Welcome! Thanks so much for this opportunity to ask a few questions. How did you start your writing career?
During my late teen years, I became hooked on watching reruns of the original Star Trek series. After seeing all of the episodes, I wanted more. Since there wasn’t any more, I wrote a Trek story for myself. I showed it to a few friends and my English teacher. They liked the story, and gave me some good pointers to improve the story and my writing in general. I toyed with an idea for a second Trek story but never fleshed out more than two alien characters. They stuck firmly in my mind for years after. Finally, those two characters, Poc Tec and Samot, demanded a book all of their own. That’s where my first novel, Distant Ties, came from.
What books have most influenced your life?
The novel that really started my passion for Science Fiction and writing was Ringworld, by Larry Niven. I just loved the Puppeteers and Kzin. Niven had a knack for creating engaging alien races that were not humans in an alien body. His novel ignited my imagination, which ultimately lead to my creating the alien race called the Kell in my novel Terraforming Teardrop. Because of Niven’s influence, I put a lot of thought behind making the Kell think and act in ways that would naturally occur given their evolution on the world of Teardrop. I even went so far as to reason out their vocal limitations because of their physiology.
What do you think makes a good story?
I believe there are two important elements that are required for a good story. First, it must have characters that the reader must be able to identify with. Be they heroes, villains or just side characters, the reader needs be able to make some type of emotional bond with them. Love, hate, sympathy, etc. Any feelings allows the reader to connect with a character. If the reader doesn’t care about your characters, he/she will not keep reading. The second element for a good story is a plot that makes you think and/or wonder. In my novel Terraforming Teardrop, the reader follows my main character’s adventures while he works to uncover a link between two murders, and a conspiracy about the plan to terraform the world of Teardrop. He knows the lives of the peaceful alien natives, the Kell, rests on his ability to solve the mystery.
Do you listen to music while writing? If so what?
Most of the time, I write in silence. However, when the mood strikes me, I’ll occasionally listen to music while writing. The music I like is mostly classic rock from the 60s though the 80s. Bands like Boston, Styx, Heart, Van Halen and others are my favorites. However, I also listen to other artists like Air Supply, Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers. My son introduced me to some later bands like Avenged Sevenfold that I also like. On my website, tomawright.com, you can find a more detailed lists of bands and artists on my playlists. You’ll also be able to see what type of movies, TV shows and video games I like.
Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?
I believe that it would be impossible as a writer not to put elements of yourself into your characters. Is there a character in any of my books that is modeled 100% off of me? No. I look into myself to find traits and/or beliefs that can be incorporated into characters. It’s a fun challenge to take a villain, like Sheriff Beck from Terraforming Teardrop, and find dark elements within yourself to alter and amplify to make him real. It is also fun, but necessary, to add positive elements to a villain like Beck. Pure evil makes for a dull character.
Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
While writing my first four novels, and the bulk of the current one in progress, I had wonderful critique groups. The members of these groups helped me to understand the mechanics and craft of writing fiction more than any college courses I’d taken. I’ve since moved to a different state, and miss them deeply. I haven’t found a group with the same talent where I currently live. I’ve recently decided I’ll have to find an online critique group. It’s a shame, because face to face interaction adds enormously a critique session.
Tell us about your next release.
I’m currently working on a novel called Temporal Feedback. This novel is my most ambitious to date for a couple of reasons. First, it utilizes an element of writing fictionalized non-fiction articles. Trying to write make-believe newspaper articles that read authentic, but incorporate content important to the demand of the story is real tricky. For a while, a member of my former critique group was a journalist who helped show me how I’d broken many journalistic rules. Unfortunately, to fix the articles would have seriously degraded the impact and intent of the make-believe articles. Finding a balance between the two has really been hard.
The second reason Temporal Feedback has been ambitious is because I deal with a very touchy subject, religious extremism. In the story, Earth has come under the rule of a religious theocracy. Humanity is in the process of spreading through the galaxy, conquering alien races and imposing their beliefs on them. If they won’t convert, they are exterminated. A member of the race humanity is targeting next, the Pileeta, develops a way to stop humanity from wiping out her kind, going back in time to destroy them at their weakest. Her plans are sent asunder when a human battleship is dragged back in time with her own ship. Now, both sides must either work together to create a peaceful new start, or fight to the death over a frozen, Ice Age Earth.
Although I portray the theocracy’s religion as brutal and heartless, it is not designed to be a condemnation of the root religion. If the book is anti-anything, it is anti-extremism. Even though I know there will be people who think I’m attacking their faith, I’m sure most science fiction readers will see the story for what is and enjoy it.
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?
My suggestion for beginning writers is to take your craft very seriously. Read books about writing. Read books that are similar to what you want to write. Study both. Write. Then, write some more. Keep writing. Search for a good writers’ critique group and listen to their suggestions with an open, but critical mind. Learn what you are doing wrong in your writing. Learn what you are doing right. Keep reading, learning, writing and improving. Lastly, take the time to make sure what you have written is properly edited before you submit it anywhere. Publishers’ slush piles and self-publishing outlets are filled with books poorly written and filled with errors and typos. To be a serious writer, you have to have a polished book.
Safety and Liability Analyst Craig Shannon finds himself investigating the deaths of two people on the water-filled world called Teardrop. But the deaths were no accident, and all evidence points to a conspiracy against the peaceful alien natives known as the kell. Craig must search for the truth behind the plan to terraform Teardrop to not only save his own life, but the life of an entire planet.
Tom A Wright is a science fiction writer, web page designer and computer programmer. He lives with his family in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
Tom A. Wright
Genre’: Science Fiction