Greetings readers, blogger, geeks, and authors. A while back, I had the pleasure to interview a wonderful author and friend named, L.A. Little. A good time was truly had by all, and here’s how it went down.
Toi Thomas: Hi there L.A.! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ToiBox Blog. I’m excited to share a little bit about you and your work.
L.A.: Thanks Toi. I appreciate the opportunity.
Toi Thomas: So tell me, who is L.A. Little?
L.A.: I was born in St. Louis but I’ve lived in Virginia almost my whole life. I started telling fantasy stories through sequential drawings when I was 5 or 6 and began writing short stories soon after. I still write mostly genre fiction. I’ve had several short stories place well in competitions and I was a member of the APA 5 which also had Frank Miller and Mark Verheiden in the founding core, a bit ahead of my time. I’ve worked as a music journalist and editor, I’m a big history nerd and a husband and father of 3 great kids.
Toi Thomas: It seems as though writing has been part of your life from very early on. I know how much time you spend with your family and writing about music, but I’m glad to see that you’re starting to really share some of your fiction with the rest of the world.
Toi Thomas: So whacha got for me today?
L.A.: My most recent release is the novella “Deadblood”. I first got the idea and wrote the original draft in the mid-90s when I was working in my journalist capacity on Lollapalooza. The story is about a guy on a rock music tour who runs afoul of a group of vampires, but then there’s a twist that is pretty unique. It’s a vampire story but really more of a contemporary fantasy than horror. I write both, as well as science fiction, and I tend to sort of mix genres a bit. “Deadblood” definitely fits into that mash-up category.
Toi Thomas: Well my friend, you know how I feel about this story. I hope you don’t mind if I share my review of it here (Goodreads). I don’t like to show favoritism, so I’ll let people decide whether or not they want read how I really feel about it. In any case, congrats on getting it out there to the public.
Toi Thomas: So who’s starring is this 2 dimensional script read of “Deadblood”?
L.A.: The main character is named Troy. He’s out on the road coming to grips with the differences between his reality and the dream he thought he was pursuing. He’s really self-involved and gets blindsided. He soon meets Ella and finds out she’s a vampire when she contributes to his death and re-birth. Ella isn’t some evil creature. She’s about 60 and still looks 18 and she goes through her everyday trying to get by and figure out what it’s all about, just like humans. She and Troy become allied against Ella’s clan due to a unique aspect of their situation.
Toi Thomas: I like how you point out that Ella isn’t evil. After reading this story, it really does give new light to the ideas of good and bad, blessed and dammed. I won’t say anymore on this matter, but must admit one thing. I liked Troy more at the end of the story.
L.A.: Yeah, he’s not very endearing in the beginning. He’s not a jerk, he’s just caught up in his own problems and wants, like almost everybody else. All people have those times where they’re sort of nakedly pursuing their own agenda, it’s not attractive but we all do it. I like to write characters who have those unattractive, perfectly natural sides to themselves sort of right up front. That way it gives me the chance to reveal what there is about this person that redeems them if you just scratch the surface a little. That’s also kind of how I try to deal with people in the real world. I try to give them the chance to show me that thing in themselves that might not show up in a snapshot. The difference is that in a novel is you can hear the person’s inner monologue and start to get a purer idea of who they are.
Toi Thomas: Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?
L.A.: Inspiration is unpredictable and comes from all sorts of sources; science, history, dreams in rare cases. Once I have an idea I write down a summary. At that point I’ll either have enough to forge ahead or I’ll let it sit, sometimes for years, while I let plot points, character details, and whatever else bubble up. When it’s ready I try to knock it out in a workmanlike fashion. I work on one, primary project at a time. I try to write a minimum of 400 words related to that project every day, 365 days a year, until it’s done.
Toi Thomas: Everyone has their own set methods for producing creative works. I enjoy learning the many different ways others write. I’ve even taken a few ideas and applied them to my own writing routine. Unfortunately my mind doesn’t let me work on one thing at a time; I become anxious and disinterested. I’m glad it works for you; it seems like it would be a better way to do things.
L.A.: It’s not that I don’t do anything else. That would scare me. I’d be afraid I was letting good ideas die on the vine. It’s more a matter of prioritization. I work on other projects when I’ve fulfilled my commitment to the primary project. Mostly it’s pre-writing or research. I couldn’t write two novels at the same time. The rule though, is that I achieve a certain amount on the primary project every day so that entropy doesn’t set in. I call that my “One Rule to Finish Then All.” Apologies to Tolkien. Before I installed the One Rule I would write what felt good, you know what was flowing easily, or what was on deadline. The result was I filled up file boxes and drawers with stories that weren’t quite right and novels that got bogged down somehow. I realized I was never going to live my dream if I didn’t change the way I worked, so I created the One Rule. The result has been that I approach writing in a much more serious and mentally prepared and focused way. I’ve become dramatically more prolific and a better writer in every way.
