Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m originally from South Alabama where I was raised near the Florida state line. I graduated from University of West Florida in Pensacola with a BA in Humanities. My author name is Thomas but I’m known as Tom, Tommy, and TC to friends and family. I’ve resided in Central California’s Big Valley since 1980 where I’ve worked at a prestigious private university in Student Life. I’ve written a total of four books. Two have been published, so far.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My newly published Southern novel is entitled GOODBYE, SATURDAY NIGHT. It is set in a small town in South Alabama in 1956 and centers on the complicated friendship between an eleven-year-old misfit and a twenty-two-year-old dropout from the swamps across the tracks. The story is loosely based on my childhood. My mother owned the local café and I had the run of the town, going to the movies every night.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I have a rescue cat named the Alley Cat who can’t leave my side except to eat or poop, so I write with him in my lap or draped over my shoulder. Just like the temple felines of ancient Egypt that had to be shooed off the sacred scrolls, Alley Cat blesses my manuscripts.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
It has been different at different periods in my life. In the early years Maugham, Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Harper Lee, and Capote all had a tremendous influence on me. During the middle period it was Larry McMurtry, Evan Hunter, and James Kirkwood. Nowadays, Patricia Nell Warren and Robin Reardon are my inspiration. They are my favorite authors writing today. I suck down everything they write.
What are you working on now?
I wrote the first draft of a juvenile mystery in the tradition of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys about twenty years ago but never polished it or started the rewrite. I put it back for later. Later has come. I pulled out the old manuscript and I’m beginning do a little work on it.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I use Facebook as my main focus for media promotion. I have a page devoted to GOODBYE, SATURDAY NIGHT. I keep it active and post several times in a week. I post excerpts from the novel and teasers. I vary input by posting quotes from famous authors, funny cartoons with a writing/writers theme, and reviews of books I’m reading. I started building my following a year before the book was published.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Start promoting your book long before it’s ready for publication. Build a following and keep them interested in your book. Create an author page or book page on Facebook and post only things related to your book or writing. Keep your personal posts on your personal page. Don’t just post about your book. Readers get tired of constantly hearing about the book. Post humorous cartoons relating to writing or writers. Post quotes about writing by famous authors. Every once in a while post a short review of the current book you’re reading and the book’s cover. Keep your page interesting and keep it active. Post a couple times each week. I like to pay a few dollars and boost the important posts to reach a larger audience.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Larry McMurtry once gave me author to author advice that I’ve used ever since. He told me to write every day while working on a project. His advice was to just get it all down as soon as possible. Don’t stop to do serious rewrite. Get the first draft out and on paper, no matter how crude it is. Then go back and do as much rewrite and editing as needed once the first draft is finished.
What are you reading now?
ACCEPT THE BROKEN HEART by Robin Leigh Anderson. It’s a wonderful novel about an Army nurse serving in Vietnam. It’s based on the author’s experiences as a 19 year-old woman trying to save the lives of soldiers while dealing with her own emotions as horrendous death and destruction are mounting around her. It’s a heart-felt novel based on fact and set in one of the worst times in our nation’s history. I highly recommend it.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I plan to rework the juvenile mystery and then determine if I will submit it for publication. After that, I have another story idea I’ve been tossing around for a few years I think I might start working on. A few fans of GOODBYE, SATURDAY NIGHT have asked for a sequel. I left an opening for a sequel but I’m not sure I’m ready to extent that story at this time.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, McMurtry’s THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, Evan Hunter’s LAST SUMMER and Patricia Nell Warren’s THE FRONT RUNNER.