IndieView: Tom Lichtenberg, author of, “Snapdragon Alley”

Snapdragon by author, Tom Lichtenberg

Tom Lichtenberg, our Indie author being interviewed today, has a great take on what it is to be “Indie”. He’s written a LOT of books. The fun he has, shows in his writing. I especially liked his comment on marketing,

“I am totally winging it. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

The Back Flap:

Ten year old friends Alex and Sapphire discover something strange on the city bus map, a street that existed for only one year. As they set out to solve the mystery, they encounter the possibility of another world, another dimension perhaps, lurking in a vacant lot, but they are not the only ones on the trail. Who will discover the truth, and who will pay the price?

About the book:

What is the book about?

It’s basically a story about three children who stumble across a mystery and decide to investigate. There is a street that appeared on a city bus map, but only for one year. When they go looking for it, the mystery only deepens, because what they find is not of this world.

What genre is the book in?

Young Adult Sci-Fi.

When did you start writing the book?

I started writing it in the fall of 2008.

How long did it take you to write it?

It took about two months.

Where did you get the idea from?

When I was ten years old, I was lucky enough to live for a year in Italy. During that year I wandered all around the city (Bologna) with my best friend. It was a great time in my life. Forty years later, my son made a friend who has the same kind of spirit of adventure as my Italian friend did, and I based the main characters on her and my son. Even at this moment she is sitting at my kitchen table making fun of my typing!

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

No. This story was like a dream.

What came easily?

Everything. This was one that seemed to write itself.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Two of the characters in this one are based on real people, as I mentioned, but most of the characters in most of my books are not based on any one person I know. I often mix and match characteristics of people I’ve come across, but usually strangers. I worked for many years in big city downtown bookstores, and I once calculated that I had personally met somewhere around four million people in my life. That’s a lot of impressions.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

The writers who have influenced me the most have been the most daring, and that has been my encouragement, writers like Jorge Luis Borges, Roberto Arlt and Clarice Lispector. Modern South American literature has been my biggest influence over all. I had the opportunity to live in Colombia for a time and some college professors there inspired me with their love of fantastic and wonderful writing.

Do you have a target reader?

I think I’ve anonymously met a few recently. One commented that having read one of my books, he had to read them all. The other asked if she could translate my ‘Zombie Nights’ into Farsi. That alone made my year!

About Writing:

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

I seem to have developed a sort of pattern over the years. I have a period of build-up, where I collect a lot of impressions from all around me, and two or three core ideas that I would like to combine. Once I have enough ‘charge’ built up, I go ahead and launch into chapter one. If chapter one works, it will lead on to chapter two. If not, I know the story’s not ripe, and I let it go. Once a story gets going, though, it takes over my life. I think about it day and night, talk it over with my young son at his bedtime, plotting only one chapter ahead at a time.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just Chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

My books are improvisations. I never plan far ahead. In fact, once I know where the story is finally going to end up, I start to gradually lose interest, and tend to finish up rapidly. The process of invention is what really excites me.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I continually edit as I go. As the story develops, I’m often going back and revising for continuity and to make sure things make at least a little sense. I don’t always succeed in that!

Did you hire a professional editor?
No, I don’t, and in fact, one of my readers recently advised me to never get one, because a real editor would never let me do what I do. I tend to break the rules of narrative and structure, and a lot of that’s on purpose.

About Publishing:

Did you submit your work to Agents?
No. I think that agents must need to find authors with as much ‘commercial potential’ as possible, and I don’t really believe I have much of that.

What made you decide to go Indie? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

In a sense I’ve always been Indie. I started my little brand, Pigeon Weather Productions, around thirty years ago, and I’ve been putting my books on the web in their own blogs for more than a decade. Before that, I would give away my stories to anyone who wanted them. I’m awfully glad the ebook revolution is happening. It’s tailor-made for writers like me.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?

I do them myself, generally. The cover of Snapdragon Alley came from a photograph by Michael Gakuranman that I came across on the web, and modified using Gimp on Ubuntu. Mostly I tweak my own photos and paintings and drawings, but this one felt so right I just had to use it, and he graciously gave his permission, so I like to give him credit whenever I can.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

I am totally winging it. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve put my ebooks on Smashwords, Feedbooks, Wattpad, Scribd, Amazon, everywhere I can, and I do have a Facebook page and a blog and a twitter account and all of that stuff. I’ve started getting involved with the Indie community and trying to help promote other Indie writers’ works as well as my own.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Just do it. Why not? The ‘traditional publishing’ world is dying. It was always a closed and cloistered community anyway, so I’m not sad to see it go. I do feel sorry for the demise of the independent bookstore, but I feel that it was murdered by the same conglomerated publishers who are now meeting their own doom. Just desserts!

About You:

Where did you grow up?

My early years were spent in the Philadelphia suburbs, except for that one glorious year abroad. I moved to San Francisco in my early twenties and have remained in this area ever since.

Where do you live now?

I live in the “woodsy hamlet” of La Honda, California, famous for being the former home of Ken Kesey and the current one of Neil Young.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I write for fun and I hope my readers have fun reading my stories. If they don’t, I would ask them to stop right away, and read something else instead. There’s no shortage of books out there. Don’t waste your time on things you don’t like.

I welcome all comments and emails. I’m also on twitter as ‘pigeonweather’.

End of Interview

I like to read the books, whose authors I interview, so Tom sent me Snapdragon. Now Tom says that his genre is YA Sci-Fi, but going by the reaction of my eight year old son, Nicholas, I’d say Tom’s got broader appeal.

You can tell when kids are into something – they ask lots of questions, the principal one being, “Dad, what’s next, come on Dad. What happens next?”  Thanks Tom, from Nick and I, for the entertaining read.

You can find out more about Tom here at his website Pigeon Weather Productions.

“Snapdragon Alley” is free for download from here.


About Simon Royle

Thinking about the future, and how to affect positive change for that future.
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