T.A. Henry. The Hankster. Hank-o-rama. I first virtually met T.A. in 2016, when I was writing the first draft of my upcoming (and when I say upcoming, I mean, “sometime between now and when I croak”) novel, “How the West Was Zombed.” Cowboys + zombies = Zombie Western.
T.A. had a lot to say in the comment section of my fine blog, and was a stickler for historic accuracy. I mean, yeah, she gave me an allowance for zombies, but she urged me to try to be as historically accurate as possible, to pay attention to whether people from the 1800s would say a certain thing, act a certain way, wear a particular piece of clothing, use a type of invention. In short, she made it clear that what I thought was going be a pretty easy novel to write would require a whole lot of research.
She kept commenting and I kept writing and I’ll be honest, she didn’t give me the glowing, flowery praise we all secretly want, but rather, the swift kick to the back of the pants criticism that I needed. Everyone needs a persnickety commenter like T.A. If you can make her happy, then you’ll probably do OK with the reviewers on Amazon, who live on a steady diet of writer tears.
History is T.A.’s bag. On her Amazon page, you can find two novels, “Scripting the Truth” and “Ostrich Mentality,” both of which take place in the Twentieth Century, which doesn’t seem to me like a long time ago but apparently it is. It really is.
BOLD = BQB; ITALICS= T.A.
QUESTION 1 – T.A., welcome. I could be wrong, but you seem like a serious person, so I thank you for lowering yourself enough to be interviewed on a blog run by a man who swears he talks to aliens. I’m telling you, hang on a year or two and you’ll be interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, who only acts like he is a space alien.
History. You might have told me but I don’t remember because I’m not a good historian, but I’m wondering how you got into writing historic fiction. Give the history of your historic obsession to my 3.5 readers, or to my 2.5 readers, since you are a reader.
ANSWER: One day the window got left window open and I crawled out on to the ledge. Uncle Bob tried to chase me back in but I was scared, who wouldn’t be? Uncle Bob is creepy, and so I jumped up on the roof. Bob kept coming though. He got out this weird metal contraption and bam it slammed into the edge of the roof. So I ran to the other side. But the shingles were loose and as I tried to jump to the nearby oak I slipped. And fell. 3 stories. Into the road. Amazon was making a Prime delivery and wouldn’t you know it, I got hit by a load of….wait what was the question?
Oh, how I came to be a historical writer, yeah. I fell into it. What else do you do with a degree in history and no chance to teach because your hubs got transferred and you have no connections in the local community college scene.? LOL.
QUESTION 2 – When it comes to historic fiction, I think the average writer understands the basics. In other words, if your story takes place in 1776, you don’t want a scene where George Washington watches the latest news on the American Revolution on a big screen TV.
For me, it seems like the old cliché is true. The devil is in the details – the littlest details. What would a person from a certain time period say or do? How would they act? What would they wear?
Hollywood types can call up a renowned history professor and pepper him/her with questions for days. Alas, unknown self-publishers like myself don’t have that kind of pull. For us peons, what resources are available? What advice do you have if we have a question about whether or not a little snippet of our fiction jives with the historical record?
ANSWER: Research. But it doesn’t have to be all difficult. You’d be amazed what you can find online. Google really is your friend.
I have the advantage of a huge base knowledge of the time period I write in, which means I am only looking up tiny little specifics. But you could can do that with anything. What did the average sheriff in a small western town get paid circa 1870? You will get answers.
QUESTION 3 – Seriously, I don’t mean to state the obvious, but setting your story in the past is difficult. As I wrote my Zombie Western, I found myself with all sorts of questions. For example, a character eats a candy and I start to wonder if that candy would have been present in the Old West. Is all that tedium worth it?
ANSWER: Probably not. It seems to me like most people don’t care about the reality of situations. They want a good story, big explosions, better special effects. Of course if you’re trying to write for an intelligent audience, they will catch you. And they will huck the book across the room and give you the dreaded one star review.
QUESTION 4 – Your new book, “Ostrich Mentality” takes place in 1990 and involves a small pox plot. Take it from there. Tell the other 2.5 readers you read my blog with what this tale is all about. The title seems cool but I’m wondering what’s the significance? I know I always prefer to stick my head in the sand and hope all problems disappear rather than face them. That usually works, right?
ANSWER: Ostrich Mentality started out as a little question that I couldn’t shake while I was reading an interview with a Russian scientist who defected in the 90s. He claimed that not only did Russia have weaponized small pox but it was missile dispersible and….they lost 20 tons of it during the break up of the USSR. FUCK!
This book is my take on what might have happened after that. How three spies and a know it all analyst save the world. LOL.
“With your head in the sand and your ass in the air, you’re ripe to get screwed.”
QUESTION 5 – By the way, why are you trying to make me want to jump of a bridge by setting a book in 1990, like that’s some long ago, ancient time? God, I was just a little kid then. Oh well, I suppose time flies. What do you think historians of the future will say about the time period we live in right now?
ANSWER: Are you trying to make me feel ancient? Little kid in the 90s. Pffftt. I was in flipping high school. Ass. I don’t talk current events. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.