The amount of writing was something that took some experimentation to find what realistically fit my lifestyle so I wasn’t setting myself up to fail or neglecting other important aspects of my life. For me, with young kids, a day job, and happy obligations in my community, 400 words a day was the right number. If I’m able to transition out of the day job soon and as my kids get older I expect to increase that level.
Toi Thomas: What author(s) has most influenced your writing? Why or how?
L.A.: It varies depending on genre and the time in my life. When I was young it was often film or audio that reached me first. In that group, it’s clearly Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, E.A. Poe, C.S. Lewis, and George Lucas. Macbeth and Asimov’s Caves of Steel rocked me in about fifth grade. Then Stephen King, John Updike, Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Robert E. Howard, Hemingway, and Robert Jordan all struck me in one way or another. And of course, Stan Lee. There are many more. They’ve all informed my craft in some way.
Toi Thomas: I’m with you here in so many ways. It’s hard not to be influenced by the literary, musical, and visual artists that have blown your mind. It’s no secret that I have a thing for superheroes, and while classic literature played its part, it mostly comes from my love of comic books and all those characters…
Now this is where the questions get a little personal; are you ready?
Toi Thomas: Alright then, here we go.
Toi Thomas: Whose brain are you just itching to scratch?
L.A.: That’s a tough one for me. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of notable people and for the most part it wasn’t all I hoped it would be. Perhaps Ben Franklin. I suppose I’d like to sit down for tea and a chat with Asimov. I’d love to meet Charlie Rose but I’d be worried that I wouldn’t live up to his expectations.
Toi Thomas: Knowing you, my friend, I gotta say I was expecting something a little crazier, but I like this. I guess if you have been let down or not-so-impressed in the past, this question would be hard to answer, but I like what you’ve said.
L.A.: Well you know, I’ve seen the pitfalls of hero worship. I’ve seen rock stars at, really, their worst. Bad enough that I got off the road and out of that business. In the comic book world I’ve met George Perez and Jim Steranko and they were so awesome that I’d almost be afraid to meet anyone else. I feel like I won the title in comic book meetings so it’s time to retire there. I would still like to talk to Stan Lee but in the 60’s, same for Steve Ditko. I would have liked to be in the room when those two were working together. I want to meet Rose because, as an interviewer, I’m just in awe of the job the guy does. He takes people I’ve never heard of and subjects I’m not that interested in and gets me interested in just a few words. Then in an hour or less there’s something new and exciting in my mind and I know enough to start really thinking about it. He’s the gold standard.
Toi Thomas: Who is so you and why?
L.A.: I really don’t know. I hesitate to compare myself to anyone admirable because I don’t think it would stand up to any scrutiny. I think I relate best to the misunderstood and disaffected young people who come close to their dreams but are always somehow left just on the outside. If I’m lucky and keep writing, maybe one day I’ll produce something they can relate to and will make their lives better in some small way. I’d rather achieve that than be compared to another author or character.
Toi Thomas: That’s very sensible. Comparisons can be a hit or miss on one’s character. In the long run, it probably would be best to shine on your own.
Toi Thomas: What’s your ideal reading spot for your next highly anticipated read?
L.A.: My next highly anticipated read will be Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. I love hardcover books. There’s something about the heft and the ability to pass them on, to share that influence and timeless moment long after you’re gone. Anything that I find significant I want in hardcover. I like ebooks and have been known to find something I love digitally and then still go get the hardcover. Format drives where I read. With the hardcovers and trades I settle into a favorite chair, ebooks are good for travelling, I only take paperbacks to the beach.
Toi Thomas: Doctor Sleep sounds like a good read, but it’s by King. You either love his stuff or you don’t. While you like the heft of hardcovers, it’s sometime a problem for me. When I have a chance to get one, I never turn it away. I think they look better on my bookshelf than my paperbacks, but I adore my paperbacks…even though I read more ebooks (the economy, you know).
L.A.: I actually love King and hate him. When someone writes as much as he does, there are going to be some misses. Carrie, The Shining, and The Stand are all favorites of mine and he is one of the best short story writers ever, hands down. After The Gunslinger, and I know this is a contrary opinion, I wanted him to come mow my lawn or something to pay me back for the time I spent on it.
Toi Thomas: What was your favorite book or story, pre-teen years?
L.A.: As a small child I loved a book my mother used to read to me called Me and My Flying Machine. I’ve looked for a copy over the years but haven’t found it yet. After that I would say Voyage of the Dawn Treader or Prince Caspian.
Toi Thomas: Have you checked Amazon.com lately? Did I find what you were looking for? If not, I hope you find it one day.
