The Author Visits presents Tex Thompson, debut author of Fantasy Western, One Night in Sixes.
Calendar of Events
Sunday, July 27 – Author Introduction; Kick-off Gift Giveaway Monday, July 28 – Part 1 – Interview with Tex Tuesday, July 29 – Release Day and Review of One Night in Sixes Wednesday, July 30 – Part 2 – Interview with Tex Thursday, July 31 – Guest Post by Tex Friday, August 1 – What’s Next for Tex Saturday, August 2 – Announce Winner of Gift Giveaway
And the Winner is?
Congratulations Jennette Lebeau!
What’s Next for Tex?
Well, as some of Sixes’ first readers have already discovered, this story is just the first part of a trilogy, and our man Elim has miles yet to go. I’m delighted to say that Solaris is already committed to the second book, so we’re spiffing and polishing and hoping to have Medicine for the Dead ready to go for a March 2015 release. And if that does well enough – “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” as we say in Texas! – we’ll be able to finish the story with the as-yet-unnamed Part 3 directly afterward. It’s hard to see that far into the future, but I tell you one thing: if people are as enthusiastic at the end of Sixes as you have been here at the beginning, I’m going to call it a huge win!
Guest Post by Tex Thompson
Book Launch Bingo: Debut Author Edition
Y’know, Ernest Hemingway once said, “Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective.” So I made this bingo card instead.
But you know what? I’m no Hemingway, and I only get one debut, and I fully intend to write about that before, during, AND after the book release, because this is America and I can if I want to.
Anyway, as the card up there suggests, to say that this whole experience is a mixed bag is an insult to the orderly molecular structure of mixed bags. I haven’t filled every space up there – not by a long shot! – but it’s hard not to be nervous about which number might be called next. At the moment, the main monsters under my bed are:
1. The “this book is going to get panned/ignored/remaindered” trashoraptor
2. The “everyone you know is getting sick of your self-promotion” spamosaurus
3. The “this is the best moment of your life and it’s all downhill from here” career-killa-zilla
Fortunately, I’m so ungodly busy right now that I have very little time to cultivate my neuroses. More fortunately, I have somehow acquired the world’s most incredible posse of friends, family, and fellow writers, all of whom are carrying me forward on a world-wrecking tidal wave of love and enthusiasm. I do not understand how this works.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I understand HOW it works: the rest of the universe does whatever it wants, and these amazing people act as my invisible, impervious ego-shield.
Somebody didn’t like the book? Oh well; I got a hundred people who love me.
Got turned down for an event? NBD; I got a hundred people who love me.
God might manifest Job-like misery, destroying everything I’ve worked for? Ah, well – I’ll still have a hundred people who love me. (Actually, wait – I may need to reread that part…)
Anyway, so the “how” is pretty simple – it’s the “why” that baffles me. Every writer knows (okay, many writers know) that having 10,000 random Twitter followers is less valuable than having a hundred serious die-hard fans – but how do you get those first hundred people, especially when you’re a total unknown? What fires them up, and why do they devote their time and energy to you and your book?
(And yes, to whichever of my peeps are reading this now, I can hear y’all hollering it from here: “because we love you, dumbass!” But hang tight while we quantify this.)
First of all, Hemingway would agree that I am far too much in the middle of this thing to make any comprehensive pronouncements about how anything works and why. But here’s a working hypothesis: except for the dollars-and-cents part of it, this whole entire book-world runs on love and enthusiasm. We’re not curing cancer. We’re not cleaning up the streets or making the trains run on time. We’re writing because we love to write, crafting stories that readers will love to read. And that’s so powerful and important (and freaking DIFFICULT) that it attracts all these other emotions – anxiety, regret, jealousy, frustration, sadness, fear – like so many electrons cancelling out one enormous positive charge. That’s probably how it always will be.
But if you can keep that enthusiasm front and center, not just in your writing but in your whole everyday life – if you can put other people front and center when you’re around them – if you can surround yourself with people who make YOU feel like a million bucks, regardless of the purpose or occasion – then I wouldn’t be surprised if a hundred wonderful people were just the beginning. That’s a huge boost and an enormous blessing – no matter where the beans land on the bingo card.
Interview with Tex – Part 2
I know you’ve been anxious to read the remainder of my interview with Tex so here it is.
