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Interview with Tory Gates

He is a longtime broadcaster with more than thirty-five years in the business, primarily in radio. He is currently a reporter, news anchor, and presenter for the Radio Pennsylvania Network. He is also known as DJ`Riff, host of The Music Club, a blues program for the London-based Radio-Airwaves Station, and host of The Brown Posey Press Show, a BookSpeak Network program for independent authors.

Tory is author of four books, A Moment in the Sun, which took top honors in the Young Adult category of the Red City Review Awards in 2017; Live from the Café, and Searching for Roy Buchanan, all on Brown Posey Press, the fiction imprint of Sunbury Press Books. He also self-published Parasite Girls in 2013 on Amazon and Smashwords. A native of Vermont, Tory lives in Harrisburg, PA, with his music and guitar collections, plus his numerous cats.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I took the form of Tae Kwon Do when I was a kid, partly because my sister was doing it and because it looked interesting. I took it for 2-½ years, rose to the rank of a blue belt.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
Yes. The second book of the Sweet Dreams SeriesCall it Love, is set for release in 2021.

Q.3 When did you decide to write the Sweet Dreams series?
In 2007. I have been writing all my life, everything from news copy to poetry and songs. My efforts at writing a full-length novel were on and off over the years, but I finally decided to try a story that was really nothing but a series of strange threads. I had this vague idea of a Japanese girl named Aki who had the ability to time travel. Music, which has always been a big inspiration, struck me as being a part of this...Searching for Roy Buchanan stuck as a title, even though I was not even thinking about him. I began fooling around with different characters and slowly began to tie the threads together. I wrote the first draft in about two weeks and then just kept going. This series ended up being many manuscripts, but they weren’t ready. I put them down for periods of time, then came back. Finally, after having two books released on Sunbury Press’ imprint, the publisher decided it was time to spring Aki and the gang on the world, and it finally happened in 2019. Worth the wait because my writing style had changed so much since I started!

Q.4 How do you come up with the name of your books?
They usually just come to me; song titles were the same way. Most often, the first idea is the best one for me, but now and then, a line, dialogue, something I write later will change my mind.

Q.5 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I recently answered that question, and I’ll tell it pretty much as I did then: just keep writing. It doesn’t matter if it sounds juvenile or reads like junk; that’s what rewrites are for. Keep working with it, and the story will ultimately be what you want and what it’s meant to be.

Q.6 How do you select the name of your characters?
A lot of the characters began with the names I started with. As several of my stories are set in Japan, I would begin with a name, but then I would check and see if that really fits the character or not. Aki, for example, is a unisex name, and for girls, it means “bright,” “sparkle,” or “autumn.” I had no idea until I looked it up, and thankfully it fit her.

When it comes to American or European names, I find myself really thinking about it more. I try to not use the names of my family members, for example. Also, I try not to re-use names if I can help it, even if they are in unrelated works.

Q.7 What do you find difficult about writing YA books?
I don’t really feel it’s difficult. The reason being, I don’t filter myself-I am not a fan of people who you can tell deliberately write in a socially correct, overpolite, and (in my view) drippy style that doesn’t touch on issues young people face.

I remember my youth well enough to know what my peers and I went through. If you write fiction, it needs to be rooted in something real, and I’m not afraid to “go there,” as an old friend liked to say. In my writing, I will describe at times as, “Young people dealing with big people problems.”

My effort is not to get attention by what I write, but to make my characters and their situations as real as possible; otherwise, they are unrelatable and there’s no point even starting.

Q.8 How long does it take you to write a book?
There’s a lot of non-writing that goes on first. I will let a book “cook” in my head, sometimes for months, even years, for me to find out if it makes sense, if it’s something I have not written before, and does it push me to write.

During this, I will write out characters' sketches: their names, ages, what they look like, and what are their main identifiers. Then I do a timeline, chapter by chapter (which I never adhere to!), and then I clear my time out.

The first draft is me writing one chapter a day, no matter how long it takes; if I keep writing, then that’s even better. I usually take about one month to get the first draft done.

