Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tom Raimbault Interview

Kipp Poe Speicher VS. Tom Raimbault

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
When I was a boy, I had this fun in which I would tell my mind, before going to sleep, that "we" should arise at 4am. This practice was often done in the summer months when I would gaze out my window with the telescope to observe Venus or the moon in the Eastern horizon, followed by the sunrise.
But for a boy, the practice could only last two days. The first morning was charged with excitement. The second morning was more of an attempt to enjoy what was experienced on the previous. By the third morning, I was disappointed to have awoken at 8am.
Another couple of days would go by, and I would resume the practice. And of course this practice went away after school resumed in the fall. But one school morning, my father got up at 3:30 in the morning to use the bathroom. On this particular morning, he would discover his son gazing out the window with a telescope.
"Damn-it, Tommy; get back to bed! Don't you understand you can't function on 6 hours of sleep while in school?"
It was a long time before I would enjoy my predawn moments of solitude with nature. But then in 8th grade, I was given a research paper writing assignment. My topic of choice: UFOs and alien abductions. I had much fun doing the research and writing about it. And on one Saturday morning, I awoke at 3:45am, brewed a couple cups of tea, and created an alien abduction survey in the predawn hours. The plan for that Saturday: I would knock on all the neighbors' doors and ask if they believe in extra-terrestrials -- maybe even find out if one of my neighbors had been abducted by aliens.
By sunrise, my father walked past my bedroom to see his son writing at the desk. "What are you doing, Tommy?"
"I'm creating a survey for my paper."
"Survey? About what?"
"I'm going to ask the neighbors if they've ever been abducted by aliens."
My father was horrified as he called out to my mother. "Tommy's been up all night, writing about spacemen! And he's actually going to the neighbors' houses to ask if they've seen the spacemen!"
I recall my parents believing that I had taken some sort of LSD the previous night and had yet to come down. I was exhausted-looking and actually laughed as my mother pointed out how ridiculous my Saturday plan was.
I believe it was that experience which conditioned me to write in the predawn hours. Years later (all grown up and in my 30s) I began writing strange stories about horror and science fiction. I found that I really enjoyed waking up at 3am, doing some writings followed by a workout. To this very day I continue the practice -- that is when I'm not working 3rd shift.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
Outside of my earlier writings, short stories written as a boy (such as The Knife); everything has always begun in electronic form. Keep in mind that there was a major gap of about 20 years before I would resume my writings after the alien abduction research paper. Sure, I did assignments in high school and college; but none were enjoyed from that unusual frame of mind that I call "the vortex" which enables me to produce some unusual material.
I resumed my passion for writing in 2000 on the graveyard shift at Motorola. Suddenly, technicians (such as me) were expected to document their analysis on spreadsheet and data base, and then communicate findings through email. It was a totally new world for me. I sent out a blast email to co-workers of other shifts along with management, warning that the radio frequencies in the air were melting my brain and causing a "harmonic-saturation-meltdown".
My supervisor was most unhappy with the email and advised that I keep all future emails business-like. A co-worker and friend of mine gave me more advise citing that shift notes was "not my time to shine and not the Daily Tom Raimbault Column."
And that is how the Daily Tom Raimbault Column was born! For about a year-and-a-half I rediscovered my love of writing the strange and bizarre. Works were sent out to close co-workers who enjoyed my writings. Of course I was busted by my supervisor who discovered a piece that I wrote about the moon.
Eventually I was laid off but resumed my writing. I arose in the predawn hours and developed earlier versions of Voyeuristic Fantasies and The Amazonian Woman from Sirius B. But sadly, I lost touch with writing for a few years.
It wasn't until I started a job on 3rd shift, at a biomedical engineering plant, that I resumed writing. The Daily Tom Raimbault Column continued with a change of name to be called, "TALK ABOUT... After Hours". I'm not sure how I thought of the name, but just about all the writings were produced on an ultrasound machine. Since these medical devices use Windows XP, I had plenty of writing tools to produce works such as The Chlorophyll Habit of Carlos Castaneda, To Climb a Radio Tower and many others.
And there were nights when I worked in a different department and didn't have access to an ultrasound machine. Seated before multiple test systems that evaluated telecommunication equipment, I passed the lengthy time of automated tests by writing on my palm pilot! Yes, on a small hand-held device, I utilized the QWERTY pad to write about Planet X, my experiences touring caves, and stories about polar bears.
Today I'm back at Motorola and much too busy to write at work. When writing, it is often done at 2:30 in the morning, in a darkened living room with laptop on my lap. In these hours I produce some of the most bizarre macabre that will soon appear in my upcoming novel The Tree Goddess.