Veena: How much do you plot before you start writing?
Tex: Not a whole lot! I find I’m happiest when I have a few definite anchor-points in mind (this is going to happen, then later this happens, and eventually it all goes to hell and THIS happens) and the freedom to discover new things on my way from A to B.
Veena: What is your advice to writers about the path to publication?
Tex: Well, this is going to look like hideous double-egregious self-promotion, because he said some pretty nice things about me, but I completely agree with everything that Mark Hough is saying here: decent writing doesn’t cut it. In other words, “good enough” isn’t good enough. Yes, if you have a gobsmackingly great premise and characters, you might be able to get away with workmanlike prose. Yes, if you bring people to tears with the eye-watering majesty of your prose, people might overlook a slightly been-there-done-that feeling to the story.
But just as the Olympic athletes of 1924 would get absolutely flattened by Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt today, things that writers could get away with 20 or 50 or 100 years ago don’t fly anymore – because the writing world has more competition than ever before. So if you really want to make people sit up and pay attention, I think the biggest favor you can do yourself is to work like gangbusters on your prose AND your dialogue AND your plot AND your characters AND AND AND. It’s such a tall order, I realize – but at the end of the day, it’s the only thing that will separate you from the literally millions of other aspiring writers out there.
Veena: That is really sound advice. The market is saturated with writers and it’s true, to get noticed, you must pack a lot into your work for any reasonable return. So Tex, who are some of your favorite authors?
Tex: Well, let me put it like this: if George R.R. Martin’s worldbuilding, William Faulkner’s humanity, Terry Pratchett’s wit, and Susanna Clarke’s storytelling ever combined, they would either summon Captain Planet, or else form an author-avatar so perfect that I would have to throw down my own pen in shame and dress myself in sackcloth and ashes.
Veena: Do you have a writing ritual?
Tex: Yes! See, my usual method is to waste literally years trying to get on top of all my “real-world” commitments before I let myself sit down to write. I tell myself “I’ll just finish this semester / get this one project done / wait until after vacation / get back on it after the holidays and THEN I’ll be able to sit down and do nothing but write.” Putting writing last is a great way to ensure that you never get around to it, and when you do, you are immediately crippled by your inability to live up to your own expectations.
I do not recommend this particular writing ritual.
Veena: Well put. I am a master at that ritual! Don’t recommend it either. So tell me Tex, you are also a teacher, what are you currently teaching?
Tex: I’m so glad you asked! My regular job is teaching SAT and ACT test prep classes, but right now I’m doing private tutoring pretty much exclusively. I’m always on the hook for English, of course, but here’s my secret confession: I really, really love doing math. After shoveling words around all day, getting to kick back with a cool kid and talk linear equations or trigonometry is *wonderful*.
Veena: How do you balance writing and all your other responsibilities?
Tex: I’m so flattered that you think I do! As above, this is unfortunately still a huge problem for me. No matter how many calendars and to-do lists I keep, I always feel like I end up doing things badly and at the last minute. Now that I’ve gone through the whole publication process once (and I know I can write print-worthy stories), I would really like to focus on building up the rhythm and discipline to make this a long-term sustainable gig.
Veena: I hear you. I feel exactly the same way. However, just a few more hours in the day may solve some of my issues. Or rather, managing my to-do list more effectively. Anyway, before I forget and this is an important question – what sort of research did you do for ONIS?
Tex: Some of everything! I’ve made several trips to New Mexico (the basis for the fantasyland setting) – and if you want to enjoy some quality picspam, I’d be happy to oblige. I’ve chatted with horse-handlers, linguists, and forensic scientists, among others. I’ve gone to local powwows and gotten to talk to some of the folks there. And of course I’ve collected three dozen books and about a billion bookmarks’ worth of research material. I still worry that it’s not enough – I KNOW there are a ton of things I still don’t know – but at the end of the day, none of us has an unlimited amount of time, and at some point, you have to move forward.
Veena: I totally agree Tex – there has to be a limit for certain. OK, ready for the fun stuff?
Tex: Ready as ever!
Veena: Favorite junk food?
Tex: Enriched bleached white flour. Seriously, if it’s on the label, I’m in the market.
Veena: Favorite song?
Tex: Okay, this is totally weird and lame, but the “Learn Me Right” song at the end of the movie Brave punches me in the feels every time. Waterworks, I swear to God.
