Tom has a giveaway to a lucky commentor at the end of his virtual book tour. Details below.
Tom Mach wrote two successful historical novels, Sissy! and All Parts Together, both of which have won rave reviews and were listed among the 150 best Kansas books in 2011. Sissy! won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award while All Parts Together was a viable entrant for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Award. He also wrote a collection of short stories entitled Stories To Enjoy which received positive reviews. Tom’s other novels include: An Innocent Murdered, Advent, and Homer the Roamer.
His poetry collection, The Uni Verse, won the Nelson Poetry Book Award. In addition to several awards for his poetry, Writer’s Digest awarded him ninth place in a field of 3,000 entrants. He also has a popular blog for writers of both prose and verse.
Tom, welcome to Reviews and Interviews. Please tell me about yourself.
I wrote my first novel when I was 17, but had not taken up writing seriously until I was in my 30s. I published many magazine and newspaper articles, taught copywriting at a university, conducted writing workshops, was an editor of two publications, and won several awards for fiction and poetry. But more importantly, I like to write because I challenge myself with interesting ideas and fascinating characters and I enjoy, as I write, finding out how the story will end. My characters often come to life and they surprise me by what they do. As an example, I had a vision of a young 19th century lady named Jessica Radford and she became alive–so much so that after I wrote Sissy! featuring Jessica, a friend of mine asked me where Jessica was buried and I had to tell her I made her up.
Please tell me about your current release, An Innocent Murdered.
An Innocent Murdered is my first mystery novel, although I had published short story mysteries in Stories To Enjoy. In An Innocent Murdered, a priest is murdered and a female police officer named Jacinta is arrested for the crime. It looks like an open-and-shut case because of blood evidence, DNA, motive, opportunity, and a possible witness. But two other women look like they may have murdered the priest and the detective, slowly convinced that Jacinta is innocent, doesn’t find the real killer until he discovers something shocking in an abandoned cellar.
What inspired you to write this book?
I guess I got tired of people painting a whole group of society with the same brush. Yes, there have been many articles about instances of child abuse in the Catholic Church, yet the vast majority of priests have never molested a child. I wanted to write a novel where a priest is falsely accused of doing this and is murdered as a result. I also wanted to look at the perspectives of two people. One is an ex-nun who has given many years of her life to her religious dedication, yet is under the censure of sin if she attempts to have her first sexual experience. The other is a detective who has to hold back his anger when he comes across a suspect who murdered his high school sweetheart.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Actually, I have two novels I hope to come up with next year. One is a historical novel covering the 1865-1920 era while the other is a Christian suspense fiction. I’ve already had the historical novel critiqued and have some great comments on it. At this time I don’t feel comfortable discussing what each of these novels are about, but those who subscribe to my free blog, http://tommach.com, will be receiving advance information on both of them.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The writing “bug” probably first hit me when I was a junior in high school. I had an inspiring English teacher who had us read portions of many of the classics, and I enjoyed reading so much I’d try to read a book a week while I was attending school. At that point I also wanted to see if it was possible for me to write a complete novel when I was seventeen. I accomplished that by writing a 372-page novel entitled The Boss’s Son. It wasn’t very good, but when I was a freshman in college and received an A paper from my English professor on a lengthy analysis of Moby Dick, I got inspired again. But it wasn’t until my mid-30s when I started getting articles published in major magazines like Woman’s Day, Jack and Jill, and Writer’s Digest that I discovered that I must have talent. I guess one doesn’t wake up one day and say “Hey, I’m a writer.” What happens instead is a slow progress in that area without consciously thinking about yourself as a writer.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like?
I am not as disciplined a writer as some folks are. I tend to write when I’m inspired, although when I get caught up in a work that absorbs my interest, such as Advent, Sissy!, or All Parts Together, I find there are times where I can’t stop writing. I tell people that I write because I also want to know where my story is going. I should mention that I did write a novel in a month by entering the National Novel Writing Month challenge (www.nanowrimo.org) but I must tell you that I spent many months expanding and editing it. That novel happens to be the one we’re discussing today–An Innocent Murdered.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure if this qualifies as a “quirk” but I find that when I’m in the middle of writing a novel the plot and the characters in that novel go with me everywhere. Recently, when I did the scene where Susan, (who used to be a nun named Sister Anne) finds herself alone with Matt Gunnison the detective in my novel. She has been a virgin for 46 years and knows virtually nothing about the male anatomy, yet she is curious about men and sex. I’ve agonized over drinking coffee, or taking a drive, or just doing routine chores about the house as how to do this gracefully. I felt I was Susan and that I felt deprived and curious, so how do I create a scene that doesn’t cater to a reader’s prurient interest yet brings out the conflict in that scene. How does Matt handle her quirky questions about sex? How does Susan handle her guilt, knowing in her mind that the church considers this a grievous sin?
My quirk is that I like to see a movie playing in my mind where I actually see and hear the characters and then go into their minds to sense how they feel about what they’re doing.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grow up?
One of the most memorable presents I received as a child was a small printing press–the kind where you had to put individual rubber pieces of letters into metal grooves and set those metal strips into a rotary cylinder. Rubber cutouts of caricatures had to be glued on these strips and the press had to be inked. I was so fascinated by this printing press that I attempted to do a neighborhood newspaper with it.
But as kid, I really didn’t think much of what I want to be when I grew up. I was like Tom Sawyer, having fun, enjoying life as a kid, and it was only later in high school that I gave it some thought. I ended up majoring in chemical engineering, then going into market research, then going into being an editor for Software Supermarket magazine and then for South Bay Accent magazine. Later, I became a copywriting instructor for a California university. After I retired I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I probably knew that years earlier but wasn’t conscious of it.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I know it must be confusing for readers to determine which books they want to read. Therefore, I need to tell you how I may be different from many other authors. I tend to somehow weave in the subject of compassion in each of my novels–that is to say, although brutality and murder may appear in some of my plots, I balance that with other characters who show compassion toward others.
In An Innocent Murdered, for instance, Matt is a detective hired to solve the case of the murdered priest. But Matt shows compassion in more than once instance. With the ex-nun, he shows compassion for her naivety when it comes to understanding the sexual act, rather than make fun of her odd questions (such as “when you get aroused, do your testicles get aroused also?” or “can you still pee when your penis is rock hard?””
In another instance, Matt consoles a mother whose daughter has run away, apparently the murderer of another woman. He asks her where her daughter usually runs to when she’s in trouble. Yet in another scene, he weeps in church after he discovers who murdered an innocent 8-year-old child. Matt’s a great detective–but he has a heart. I have a website devoted to stories about compassion on www.TomMach.com
Thanks for being here today, Tom, and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing.
Readers, Tom is giving away a copy of his popular historical novel about the Lincoln assassination, All Parts Together, to a lucky commentor at the end of the virtual book tour. You can follow his tour and comment here and on other tour stops. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win.