Welcome back to our ongoing interview series with some great authors. Today we are joined by Author and “Mountain Guide” Tim Girard!
1. First off Tim what does your writing process look like?
I keep paper and pencil on hand. You never know. My process begins with a word or a thought. I am always on the prowl for a different spin. Zombies are redundant but a zombie family trying to adjust and be a part of society? That could be interesting. So I start with a premise and I build from there. My epic “The Legend of the Seven” had its origins in a Yul Brenner interview.
Once I have the premise I throw every possibility at it. Is it going to be funny? Serious? Dark? Action or love? Then I start carving.
Who are my main characters? Who is my baddie? Why is he bad? What makes him frightening? Is he a capable baddie? Do you show this? (Yeah. You should.) My good guys. Are they equipped? Do they need to learn something?
Then onto the world. What are the rules? Magic, science, supernatural, what are the forces in play. Are these understood and clear?
Now the conflict. Why do they fight? What failure led to this? What broken promise? What breech created the tension?
From there I move into resolution and such.
All that being said I don’t always plot methodically. Sometimes I have the last words of the antagonist or protagonist. Sometimes I have the conclusion. Sometimes I have no idea but I put in a place marker. And other times the story is so obvious I wonder why I am here at all. The story basically writes itself.
So all that to say I have a process but I don’t have a process. I have more of an awareness, I suppose. I know I need these elements but the story, ultimately, dictates how it will be structured and processed.
2. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
I talk to myself sometimes. A smidgen of dialogue can usually jump start a story. I don’t know if it’s strange but it works. Another great habit is to do something utterly mindless. Dishes, folding laundry, things like this that allow my mind to wander. Very helpful.
3. What book(books) would Tim Girard wish he had written?
Book? Hmm. I grew up with books and movies. I cut my teeth on Star Wars (visually) and King Arthur and the like literarily. I hesitate to say the Iliad only because we know so little of Homer’s other works (the Odyssey aside). Steinbeck’s East of Eden is a gift. I would love to have my name on something this tremendous.
4. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Steinbeck is a marvel to me. His character ability and scene setting is remarkable. I am also a borderline acolyte of Bradbury. By far these are my two favorites. I also enjoy Irving Wells, to a lesser extent. Honestly, though, it depends on my mood. Lately I am traveling with Lamour and enjoying every minute of it. Unfortunately most fiction does not hold my attention for long. I get bored and restless seeing the same plot points with different names. The last few years I have been content with non fiction, focusing on whatever catches my fancy. Neurology, primates, history. I am also a disciple of story and voraciously follow the likes of Campbell and Robert McKee.
5. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names are beyond important. They are the soul of the story. They are the bridge to the character. For me the story commands the name. I am working on an epic screenplay. The names are constructed in such a way as to reflect the individual regions. This particular epic borrows heavily from various cultures and mythologies. It only made sense that the names would reflect these regions.
6. What does Tim Girard consider to be his best accomplishment?
Ask me that in ten years. There are obvious statements. My family. Every story I have released. Coming home alive after a trip on the rails (sad how true that is!). Sometimes the day to day stuff is enough of an accomplishment.
7. What was your inspiration for Meet the Zombies?
Meet the Zombies grew out of an impromptu Halloween costume several years back. My family and I were at Legoland. I was eating ribs and had my picture taken. The picture turned out great, real visceral. This was before the big zombie craze, mind you. From there things went bizarre! I tinkered with the idea of a zombie family. That morphed into the idea that zombies are misunderstood. And that morphed into this weird little family with a pet brain. (Thank Pixar for that moment!) Suddenly my little zombie family had a mission and that was to educate the public on all the benefits zombies have given to society but have not been credited with. Iced tea, flight, the first public apology, all influenced by zombies and stolen by regular people.
From there (told you this was bizarre) things changed again. I refocused on the family and began writing short scripts. I was working with an animator and we planned on a series of episodes showing the exploits of the Zees. Money, unfortunately, crimped our plans so this slowed down. Now I am reviving the project and looking for ways to produce the series and release them as web shorts. It’s a long way out but still has life in it.
