Saturday, December 17, 2011

Interview With Tom Kepler

Tell us about you.
The first story I remember writing was in the 5th grade. I was on a cloud, watching all the people below. I suppose I'm still doing that with my writing, letting the stories play out--sometimes giving guidance, sometimes surprised by the choices the characters in my stories make.

I been a classroom language arts teacher for thirty-three years. This has given me a good eye for proofreading and a good sense of whether or not I'm boring the audience. Kids tend to be brutally honest about whether you're boring them.

I have independently published three books. I have independently published (so far) because my students wanted to read what I was writing, and traditional publishing can take years before the book is in hand. Also, I wanted to learn the skills of the new technology that so easily leads to self-publishing so that I could teach it to my students.

Tell us about your book.
The Stone Dragon is a fantasy novel about a young man, Glimmer (short for Not a Glimmer of Magic), who discovers that he works his magic while dreaming.

Dream magic is the most dangerous of magics because it is so difficult to control. Glimmer's first attempt at dream magery conjures a dragon, and just before dying in dragonfire, he locks the dragon within the stones of his master_s house.  How, though, do you live in a house that is also a dragon?  And how can you even sleep,knowing that dream might slip to nightmare?

What inspired you to write this particular story?
That is somewhat of a mystery. It was Thanksgiving vacation, and I had a few days away from school. I was thinking that gnomes had received bad press (those pointy hats!) and that dragons were much more than fire-breathing monsters. I was feeling that dragons were embodiments of the creative intelligence of the laws of nature.


I started writing and was soon seven thousand words into the novel, the whole idea clear and begging to be written. The young apprentice named Glimmer, the garden gnome called Cabbage-pants, dream magic--I have no idea why all that came to me.

What can readers expect when they open your book? Give us something that isn't on the book blurb. 
Glimmer's search for control over his life is really what we are all striving to do--to function from a level of life where the particular action produces the desired result. We don't want to be a football, kicked this way and that willy-nilly.

Glimmer's teacher, Alma-Ata, is a Mage Who Gathers. His magic is that he attracts magic. According to the clarity and comprehensiveness of his mind, magic gathers and creates and influences his environment. He is the representation of the idea that we create our own reality.

These characters learn the Silence of the Saints, the meditation technique that allows them to contact that silence level of themselves from which their thoughts (and dreams) and actions arise. I'd like to think that their story is our story, that we are all trying to make sense and meaning out of our lives.

Do you stick with one genre, or have you branched out to others? Which ones?
I've published three books, a poetry book, a realistic young adult novel, and a fantasy novel. They were published in the order that I chronologically wrote the material--but were put into print one a year for the last three years.

I'm enjoying my fantasy series right now, but I write flash fiction occasionally when I want to try something new.

Do you think you would ever branch out into another genre? If so which one(s). 
I'm a very eclectic reader, so it is very possible that I might try other genres. The nice thing about creating one's own writing world, though, is that any story can take place in it. There's no reason why I couldn't write a mystery or crime story set in my Dragons of Blood and Stone series.

Where do you get your ideas?
Out of my head is the simplest answer, I suppose, but I think the interaction of my inner life and my outer experience somehow combine to create story ideas.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
Wow! This is just too global a question! Let me answer it in kind. All those human beings, men and women, who have devoted themselves to knowing their spiritual selves, I respect that.

I respect Huck Finn, floating down the Mississippi with Jim and saying that he's not going to turn Jim in for running away, that he'd rather be a criminal than do that.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished Archangel by Sharon Shinn, a very creative science fiction novel. I'm currently reading two books: The Dragon Keeper's Handbook, by Shawn MacKenzie, and I'm reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with my students.

Who are your favorite authors?
This should be funny.

I like SciFi/Fantasy writers C.J. Cherryh and Roger Zelazny, along with many others. I like Zane Grey, excepting his date racial and ethnic awareness (or lack of it). I like Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories. I like Jane Austen, and I like Louis L'Amour. The list goes on and jumps around like that--Faulkner, Steinbeck, Heinlein, lots of writers.

What is your current project?
I have two current projects. One is that, now that The Stone Dragon is out, I'm beginning to revise the sequel, Dragons of Blood and Stone. The other is a short story/novella I'm currently write in the DBS reality, called "Who Listened to Dragons," about an autistic child who practices magic.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
I'd like to think that I accurately represent the world as it is--and is includes different layers of reality.

Have you experienced any setbacks for your writing along the way? If so, will you share with us.
Time is the greatest setback. Connected to that are the eight years that I barely wrote when my first wife was slowly fading away with cancer. I was just too busy to write. That really wasn't a setback, though; it was a choice of priorities.

How did you overcome these setbacks?
I worked. Then I grieved. Then I started living a new life.

Do you believe in writer's block?
I believe in it, but I don't experience it. I think writer's block is a combination of stress and fatigue.

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
1. Put words on paper.
2. Good writing is rewriting.
3. Outer depends on inner.

What is the best advice you have for other writers?
No one is making you write. Make sure you enjoy yourself.

What is more important to you, plot or character?
I see a synergism: plot comes from character, yet character determines the specifics of the plot.
Are you a panster or a plotter? : I'm always sure where I'm ending up, but the actual steps of how to get there are an exciting discovery. If I were ever to write a mystery, then I'd have to more carefully plot to make sure all the clues get put in the right places.

Preferred POV to write.
So far, it's been 3rd person POV, but my current "Who Listened to Dragons" is first person.

5 random things about you the person,  not the author
1. : I love to garden--and used that knowledge with the garden gnomes in my novel.
2. : I'm a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program--which gave me insight into how to write about consciousness.
3. : I usually ride my bicycle to work, except when the snow is really deep.
4. : I love to write by the wood stove in my living room.
5. : I'm somewhat of a hobbit and would rather stay home than travel.

Where to connect online

What format does your book(s) come in?
paper and ebook 

Where to buy your book