and personal experience--something much more than just words on the page to share with others. It was good teaching. Being a creator is heady stuff, and I have been writing ever since.


Do you have a favorite scene from the book you can share with us?
A fun scene to write--you'll have to tell me how fun it is to read!--is the scene where the main male character, Randy, is sitting on the toilet and talking to his ex-girlfriend on the cellphone.

Randy answered the phone as he sat down on the toilet.
“Hello?”
“Oh, hi, Randy, this is Susie.”
“Yeah, I recognize your voice.”
“Sure. It’s good to hear yours. What ya doing?”
“Oh, just sitting around.”
“I thought maybe we should talk.”
“You mean shoot the shit?”
“No reason to be crude.”
“You’re right. You just caught me at an awkward time for baring my soul.”


The scene represents one of the ideas that I developed in the novel. Sometimes we assume we know what's going on with the other person, but we really have no idea. Even when we talk to someone face to face, we have to be careful that our assumptions aren't presumptuous. In this case, this part of the novel is just a funny extreme of that idea. Along with this idea is the another of how important it is--especially for teenagers--to tell friends about what happened, whatever it is that happened. So in the novel, sometimes readers will learn about events by having one character tell another about an event. I did this rather than just narrating the event. I even have one instance where a character is telling another character about having discussed something with a third character. This rings true for me--high school years are very social years.


Are any of the characters more close to you than others?
Randy, the main male character in the novel, was always close to me, especially in the first draft of the novel. There are experiences in the book that are like my teen experiences, and also experiences of my son--like his mother passing away. The experiences in the novel, though, are not autobiographical; rather, they are renderings of emotion--events and characters made up but emotions remembered, adapted, and expanded.

Then, in later drafts of the novel, I came more and more to appreciate and respect the female main characters. They are essential to the novel because their strengths provide Randy with motivation and inspiration. They grow and evolve, and their changing changes Randy. The two sisters in the novel are different, yet I grew to respect both for their fundamental goodness and acceptance of their own qualities. Gwen is brave and independent and really living on an emotional precipice for much of the book. Most of the characters are having growing pains--legitimate and worthy of compassion--but Gwen is struggling for survival, and in order to survive, has to keep much of her struggle private.

What would you say is one item you absolutely need in order to write?
Hmmmm . . . I don't really need any one thing, other than the obvious like a brain or oxygen. Something to write with and on certainly helps. Let me try to go beyond the obvious, though.

Having some order in my outer life helps me be more focused on my inner life. My first wife was very sick for eight years before she passed away (my son was ages 8-16 years during that time), and I wrote very little. I wrote parts of this novel, sometimes with months and probably even years between the writing sessions. Earlier in my life, when I was about 22, my idea was to get a very straightforward job--it was working in an organic apple juice cannery in a town called Paradise, actually--and just going to work every day and then coming home and writing. Carrying in my pocket a pencil and notebook. Having a job with no demands, just float through the job and then do the real stuff--writing.

It didn't work out like that, but the challenges and responsibilities of my life have given me more depth, I think. I don't regret my life as a person or as a writer. However, a little more time would be good . . .



What is one thing on your bucket list?
I had to do some research on this on to see what a "bucket list" is. It seems to be a list of things to do with our lives before the bucket get kicked over--and then we wake up dead.

Since I'm writing this as a novelist, I'm going to relate this question to my writing. As a school teacher, I get to write during summer vacations, weekends, and a little during the work week; however, a school teacher is never really away from the job. There's curriculum and lesson plans and enrichment and . . . I would really like to experience just being a writer, and not being a full-time teacher who also writes. I would like to have an idea, have a plan, and have the time to devote myself to that vision from start to finish without having to also earn money for the mortgage payment. I realize that something always comes up, and I realize that creative people make the time to create. I believe that and have experienced that. I'd just like the train to slow down so that when I jump off (or on!) I don't get so skinned up. Right now I am reading through the manuscript (D7) of my fantasy novel, The Stone Dragon. I have also written draft 1 of its sequel, Dragons of Blood and Stone. I have about four more novels of this series in my head. It would be great to be able to devote myself full-time to writing.

By way of a conclusion: if I had the choice of waking up dead or not, I'd much rather be dead and awake than dead and dead asleep. There's always something good to say about living a spiritual life.

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