Welcome to the three hundred and fifty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Tim Girard. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Tim. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Tim: Hi Morgen. It’s a pleasure to be here with you. A little something about myself. It’s funny. I have been on the other side of the interview, asking questions, and I never gave much thought to how awkward it is to tell something about myself! My name is Tim Girard and I am a creative writer. There, the AA meeting can commence! I have been writing for some 25-30 years. Doing the math yeah, I started writing when I was very young and I never really stopped. I always dabbled a little here and there, y’know, just kind of blowing with the wind. I grew up, travelled the world, grew up again, started a family, and tried to join corporate America in the Cubicle Farms. With a young family my writing had to take something of a backseat. I managed the occasional poem here and there and I created a fun comic strip to keep the grey matter firing. As it turns out being planted in the cubicle farm wasn’t my calling. I endured chronic migraines and eventually moved on. I wandered into law enforcement and suffered a horrendous training accident very early on. I had to resign my position and wait two years for supposed healing. While sitting still and gnashing my teeth I decided to embrace my writing! Full on! Damn the torpedoes, that kind of thing. Around this time I delved into kid’s books and wrote some silly stuff that got the attention of a writing website. Weird how life meanders! This website was looking for horror writers. I am not a horror fan. I find the genre to be overwhelmed by lazy regurgitations and clones of the great thing at the moment. But I figured I could at least lend some perspective. Boy did I! I quickly became a horror expert (weird considering my borderline disdain for the genre) and I began covering fun events like Universal Studio’s Hollywood Horror Red Carpet Event and Knott’s Scary Farm (both attractions around Halloween, transforming the respective parks into scare zones complete with ghoulies and grossies) and have been covering them for a couple of years now. In that same time I decided to share my own take on a horror story. It took some time but I turned out my first horror story, The Song in the Chamber.
Oh! I got distracted. I am based out of California. I suppose that is relevant!
Morgen: It lets the reader imagine your accent. 🙂 What genre do you generally write (horror? children’s?) and have you considered other genres?
Tim: This is kind of an awkward question! In text this will sound horrible and holier-than-thou but the truth is I try to defy genre. I like writing stories. I am not scared to write a Western (working on one), historical fiction (one of those in the works too!) or a good old-fashioned fiction story. A story is a story. Genre is merely the setting. (I hope that doesn’t sound too arrogant!)
Morgen: Absolutely not. I don’t write to any genre either so you’re in good company. 🙂 What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Tim: So far I have two “published” short stories on Kindle (The Song in the Chamber and The Sad Day). I have published more articles than I care to count (most of them silly and sarcastic. I reviewed a t-shirt once. Go figure.) and I have a list of projects that are finally coming to fruition.
Morgen: Oh yes, I have a LONG list like that. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Tim: I don’t have an agent. I stuck my finger in the water to see the response. I didn’t hear anything back. I didn’t pursue an agent too hard. In today’s day and age it seems having an agent is one more person I have to split my money with. Not to say I wouldn’t take one on. I would under the right circumstances but for now I am going solo!
Morgen: I tried a few but decided to publish eBooks myself and it a was a great experience (I love having control, via an editor of course). So your stories are available as eBooks, how involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Tim: Right now my stories are exclusively e-books. I am not a conventional writer. I don’t stick to word count so my stories tend to be short and to the point. E-books are dynamite for my kind of writing. I worked with Amazon for The Song in the Chamber, managing the formatting and such myself. It was a little experimental, particularly since The Song in the Chamber relies heavily on the formatting to tell the story but I was pleased it was not the agonizing experience I had anticipated. For me I prefer physical books. (Gads! I hope I am not shooting my marketing in the face!!) I appreciate the value of an e-reader, particularly as my writing is taking new directions everyday. In the coming months I will likely be embracing the Tablet and the opportunities that accompany it.
Morgen: I’m torn between the two formats but I don’t feel I have to choose one over the other. I have a library of books at home, enough to last me a lifetime, but I have my Kindle out and about with me. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Tim: I do all my own marketing. I am a little bit (and I mean that in the literal sense of the word!) of a control freak so I would rather take it on myself. That being said there is so much I don’t know and I am more than willing to explore and listen and learn. I am a control freak (a little!) but I am not so horribly full of myself that I can’t listen to other people and learn from their experiences.
Morgen: Me too. How important do you think the titles / covers of books are?
