Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Author Interview with S. Evan Townsend

Welcome to my fellow World Castle author S. Evan Townsend. Thank you for joining us today, I’m so excited to have you hear and know my readers will enjoy it as well.  
About You:
Can you tell us a little about you?
I'm a 51 year old writer living in central Washington State.  I'm married with three children, all boys, the youngest is 18 and a senior in high school.  I've been writing for almost 40 years now (you do the math).  I spent four years in the U.S. Army in the Military Intelligence branch and then I worked for 20 years in a business I partially owned and ran.  About 15 months ago I decided to pursue my dreams of being a writer and now I write as much as I can.  I do fiction novels and I also write freelance articles.  I've gotten to meet a lot of interesting people most of whom were, because of where I live, farmers.

What quality do you most value in yourself?
I hope this doesn't sound snobbish or conceited, but I most value my writing ability.  It is the one thing I do best.  I'm just hoping I do it well enough to make a living at it.

In addition to writing, what else are you passionate about?
I love to drive and drive fast.  I've driven on a race track (since I've been writing for a living, I can't afford that anymore), and I know all the low-traffic roads in the area where speed enforcement is little or none.  I'm passionate about politics.  My mother was very involved in politics as I was growing up and she would run political campaigns while dragging me all over Idaho with her.  And I'm passionate about my kids, helping them succeed and become the adults they want to become.

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
My kids aren't criminals.  They don't tag, they don't swear, they don't talk back to adults.  They don't abuse drugs or alcohol, and they are all brilliant (which I'm sure is all because of me).

Why do you write?
Why do I breathe?  I have to write.  I have these thoughts, voices, ideas and if I don't record them they go away.  Plus I enjoy it so much.  I will write to pass time (which is how Hammer of Thor started).  There is nothing like the satisfaction of writing something unique and beautiful that conveys exactly what you want to say.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
I'm a very visual person.  When I write I see a movie in my mind of what's happening.  I believe my strength is transferring that movie from my head to paper so the reader sees what I'm seeing.

Is there any new or established author whom you feel deserves more attention, and what is it that strikes you about his or her work?
Seriously, I wish more people would read Robert Heinlein and Poul Andersen and learn from them.  They are both brilliant writers but are confined to the ghetto of "oh, they're just science fiction writers" when they are so much more.  Heinlein's political and social commentary disguised as entertaining stories influenced me a lot.

What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
Robert Heinlein, as I just said, Poul Anderson and Larry Niven are the three fiction writers who have influenced both my life and my writing.  In writing my novel Rock Killer I tried (and I think failed) to write as well as Larry Niven would on the subject of asteroid mining.

About Writing:
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
My writing comes in spurts.  And can come anytime.  I could be driving and have an idea (usually when I'm driving slow).  Or the shower is a great writing venue.  Usually I do what I call "pre-writing" when I think about something.  Then I'll sit down and actually write it.  But I don't hold on to what I pre-wrote because sometimes inspiration hits and suddenly I'm off on a whole new direction.  One time I made a typo and I liked the change so much, I changed to plot of the novel to match the typo.
I don't outline much or if I do, it's very broad.  For example, the outline for the final chapter of Agent of Artifice was "Final Conflict with Bad Guy."

What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
When I think of "tools" I think of thinks like a good dictionary (the older the better so that it's not infused with modern stupidity), a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and a Fowler's Modern English Usage (the older the better).  But the writer themselves, they need a good vocabulary (and an accurate one), and the ability to get their thoughts into prose form so that it is both easy to read yet not plain.  And they need to be absolute believers in their craft and ability because they are going to get a lot of rejections along the way.
What motivates you to write?
I need to write.  If I never got another penny and no one ever read what I wrote, I would still write.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
It seems to me that my writer's block is my subconscious telling me I'm writing crap.  For instance, I had writer's block for over a year on the climax of Hammer of Thor.  Then one day, I realized my idea was crap.  And so I started thinking about it more (pre-writing) and came up with another idea and suddenly, it was no longer crap and I finished the book's first draft in about two weeks.  So when I suffer writer's block, I try to step back, think, and figure out what's wrong.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Prostitution pays better and is less degrading.
To me, some people are writers and some want to write.  Those that are writers will write. Those that want to write want to make a lot of money, go on Oprah, and do book tours.  If you want to be a writer, then write and viola, you are a writer.  You may not be a paid writer or a published writer, but you can post your stuff online for others or start a blog or try to find a publisher.  But write.  And grow and thick skin because you will be rejected, criticized, and berated.
What are your current / future projects?
I am currently working on a third novel in the Adepts Series to follow up Hammer of Thor and Agent of Artifice.  It is titled Book of Death and it is set in 1968 (just 5 years after Agent of Artifice but the cultural changes are huge) and deals with the Cold War, the Prague Spring (I hope), and my version of vampires.