3: What do you draw inspiration from?
Most-often, writings begin in a moment of uncontrollable laughter. Suddenly, I'll have this shift of awareness in which a scene plays out in my imagination -- something often ridiculous. If you've ever read Beaten in the Basement, you would be surprised to know that I roared with laughter, at its conception, one evening while loading the dishwasher. Unfortunately I cannot disclose what was so amusing because it would ruin the story for someone who hasn't read it. And while writing the story, I laughed and laughed. But when the reality of the situation was finally disclosed, I nearly cried for the character. At one point it was necessary to stop typing because I needed to rub the tears from my eyes.
The Plague of Rebecca was thought of on a Sunday night, at a Chinese restaurant, while eating with family. I did all I could to control laughing at how ridiculous the main character's misfortune would spiral out of control. But then when nearly complete with the work, I thought to myself, "I can't write this! This would imply that there is no God!" So the ending was altered and the main character came out ahead.
And would you believe that my entire upcoming novel, The Tree Goddess, was inspired by a silly conversation that I had with my daughter? We were moving and I packed up a box of vases. I urged my, then, 9-year-old daughter to exercise extreme caution while handling the box of vases as they were antiques -- one of them dating back to the 1700s! (They weren't really antiques!)
"Yeah right, Dad; whatever!"
"No, seriously! One of those boxes sat on George Washington's fireplace mantel. And there's another one that..." Well, you're just going to have to get a copy of the novel when it's released this fall.
I mixed in some other sources of inspiration as well. There's a conversation I had with my brothers about wine and a few nasty nightmares I've had through the years.

4: Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
Length and word count is irrelevant when I write. I've written some very short pieces as well as some lengthy ones. I will say that I've watched the word count grow on my upcoming novel and was impressed when I reached 100,000 words. I'm sure most experienced novelists will consider that to be a baby novel, but this is only my first. I estimate by the time I'm done, I will have reached (maybe) 120,000 words. I'm towards the end and wish I could just finish it, but ending a novel is tricky -- as I'm discovering.

5: Being a self published author how do you come up with your cover art?
Let’s just say that I'm very handy with Microsoft Paint and Print Shop. I've looked at some of the covers for my earlier works and feel an urge to change the artwork. In fact, I've already changed the artwork for the short story, The Hateful Thing of Evil.
Freaked Out Horror was simple to create. I merely went to the woods on an early, autumn morning and photographed what Donna the Unburied would have seen in her last moments alive. It was quite an experience for me which was detailed in the preface of the book.
Since we're on the subject of cover art, I've noticed that most readers who seek horror seem to choose books with dark covers. This correlation was concluded when offering many of my short stories for free. I discovered that anything with a solid, black background and much red as the main color of the art received TONS of downloads. But then some of my other works of horror, such as Fear of Needles and The Boy who could Call Snakes, used colorful backgrounds. The snake story uses green as the cover work and the needle story uses yellow. Both stories were not as popular as the others.
I refuse to follow these findings when designing future artwork! Why does horror have to be so dark and bloody? The macabre can sometimes be bright and colorful, illustrating strange things we experience on a day-to-day basis. With this thought in mind, The Tree Goddess will be a haunted-blue color. I envision the entire cover to be a blue forest with the Trivelli house at the center, fog-like clouds surrounding the house to illustrate the sentience that blankets the historic house and the very town of Mapleview.

