This installment of my interview series is with Tom McCann – a member of the Pontiac & Ottawa Valley Writers’ Circle (POVWC). Tom brings a zest and thirst for talking and learning about writing. Please enjoy this interview with Tom.
1. What was the first thing you ever wrote?
The things I remember writing were a couple of pieces from high school. One because I tried to write a character with a stutter, which I had, and the teacher felt was written poorly or wrong. It was a mandatory poem submission for our yearbook. It was titled Me and had three simple lines: “When I grow up, I will be, me.”
As an adult and writing, the first thing I remember writing was a picture-story about a conversation between two kids. Their ages and races were left to the reader’s imagination. It was titled POOF! And was about how one kid talked another kid through a difficult moment. It was the first thing I showed to anyone, and it was quite warmly received. It was a turning point for me
2. Do you remember how you felt after you wrote your first story/poem? And how was it?
For me I would consider POOF! to be my first story, at least in the sense that it was a story that had a huge piece of me in it. It was also the first piece that I finished and sat back and thought, “this is good!”
3. What book(s) are you reading right now?
I read a lot, constantly actually. I think I have averaged over 400 pages a week for about 40 years. For me, it is a cheap way to travel. The books I am reading have changed and change as my time and stresses change. I would read more serious classic type books traditionally in the winter when things slow down a bit and faster flowing police fiction type books the rest of the time.
Last night, I started Guardian Angel by Sara Paretsky, one of a series with V.I. Washawski as the lead character. It was written in the early 1990s. I read so much that I have to frequent used book stores to feed my habit. This would have been one of those purchases.
4. What was the most recent “great” book that you read?
Recently, I met author Charles de Lint and picked up a copy of his book The Wind In His Heart. It would make it onto my top 10 list. It is heavily influenced with Native American cultures, myths and legends. It is one of the books I have read that will affect the way I write.
5. What do you love in a book?
All of my favourite books tend to say a lot without going overboard on the quantity and quality of the words used. Less is more. The first Harry Potter book, Silas Marner by George Elliott, The Color Purple by Alice Walker and To Kill a Mockingbird and all short books that are long on story.
6. What do you dislike in a book?
Books that are too wordy. I do read classic lit but I cannot read Jane Austen. She says so much without getting anywhere. Also the last bunch of books written by Tom Clancy I found to be unreadable because he described in minute detail everything, in every scene. It takes up a lot of time and leaves nothing to the imagination.
7. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I still don’t know that I want to be a writer. I am still working on the concept that I like to write and that there is a smidgeon of a chance I may be good at it. One step at a time.
8. What are your writing goals?
Currently, I am working on having the quality of my work improve to the point that publishers are willing to consider it for their publication, regardless of the format.
9. Have you any publishing credits? What are they?
Not really but there is hope.
10. What is a typical writing session like for you? What are your habits?
My writing sessions are sporadic largely due to the fact I am currently in school and it is taking up all of my mental bandwidth. When I have a chance and the right frame of mind, I can sit and write for hours. I can churn out 2,000 words a day but things need to align for that to happen.
11. Without spoiling the plot or the intrigue, what are you working on now?
I am working on a period piece set in Wyoming in the early 1850s. This is out of character and type for me. The desire to have this be as “accurate” as possible has required I do research which has eaten into the time would normally use to write. The protagonist is dead but doesn’t realize he is.
12. Off the top of your head, what’s a prompt or technique you would give to a writer experiencing writer’s block who needs something to inspire them?
I like to take a break and come back to something, writing something frivolous in between more serious works helps me also. A writing exercise I have been working on has been to take a well known first line and adapt it. “It was the best of times it was the worst of times…..” becomes something like “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, ah it was another night at Bob’s Taco Hut” and let the story continue in whatever direction it unfolds.
13. Shakespeare is credited with inventing several words through his writing, such as “assassination” and “addiction”. If you could make up one word, what would it be and what would it mean?
I regularly try and make up a word. Words and how they are used are something that attracts me to books, movies, TV…. Shakespeare was certainly brilliant in his development of the English language and there are many others currently at work cultivating our words. Given the right character and situation I will make a word up or at least use a word differently than it’s intended use.