Q.9 What were your feelings when your novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
Each one is exciting, in its own way. You see the cover, you hold it in your hands, look at the words on the page, and it’s very satisfying.

Q.10 What is one stereotype about YA writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?
The Second question first: I don’t think there is one thing that makes a YA author typical. We are as diverse and as different as authors of any other genre. Our influences can be just as unique. If there is one thing some people get wrong, it’s that we just read YA ourselves or are locked in a need to be forever young by reading comics or watching cartoons, anime, etc. You would find my bookshelf has an awful lot of different authors, subjects, and so forth. Any author needs to read other authors, and not just the classics or the current standard bearers. The more you read, the more you develop your own style.

Q.11 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I can go into the wormhole and not come out for a long while! In broadcasting, I can work hours on a project and lose track of time, and in writing, the principle is the same. My focus can make me zone out to the point I don’t know what is going on around me.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I don’t think writer’s block so much exists, as the ideas just aren’t coming the way you want them to. Just because you are not putting something down does not mean you are not writing. If you are thinking hard about your stories, how to use your characters, making notes that seem unrelated, you’re still writing. The important thing is to keep thinking in the direction of your writing and not to quit. It eventually will come out.

Q.13 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I never really thought about it-probably an elf of the Tolkien persuasion. Their life cycle, the potential for reincarnation, and what I gathered is a heightened sense of place would be interesting.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
Lord of the Rings probably will remain my favorite. I was given The Hobbit as a gift at age nine, and while I didn’t fully get it, I eventually did. I began reading LOTR at ten, and it opened all the doors for me that you make the rules, build the world, and make what you will of it. It took Tolkien over twenty years to create Middle Earth; his attention to detail, creation of languages; all of it can never be exceeded.

Q.15 How does your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
They seem supportive of it. Most of my work is not mainstream, and while I think I write in a fairly clear style, the subject matter can be challenging, especially if it’s something they don’t have any experience or knowledge of. I believe most of it is relatable, though.

Q.16 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
The plot usually begins in my mind with characters who show up, and I wonder why they’re there! What are they trying to tell me? Some of these arrive fully formed. I have their name, what they look like, and so on. Then I just have to figure out what they want from me.

Stories can be from different sources-A Moment in the Sun, for example, was inspired by a BBC article I read on the Japanese hikikomori. Nearly one million people in Japan feel they do not fit into that society withdraw from it to the point that many will not leave their homes. I realized there were parallels to my personal life, albeit brief for me, and there was a story there. The characters showed up right away, some drawn from that story and others I read on the subject. They come without warning, that’s for certain.

Q.17 What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write! Again, even if you are not writing something down, think about what you want to write. Let your mind wander down those paths, and just do it. Do not worry if it doesn’t come out right away, and realize that writing, while it should be for fun, a release, and that kind of thing, is work, but only from the standpoint that your work is fun, and that you will grow and get better the more you do it.

Q.18 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
You have to put yourself into other people’s beings. Anyone you have had contact with from the opposite sex can offer you clues as to how you can get their level of sensitivity, temperament, and how it fits with the character you are developing.

A lot of my lead characters are female. I think a lot of that has to do with what I see, and also, my contact with the female sex over the years just seemed much more intense to me. In addition, I worked in theater for many years, and you see, hear, and especially feel everything in human emotion when invested in a show. You also become invested in the people with who you do that show. I draw on that quite a lot.

Q.19 Who designed your book covers?
Mitch Bentley. He is an amazing artist and an incredibly nice guy. I was fortunate to have a friend who knew Mitch, and he makes a simple concept explode on the cover. The cover does make the book-if you don’t have a sharp, eye-grabbing cover; you need to get one. 

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
The past several years have been one of embracing life within my “normal” life. My writing has been one long lesson in developing an art that I really just fooled around for too long. The time was right to exercise my mind and these skills I had but just wasn’t using right. Writing has let me explore my own past, my experiences, and others-it's also been great therapy.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the insightful advice!