L.A.: That’s it! That’s what I love about Amazon. I know from working for a big book retailer for years that it was out of print for a long time. But Amazon, by aggregating users, not only lets you find the older editions, but it gives publishers and readers a forum to connect so that it becomes more feasible to put stuff back into print.
Toi Thomas: Now this is where the questions get a little kooky; are you ready?
Toi Thomas: Alright then, here we go.
Toi Thomas: If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
L.A.: It’s A Wonderful Life. Before I met my wife I had a really jaded attitude toward Christmas, but that was one of her favorite movies. She won me over. Now we watch it together a couple of times a year. I wouldn’t give that up, so that would be it.
Toi Thomas: How sweet are you!
Toi Thomas: What makes you geek out?
L.A.: Really good comic books, stuff well outside the expected templates that is well done. Well made, big budget comic book movies and TV shows, even if the source material isn’t terrifically original. I can’t wait for the next X-Men, Spider-Man, and 300 movies. I’m totally psyched for the Superman/Batman film which I believe is going to be heavily informed by Miller’s Dark Knight, an absolute classic. We plan our weekends around The Walking Dead. And, of course, baseball. I’m a coach and I will spend hours after every game mathematically breaking it down to see what I can learn.
Toi Thomas: Yay! I have a true geek in my midst. I knew there was a reason I liked you. Not that I don’t like other people too, but I’m glad that you embrace your geekness. I’m really glad you let me interview you.
L.A.: Thank you!
Toi Thomas: When the soundtrack of your life is playing in your head, what songs express your glee and what songs bring out your rage?
L.A.: I like a lot of different music. I volunteer with the opera but I’m really looking forward to the Pixies’ tour as well. I can get into blues, bluegrass, hip hop, punk, electronica, metal, some hardcore. Screamo can be a bit much for me sometimes and some of the more free form jazz can put my teeth on edge occasionally. Mostly I listen to what would be called “alternative” rock. That’s what’s mostly on my MP3 player and what I write to. My favorite band currently is the Screaming Females. I can always listen to King Crimson’s watershed, Discipline.
Toi Thomas: Anyone who’s seen any of my other interviews knows that this is one of my favorite questions. As a music lover, I like to know how other creative people react to music. We have similar ideas about music; we like all kinds but some more than others. That’s pretty cool.
Toi Thomas: Let’s play zombie urban survivor. What 3 things do you need to survive a black-out in Central Park the day zombies attack?
L.A.: M-4 with a Gen III night vision scope and suppressor for thinning the herd at a distance without giving away my position, a good machete for making it quick and quiet, and a rope so I can lash myself to a high branch and get some sleep.
Toi Thomas: I guess all those episodes of The Walking Dead left you well prepared for this question. There nothing more to say here. Let’s move along.
Toi Thomas: What’s the most fun experience you’ve ever had, to date?
L.A.: Most of the things that stand out aren’t single experiences, they’re lifestyle things. Going on a day hike with my extended family, coaching baseball and seeing young kids go from tentative and a little confused to confident ballplayers, studying abroad in Costa Rica, vacationing in new cities with my wife, doing things with my kids like horseback riding or going to the movies. Individual, flashbulb memories would probably be things like hitting home runs as a kid, the first time I tucked into a barrel while surfing, and zip lining through the jungle in Costa Rica.
Toi Thomas: I totally agree with you here. All those life experiences and memories with family make life worthwhile.
Toi Thomas: Not that you can see into the future, but in your opinion, what does the future hold?
L.A.: I’m about to complete my next book, The Flatstone Beach. While I’m going through the publishing process I have several shorts I want to finish or polish. I’ll also be self-publishing the novel-length follow-up to “Deadblood”.
I believe that every time you write you get a little better and that when you get good enough you can reach people in a meaningful way. I have enough material to keep me busy for the next 10 to 15 years so I just hope to be able to devote more time to becoming a better author, and fulfilling my life’s purpose.
Toi Thomas: I like it. Hope for the future. What more can you ask for?
Toi Thomas: Is there a question you would like to ask me?
L.A.: Q: I felt the concept behind Eternal Curse was really different from anything I’d come across before. What was the process that led you to the idea?
Toi Thomas: A: It all started with a reoccurring dream about a gray man. The story I ending up writing is very different from the dream, but three major points remained the same: the sad gray man and his companion, a mysterious hidden power, and major transformation.
Okay readers, blogger, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. For more from L.A. Little, check out these great links:
Author Blog: The Ways, The Methods, & The Tools
Music Blog: BRINK MUSIC
GoodReads: L. A. Little
Facebook: L.A. Little
Purchase links for “Deadblood”: Kindle
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Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like it let me know and share it with others. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #thetoiboxofwords