Friday, March 15, 2013
Author Interviews: Thomas Winship
By Kayla Curry
Vaempires: White Christmas, and Vaempires: Zombie Rising. Vaempires: Revolution has won the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Award for Best Urban Fantasy Novel in July 2012.
[FFM] Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
[TW] Very little, I’m afraid. You see, everything about my past is just a jumble of vague, ill-defined images and sensations that don’t make sense.
Actually, that’s untrue. I’ve simply watched too many Jason Bourne movies. I’m a native New Yorker, living a little over an hour north of New York City. I have a BS in Business and an MBA in Management. I recently changed careers; after fifteen years in Corporate America—specializing in organizational development, talent management, and training—I moved into academe, where I now serve as MBA Director for a local college. I also teach courses in English Composition, Communications, and Business. And I write, of course …
[FFM] Can you tell us about your newly released work?
[TW] Væmpires: Zombie Rising continues the tale of the Evolutionary War, picking up right where Væmpires: Revolution left off.
Væmpires have taken control of twelve major cities. Their leader, Vielyn, seeks the atomic weapons that will bring the rest of the world to its knees.
Vampire forces are reeling. As Linq and Ray race to the royal estate to rendezvous with Cassandra and Daniel, the princess is captured and Daniel falls.
With the fate of world shifting to their teenage shoulders, Linq and Ray must deal with tremendous losses while battling a most unexpected—and undeadly—new foe.
[FFM] Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
[TW] Challenges? Ha! I don’t even know the meaning of the word.
Well, that’s probably not a good thing to admit, so I did some research (and now I do know what the word means—that word, plus a few others I selected at random).
To label what I encountered in getting Vaempires: Revolution published as “challenges” is akin to saying that Noah built a boat or KStew made a mistake. It just doesn’t do such world altering events justice.
The story of how Væmpires was published is a convoluted one. It begins in the not-too-distant past (six years ago or so), in a small town just north of New York City. Within that small town lived a man who appeared to have it all: a beautiful, loving wife, a caring family, a successful corporate career, and, of course, his health.
Still, he wanted more.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: that the man was greedy (typical American greed, perhaps?), but that wasn’t the case. You see, the man didn’t want more as in more money or more possessions or more status … he wanted to be more.
Most of the time he had ignored the unfinished tale, but it never went away. Instead, it floated at the edge of his consciousness, a constant reminder of what might have been.
One night he dug out the old story. Reading through it convinced him that the creative fire could be relit, so he vowed to complete the novel by year’s end. With the support of his wife, he devoted all his free time to the task. He wrote through nights, weekends, and holidays. He missed vacations. He forgot to eat. He never slept.
Okay, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but you get the picture.
The dedication paid off. By year’s end, the novel was completed—150,000 words worth of novel. The man’s wife was overjoyed. His family and friends were pleased. His coworkers were relieved.
And then nine months passed until rejection arrived in the form of a form letter.
Undeterred, the man sent out hundreds of queries over the following months. Many agents declined, but a few—a very, very few—requested more. Some among those few requested changes to the novel.
Multiple drafts and many months later, the man abandoned the novel as a lost cause and turned his attention to a new idea—a story about mutated vampires. He tried staying as committed to writing as during his earlier efforts, but he wasn’t up to the challenge. It took more than a year to complete a 45,000 word draft of the first half of the book. Determined to find out if the novel had promise, he sent it off for a critique.
It did not go well. The man didn’t write another word for the next two years.
Well, not quite the end. Obviously, the story continued, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
I had all but given up on writing by the time the next part of the story began. Sure, I kept vowing that I would complete the vampire novel, but I never did more than that.
In December 2008, the company I worked for was acquired by a larger organization. The changes were fast and furious as the two entities restructured and merged. Most employees at my level—and everyone else in my department—did not survive the merger. Somehow, I did.
It was a wild ride that lasted for two years. At the end of 2010, I was given a choice: accept different responsibilities within the organization or accept a severance package and seek my fortune elsewhere. Deciding that the latter was too good an opportunity to pass up, I took the package and left the organization in mid-February 2011.
My first order of business regarding my newfound freedom was to get back to writing. Or so I said. Then I spent the first week “relaxing.”
I can honestly admit that I don’t know how long that may have continued. It turns out that relaxing is quite … well, relaxing. But don’t take my word for it; try it for yourself sometime!
Luckily, fate intervened. While relaxing, I stumbled across a contest being run by Del-Ray Publishing. They were accepting manuscripts in the sci-fi and horror genres—and not short stories, but novels! It was the perfect opportunity.
But the contest deadline was three weeks away.
You’re probably breezing through this, barely scanning it; so let me slow you down by restating this:
To enter the contest, I had to write a novel in three weeks.
I did some quick math, although I knew it was hopeless. A decent novel is 100,000 words, so 100,000 words divided by 21 days equals 4,762 words per day (rounding up).
4,762 words a day! Don’t get me wrong. There are people who do five, six thousand words a day, every day. I know because they flaunt it on Twitter—it’s 11 am and they tweet, “Hit 3k. time 4 gym n lunch”—but I can’t do that. I consider a total of two thousand words a good day. Three thousand is a great day. Anything beyond that is cause for celebration, so five thousand words a day, every day, for three weeks straight seems beyond the realm of possibility.
I spent a few hours pissing and moaning about how unfair life was before my internal coach stepped in—you know, the one that challenges my manhood whenever I become too unmanly—and smacked me upside the head.
His advice: just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
So I tried.
Bottom line: I submitted a 79,000 word manuscript nineteen days later—not a new draft of the original piece, either … a brand new story set far earlier than the original. While it wasn’t quite the 100,000-word goal I was aiming for, it was still a new personal record of 4,158 words per day!
I didn’t win the contest. I didn’t expect to, but it provided the motivation I so desperately needed.
I reached out to my editor. Although he hadn’t heard from me in years, he still remembered me (or, at least, had the wherewithal to claim to remember me), and was still willing to work with me. He suggested some revisions, I worked through the summer…
And he returned to full-time writing, so he didn’t have time to edit my work.
Luckily, his editor was willing to work with me, so I completed a final draft of Væmpires: Revolution in early fall. The editor cleaned it up and gave it his approval in record time. All that remained was finding an agent … and getting a publisher … and waiting months, if not years, for both of those to happen.
The final piece of the puzzle fell into place pretty quickly. On the advice of others within the industry, I eschewed conventional wisdom regarding traditional publishing and self-published Væmpires: Revolution in October 2011.
I followed it with a prequel, Væmpires: White Christmas, in December, and a sequel, Væmpires: Zombie Rising, last week.
[FFM] Can you tell us about your plans for upcoming works?
[TW] I could … but then I’d have to kill you. Haha! I know that’s been said a bazillion times, but it never gets old. Never. Just like the current trend of emphasizing words by putting periods after each one—It. Never. Gets. Old.
Seriously, though, my next project continues the Væmpires saga. So far, the stories have had a very small focus—a small group of people in a single geographic location. It’s time to expand that and capture the conflict on a broader scale.
[FFM] Who designed the covers?
[TW] A friend, Dave Dougherty, designed all three of my covers. Dave does amazing work, with very little input from me. He just seems to get what each book is about and find a way to visually portray it. Dave can be found at http://dmdougherty.com.
[FFM] Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
[TW] Thank you. It doesn’t get simpler, or more profound, than that. Just … thank you.