S. Evan Townsend
When you are getting ready to start a new book, what’s the first thing you do?
Think. I do a lot of what I call "pre-writing" where I think about plot, characters, setting, figure out where I want to start, where I want to go, how I want to get there. All of my novels have started out as an idea floating through my brain with a thought of "What if . . .?" Driving, going for walks, or showering seem to be great times to pre-write
How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?
I take a deep breath, go "whew" and start thinking about the next book. Sometimes there might be chocolate involved, though.
If you could have dinner, coffee, or drinks with a fictional character, who would you choose and where would you go?
Out of the pantheon of fiction characters I have to choose one? I guess in that case, I'd pick Gandalf the Grey and try to go to Bilbo Baggins house for dinner. I think Gandalf would have fascinating stories to tell and Bilbo, of course, would have a very full larder.
Do you usually begin a book with a character or a plot?
My stories are plot driven, not generally character driven. I'll develop a plot (the "What if . . .?") and then decide on the type of character I want to toss into this situation.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests you’d care to share?
I used to participate in "track days" and "high performance driving schools" both of which involve driving a car on a race track as fast as you dare or the car is capable of (which ever is slower). I used to describe it as "the most fun I've had with my clothes on" but really the concentration and discipline it required was amazing. It wasn't about speed (although the speed was a blast) it was about control and skill. I've never given anything in my life so much concentration. I called it "Zen and the Art of Driving Fast" because it just clears the mind of everything else and you reach speed nirvana.
After becoming a full-time writer my finances became such that I decided I didn't need to put out the expenditure necessary (buying a new set of expensive tires every year, for instance).
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read good writers (writers you aspire to be as good as) and write a lot. Then write some more.
What jobs have you had on your way to becoming a writer?
I was in the U.S. Army, Military Intelligence Branch, for four years (which may be why each of my Adept Series novels involves U.S. intelligence agencies at some point). After that I went to college and then joined the family business as a co-owner/manager. I worked there for 20 years feeling like a round peg in a square hole being pounded on with a triangular hammer. I learned a lot about people, however, but I just never felt comfortable. I have decided the corporate world wants both conformity and creativity (at the same time) and I was never very good at the former.
Currently in addition to fiction writing I'm dong freelance writing for local publications (I write about farmers a lot). It's interesting as it covers two things I love: learning about things and writing.
Did you have any interesting experiences when you were researching your book, or getting it published?
As I was writing Book of Death I realized I needed more information about what it was like to live and be in communist Romania in the 1960s. The information on the internet was very much lacking (and I found out, contradictory or just wrong). I started asking my network of friends and writers if they knew anyone from Romania but had no luck. The book was on hold about one-third done (up until my character gets to Romania) and I couldn't proceed.
Then my father was over at my house for Easter dinner and he asked me if I attended a local political meeting. I said I hadn't that year and he mentioned the speaker was very interesting, a woman who used to live in Romania. Believe me, I pounced especially when he said he had her business card. And the card had her email address. I emailed the woman and she was just the right age, having grown up in the '60s in Romania. She recommended some sources (including a book she'd written) and answered my many emailed questions about Romanian culture and life under the communist regime. That helped me make Book of Death as accurate as possible and capture the feeling of being in that country at the height of communist power there.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Sort of both. I liken it to a road trip: I know where I am, I know where I want to be and I sort of have a plan to get there. However if a side trip look interesting or I decided on a detour and I don't end up at the same place I planned when I started, that's okay. I once made a typo, loved how it twisted the story, and kept it.
Where does the magic happen? Where do you write?
I have a converted bedroom in the basement of my house I call my "office." Right now it's full of boxes of books and the desk is (except where the computer sits) covered with notes from freelance stories I need to file. I have a large computer monitor hooked up to my laptop I spend the day typing. Shockingly surprised I don't have carpel tunnel syndrome as much as I type. However, I have had "mouse wrist."