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
I had a few minutes to spare at work and began to answer this question. I wrote how it wasn't the money driving me to be a writer and mentioned that I sometimes wonder why I even bother to write. My fan base is small and I really can't see my material ever becoming main-stream. It was such a depressing answer, but I could see with clarity that I remain compelled to write.
Then a small crisis happened when I reached home, last night. I recalled that early in the day – at work --, I placed my laptop bag on the work station and pulled out a few items. My weekly back-up of the Tree Goddess (on CD) was pulled out of the bag and set on the table so I could reach other items for work. Then I reported to my office to do typical morning activities. When I came back to the work station, I was startled to see my Tree Goddess back-up CD lying out in the open!
"No problem; I'll just put it under the laptop and bring it back to the office at the end of the day."
The end of the day came and I shut down my laptop, winded up the power cord and mouse, and walked back to the office. The Tree Goddess CD was left at the work station!
Oblivious to this fact, I headed out to the car and drove home -- an hour away! Yes, I commute an hour to work! And when I reached home, I realized what I had done.
Suddenly, that stupid, little novel which I often think no one will appreciate was the most important thing (next to my wife and kids) in my life. I hyperventilated and felt dizzy and nearly threw a fit of rage from my carelessness. Sure, it was only a backup CD but it was two... nearly three years of work. I had written that novel not once, not twice, but three times! As I complete the work, I see it being transformed into beautiful music -- a literary piece of art which I am truly proud of. What if...? What if someone recognized what the CD was and took it? What if someone knew that I aspire to be a writer and had realized that a nearly-completed novel could be submitted to an agent or some publishing company? Or maybe someone would simply taunt me with the fact that my CD is in his or her possession. "I've been reading your manuscript; not bad. I could have done a better job at it..." People are so cruel!
I told my wife that it was urgent that I drive an hour north to see if the CD was left undisturbed at my workstation. She was understanding and only advised that I drive carefully. To make a long story short, it was exactly where I had left it. The CD now sits on my bedside table. I learned my lesson of just how important the novel is to me. I don't care if I receive bad reviews when finally released. The Tree Goddess is my finest work of literary art, to date. 3 years of blood, sweat, and tears have been poured into it. Going forward, I will have much respect for what it is that I do -- even if my works never become main-stream.

7: Do you own an eBook reading device?
For years I have been using the Sprint Palm One products. My very, first palm pilot was the Palm 650, purchased in 2004. It was an amazing device, for me, as I was able to access media and full web pages with graphics. Shortly after, I began the practice of reading classic novels which are offered for free throughout the web. At the time, I was working 2nd shift and would pull out the Palm 650 and read during my lunch break. It was really nice because the device fit in my pocket, and material could be read without people invading my privacy.
Throughout the day I would access news, magazine articles and anything else to entertain and keep me occupied. Eventually I used the device for doing research in school; even wrote papers with the QWERTY pad!
Today I own the Palm Centro and use it to download EBooks from Smashwords. Kobo Books has an application that can be installed to the Palm for reading their books. These little hand-held devices are nice!
I'm really disappointed with the makers of Palm. Using it for years, I find it to be a really nice product. But what happened? The company tanked and has been purchased by Hewlett Packard. I hope HP plans on continuing the evolution of these devices so that they match the Droids and Iphones.
Currently I work with a group of RF engineers at Motorola, and ALL of them have the Motorola Droid. It’s like a cult; the entire lunch table pulls out their Motorola Droids while bragging of the latest downloaded app. They think it's amazing that music can be heard along with video and TV. One time they were all enamored that someone could look up a business, click the phone number so the Droid would call the business and a conversation could be had.
"Wow, Mr. Engineer! That's amazing! (Said factitiously). The fact is this "hand-held device way of life" has been 2nd nature to me, for years. I've clicked phone numbers and called businesses many times. I watch TV, streaming videos and even connect the output of my Palm to the input auxiliary jack of my car stereo so I can listen to Internet Radio. The Palm products have offered these applications and functions long before the Droids came out.
And to be fair, I will admit that I don't have the motion sensitive LCD and the slick graphics which enable me to quickly slide the screen while browsing. Of course those things are cutting edge and really cool. But I've been using the palm for many years and have been happy.
Please tell me that HP will take it to the next level!