Veena: I need to go listen to that stat! Place you’d like most to visit?
Tex: I am actually a monstrous, horrible homebody, but I tell you what: if I can ever come up with the time, money, and a good reason to be there, I’d totally go to Australia. It just seems like this bizarre, alternate-universe version of Texas: British colonialism, weird accents, hilarious food, ridiculous climate, and venomous EVERYTHING.
Veena: Totally brilliant description of the Down Under! Favorite tech gadget?
Tex: Cell phones. Holy mackerel. I mean, forget all the browser / music player / camera / apps / whatever. The idea that you can break down at 3:00 in the morning in the middle of nowhere and not get axe-murdered while you hike the 15 miles back to a payphone is AMAZING.
Veena: Hah! What’s on your night stand?
Tex: Mouthguard, roll of toilet paper, clock radio whose batteries have been dead for three months now, cartoon sheep coaster, and a badge I got at Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary launch party in March. There you have it: the secrets of my success.
Veena: Roll of toilet paper – not going there. So how’d you meet your husband, Tex?
Tex: One word: EverQuest. The usual story, really: he was a gnome rogue, I was a gnome cleric – it was love at first tell.
Veena: Football or soccer?
Tex: Are we talking about American football vs. soccer, or are we talking about what to call the sport played at the World Cup? Because let me tell you: “football” really should belong to the game that involves regular, sustained contact between foot and ball. Really, the Superbowl sport should be called, like… armpitball.
Veena: American Football – should have been more specific and totally agree – armpitball sounds about right. Here’s a toughie but goodie. Who is your favorite protagonist of all time?
Tex: You’re killing me, smalls!
Veena: It’s what I do (evil grin spreads across face!)
Tex: Well, I tell you what: there are a million fantastic characters out there who are compelled to hitch up their Hero’s-Journey britches and go git’r done. But one story that’s really special to me is Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Ivan is this perfect regular middle-class guy who does all the right things: good education, nice career, respectable wife, tidy home, model children. Then one day he hurts himself hanging curtains. And he slowly gets sicker and sicker, and eventually all his friends and family lose patience and kind of go on without him… and as he’s lying there in his sickroom with only a servant for company, he starts to wonder if maybe his whole life has been wrong somehow – if maybe everything he’s used to measure his success is backwards and petty and useless. He’s not the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, he’s not Ebenezer Scrooge – he’s just a regular guy who’s terrified of death, stricken by the idea that his life has been a frivolous waste, and wondering if it’s too late to get it right. I love characters like that – I think that fear touches all of us, really – and I don’t think we hear from them nearly often enough.
Veena: Who is your favorite antagonist of all time?
Tex: Okay, well, if I’m not going to pick a go-getter hero, I can hardly choose a fire-and-brimstone villain, can I? Here’s one: you know the fact-checker website, Snopes? It’s named after a family in William Faulkner’s novels, who are some of the most grotesque characters I’ve ever seen. For example, Ab Snopes is a tenant farmer. He goes up to his landlord’s house one day, steps in horse manure, and ends up tracking it all over the landlord’s carpet. When the landlord forces him to clean it, Snopes does such a shoddy job that the carpet is ruined. And when the landlord demands payment for a new carpet, Snopes burns his barn. And this is so interesting and scary to me, because this guy is not Darth Vader, not the Joker, not anybody with an actual Dastardly Plan. He’s just the avatar of mediocrity – a person so eaten by ignorance and meanness and pride that he literally refuses to take one step out of his way to avoid stepping in shit. That’s a kind of evil we see every day, even in ourselves – and that to me is scarier than any flashy Hollywood Big-Bad.
Veena: Wow – did not know that and how insightful to pick such a character. Alright Tex, last question. If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
Tex: If I weren’t trying to write, I think I would be up for full-time teaching. I’ve loved every teaching gig I’ve ever had – but if you’re doing it right, it absolutely eats every part of your brain and body and soul. Not a job that plays well with others.
Interview with Tex – Part 1
I had the awesome pleasure of sitting down with Tex face to face while getting to know the writer extra-ordinaire. Enjoy my interview with the rad author of One Night in Sixes, coming out tomorrow, July 29, 2014. This is part 1 or a two part interview series.
