Recently I did an online interview with Wendy Siefken. She and her son have a terrific blog/website that you need to check out. I know this is long, but I thought their questions were very insightful. Check 'em out at www.seifkenpublications.blogspot.com. So, here's the Q and A.
What makes for a good hook in your
stories? Where does your inspiration come from?
The best hook I can think of is to populate my
stories with “everymen” and “everywomen.” Characters readers can identify with.
With “Reign of Silence,” I thought putting purely ordinary, conservative
Christian folks into extraordinary circumstances that challenged their whole
belief system was pretty compelling. As for inspiration … that’s an elusive
thing. I can’t remember if it was Zane Gray or Louis L’amour who said this, but
it was something to the effect that “turn on the faucet and the water will
flow.” In other words, you can’t really wait on inspiration. You just hunch over
the keyboard and start working.
Are you an organized writer? Do you do things
like take notes and make lists of characters? Or do you free write
and work it out as you go?
I’m not one to sit down and do detailed
character analyses, or work out an initial plot. I do make notes, or dictate
thoughts into my iPhone as they occur, which tends to be when I’m in a meeting,
watching TV, or when I’m disengaged from the actual chore of writing. What
happened with “Reign of Silence” is that I had my two or three main characters
firmly in mind, and the rest of the cast I just got to know as I wrote. My
technique, which may or may not be proper – I sure don’t know – is just to put
the characters in some situation and watch them try to get out of it. I took a
week off from work to put in some concentrated time on “Reign of Silence,”
sequestering myself in an old farmhouse and writing pretty much nonstop. I wrote
close to two-thirds of the book in that one week. This kind of freaks some
people out, but it got to where I was just transcribing what was happening and
being said. One night I called my wife and said, “You’re not going to believe
what just happened.” There was a significant twist toward the end of the book
that I didn’t see coming, and where it got really weird for me was when during
the first revision, I found that there was some foreshadowing earlier in the
book pointing toward that twist. I never planned or plotted for
What is your normal writing day like? Do
you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?
I’m one of the most despised of all humankind,
in that I’m a morning person. So I get up around 5 or so and put in about 90
minutes of writing. My wife is in bed, the dogs aren’t up, and it’s a perfect
time for me because that’s when my synapses tend to fire. I don’t set a word or
page goal. I just do what I can in that time allotted and let it go. Then, in
the evenings, I may put in another hour, but I’m not bound to that. I will say,
too, that I do NOT self-edit in the early stages. I just write in almost a
stream of consciousness mode, because I know I’ll come back and tidy and tighten
up. As I said, if I waited until I was inspired, nothing would ever get done. I
just do it. It’s pretty much a blue-collar exercise. I don’t think of myself as
an “artist.” In my mind it’s more like nailing shingles on a roof, or putting
mulch in a flower bed. Its work, and it’s not glamorous in the least.
Who is your favorite author and how did
they inspire you to write?
That “favorite author” question is tough. My
all-time favorite work of fiction is “Lord of the Rings,” the whole trilogy, but
I wouldn’t consider Tolkein my favorite author. I guess Harper Lee comes the
closest to being a favorite; her style and storytelling ability blows me away,
and I identified strongly with the story she told. I knew every character in “To
Kill a Mockingbird” personally – I grew up in a small Alabama town just like
Macomb, Alabama. And I remember after I read my first Stephen King book (“Salem’s
Lot”), I thought – this guy is telling just the kind of story I want to hear.
Same with Frank Peretti, although I think his earlier stuff was his best. I’ll
admit to being a sucker for what some detractors might consider “commercial”
writers – fellow Mississippian John Grisham comes immediately to mind. Not so
much Dan Brown, who’s written the same book three times. Hard to argue with
It’s easy to see that you have a passion
for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?
Is there any part of writing that I don’t like?
Honestly, no. There is a certain amount of discipline involved, certainly, and
if I’m not careful I can get derailed by trivial things. But I jotted down a
quote from a gentleman named Mark Batterson, from his book, “The Circle Maker”:
“Too many authors worry about whether or not their book will get published. The
question is this: Are you called to write? That’s the only question you need to
answer. And if the answer is yes, then you need to write the book as an act of
obedience. It doesn’t matter whether anyone reads it or not.” So, for me, yeah,
it’s a calling.
Do you make time to read and if you do what are
you reading right now?