Tim: I love this question. Are book covers important? Yeah. They are. Unfailingly so. If your book cover is miserable you’ll have a tough time out there. I think you have to find the right image for your book. Wobble too far in either direction and you lose your opportunity. That being said for The Song in the Chamber I chose a black background with a basic script title. And it is selling! Weird! With so many things, though, you have to be able to encapsulate your story as a whole. Many book covers zero in on an event in the story. I think that does a disservice to the story as well as to the audience.
Morgen: Perhaps some covers try too hard and people like simple. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Tim: Actually a lot. Probably too much. I am deep in the writing of an animation feature called the 7. I have a character project I will be launching soon called Friends of Stem the Brain. I am working on a Western called Child of the Herd, a historical fiction called Shiloh, and reworking an old story called Broken Mirrors. My Grandfather left me his War memoirs so I will likely be cleaning those up. I have a comic strip called Pinhead and Zipper that will see the light of day soon and I am always, always thinking of new ideas. It can be a little frizzy in my head but thank the Lord, trees are willing to die to give me paper!
Morgen: Wow, this probably makes my next questions redundant but… do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Tim: I won’t say everyday but almost. Writing an animation feature is a lot of fun and with so many characters I find I am giving more and more detail and history (which is very similar to writing short stories) to each character and the overall world at hand. It is amazing stuff and I am anxious to share it.
Writer’s block is kind of a scary thing. I don’t really find myself agonizing too much over writer’s block. I don’t suffer as the German poet Rilke did. Every once and again my mind will seize and I will struggle to get something onto the page. Writing animation scripts is a little different though. My artist has done an amazing job translating my descriptions into images. I find when constructing history (or writing) is not flowing it is better to get into character editing. It helps and I find I am able to concentrate again.
Writing the Song in the Chamber was kind of a hazardous event. The story is graphic and dark and follows a narrative that was very difficult to slip into. I was afraid the narrative would start becoming forced and ultimately stale which was something I obviously sought to avoid. I suppose in a way it was kind of a self-inflicted writer’s block.
Morgen: But you write so many different formats that you’re brain is bound not to get bored. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Tim: Plot my stories. I have learned to be flexible with my writing. Everything is fair game on paper and can always be reworked, edited, or recycled somewhere else. Do I plot them? Yes and no. I have a general idea where things are going. Writing animation I typically know the overall start stop and middle of the story.
Morgen: That would make sense as it’s more time-consuming (I guess). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Tim: Creating characters is a little tricky. I try not to think too much about them and let them evolve on their own. I suppose it depends on your medium. Writing animation obviously you have visual references. You aren’t bound necessarily to the visual but you have to be a little more careful with the character. In prose you have more freedom since so much is interpreted individually by the reader. I tend to describe a character emotionally rather than physically. In the Song in the Chamber one of the main characters is a girl. All you know is she is recently bald and tattooed. Nothing else really matters physically.
The Sad Day is about a war, two small boys, and a man by the name of Cowboy. It is a short story and should, hopefully in my fashion, clobber you right between the eyes!
What makes them believable? That’s a tough one. I suppose it is the respect and care you put into them. One of my bigger criticisms of Hollywood writers is their lack of concern for their characters (TV and film). The audience is introduced to characters with little substance and told this is interesting (whether it is or isn’t) and we are given a teaspoon of depth to work with. I think that is a shame and one of the greatest storytelling devices has become stale and crude. Characters need to be accessible. They need to have something deep inside we can latch onto else why bother investing a part of your life into them?
Morgen: Your girl sound like fun. 🙂 Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Tim: I adore writing short stories. Simple, to the point, and straight to the jaw with a closed fist! In every way! I think short stories are powerful and effective, resonating long after reading. I have written my share of poetry. I think almost every writer has. I love haikus because of their rigidity (something I instantly rebel at!) and I love free verse (because I instantly rebel!). I have written songs, shorts, articles (non-fiction, not my favourite but I can do it with some skill) but my heart is short stories.
Morgen: I’ve not done much poetry (not enough to fill an 80-side display book they’re sitting in) but do enjoy haiku (whether I’m doing it right, other than the syllables remains to be seen) although I prefer the format of Fibonacci poems. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Tim: I’ll be honest. I hate editing. I love editing. It’s my secret nightmare, editing, because I don’t seem to be happy with the final product and I reach an “oh screw it” point and rush to get something out. Working on the Song in the Chamber I reached that “If I have to read this passage one more time I’ll set myself on fire” stage a couple of times! In a small way I appreciate George Lucas constantly changing Star Wars. As time advances you find yourself saying that could have been better.