8. I would like to thank you for your military service, and ask how much of who you now are as a writer and global citizen was forged during your service years?
Honestly the honor was mine. I am humbled I was able to serve America. I know that sounds like a dumb Hallmark card but it’s true.
As for how it influenced my writing. Wow. That’s a tough one. I can tell you this: there is nothing that compares to experience. Standing on the skids of a Huey coming in for a landing; roping out of a Blackhawk; weaving through fire to reach a downed man (I was a medic in the infantry); rumbling through an armor road march in an armored personnel carrier. These are experiences that cannot be imagined. They have to be lived. And there are more emotional impacts as well. I have a deep understanding of esprit de corps, of brotherhood, those deep bonds forged only in adversity. Sitting at a desk does not offer the same depth of responsibility that moving under fire does.
So did it have an impact? A marvelous one, one I could never achieve without serving.
9. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Read, experience, think, live, die, and start it all over again the next morning. Be fearless, be frightened, be willing. Writing is about crafting. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. Sitting behind the desk is only 5% of writing. The rest comes from experience.
10. If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?
I actually wear many hats. Currently I am a train conductor. I spend a lot of time on the rails. This affords many opportunities to write.
In my perfect world I would have followed my passion into the movies, constructing amazing effects. I took a different path.
11.Are you a plotter or a pantster? (Write by the seat of your pants)
Bit of both. I have learned to sit down and craft the world and the story. It is part of the discipline of writing. Without an outline I find the story stalls and ebbs rather than flows. I’ll give an example: I have been working on a story about the minotaur and the railroad (long before I became a conductor). It’s a great story. I love it but I did not plan it. I allowed the story to form. Now, thirty some pages in (I prefer short stories so this is actually kind of long for me) I have a story that is well defined and purposed but does not have an apparent direction. I can take it any number of ways but I am not sure how I want this to end. Contrasting this, my screenplay is a trilogy. I have completed acts one and two and I am writing the concluding script. I know the direction, the ending, the sequence of events. Now it is simply a matter of fine tuning as I write.
Some stories I allow to unfold. Usually my entries for the 750 group are quick, written in about a half hour, and those are definitely seat of the pants plotting! One of my favorites, the one with the dinosaur, simply flowed onto the page. It’s one of my favorites. My story titles Why We Fly was the same. I had that wrapped up in about 45 minutes.
12. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read my reviews. It’s silly not to. I will never pretend to be a master of my craft. Reading solid reviews gives me a greater insight into my audience. I have nothing but contempt for writers that say they write only for themselves. That is ridiculous and I have no tolerance for that kind of vanity. I write for my audience and for the story. Reviews gives me an idea of how well I am honoring both.
The problem, for me, is I experiment and sometimes that experimenting does not translate well to the audience. Sometimes I am vague in my references. I may laugh at my jokes the audience may not. That is challenging.
As to dealing with bad reviews? Remember why you write. Wear Kevlar. You need to be bullet proof and not allow a bad review (or reviews) to blow you up. Be objective. Give your audience a voice to speak to you. Take the criticism to heart but don’t let it poison or strangle you. And for the reviews that are simply mean? These I disregard. They are hollow and offer nothing.
13. What is your best marketing tip?
Yeah, do it! I say this with a smile because I don’t! I let my work sit out there. Seriously, though, embrace social media. Embrace the moving image. We live in a day and age where promotions can be created efficiently and cost effectively.
14. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
I’m moody so this depends on the day and moment! I suppose I am also finicky. I am constantly editing. Constantly. I am a restless writer also. I suppose my least favorite part is putting the pen down and saying that’s good. That’ll do.
15. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
One subject? Not really. I am not keen on biographies but I am not afraid of them. I am not a conventional writer so really nothing is off the table.
