Friday, March 18, 2016

Interview with TJ Park, MORTAL THOUGHTS

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
It’s my first book. Not part of a series but it has been released by Harper Collins in 70-100 page installments. The first installment is called MORTAL THOUGHTS but the entire combined novel is called UNBIDDEN and will be available in its bloody glory in April. It’s a crime/horror novel, borrowing/stealing liberally from Macbeth – but placed in a contemporary remote Australian setting where awful things regularly happen. I’m from there, I know! There’s buckets of blood, desperate criminals, a supernatural curse and an unstoppable monster. If that wasn’t enough there’s also a helicopter ride that doesn’t go well. If you’re into tough as nails crime stories and you like your horror unrelenting this is the book for you. If I hadn’t written it I would seek it out, read it in a single sitting, forget to go to work or feed my children and then send the author a fan letter with a nudie pic.

How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
As mentioned, this is my first novel. It wasn’t easy to write so it may be my last novel. Depends if the nudie pics come flooding in. I work as a screenwriter so I was lucky enough to already have an agent but it still took a long time to place. I was delighted that the manuscript hooked Harper Collins and remain grateful and jarred that they took on a full-throttle Australian crime/horror novel. We don’t do many of them in Australia which is weird because every inch of this continent is terrifying.

What factors influenced your decision to go with a particular agent or publisher?
We don’t have many well known agents in Australia so I targeted the big ones and kept at them until they gave up and signed me. Took about three meetings before my current agent took a punt. The list of publishers to target was the usual suspects – the big guys. The agent submitted on my behalf, working through the list until we were lucky enough to get a bite. That bite turned into a deal. It all takes a long time but you learn about patience after you turn thirty.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
Harper Collins gave us a lot of rope to work on the covers. Because the novel is broken up into 5 installments with the combined edition coming out in April – it meant we needed 6 covers which has been a bit of a nightmare. But the upside is that to the casual eye it looks like I’ve written 6 books and have an oeuvre! I’m a regular Tim Winton if he wrote about outback covens of witches and opal heists – which he probably won’t. A very good Australian designer named Ross Robinson did the 5 covers for the installments and the combined version was done by Santiago Caruso – an Argentinean artist who is becoming a superstar. It was a pleasure working with both of them.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
I like privacy of course. I’m reluctant for others to witness the torment and idiot moaning. I need an empty house so I drive others away which is easy with my woeful personality. I move forward, don’t revise or look back which is the best advice in writing or life: don’t look back. Much later on I’ll review what I’ve done and after the despair has dissipated will square my jaw and battle through the next draft and the next etc. I like the right kind of music for whatever section I’m working on and the  particular mood I’m trying to summon. As they say, if you don’t feel it yourself, the reader never will. Music helps me feel whatever that emotion is – from fear to the finer emotions (which don’t come easy). I sometimes even have to cry if the story calls for it – soppy music helps me squeeze a few when required. Music is one more tool in a writer’s toolkit – the others are alcohol, internet porn and alcohol. 

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
Definitely outline. Everything. I’m a screenwriter by day. Every script is outlined – from a sketchy 10 page document to a highly detailed 80 page treatment with every beat of the story worked out. A 250 page treatment was produced for UNBIDDEN before the manuscript was commenced. Overkill but I didn’t know what I was doing. Next time I’ll do something shorter or slit my wrists. That said there’s always room to take the material into an unexpected direction and those forays are often very readable and keep me interested. Great to be surprised.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I’m involved in a couple of horror pages on FB with a decent membership base so have been flogging the book there. We’ll set up a FB page soon and maybe twitter. Once the combined edition of the book comes out I’ll be gifting it to a truckload of producers to see if there is any film interest in it. I’m a screenwriter so most of my contacts are in the film world, certainly not publishing. Everything is a long shot but it works out sometimes. We’ll see.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
No new books planned right now. They’re too damn hard to write! I am pumping out film scripts but they’re a cinch compared to a book. Marketing should take up more of my time but I can’t help feeling dubious of how effective FB or Twitter marketing is – unless you have 60 million followers like Stephen King. How many books can you sell to family and friends before the guilt runs out? But I’ll be a good soldier and engage in that battle regardless.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
Sure, but I can only mention a couple otherwise it’s off to a gulag for me! I love reading because it’s easier than writing. I’m a great cook because long ago I realized I was unable to summon maternal feelings in others so I would need to learn to cook like champion if I wanted to eat well. I’m also, very unoriginally, head over heels in love with cinema.  

What’s next for you?
More scripts. The beauty of screenwriting over books is you can write them fast. That’s my experience anyway – I know some novelists are creative whippets. Not me. Prose is a grind. But I know I want to write another book. All I need is the superhuman effort required and a year of hell.

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