Is my writing fully formed? No. I wish. Not to say it comes out rubbish and I have to polish a tird. Far from it. I prefer short, to the point text and narratives so I find myself cutting out or re-working some of the wordier sections.
Morgen: I think with editing you just have to let your story go once it comes down to changing a word or two here and there (unless it’s spelling or grammar) and as long as you have an editor or second reader (which every writer should) they’ll hack it around anyway. Do you have to do much research?
Tim: It depends. I lived in Europe for a couple of years so I have a decent grasp on people, culture, and history. I lived in Egypt, near Israel also so I have an understanding of the Desert and heat. I live in California and spent some time in the Sierras where the railroad was blasted into the granite. I’ll research for specifics, like when Israel became a country and significant events that would shape a story tied to a location or timeline. I write in broad strokes though. History has its place but it is rarely used. I like the vague idea this story could be happening almost anywhere at anytime. Bradbury is good at that and I try to emulate the same style of timelessness.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Tim: Point of view is a strange thing. I am steeped in animation writing right now so everything is current. This is happening right now, present tense. Generally I prefer third person but I am an experimenter. The Song in the Chamber is second person narrative and I loved it.
Morgen: Oh wow. It’s unusual to find someone else who loves it, let alone writes and publishes in it (it’s my favourite point of view, as readers of my Tuesday Tales ditties will know. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Tim: My favourite aspect of writing. That’s a little tricky. I love creating and I love sharing. I love the idea of writing something that makes kids laugh. I love the idea of creating a character that kids want to play with and imagine adventures with. I love the idea of creating a character that makes you mad, makes you sad, makes you fall in love. Not in an Edward is so great kind of way (the Twilight Edward for clarity) but in a real I can feel it sort of way. I love making something that makes sense. If I say this guy grafts mechanical devices into his skin to be a stronger, more efficient villain and he uses magic as an interface I want the audience to say yeah, I can see that. Totally! Or the little Brain character with big eyes and feet is really a zombie ambassador spreading good zombie cheer to the world I want people to say yeah, and he’s adorable too! To me that is the best part of writing.
My least favourite? Wow. I don’t know! I suppose the time constraints. I still have to have a grown up job so my time is restricted. I have a youngish family so my time is even more chewed up. And I have entirely too many thoughts at any one given minute. That is frustrating too. I suppose the business as a whole. This idea everything has to have commercial success is borderline nauseating. I don’t like writing to and for the market. I suppose technology restrictions too. I don’t know all the goofy programs out there so I rely on the expertise of others.
Morgen: Snap: creating vs time – as you can imagine, with all the work I have to do for this blog it leaves little for anything else. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Tim: My best advice to aspiring writers? Learn your craft. Learn the marrow of it. Read, read, and read some more. When you are done doing that run out into the world and get your heart broken. Tear your knees up. Storm beaches. Let the ocean knock you down hard. I’m not kidding! Get into the thick of it. Keep your mouth shut, your eyes open and take in everything. Then, at night, think and think and think some more. Get deep inside yourself, into the minutiae of who and what you are. Do the same with everyone around you. Read the Bible. Don’t be afraid of anything. (Except sharks. They’re darn scary! They should be feared!) After doing this until you are a bloody mess, heal and let it sit and simmer for a couple of years. Then, and only then, are you ready to write. But for the love of God be genuine. Don’t regurgitate. Share something new and wonderful with the world. We’ve all seen enough zombie / werewolf / vampire / possessed by the devil hybrids to last a lifetime.
Morgen: Absolutely. Write what you want to write, not what you think is expected or popular (unless you enjoy the popular). With the ability to eBook, the world is your clichéd oyster. 🙂 Speaking of food, if you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Tim: I’ll be honest I was going to skip over this question.
Morgen: Sure, no problem. You’re doing pretty well so far. 🙂
Tim: I’d rather spend a year exclusively with folks rather than a dinner. I’m a huge fan of getting into the nuts and bolts of a person and one meal just didn’t seem nearly enough time. I’d love to sit with Homer and ask him some questions! I’d love to talk tactics with Hannibal. I’d love to get into the mind of Lincoln. Or talk with Pharaoh. I’d give my teeth to ride with Steinbeck and Charlie as they travelled America. I’d like to go walkabout with an aboriginal storyteller and hunt for water with bushmen in Africa.
Sorry. That was more than three.
What would I serve? Probably something exotic like tortilla soup or gumbo! I dunno, something silly and strange. Maybe a nice stirfry? Cheeseburgers with nice milkshakes?