Veena: Welcome to The Author Visits Tex! I am so happy to feature you as my author of the week. This is even more eventful because this is the week of your first book release! Congratulations on this monumental occasion!
Tex: Thanks for having me – yeah I am rather excited, lots going on!
Veena: All right, let’s dive right in. What inspired you to write One Night in Sixes?
Tex: Well, I think my first step towards this finished version was looking at my early drafts and thinking, “Y’know, I don’t want to write another Euro-medieval fantasy. I want to write an AMERICAN fantasy – have a story set in MY backyard.” And let me tell you: my backyard is much, much bigger than I bargained for!
Veena: How long did it take from first draft to release?
Tex: If we’re counting from the very beginning? 15 years. If we’re counting from that American Epiphany up there? 7 years and change. Either way, it’s been a heck of a marathon!
Veena: Did the story change significantly from your initial vision to publication?
Tex: Hugely. Completely. All that’s left from that very first 15-year-old draft are a few character names and personalities. Everything else was destroyed (sometimes multiple times!) in the revision process.
Veena: How many iterations of re-writes did the publisher request before ONIS hit the printers?
Tex: Here’s the really hilarious part: I must have been racking up revision karma during all those do-overs, because neither my agent nor my editor requested any substantial rewrite. I got a scant handful of copy-edits from Solaris (change this word, clarify this sentence, etc.) but no significant requests for changes.
Veena: Talk to me about the three core languages used by characters in the book? How did you devise the languages? Did you work with a professional linguist to craft the languages? What was that process like?
Tex: I did – and he made all the difference! Since this is an American fantasy, I knew I wanted to draw from both indigenous and colonial American languages (English, French, Spanish, and – as we settled on – a native language from the Uto-Aztecan family.) But I also knew I didn’t want to use those languages directly, because at the end of the day, this fantasy world is not Earth, and the Castamarín aren’t Spaniards, and the a’Krah aren’t Comanche, and so on.
What Jason Wells-Jensen really helped me do was to take these pre-existing languages and shape them in ways that matched the story and the world. For example, the mereaux (“fishmen”) aren’t just male and female – they have “neuter” individuals as well. So in crafting their language, we re-imagined a French-derived language that retains the Latin neuter gender. It’s one of those things that very few readers are likely to notice or care about – but I’ve hugely enjoyed working with Jason, and I really feel like this is one of those things that makes the world come alive.
Veena: You’ve devised a whole new world in ONIS? What was the inspiration behind this world? How did you come up with the elements of your world? Did you use someone to draw up the world in ONIS? What was that process like?
Tex: Well, you know that thing about wanting to do an American fantasy, one based on my own country and my own history? That was fine and dandy, until I realized that there is basically no part of my country or my history that doesn’t involve “the ugly stuff”: colonialism, slavery, genocide, etc. I didn’t want the story to be just about those things, but I didn’t feel like I could ignore them either. So a lot of the elements of the world (for example, the concept of “culture magic”, and the supernatural “radiation poisoning” caused by acts of violence and human suffering) are a fantasy mirror of some of the darker parts of American history. It’s been a long, slow, anxious process – I worry a lot about things like cultural appropriation, stereotypes, and just plain old ignorance – but I am 100% certain that the finished product is better because of that.
Veena: What is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?
Tex: The part where it’s done! No, but seriously: there’s that moment right after you finish a really long, hard workout, and you’re weak and shaky and your butt-muscles are starting to twitch, and you feel like the Supreme God-Emperor of 24-Hour Fitness. That’s the part I love most about a writing session: right after you finish, but before you have time to look at it with fresh eyes and start second-guessing yourself. You just sit back, look at your beautiful new pages, and think “damn I’m good.”
Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with the author coming Thursday!
Introducing Tex Thompson
Arianne “Tex” Thompson is home-grown Texas success story. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from UT Dallas and a master’s degree in literature from the University of Dallas, she went on to become a community college professor, teaching the fundamentals of English to adults writing below the eighth-grade level. Now a master teacher for academic tutoring and test prep services, as well as the managing editor for the DFW Writers Conference, Tex is a regular feature at high schools, writing conferences, and genre conventions alike.
With her first book, a ‘rural fantasy’ novel called One Night in Sixes, Tex joins the growing ranks of Solaris authors committed to exciting, innovative and inclusive science fiction and fantasy.