Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Q&A with author Tim King

For today’s Q&A, I am pleased to introduce Tim King, author of From the Ashes of Courage. Shall we begin?

Hi, Tim. What can you tell us about From the Ashes of Courage?
It's the story of Gail, a 29-year-old woman, an independent, successful professional with her own business, has worked hard to make a career for herself, and she loves what she does. And she's also about to turn 30. In fact, she's been so successful that she's stopped growing and starts to wonder whether life has anything more for her. So she gets together with a colleague and friend, whom she had met in college; she moves back to the Boston area; and they start a new business together. She's trying to recapture the excitement she once felt years before.

Her new business partner, in turn, sets Gail up on a blind date. And through a bizarre coincidence, the kind that's too crazy for anyone to have made up—except that I actually did make it up—her blind date turns out to be her ex-husband.

Of course, that's when her life really gets interesting.

At its heart, what is this story really about?
It's about love without strings, which is a theme that pops up over and over again for me. This was also a major theme in my romantic memoir, and it's been a major theme in my life.

That is, when I decided to marry my wife, I knew that I needed to do so freely. I don't love her only if she does or says certain things, for example. And some days we fight, or we get angry with each other, and I swear I absolutely can't stand her! But I still love her, because that's what our relationship is built on.

I try to teach the same thing to my daughters. We will never disown them, no matter who they are or what they do, because they're family. And I always do my best to support them—even though it sometimes seems not nearly enough. I want them to have that stability to build a life on.

How is it you came to write inspirational romance?
Part of it started with Gilmore Girls, by Amy Sherman-Palladino, which is one of my all-time favorite TV programs. And you can probably see some of her storytelling style in my stories (even though they're in a different medium).

Actually, the Missus recently reminded me of this, indirectly, because she told me how funny From the Ashes of Courage is. (She's just now reading it for the first time, believe it or not, because she simply didn't have time during the book's beta-reading phase.) She also mentioned to me that someone at work was telling her how funny my romantic memoir was. I didn't intend either of these to be romantic comedy, but I'll take it! I knew that Gilmore Girls (a TV "dramedy") had seriously inspired and informed my style, and I assume that some of the humorous aspects of that style may have leaked through. (Or maybe it's just that romance is funny.)

The other part is that I've always wanted to write stories that say something, rather than just being a fun escape from reality, and I've always loved the character complexities in TV romances. So when I first decided I wanted to write a novel, it was an inspirational romance, which I never finished, because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. Up until that point, I had not even read any romance novels—I loved TV dramas and science-fiction novels, but most of my reading had been dominated by non-fiction. So I actually had to learn about how to write fiction, and about the romance genre and how I fit into it, and how I don't always fit.

On your website, you talk a little about ‘life-expanding stories.’ For our readers today, what does this term encompass?
I use the term "life-expanding" to try to describe the stories I enjoy most, that affect me most and stick with me as the best I've ever read. They have realistic characters embroiled in interwoven conflicts, and they inspire the reader toward hope. In an effective story, this happens through metaphor—sometimes a metaphor that's personal to the reader and that the author could not have foreseen—rather than through didacticism. Like an uplifting parable.

They don't always have literary merit: I tend not to care so much about literary merit, because fancy words don't move me; stories do. They aren't always top sellers: 90% of everything on the best-seller list is crap, a corollary of Sturgeon's Law. They aren't always romances, because they don't always have love stories, and other genres can include all those elements. And not all romances are life-expanding. (For example, I enjoy Janet Evanovich's work, and the Love Boat, too. Call them guilty pleasures.)

A simple example, a tale that I've heard in different contexts (though I can't find a reference to the original story): A wife and her husband were having difficulties seeing eye to eye in bed. He liked to move quickly from foreplay to the old rough and tumble, whereas she preferred a more leisurely approach. They finally went to Milton Erickson [or so the story goes] for marital counseling, who told them a story. "You remind me of some of my friends," he said. "She's a gourmet cook, who loves to prepare and serve seven-course meals. But he's a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, digs right into the main course. But he used to get indigestion sometimes from eating too fast. When he told his doctor, the doc told him that in order to have good digestion and to really appreciate his wife's cooking, he should savor each part of the meal, pay close attention to the different pleasures each course gives. Then he would finish satisfied and fulfilled." Weeks later, Dr. Erickson got a thank-you note from the couple. Apparently, their dinners were better, too.

Stories are a powerful tool to open our minds to new possibilities and help us move our lives forward. And that's what I seek to do with my stories.

You also write non-fiction. How do you balance your various writing interests?
Poorly. (How's that for an answer?)

Actually, most of the non-fiction I write now is simply blogged. But I still have to balance blogging and marketing with working on my next novel.

I work best when I'm working on one project at a time. (I suspect everyone does, whether they admit it or not.) So I have a non-fiction project or three that I'd like to work on, but I haven't been progressing on them. Rather, I just collect ideas for them when those ideas occur to me. I hope to flesh out those ideas when I'm writing later books.

I'm actually struggling with marketing & blogging on the one hand, and progressing on my next Ardor Point novel on the other hand. The one tends to distract from the other. So I'm trying to make progress in blocks of a day or two each, swapping off from one to the other and back again. But that's not really working either, because I'm always behind on everything. There's always more work to do than the time available in which to do it. :-)

Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
My blog is probably the place you want to look first, because I post links to free ebooks or special discounts there, as well as discussions about books that I'm reading and inspirations for books I'm writing.

Thanks, Tim!
So glad to be here. Thank you.


Thanks for stopping by for the Q&A. Next week will feature author Kristin Bair O’Keeffe.

Before I forget, I want to congratulate “MelJPrincess!” Your name has been selected for the February book draw. Mel, send me an email with your postal address and we’ll get a signed book out to you asap!

I’ll be doing another draw for a signed copy of stains: early poems; the draw will take place at the end of April in honor of National Poetry Month!

Take care and see you Friday.

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