Saturday, January 7, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, TOM JOHNSON

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, TOM JOHNSON

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Hello Tom, thank you so much for honoring us with this interview. My first question is, being a 'voracious' reader from such an early age, what were some of your all time favorite books you ever read?

Tom: The Classics come to mind. White Fang, Call of The Wild, Heidi, Tom Sawyer, Robin Hood, and King Solomon’s Mines. All the classic literature gave me adventures in foreign lands with exciting tales of daring-do.

Tell us about your style of writing and some of the influences that helped you along the way.

Tom: Plot is very important to me, but I think my stories are stronger in character development. Probably the best way to describe my writing style is to refer you to “purple prose”, which was a tag given to the early mass market magazine writers earning a half cent a word for their fiction. They had to use every adjective, verb and adverb in the English language to add word count to stories in order to feed and support families. Today, editors want shorter, tighter sentences, without a lot of throwaway words. But I try to stick little helpers in when they’re not looking. I still enjoy reading a purple prose story from the 1930s and ‘40s. Sure, today you could cut that 60,000-word novel down to a 40,000-word novelette, but what would be the fun in that?

How did your military career help you in your writing career?

Tom: I was raised in farm and ranch communities, and my dad wanted me to be a cowboy like him, but I saw how he struggled in life and wanted more than that. The military offered the opportunity to see the world, and meet other people and learn new customs. Plus, the Army taught soldiers discipline. The life I experienced in the service was an education I could never have obtained as a cowboy. Don’t get me wrong, God Bless the farmers and cowboys. It just wasn’t the life I wanted. When writing stories of other lands, I can describe people and places from actual experience. And for someone with an imagination like me, I could see dinosaurs and lost civilizations in the jungle of Vietnam.

You are a very blessed man having married the love of your life and in turn having been gifted by your son with six beautiful granddaughters. Tell us how they feel about your writing and do you look to them for critiques?

Tom: Sadly, our son and granddaughters have very little interest in my writing. My wife and I were involved in small press publishing for many years while our son was growing up, and being that close to it may have turned him off. He never had the interest, and our granddaughters are at the age where “boys” are more important than anything else (lol).

Who are some of your most important inspirations as far as authors go?

Tom: There were many. I was seven years old when I first discovered Batman and Superman comic books, and they helped me learn to read while introducing me to heroes. Sometime around age ten or eleven, one of my fourth grade teachers gave me a real book to read, I guess to get me away from comic books. That book was “Doctor Hudson’s Secret Journal” by Lloyd C. Douglas. It was my first real fiction, and it fascinated me! Doctor Hudson was a doctor in a small community, and the book was episodic stories of the families he cared for. Written in short story format, each episode told a tale about a different family and their problems. A friend of the family saw me reading the book, and a few days later brought me a box filled with classic literature. From that day on, I wanted to read. Other influences would come later. As a teenager, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer turned me on the tough guy detective novels. George O. Smith’s “Pattern For Conquest” introduced me to science fiction, and I’ve never forgiven him (g). By my early twenties I had discovered the African adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. The world of fiction allowed me to travel to faraway lands.

What is your most recent work, and what plans do you have for the near future?

Tom: Altus Press just released my nonfiction book, “G-Man Companion”, and NTD released my short story collection, “Pulp Echoes”. Currently, I’m working on the 30th Anniversary issue of our hobby magazine, Echoes. I hope to have this out by June 2012. I’m also assisting my wife with her series of anthologies, “Tales of Masks & Mayhem”, and will have a short story in each of the upcoming issues.

If you were to ever consider writing another genre, what would it be and why?

Tom: Hum. I dabble with action, adventure, western, science fiction, mystery, and costumed heroes already. Perhaps swashbuckling might be my next endeavor. I’ve always liked pirates and Zorro, and that genre. I’m not very good at writing romance, so I’m staying away from that one. Every time I throw a romantic scene into one of my stories, my wife quickly tells me, “That isn’t romantic.”

Besides your wonderful family and writing career, what do you consider to be your most prized accomplishment?

Tom: My greatest accomplishment is succeeding in life, and I owe that to my family and twenty years in the military. I don’t regret leaving the farm and ranch for the Army. Although I may have been a disappointment to my father, I achieved more than he could ever dream of in his short life.

Here's a fun question, off the top of your head, name one of your most embarrassing moments.

Tom: Wow! The one that comes to mind happened five or six years ago. I was attaching a birdhouse to a limb, and I had to reach up. As I stretched, my pants fell down to my knees. Our next-door neighbor lady was standing in her yard watching me at the time, and I’ve never lived that down. Every time I see her, she reminds me about that incident, and she is now close to her 90s.

Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other aspiring authors?

Tom: Yes, never give up your dreams. I wrote my first two novels in 1970 and hired a professional typist to type the first one into manuscript. After several rejections, I put the manuscripts in a drawer where they gathered dust while I did other things. In 2002, a friend I had published in one of our genre magazines emailed to say she was now the head editor of a publishing house, and asked if I had any unsold novels I might want to submit. I immediately dusted off the first manuscript and mailed it off. It was accepted, and they wanted the second one, which was still in long hand. This time I typed it and mailed it off, and started work on the third. I think I’m a better writer today, than I was in 1970. That comes from practicing and learning the craft. So write every day, even if it’s a daily diary.

Do you have any special hobbies or community activity that you would like to mention?

Tom: While in school I wanted to become either a paleontologist or entomologist, but the military changed that when they put me in the military police career field. However, I retained my love for both sciences, and studied and wrote on the subjects over the years. My wife and I have both been involved in the local writer’s group and Arts And Enrichment Council, helping to bring entertainment to our small community. These consist of stage plays and radio reenactments. We were also involved with the Chamber of Commerce for a while, but are slowing down now.

Thank you so much Tom for your time with this interview, I hope to be able to do another one soon!

Tom: It was my pleasure, Kitty.

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