“I’ll have a beer, if I may?” replied Sarah.
“Can I see some ID please?” asked the waitress. “Sorry, but we have to check.”
“She’s just joking,” interrupted Alex. “She’ll have some water, like us.”
“Surely, you are not going to drink the water?” asked Sarah. This world differed so greatly from her world, but even these people must know the danger of drinking the water?
“Yes, why not?”
“Do you want to die of the colic or worms of the brain?”
“We have something called sanitation now,” sniped Alex. “If you’d had it in the seventeenth century, you might still be alive.”
“Or dead!” offered Jackie.
“Or dead, yes, absolutely,” amended Alex.
About The Book:
Alexandra O’Rourke, aged 16, is not a happy camper. It’s New Year’s Eve. She should be partying in San Diego with her friends, but instead she is stuck in Boston, with just her younger sister, Jackie, for company. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she is being haunted by Sarah, the ghost of a seventeenth century Puritan. Oh, and there is the small matter of the charge of witchcraft to be sorted out.
Armed only with big shiny buttons and a helping of Boston Cream Pie, the sisters set out to restore the Natural Order. Can Alex solve the mystery of the Devil’s Book? Can Jackie help Sarah beat the sorcery rap? And can they do it before the fireworks display at midnight? Because this is First Night – and this is an Alex and Jackie Adventure.
It is a great pleasure to have our young adult author Tom Weston here at Paperback Writer.
Hi Tom Weston,
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Q: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
A: I had just written a screenplay called Fission, based on the real-life story of the scientist Lise Meitner, and the race for the nuclear bomb. Now, that story began in 1906 and ended in 1968, and included two world wars and the collapse of an Empire. It was very much in the mold of the epic or mini-series genre: quite serious and dramatic and high-brow.
When that was completed, I thought that it would be fun to go in exactly the opposite direction, and see if I could come up with a story where all the action takes place in just one day, something light and whimsical. And I was in Downtown Boston on New Year’s Eve when I realized that Boston and the First Night Festival would make the perfect backdrop for the story.
First Night also began as a screenplay, but as it progressed, and the story began to take on a life of its own, I realized that it was becoming a bit darker and heavier than I originally planned. I needed to address that; so I put the screenplay on hold and turned to the novel.
Q: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
A: The simple answer is yes to both questions. I outline first, and then create a sketch that is about 20% of the finished work, so I can test it for continuity and pacing. But when it comes to fleshing it out, that’s when the characters take over and push the story in different directions than I expected.
So the mechanics of the plot: the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ – those things are sketched before I begin writing in earnest. But once I’m deep into the text, I’m often surprised by the ‘why’. If there is a message in the story – that is not planned but evolves.
Q: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
A: Yes, I usually have a mental picture in my head, not of the words, but as if I was watching a movie. In the case of First Night, before I began writing we created a little five minute animation of the ending. I didn’t even have names for the characters yet, but I knew how the story would end.
So I start with the ending and then work out a route that takes me there. As I said, occasionally the characters like to take a detour, and I have to round them up and get them back on track. Sometimes, it’s like herding cats.
Q: Do you have a process for developing your characters?
A: I don’t do character profiling. I prefer to define my characters through dialogue and by what they are thinking. So although the book is written in the third person, much of what the characters are thinking is in the first person; and they will share their thoughts with the reader, but not necessarily with each other.
The interesting thing for me about the characters in First Night is the way in which the roles of Protagonist and Antagonist are interchangeable, depending on the preferences of the reader. The first protagonist was Sarah, as I wanted to tell a ghost story from the ghost’s point of view. But as the story progressed, there was quite a tug-of-war between Sarah and Alex for top billing. I’m still not quite sure who won.
But this is just how this book turned out – I can’t say that I have a consistent methodology.
Q: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
A: They are all my alter-egos. The clinical term is Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), Fiction Writers are lucky that they have an outlet for this behavior.
My friends and family think that they see familiarities between the characters and other people – that is mostly imagined and coincidental. So they say, ‘ah, you are Uncle Jim’. And the answer is yes, but no more so than any other character.
If there was a character I related above all in First Night, it would be Alex. Going back to the question of character development, she was the one most changed by the experience. In this respect, she was the proxy for my own voyage of discovery.
Q: What is your most favorite part about this book?
A: The end (ha, ha). No, but really, I find the ending very moving. I did when I wrote it and still do every time I re-read it. Authors are supposed to be god-like when it comes to their characters, but I found that they had a destiny to fulfill, and that I couldn’t change or interfere with their destiny, as much as I may have wanted to.
The fun thing for me, apart from the logistics of the journey, is in presenting the readers with an ending that may surprise them, but also engages them.
