Paperback Writer welcomes Tom Weston, author of the historical fiction novel Fission as he virtually tours the blogosphere in December 2011 on his fourth tour with Pump Up Your Book!
a physicist who never lost her humanity
First they tried to deny her.
Then they tried to destroy her.
But she survived to discover nuclear fission and spark the race for the atomic bomb.
The clue is to be found in her headstone. No, it isn’t the physics. For, as much as I like science, the scribbling of mathematical equations on blackboards and the clicking of Geiger-counters does not make for riveting story-telling. What drew me to the Lise Meitner story is the humanity.
Imagine a story of hate and greed, intrigue and danger, war and destruction, the slaughter of the innocents on a biblical scale and the collapse of empire. And imagine at the centre of it all one little woman, brilliant but shy, victimized but resolute, betrayed but ultimately vindicated. What a story that would make! Well, you don’t have to imagine it, because that is the Lise Meitner story. And I didn’t have to invent any of it . . .
. . . it’s all true.
Q: Do you work from an outline?
I have a three stage process which I call building the beast; and the first stage is to build the skeleton – This is the outline, and is generally about 20% of the finished novel in terms of word count, but more importantly, 100% of the ideas. When I have the skeleton, I can stand it up, take it for a walk and make it dance. I can see if the beast is complete. I can also see if the beast if flawed. Yes, next I have to put flesh on the beast (the actual writing) and to give it strength and intelligence (the editing), but without a sound underlying skeleton, it’s still not going to walk on its own legs.
Some would argue that such a mechanical approach to writing stifles artistry. I contend that having such a detailed outline actually gives me more freedom during the writing phase to express myself. I have my skeleton. I can now work on the flesh, and heart and lungs. I can now spend my time honing a witty piece of dialogue or a cutting-edge simile. Artists such as Titian and Rembrandt always began by sketching an outline in charcoal on the canvas over which they would begin to paint, usually after several preparatory sketches. I don’t know of any artist that looked at a blank canvas and said, “Hmm, let’s improvise today” – not even the Impressionists. Rembrandt is praised for his use of light and economy of brushstroke – these things determine our opinion of him as a great artist – but it was still having that detailed outline to work from that freed his hand.
Q: Biggest Pet Peeve about the writing life.
Proof reading my own work is definitely my least favorite task. I’d like to make this distinction between proof reading and editing, because the editing process is a distinctly creative and rewarding part of the process. But proof reading has me pulling out my hair. In my previous life as a systems consultant, when we were acceptance testing new systems, it was commonly understood that for every bug we found there were 6 more waiting to be discovered. That’s how it is with proofing – just when I think I’ve got them all, I open the book to a random page and discover another error.
Q: What’s next for you?
I’m currently wrapped up in the third book of the Alex and Jackie Adventures. It’s called ‘Feathered: being a fairy tale’. This one finds the sisters in Ireland in a story involving Fairies, Vikings and the Book of Kells. I had a great time this summer in Ireland doing the research for the book. As a story teller, there is no better place to be than in a nation of story tellers.
Beyond that, I’m just starting to get the ball rolling on our next animation project. One of the great things about life is the constant surprise. During an earlier book tour, in support of FIRST NIGHT, I wrote a short story called THERE BE MONSTERS! which was then turned into an animated short. I didn’t expect much from it, but it led to a year of Film Festivals and speaking invitations, and proved another way for me to share my stories. So, the sequel to that is on the schedule for 2012. As I said, constant surprise.
Q: Who is your favorite author, and why?
I’m never very far away from a P.G. Wodehouse novel; he is the Master. But because his forte was light comedy, people tend to not take him seriously as a writer. Yet as any comedian will tell you, there is an awful amount of hard work that goes into making it look easy. Wodehouse had such a command of language and technique that the effect is transparent to the reader, but he is word perfect.
Q: What are a few of your favorite genres and why?
Today, I will instantly pick up anything by Terry Pratchett or Christopher Moore; they are both such a joy to read. Add to that my favorite book, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and people may think, given those names and my own work, that Fantasy is my favorite genre. But it’s not enough just to have magic or supernatural creatures. For me, the best Fantasy is that which is rooted in our own mythology and history; a genre which goes all the way back to Homer and Malory. My reading list alternates between fiction and non-fiction, and between the classics and the contemporary. Great writers can’t be put in a box.
Q: Do you have a writer’s studio? Describe it for us and what is the view you see from the window?
I have an office/studio. It’s comfortable, with books, couch, computer, and a window. I live at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, so it is mostly trees and sky. There are few people, but sometimes deer or turkeys. It’s very relaxing. The window is important. I tried writing in a sealed environment – it just doesn’t work; I can’t get the creative juices flowing in an isolated environment, I’m too busy wondering what is happening in the outside world.
Most of my work is done on the PC in the office; I don’t see the point in handwriting only to end up typing it anyway, but I do carry a small notebook around with me, in case I suddenly get an idea or bit of dialogue and the PC is nowhere near.
About Tom Weston
Tom Weston’s work includes the fantasy based Alex and Jackie books, First Night and The Elf of Luxembourg. His latest project is Fission, a novel based on the true life story of scientist, Lise Meitner. Prior to its publication in 2011, Fission was serialized online for Tom’s fans. To find out more about Tom and his work, or to read more about Fission, please visit http://tom-weston.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/tom.weston.readers. A portion of all sales of Fission, no matter where purchased, go to the ‘Because I am a GiRL’ campaign by Plan, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children since 1937. Visit PlanUSA at http://www.planusa.org/content1619891 or get involved with your own national/regional Plan office.