Sunday, March 1, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Timothy Owens

An interview with Timothy Owens, author of The Hobbymen.

 


Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

Certainly, and thank you for having me.  My name is Tim Owens and I have a writing problem.  I have this constant compulsion to write and read what other people have written.  It got so out of control I eventually just ended up self-publishing things I had written for the world to see.

All joking aside (which is hard for me to do sometimes), I’ve been writing bits and bobs all over the place, but never seriously or for publication.  One day I just sort of decided to take the plunge and I sat down and put “Chapter 1” into a Word document.  I decided to go for self-publishing partly because of the freedom it offered and partly because I still work full-time and don’t have the time nor the money to do any large-scale advertising or get an agent.  It might sound cheap and lazy…and it is…but I wouldn’t have actually hit the “Publish” button if I wasn’t proud of the work I was putting out there.

One thing I like to emphasize is that I very much feel reading should be fun, so I try to inject that as much as possible into what I write.

What got you into writing?

Reading, mostly.  I loved reading at a young age, and I loved the idea of building these worlds out of nothing.  I was also into art, so I loved drawing and writing and creating my own stories.  I think the big turning point for me was in elementary school when we were asked to write a story about whatever.  I (of course) wrote a ghost story, and did the typical little-kid-thing of just explaining “this happened and then this happened and then…”, until the end of the story when for some reason I decided to describe how the grass felt against the protagonist’s skin as he sat on the front lawn.  It was like this epiphany moment, like I finally understood what all these other authors were doing.  I didn’t really and what I wrote was likely terrible, but it was a start and opened my mind up to serious writing.

My main influence for my current writing comes from little notes I would give to people with their Christmas presents.  They were just humorous little notes to elevate the rather thoughtless gifts, but the reaction I would get was positive enough it made me consider that maybe I had at least a small amount of talent here.  Just a little bit though.  An iota if anything.  A smidge.

What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

“The Hobbymen” came about slowly over the course of a couple of years.  At first it was just snapshots of characters: an encyclopedic bookworm, a rather violent nun.  There was no real substance there besides a basic idea. I didn’t know who these people were; I just wanted to get to know them.

I suppose you could say I’ve been writing the book my whole life though.  I grew up on monster movies and this love of Halloween, but I never really crossed that line into the deep macabre and only skated along its dark surface.  Monsters weren’t scary or deeply-meaningful to me, I just eventually realized how ridiculous they all were, and liked to have fun pointing out those ludicrous things.  Then it hit me.  What if these characters were looking for monsters, but we lampshade the whole thing right from the get-go?  Explore how stupid all the folklore can be in an irreverent romp that pays homage with tongue firmly planted in cheek.  It allowed me to write about a world I grew up on without dragging down the energy with pointless necessities.

And as an added treat, I took away any pretense of them being destined to do this.  It’s called “The Hobbymen” because they are literally doing this as a hobby.  No prophecies ushering them along.  Just three people who decided they want to do this.

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

Haha, this almost sounds like a loaded question, because my answer really says a lot about who I really am as well.  Of course I could cheat and say at times I love all of them the most, but I’ll play your game.

I think my favorite would probably be Demetrius (aka “Book” as he’s known by the others), especially since he was the first character I began to conceptualize.  He’s the resident “Book”, the know-it-all, the researcher.  He constantly has his nose stuck in something, trying to find answers or questions that need answering.  And he is entirely fed up with the world.  A lot of the times the brainy characters in books and movies are built up as social outcasts because they’re nerds or awkward or shy.  Book is just a straight up asshole (am I allowed to say that here?  I can change it to ‘jerk’ if we need to keep this clean).  He’s an outcast half because he’s into weird monsters and half because he’s just a rude person.  He doesn’t care what other people think of him.  He’s uncompromising in his view of the world (a viewpoint that realized early on how stupid some people can be and applied that default to everyone he sees).  I do admit I was tempted to dial him back a bit to make him more sympathetic, but his abrasiveness cracked me up so much I turned it up to 11 if anything.  That being said, of course he cares about things and acts that way for a reason, but as a writer you have to learn not to make excuses for your characters and let them be flawed.


What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

This is a hard question to answer, mostly because a lot of the scenes are my favorite for different reasons.  I think my favorite one to actually write was a scene later in the book where the trio are exploring a ghost town and come across a golem.  For anyone not in the know, golems are traditionally seen as clay statues, built to serve their master in various ways.