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
I don't read nearly as much as a should. Currently I have two books in my living room which I periodically read. One is a collection of short stories called The New Terror. The other is a collection of works by Edgar Allan Poe. On Friday nights I might sit with one of the books over a couple glasses of wine and enjoy the stories.
Last month, my wife brought home a National Geographic magazine that may have been a couple months old by the time it fell into my possession. What interested me was an article about the North American Gray Wolf which is no longer on the endangered species list. The wolf is a beautiful animal, but very few people realize that despite its beauty and often gentle nature, the wolf threatens the cattle industry. I recall reading in the article that animal rights activists, who fight for the protection of wolves, also expect to eat beef on a daily basis. The wolf invades farms and even torments the cattle with fear, causing them to affect birth rates.
The article affected me so much, that wolves now play a minor part in my upcoming novel, The Tree Goddess.
But what authors do I like? Well I'm certainly familiar with classic authors like Edgar Allan Poe and H.P Lovecraft. And I'm certainly familiar with many of the classics that we were expected to read in high school and what I continue to read when I have a chance.
When I was a boy, I picked up Cosmos from Carl Sagan. It was a rather complicated work for a 12-year-old child to comprehend, but I recall enjoying it as it supplemented the 13-part television series, Cosmos. I recall reading plenty of books on UFOs and alien abductions. By freshman year in high school I was reading a collection of books from an author named George Adamski who claimed to have met humans who reside on the planet of Venus. His books were intended to inform the public of the lost civilization of Atlantis that hopped into spaceships and flew off to the moon, Mars, and Venus where they continued to thrive as a utopian race. These people, who George Adamski referred to as "the Space Brothers" were here to assist Earth people in solving the world problems.
I actually did a persuasive speech, my freshman year in high school, in which I informed the teacher and classmates of these "Space Brothers" and urged everyone to join in a cosmic unification that would change the course of humanity, forever!
I got an F! There was no supportive, concrete evidence. And to make matters worse, classmates laughed at me and labeled me as freak.
Books weren't so cool for a couple years after that. But then by senior year, I was reading works from an author named Carlos Castaneda. He wrote extensively on a friend who was supposedly a Yaqui-Indian and lived in the mountainous desert of Mexico. Many of his books detailed expeditions out in the wilderness along with discussions with this Yaqui-Indian who disclosed some anthropological stories of his people. Most intriguing were the author’s accounts of ingesting medicinal plants which seemed to cause him to believe he could turn into a crow and fly away. There were many unusual delusions that these plants caused.
And then some years passed in which I would only read the news or magazine articles. Novels and books took way too long for my busy schedule. It wasn't until resuming my love of writing that I decided to pick up books again. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand.
But I'm ashamed to tell you that I'm unfamiliar with modern-day authors. I mean you think that I would have picked up a book or two from Steven King, Anne Rice or even JK Rowling. I haven't picked up one! Isn't that an outrage?

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?
I do have a couple of book trailers out there for Freaked Out Horror. When joining Smashwords, I learned this technique of marketing and sat down one weekend to put together a trailer which can be viewed on You Tube. Check it out if you like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctj8fWBGo8I
I've received many positive reactions from family and friends on the video. If you've read Freaked Out Horror, then you would know that the video is describing the short story, Morbid Fetish which details the tragic death of Donna the Unburied.
There is a second trailer for the book that I've often considered taking down. Some parts are difficult to see, and it doesn't have nearly the same shock effect as the first. The second video describes the short story, Things Learned from the Ouija Board.
What do I think of trailers? I don't know; do these things actually help sell books? I'm sure trailers have been proven to assist in the marketing of novels and short stories. The problem is that I'm an unheard of author and only sell a few copies of my works, here and there. Perhaps people have enjoyed the trailers for Freaked Out Horror; perhaps not.
Will I do a trailer for The Tree Goddess? I probably will; and it will be a similar format. But this time around I want to have my kids draw scenes from the book. The rule for drawing: they can only use blue crayon. I'll scan the art in and have multiple scenes flash before the viewer while I discuss the town of Mapleview.
I've even considered doing a second video in which I address the reader in real life, take him or her to the much forested section, near my residence, which inspired the fictional town of Mapleview. I can show the reader the imaginary Hidden Lake Forest Preserve and the winding roads that play out in my mind as lonely drivers cruise the late-night highways of Mapleview. I, myself, have driven those very roads in the late night hours, while coming home from a second shift job. It's amazing to think that we have regions of dense forest in the Chicago land area. In fact, the very road that I speak of is not far from the famous road where Resurrection Mary is often sited. And yes, I've driven that road as well. No sightings of Mary; sorry! And the book has nothing to do with Resurrection Mary or Chicago hauntings. Mapleview is a fictional town that is far, far away from Illinois.
I don't know if I'll do the second video. I want the readers to create their own ideas of Mapleview. But the first trailer would be pretty cool.

10: What are you working on now that you can talk about?
Well, if you haven't already figured it out, there is a mystery-meets-macabre novel to be released in autumn titled The Tree Goddess. Plans are already under-way to do a sequel of this novel. But unlike the Tree Goddess, the setting of the 2nd novel will take place in the neighboring town of Mapleview, called Sillmac. I already take the reader into Sillmac throughout the first novel; and rest assured I will take the reader into Mapleview in the second novel. What the second novel is about continues to be developed, but I'm already chiseling away at a neurotic cable TV installer who becomes full aware of the terror of Sillmac.
Then again, I might take a break from Mapleview and Sillmac to produce a novel titled Doll Fetish -- a story about little, plastic dolls. Whatever it is I do, I will continue to produce my writings of the strange, the macabre, and the bizarre.

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