I absolutely make time to read. I just finished
the Hunger Games trilogy, and it read like a streak. I was the last in the
family to get around to reading it, and it was so well-paced I was sucked right
in. Worked for me. One cool thing about Kindle and Amazon is you can take a
chance on an unknown author (like me!) and not feel as though you’ve coughed up
an undue amount of cash on a potential dud. So I’ve started on a two-book series
by Aiden James, Terror X 2. The premise of these two intrigues me. I tend to
read two books at a time, something fiction and something non-fiction. I’m also
reading “Radical” by David Platt.
How did you get into writing about the
Christian/supernatural, two topics that always seem to be at odds with each
other? Is there personal life experience in the
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been
intrigued by ghosts. So I wanted to try my hand at a pure, “classical” ghost
story – a haunted house, bumps in the night, whispers and manifestations, the
whole deal. The phenomenon of ghosts and hauntings is almost a cultural
universal – you find it worldwide, in all periods of history. So, as a
Christian, how do you interpret this? As a Christian and a minister, I have to
acknowledge – biblically – that my faith deals with the supernatural, most
obviously in teachings about angels and demons, and certainly also in belief in
an afterlife. What happens when these worlds intersect? So I don’t see these two
topics as being at odds with each other. If I’m asked, “Tony, do you believe in
ghosts?” I say that I do. Now as far as what a “ghost” actually IS, well, we’ve
got a lot of room for speculation, and that is at the heart of “Reign of
Silence.” It isn’t that I was consciously trying to break ground, but I just
couldn’t find any stories that dealt with hauntings from a Christian worldview.
Regarding personal life experiences … well … yeah. There have been a couple of
instances in my life, and in the lives of extended family, in which we’ve faced
events that just simply can’t be explained away by “rational” means. The book,
then, has a couple of mildly autobiographical events. Freaky, yes?
Your books have been published with Amazon.com,
Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this
My book is indeed available on Amazon via
Kindle, and we’re working on it being available again in hardcopy. I wrote
“Reign of Silence” years ago, self-published through Xulon Press (they did a
terrific job), and it actually did pretty well for a season. Then, when I made
it available on the Kindle in December of 2011, I was absolutely blown away at
how I sold – sold – roughly twice as many books in one month as I did in
the previous six years. It was an epiphany for me. All of a sudden, the old line
gatekeepers were marginalized. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be delighted if
an agent represented me – I probably approached forty or so – and I got that
elusive book deal. It’s just killer when an agent tells you how wonderful your
book was but it “isn’t marketable.” Now, the rules have changed, big-time. I
can’t help but wonder how many absolutely splendid books never saw the light of
day because of those “guardians.” I’m imagining that there are publishers out
there who are feeling sort of like Kodak. If a writer can shuck any thoughts of
self-publishing being some sort of stigma, no matter what the medium, then the
playing field is pretty doggone level. The downside is that there is plenty of
garbage out there now, too, but I’m thinking market forces prevail
Do you have any online sites where
others can read more of your writings?
Readers can keep up with what I’m up to on my
blog (http://tonymartinscribbler.blogspot.com), and I’ll put samples of what I’m
doing from time to time. I haven’t done a dedicated website yet, but that’s
certainly a possibility.
Do you have any more stories in the
works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?
I am working feverishly on a new book, “The
Fixin’ Place.” I’m loving it. If you can imagine a mashup between “To Kill a
Mockingbird,” Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt,” and a pinch of “The Green Mile,”
that’s where it seems to be headed. Reading that last sentence, I recognize it
makes no sense whatsoever. Again, I didn’t plan to blend these diverse tales,
but that’s just the way it’s working out. It does take place in the same
fictional town of St. Helena, Alabama, as did “Reign of Silence,” but that’s
really the only tie. The working title of the next one is “Knights of the Golden
Circle” (Google it if you’re not familiar with this actual organization), and
think about how that group from the Civil War would look and operate in the
Who would be your first choice to play
Joshua Nix from your book "Reign of Silence"?
I’d like to see Chris Pine play Joshua Nix.
Really. But the more important role from a casting standpoint would be who
played Meredith Dubose. I’d pay good money to see Annasophia Robb play her.
She’d be just superb, me thinks.
If you could meet anyone from any time
who would it be and what would be your first question?
If I could meet any historical figure, it would
have to be Robert E. Lee. I’d ask “How, throughout the course of the War Between
the States, were you able to maintain your sense and call to