Anyway, as the scene progresses the golem wakes up and begins to fulfill its duties, which are a complete mystery to everyone as there is no master there to give orders.  It’s a frantic battle against a force of nature…or at least it would be except the golem moves so slowly it’s barely even a threat.  The confrontation turns into a quasi slow-speed chase, and it perfectly encapsulates the book’s tone of “This is amazing/dangerous/stupid all at the same time.”  The best part is the entire sequence was completely unplanned.  I realized during writing that I needed one more dot to connect certain events and came up with the scenario on the fly.  I ended up enjoying the bit so much as I was writing I finished the rough draft for the chapter in about 2 hours.  I’m sure there are probably better realized sections or better examples of well-constructed prose, but I couldn’t help loving this chapter because it was such a blast to write.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

Dialogue.  Dialogue all the way.  In a way, these characters all became like my babies, and I got to see them grow and transform.  But like a poorly-shot reality show, I purposefully but personalities together that were meant to link and bounce off of each other every time they opened their mouths.  The world building and plotting are fun, but nowhere near as fun as starting a conversation and just watching as the words bounce back and forth, insulting, chastising, joking, praising.  It’s so gratifying seeing all the planning culminate in little character moments, no matter how mundane they may seem in the grand scheme of things.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

Between work and personal commitments, it’s hard to find time to sit down and write, which is why the process for writing a book takes six months to a year for me (it would be about 2 months of actual solid work if I could get it).  But I think that time in between helps in a way.  My writing process is very much “percolate and pour”.  I’ll sit on a scene or an idea for weeks, running it over and over in my brain.  I outline everything mentally, because if I don’t remember it in a month’s time it wasn’t worth remembering (I will admit to stealing that trick from Stephen King).  That way when I actually sit down to write I can just let it all flow out onto the keyboard without much need to reconsider as I go.

I say much need because there is still some self-editing as it hits the page.  I’ll know the general gist of each conversation and scene, but I won’t have the specific wording all worked out beforehand.  It helps to make dialogue sound more organic, like the characters thought up their responses right on the spot as normal people do.  And as with the scene above, not every milestone will be plotted out beforehand, so I have some room to get a little crazy.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

I’ve already spoken about my love of monsters, but it’s the fantastical elements mixed with the humor that I really love.  I definitely don’t take myself too seriously, and have been told I can be funny (though I don’t claim to be some great comedian), so humor seemed like a good fit for me.  But I lean more towards the absurd when it comes to humor.  Not random, but bizarre and sort of out there.  That’s why I leaned towards fantasy.  If I had written a humorous book about a bank heist, it would probably come across as sort of clunky and I wouldn’t have a point.  With paranormal fantasy, though, I basically gave myself free reign to go nuts and be as absurd as I could, because the weirder it got the more it forced the characters to try to ground themselves, and that dissonance (to me at least) creates great comedy.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

I’ve often wondered if the writers I most enjoy truly influence me.  I’ve grown up reading a lot of different types of authors (Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Charles Dickens, just to name a few) and while I take some inspiration away from each I never really see their influence in my writing.  If anything I take most of my influence from comedy writers like Patton Oswalt or the great minds behind Mystery Science Theater 3000.  That show in particular gave me my sarcastic, irreverent streak that continues to this day.  But book-wise?  Just plenty of things I have enjoyed, but not a ton of direct influence.  I figured if I didn’t have something different to bring to the table I shouldn’t even bother to sit down, you know?

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

By the time I actually sat down to write the book, I had stewed on the developments long enough that the overarching plot never deviated from its course.  The real surprises came in the form of what worked as I was writing and what didn’t.  Some things would sound funny or important in my head, but by the time it got to writing I would find something new in a conversation that just through the rest of the scene off the rails and make my original plan seem unnecessary.

And yes, the characters took on their own dialogue at times in surprising ways.  The biggest for me was Sister Liliana’s phone call (you’ll have to read the book to find out the details).  I went into the phone call with no idea what was going to be said, only who was going to be talking.  Even now, when I go back to read it I don’t feel like I actually wrote that part.  It just took on a life of its own, and I sat back and watched as these two people spoke.  Which is kind of depressing, since I really like that part and in a way I can’t take credit for it.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks again for having me!

ABOUT THE HOBBYMEN

Sister Liliana has not been having the best of days. Between running away from the convent and then being thrown into a desolate prison, she has started to lose hope of having a fun Wednesday. That is until she meets two strange men with a rather peculiar hobby: Amateur Monster Biology. From ancient monsters to urban legends, Geoff and Book are out to separate truth from fairytale, no matter how bizarre or ridiculous that truth may be. And as they have found, there is truth in everything. Soon Liliana is caught in a whirlwind of adventure as they show her a side of the world she never thought existed, filled with fantastic creatures hiding in plain sight. But just as it seems her life is finally turning around, the group get a foreboding message from an unexpected, sinister source. Are the three of them in over their heads this time? Yes...the answer is yes.

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22886980-the-hobbymen?from_search=true

FIND TIMOTHY

Twitter: @thehobbymen

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