Morgen: Either works for me. 🙂 Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Tim: I have a great project I am unleashing (ahem, unveiling) soon called the Travels of Stem the Brain. I’ll be unveiling a website and releasing more information soon. Basically, the project involves taking pictures of Stem the Brain in your community then sending the pics my way to be posted on the Stem the Brain website. As the project gains speed I am planning on switching gears and inviting people to write their own short stories about Stem and sending those in as well. I figure give it about a year or so then I will stitch the stories together to create the Travels of Stem and His Many Adventures! It should be fun and I am very excitedly looking forward to it!
Aside from that I am taking Stem into brain health. Suffering with chronic migraines is disastrous and I have come to have a heart for people that endure neurological issues. Add to that there is not nearly enough emphasis on brain health. I’m not a health food nut but I try to be conscious of what I eat and how I treat my grey matter. I think Stem can help shed some light on this issue as well. We as Americans don’t spend nearly enough time maximizing our brains and I think we are and will continue to suffer as a nation for it.
Morgen: I love short stories (and am starting Story A Day today) and love anything quirky. 🙂 What do you do when you’re not writing?
Tim: I have a lot that keeps me occupied. Most of it is centred on my writing. Writers need to experience, to live, to grow. I enjoy good movies, good television (not that there is much of either out there). I love to travel and will willingly do more when I have the money. I have two kids that keep me very occupied.
Morgen: I’m lucky I don’t have children to distract me although for all the time I spend on them my dog and blog could be (the former certainly thinks he is). 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Tim: Writing related books. It’s funny, a couple of years ago I would have balked at the idea of a book helping writers write. As I grow I realize that is the arrogance of youth. I think just about anything story related, the mechanics of story that is, is worthwhile. Joseph Campbell is almost required reading as is Illusion of Life written by two fantastic Disney animators. I mention Illusion of Life since so much of the book is devoted to storytelling. Yeah there is a heavy emphasis on animation. As a writer, though, animation is my stock and trade only I animate on the canvas of your mind and soul with the broad picture words I use and the images you create with them. Of course there are classics as well. The Iliad, Gilgamesh. The Book of Five Rings. Letters to a Young Poet. East of Eden. All are tremendous works not only of writing but about writing. I think serious writers should be able to jump into a book, a good book, and tear it apart until they are left holding the pulp of the story, whatever the story is. Want to have some fun? Dissect the Art of War then come back and tell me how it is not related to stories. If you can do that you are a better writer than I ever will be. I think almost any good book is helpful and useful for storytelling.
Morgen: I’m clearly not well read as out of all those I’ve only heard of ‘The Iliad’ (Homer, wasn’t it… and The Odyssey) but then history was my worst subject at school (I’m good with figures, just not years other than 1066 and 1665 / 1666) so I prefer more contemporary writing. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Tim: Part of me wants to be excited for the future but part of me is somewhat pessimistic. The great sweeping advances of technology have given us fertile ground as writers and an audience unlike any other in history. I can download my story and it is accessible around the world in seconds! That is fantastic! But, and here’s the rub, if I can do it anyone can. That means there is a lot of unfortunate clutter out there. It makes good stories hard to find and that is my biggest fear. With waves of mediocre stories I fear good legitimate stories will be lost in the ocean of so, so many.
Morgen: There is sadly. It’s very easy for a writer to think they can edit themselves and just put their story up. Even if they don’t hire an editor (someone like me :)) they need a second reader… even if they’re not another writer, a reader will spot errors and know whether a story works or not (if they read enough). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Tim: I have been kicking around the idea of launching my own website. It seems almost a little pretentious to me but I may have to, since I have such a diverse collection of work. For now I am out and about, working hard to solidify my name is something other than one more guy out there.
Morgen: An uphill journey but I’m sure a website would help. I have a website (http://morgenbailey.com) but it’s just home and contact pages as I find blogs SO much easier (and actually more interactive) and would recommend WordPress. I’ve actually just launched a I Can Build Your Writing Blog service this week – comprehensive set-up especially designed for writers (so they can get on with their writing while I create it!), just £50 / €60 / $75. 🙂 Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Tim: Morgen I want to thank you for giving me the microphone for a few minutes! I appreciate the time! I suppose the only thing I would like to mention is don’t be a stranger! It’s not too hard to find me! I am always open to meeting folks and talking and sharing. I may not always remember names but I am great at circumstances and events! Thanks again Morgen!
Morgen: Oh, you’re very welcome. Thank you for taking part and do feel free to come back and do something else, especially when your second eBook comes out. 🙂
Tim’s two short stories are available now from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk:
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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