16. How has living in this new Global world where we can communicate across oceans instantly, changed how you perceive those in other countries? Do you feel this has helped or hindered your growth as a writer and as a citizen of your own country?
I am fortunate. I have lived on two separate continents, visited three, and have traipsed up and down Western Europe as well as the better part of the States. I have had the privilege to work with artists around the world. My perception, though was honed long before this new fangled internet came along. I was a young soldier interacting with Egyptian and Israeli forces. I was a young soldier working with German soldiers. I was an emerging author working with artists in Jakarta, Australia, England, and France. I was an established author with followings in Brazil, Japan, and Africa. What I have found is universal. We all want a good story. We all want a character to root for, to cry with, to laugh at, and to adventure with. This new globalization? It’s only made the story that much more fun to create and to share.
17. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Not really, no. I am skilled at writing most themes. I am not a fan of horror only because of the tendency to run into gore. I am not a fan of erotic writing because it’s so obvious. I write these scenes but I tend not to. Writing screenplays is somewhat liberating since the descriptions are short and concise. I don’t need to bother with the thinking or the emotion. (That’s why God created actors!)
18. Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
Far from my first. I prefer shorts. I wrote a story called the Song in the Chamber. This is a story based in the Holocaust. By far this is one of the darkest most disturbing stories I have written and my first and likely last horror story. I wrote a story about a little boy and his action figures. I have several others in various stages of complete. I wrote a story about a man with no skin and the woman he falls in love with. (That one actually sold out many years ago. I am considering bringing it back into print.)
19. What are you working on now? What is your next project?
Too many. I am working on a series called the Bomber Boys. I am finishing up my screenplays. I am tinkering with my railroad story. I am sketching out the broad plans of a doomsday story with my hero being a smart refrigerator (that’s actually a fun, family story).
Tim those answers were great, although I think there are some actors out there who need help thinking! Must be why God created Directors!
Now some off beat questions that most authors are never asked. Questions that my readers seem to find the answers to most enlightening!
1. What has been your biggest disappointment in life?
I wish I would have taken the time to pursue an interview with Ray Bradbury. Harryhausen also. Both incredibly generous men and willing to sit with just about anyone. I bided my time and lost the opportunity.
2. How has all the time you invest in others (IE: Wrtiers 750, and the various linkedIn groups to which you are a constant contributor) Helped or hindered you in your own writing journey.
I enjoy collaborating and helping shape writers and their stories. It can only help. Working in entertainment it is vital we work with one another and too often I see writers that are unwilling to lend a hand. Personally I find this arrogant and obnoxious and I strive to be accessible and objective.
3. What is your biggest fear?
Mental degradation. Can you imagine a worse fate for an author? Losing their mind? Horrifying.
4. What do you want your tombstone to say?
“Yeah, he sure did.”
5. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Longevity. Or maybe the ability to not sleep and still be ridiculously energized. Strong mental powers, instant memorization and such. Crazy intelligence. I admire smart people and wish I was one of them.
6. If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
I’ll let the young kids worry about their costumes while I save the world with my crazy energy and not needing to sleep!
7. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
Several actually. Asia. Australia. South America. The heart of Africa. I would love to see a thunderstorm in Africa.
8. If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
I would be hating life. The idea of being constrained is my second fear. I’m not anti-zoo or circus. I hate being on a leash or stuck in a cage or constrained by rules.
9. What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I want to have a balloon at the Macy’s Parade. That would be rad.
10. If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
I kind of really dig my voice so I’ll stick with the original equipment.
11. What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy?
I was a dreamer and a loner. I loved books and movies and being alone. My favorite toy? Action figures. All the way. Star Wars, GI Joes, He-man, you name it I played with it. Shoulder to shoulder with my own children we are hardcore into Legos. What better toy for the imagination?
12. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
I do but they’re typically anxiety dreams. Not everything makes it onto the page! Big fish is a recurring nightmare.
Thank you Tim Girard! It was great getting to know you better. I invite my readers to check out your website.