Q: When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
A: From my prior life as the head of a consulting company, I had written business books, and I had already gone down that road of finding an agent and a publisher, and failed miserably. It was no big deal because what I was writing was fairly niche stuff for people that were clients or potential clients, so I was able to circumvent the process and interact directly with the customer.
First Night was my first non-business book, so I repeated the hunt for an Agent/Publisher when I had the galley copies to send out, with equally miserable results. The cliché in publishing is that the first 99 rejections prepare you for the ultimate acceptance. I wasn’t prepared to wait that long. In many ways, First Night is also a niche book, being set in Boston during New Years Eve. So I knew that there was at least a local market for the book that I could tap into, even if a national market failed to materialize.
Q: What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
A: From the publisher’s perspective First Night is a difficult book to categorize. It is part ghost story and part history lesson – a History Mystery one reviewer called it. It’s a story with teenagers, but a lot of my feedback has been coming from parents. “Unique – like no other book I’ve read,” said another reviewer. So where to place it on the bookshelf is a problem that most publishers don’t want to deal with. They weren’t about to create a new category called tom weston.
So I created my own. We formed tom weston media to handle the publishing of not just the books, but also the audio and video projects that we are planning. With the new dynamics of the Internet, this isn’t necessarily a Don Quixote delusion; we already had the business acumen. And we have marketing at the local level that is aimed at Bostonians and visitors, as well as traditional book buyers.
Q: What has been the best part about being published?
A: The response from the readers has been fantastic. From people I would never otherwise meet. I had an email from an elderly lady, an octogenarian, who told me that she had been reading the novel in bed, unable to put it down, and at 2:00AM, when the ending was revealed, she ran around the bedroom, punching the air in jubilation. To realize that this little story has that kind of impact is just incredibly humbling and rewarding.
Q: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
A: The book begins with a quote: ‘Everything is connected.” At its heart, First Night is about faith and trust, and things for which we have no tangible proof, but may still influence our actions; because there is a reason for everything, even when we do not understand the reason.
I’m hoping that my readers, while reading the book, are saying, “Why did that happen? I don’t understand it.” This was intentional on my part, not to confuse or misdirect them, but because I wanted them to trust that by the end of the book, they will come to see that everything is connected and makes sense after all.
Q: Do you have plans to write another book?
A: There is an Alex and Jackie sequel, The Elf of Luxembourg, which is planned for publication before the end of the year. Structurally, it has much in common with First Night, being another tale of the supernatural and lot of history, this time about Luxembourg. This one has vampires instead of ghosts. And it’s Jackie that is scheduled to be the protagonist, but I’m sure that Alex will put up a fight before then end.
Q: Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
A: Two things have taken me my surprise, albeit pleasantly:
First, I was a little surprised at the amount of effort it has taken. Before turning to writing full time, I did a lot of public speaking, and I almost never prepared my remarks beyond a punch-line or two. My style is to improvise and be spontaneous. So I sort of had this idea that I could just turn up and chat. And of course it doesn’t work that way. The written and spoken words are different mediums, and I’m fully aware that what I write may remain in the blogosphere long after the tour is over. So, I’m trying to engage my brain before I speak, and that is a fairly new experience for me, but equally satisfying.
Second, I was surprised by the diversity of questions and approaches of my hosts. Some things at first seemed trivial or surreal, but when taken in the context of the whole tour, it all turned out to be both fun and educational (from my point of view). Not only did I get to chat about the book, but I also got to resurrect the characters for a while. I’m fond of my characters, so that was nice.
The Virtual Book Tour is a reflection of what I was saying about the dynamics of the Internet. Writing is a satisfying pastime in itself, but if we are to reach beyond our own four walls, we also have to think about this as a business. Most books, even those published by the large houses, will fail to turn a profit. To cut costs, publishers are taking fewer chances and shifting the responsibility for marketing a book back onto the author. So I think the lines are starting to blur between traditional publishing and self publishing. And the author, who wants to sell books as well as write them, has to put on the business hat.
Having access to things like the Virtual Book Tour helps to level the playing field for us little guys.
Q: Where can readers find a copy of your book?
A: The book is on sale on-line at places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as from our own web site. And as Ingram is the distributor, it can be ordered at practically any bricks and mortar book store that doesn’t have a copy on the shelf. We’ve also signed up for publishing via the Espresso Book Machine (EBM), which means you can go into any library or store that has an EBM machine and get a copy printed while you wait.
It is available in Hard Copy (ISBN 978-0-981-94130-1), Paperback (ISBN 978-0-981-94131-8) and e-Book (ISBN 978-0-981-94132-5), including Amazon Kindle.
Q: Do you have a website for readers to go to?
Thank you, Tom Weston, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.
Tom Weston’s FIRST NIGHT VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR ’09 officially began on July 6th and end on July 31st. You can visit Tom’s blog stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com during the month of July to find out more about this great book and talented author!
As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors’ blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available.