About your book:
Can you tell us a bit about your book?
My latest book is titled Rock Killer.  It is not part of the Adept Series but is a stand-alone novel.  It is science fiction that is set in the not-too-distant future when in order to supply an over-crowded planet with the resources it needs, a company called Space Resources, Inc., mines asteroids for their valuable metals without degrading Earth's environment.  But there are people who cannot stand human progress and will stop and nothing to slow or halt it.
What is the message in your book? What are your readers’ reactions to it?
The message of the book is that progress is always better than regress, and that standing up to bullies, be they nations, terrorist groups, or individuals, is better than surrender.  My readers have been universally approving, even those that I thought might be more inclined to be on the bad guys' side philosophically.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot about asteroids and how to plot a constant acceleration orbit in the solar system.  I remember having a spreadsheet open on my computer with the calculations on it to make the timing work right and having to wrap my plot around the reality of the math.  It was a challenge.  I also learned about Middle East politics, languages and cultures.  When I was writing the novel I had a friend who was an Arab linguist and he helped out a lot.

What do you think readers will find most notable about this book?
The book isn't meant to be a "message book" even though like all good literature, it has messages.  It's supposed to be a fun space adventure, taking the reader someplace they've never been: the Moon and the asteroid belt.  I hope what they find notable is the adventure and the fun in the book.

Have you acquired any good anecdotes surrounding this book? If so, could you share one?
A friend of mine read an early draft and he complained that the terrorists put out their statement claiming responsibility for the attack before they made their attack.  And I pointed out that they were twenty light-minutes from Earth at the time, so they were timing the message so that it would hit Earth right after the attack.  And for some reason, he couldn't understand that it would take twenty minutes for a radio transmission to get to Earth.  I kept saying things like "the speed of light is finite" and he still never got it.

Did researching and writing this book teach you anything or influence your thinking in any way?
I learned about Middle Eastern cultures and languages and customs.  So now when we talk about an Arab Spring, I can understand more why it is unlikely that will lead to a Western democracy.

What would you most like readers to tell others about this book?
That it was a fun book to read with lots of adventure and good old-fashioned space battles and some Earth-bound shoot-outs.

Can you suggest one question readers might find interesting to discuss, concerning you, your writing in general, or this book?
This book has two main characters who never meet (except briefly at the end of the novel).  One is Charlene "Charlie" Jones.  Interestingly, she started out as a white guy and ended up being a beautiful African-American woman.  It was one of those bolts out of the blue while I was writing.  In an early draft Charlie Jones was coming to meet someone.  But when he walked into the room I suddenly decided to make him a woman.  And then I decided to make her African-American as I wrote her background.  And finally, I made her beautiful because, well, I like beautiful women.  But she is strong, intelligent, and independent.  And I like that in a woman, too.

How can readers help you promote this book?
Tell everyone they know they loved it.  Tweet, blog, and post on Facebook about it.  And most of all, assuming you loved it, leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and Shelfari or anywhere else.  Email me through my website and I might link your review to my website.
Where can readers find you and more about your book(s)? Where can they purchase your book(s)?

The first place to go is my website:
All my books are available on and are available for the Kindle.
Some are also available for the Nook.

I have to say this was so much fun, Sheldon I can't thank you enough for the pleasure of getting to know you better. You had me laughing with your answers. I'm looking forward to meeting you and other World Castle Authors this coming weekend in Texas. For those who are unaware or just living under a rock... nine of us authors will be gathering together at not one but two Barnes and Noble's store for a huge Paranormal book event. If you are in the area please stop in and say hi to us. And Sheldon see you in less than 48 hours. 

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