QUESTION 6 – Your first novel, “Scripting the Truth” takes place after World War II, where a writer tries to scheme her way into a movie studio to reconnect with the soldier she once loved who has since become an actor. Tell the other 2.5 readers more about this. What inspired you to pen such a romantic story?
ANSWER: Laughing…um…”Scripting” actually started as a dream – a rather naughty dream about a girl finding work in the porn industry. Laughing…but I wasn’t going to write that.
The rest just evolved. It’s not really a romance. It’s more about a woman challenging the ideas her family has saddled her with. Challenging what the world would have her be. Figuring out who she is and how to make that work. Yes, there’s a guy, because there’s always a guy, but he’s not really the important part.
QUESTION 7 – “Scripting the Truth” is an interesting title. Is it possible for people to script their own truth? Perhaps “truth,” or an understanding of who people are and how they got there can be malleable? Maybe the wise person tells his/her life’s story in the best possible light?
ANSWER: I think we script our own truths every day. We all tell ourselves little stories to get through the day. We tell ourselves and each other little lies to grease the wheels of society. In “Scripting,” Molly tell herself a lot of lies. She discovers everyone is lying about something. And then she makes the best of that.
QUESTION 8 – My addiction to buying covers for books I have yet to publish remains unabated. Honestly, it has come to the point where I might start engaging in unsavory activities in back alleys just to score some dough so I can run out and buy another unnecessary book cover. I’m sure you’ll find me on the street one day, clinking my tin cup, shouting out, “Brother, can you spare a cover?”
I don’t know why I do it. I jump from one story idea to the next, like a bumble bee with ADD, moving all willy nilly from one flower to the next, never focusing on just one flower until he’s sucked all the nectar out of it.
Oh right. I should work a question in here somewhere. I remember you talking about working on a spy novel at least a year ago, maybe even two. Now, all this time later, your spy novel is real and people can buy it on Amazon. You stuck to one idea and saw it through and you’re reaping the reward. What advice do you have for people like me who jump from one idea to another without staying put and seeing one idea through to the end?
ANSWER: Bwahahahaha. No really. Bwahahahahahha. I started writing “Ostrich” 5 years ago. FIVE. In between I wrote and published “Scripting.” I wrote a murder mystery. Abandoned said mystery. Wrote for and was published in an anthology. I dropped “Ostrich Mentality” at least half a dozen times. It had a rough ride through beta. It was pulled apart, redesigned, thrown in the garbage masher on the detention level more times than I can count. Not to mention the struggle, see below….
I don’t know that I have generic advice. Ok maybe I do. I think people jump around so they never have to publish and face the heinous truth that it is brutal out there. You can pour your heart and soul into a book and it can be Pulitzer level material or “Saturday Night Live” level material and then you sell 12 copies, and it feels like someone stabbed you in the heart. You’ll gladly climb into a grave and stay there, licking your wounds. It takes so much more guts to climb out of that space and publish for the second time. I’m talking here to Mars and back again exponential guts. By jumping around you get the morally superior ground of being so prolific you can’t stay focused. Your flaw becomes a virtue. Script that truth my friend.,
QUESTION 9 – Will you ever write a novel that doesn’t take place in the past? If so, would you set it in the present or in the future? Fun fact: if you wait too long to write a novel that’s set in the present, it will become a novel that is set in the past.
ANSWER: I am in the middle of writing a cozy procedural trilogy which I will publish later this year. It is set in present time in the PNW, where I live.
Tell you more you say? Well, ok. The three books track a serial killer bumping off middle aged successful white men and cutting off their dicks. (Smiles. )
Laughing. Come on, it’s funny. “The Dismember Killer” is what the media calls him. LOL
Book one solves a copy cat. Book two takes place in the cold case squad where they solve a couple of unrelated murders and find a case that might have bearing on the serial killer. In book three they catch him.
It’s been interesting writing it because the detectives all text each other – all the time. Something that never happened in my previous books. It ups the immediacy and forces me to get more creative.
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: I’m investing in lockable metal underpants.
QUESTION 10 – You wake up to find yourself stuck in a log cabin in the middle of a secluded forest. You have no idea how you got there other than a vague recollection that accepting a drink mixed by Bill Cosby was a bad idea.
You look out the window and hundreds of brain chomping zombies are closing in, ready to feast on your gray matter. Furiously, you search the cabin for any items that might help, but you only find three things: a squeaky, rubber duck, a sealed bag of Cool Ranch Doritos marked “Best used by March 1, 1997” and an oversized, novelty foam finger.
How will you use these items to save your brains?
ANSWER: Are my brains really worth saving? I mean really? What have I done that’s so extraordinary that I should be saved by extreme measures? And if I was dumb enough to accept a drink from Bill (Cosby or Clinton) I deserve what I get.
Are these fast zombies or slow zombies? Are we talking “Night of the Living Dead”(original) or like “I-Zombie?”
Spread the Doritos on the floor so I hear when they are in the cabin. Use the foam finger to block the chimney behind me, so no soot falls down, as I frog climb up to exit out the top like some reverse Santa Clause. Make a run for it as soon as they are inside.
Find you and stick the rubber duck up your ass for proposing this little question. LOL.
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: That’s the twelfth time this month my backside has been threatened with the introduction of a rubber duck. It isn’t easy being mediocre Internet celebrity.