I’ve interviewed Tom Pitts before, for the Stuff I Wish I’d Written series I’ve done on this blog. It’s one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, delving into how one book helped Tom get through his darkest times. Generous with his answers, with a light touch, Tom had me glued to his story.
I’m thrilled to have the man back, entertaining with his answers as ever.
A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that (???). What words do you have for such a philistine?
I can dig it. I used to love true crime, mob stuff mostly. Tell him to read The Westies, by TJ English. My favorite. It’s non-fiction, but it reads like a novel. (Changed how I viewed crime fiction, that’s for sure.) After that it was tough sticking with non-fiction. I like it when the lines blur. Soon after I discovered historical fiction, stuff like Billy Bathgate. It was a gateway drug, in a way. I always want my fiction to feel real. The sci-fi horror world never drew me in. So, I guess what’d I say is, I completely understand where he’s coming from. And, what the hell do I know anyway?
What must a protagonist have to make you read on?
I’m not sure that the protag needs to have anything special, but, for me, it’s more important for them to act as a catalyst for the antagonists. I’ll admit, my own protagonists are often just a vehicle to the story, where the antagonists try to steal the show.
Do you need a likeable protagonist?
I think you need to empathize with them. Relate to their fear, their urgency, their desperation. I think it’s more important that their motivations be believable than if they’re likable.
Name a great antagonist, novel or movie, and what they do for you.
I’ll name both. Same character: Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. His intention is so direct, so one-minded, he’s the perfect sociopath.
What makes you throw a book out the window?
It doesn’t take much. Really, just me not keeping up with it. My attention span is horrible. For me, reading a book is a lot like writing a book. You have to spend a little time with it each day, or the story fades and you lose interest.
Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?
No. It’s easy to say, life’s too short, but it’s true. I know you can learn from things you don’t like, but if it’s dragging, I have to let it go. I can only really read one thing at a time, so if a book ain’t getting’ me to pick it up, it’s getting in the way of other books I need to read.
What gets you writing? A great novel, maybe. Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?
Christ, if I knew, I’d bottle it. I know what keeps me from writing, and that’s everything. You know what gets me going? Silence. Silence and a little time. Two things in short supply in my life.
What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?
I learned about the endless monotony of properly trimming weed while I embedded myself with dope growers up in Humboldt in the name of research.
What’s your next book, in 30 words or less.
COLDWATER is about a young couple who move to the burbs and find the house across the street has been taken over by who they think are squatters. A conflict with their new neighbors puts them on a violent and terrifying road.
BUT that book is already written, what I really want to tell you about is my work in progress. So I will … It’s about a handful of people whose lives intersect and change when they interact with a homeless man who believes he can see the future.
Where can readers connect with you?
The usual spots. Twitter (@mrtompitts), Instagram (@tompittsauthor), Goodreads or good ol’ Facebook.
Thanks, Tom. His website is HERE.