Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meet Thomas D Taylor, Author of GEO-213: The Lost Expedition

I met Tom Taylor on an Indie Author forum, and heard about his new book, Geo-213: The Lost Expedition, a Sci-Fi Adventure novel with Environmental themes. The book takes you out into space, but then buries you underground. It's a thriller steeped in moral reflections.

Check it out! In the meantime, meet the author below.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What else do you do besides writing?

I paint and sketch. Prints of my artwork are hanging around the world, and art cards with my paintings on them circulate around the globe. I did the cover art for Geo-213: The Lost Expedition, the cover art for singer/songwriter Elyse Bruce's "Midnight In Chicago" and "Countdown to Midnight" CDs to name a couple of things I have done. I have made some attempts at songwriting, co-writing "Late Night in the Borough", "Somewhere in Detroit" and "How do I Begin to Believe? (Lying in the Arms of My Judas)" with Elyse.

I am an environmentalist and, along with founder Elyse Bruce, the Co-Creator of Midnight In Chicago, an international initiative that raises awareness for people with disabilities.

Trying to raise awareness for people with disabilities is very important to me. Often in my stories you will find characters with disabilities, or else characters that are facing some kind of medical obstacle that is difficult to overcome without cooperation between many people. There is an instance of the latter in Geo-213: The Lost Expedition, but if I said specifically what it was, it would spoil it for the reader.  

I write with these themes in mind because I want to show people--instead of telling them--how people can overcome their difficulties, or, more to the point, show people how to help other people overcome their difficulties. And of course also to demonstrate the need for people to be more accepting of those with disabilities.

2. How did you first get into writing?

To be succinct: Action/Adventure movies.

As an adult, I understand and feel that any kind of disaster is a terrible thing. It pains me to see the devastation that occurs after an earthquake, tornado, tsunami, or hurricane. I would not wish those things on anyone. But as a child, I ate up movies like "Earthquake" and "Godzilla" like popcorn, and the more buildings that got wrecked in those movies, the better. So after watching those motion pictures, I'd be inspired to write "sequels" to them.  These stories served as good practice and preparation for when I grew into adulthood and would begin writing truly original stories with all original content.

I first began "submitting" when I was in the third grade by entering local public library writing contests. I also wrote a lot of letters and comments to school newspapers. But it was around the time I went to college that I began submitting polished original stories to "literary" and "little" publications. The first story that was actually accepted by a publication won an award. I was thrilled. I had worked very hard on the story. But more compelling than the award was that with a readership of 25,000, I realized that I would be causing a lot of people to think deeply about some very important issues.
3. Tell us about your latest book.

Geo-213: the Lost Expedition is a Sci-Fi/Action Adventure book that is light on the Sci-Fi and heavy on the Action Adventure. It takes place in the distant future. The people of earth have spread out across the galaxy, but have learned nothing about conservation and planetary stewardship. Rather than explore other worlds, they conquer them, de-forest them, and plunder their mineral wealth. But Geo-213: The Lost Expedition is not like any other world they have encountered. There are inhabitants that live deep within the planet, and when the protagonists encounter them, there is trouble. There is also a chance for redemption, but will the four main characters take it?

It is a good yarn with the type of excitement we would expect from any Sci-Fi adventure that takes place underground. There are cave-ins, lost cities, terrible creatures never seen before by man, shoot-'em-ups, treasure...you name it.  But, while there is plenty of entertainment for readers who want to sit back and watch the mine cars crash and the bullets fly, there is enough depth in the novel that the reader will close the book and think "I wonder what I would do if I was faced with such difficult moral and ethical problems."

4. Is it part of a larger series?

There are three unpublished Geo-213 short stories which I may flesh out and publish as a prequel anthology someday, but I can tell you with certainty that a sequel to Geo-213: The Lost Expedition is in the works.

I should tell my readers that as a rule, I have a love/hate relationship with sequels. Very often, sequels turn out to be really good, but, too often, I believe, authors write them to make a buck. While the prospect of making money off the sale of a sequel is appealing to other authors, I personally would rather spend my time writing something that means something to me rather than writing an attenuation of something I've already written. In other words, I would not write a sequel unless I felt it had literary merit.

The sequel to Geo-213: the Lost Expedition will have many of the same characters that we've seen already, but the plot of this novel will stand on its own. The finished product will probably turn out to be longer than Geo-213: the Lost Expedition, which was about 100,000 words, give or take.

5. What was your inspiration for your book?

I enjoy spelunking and touring mines. There is something about going underground and seeing sights that most other people will never see that is very appealing to me. Most people have no idea what's underground. I've toured caves that were literally hundreds of miles long with other areas yet to be mapped or measured. What if I told you that there were naturally formed cathedrals underground? Natural stairways and bridges? Rivers that you could tour on a boat? Well, now my readers can see some of the things I have seen.

But getting beyond that, I think most authors are closet moralists - whether they are liberal or conservative - and they have a desire to impart something to their readers. So while my readers are riding along with my characters in their coal car, or crawling through some narrow passage on hands and knees, I am making them think about things. Things like whether or not we as a species should be colonizing places that belong to other creatures, or whether or not personal greed should take precedence over the welfare of another species. I don't tell my readers what to do. I only show them what my characters do. It's a catharsis for me because I can take some of today's major environmental and moral issues and write about them at length and in depth at my leisure while - I suppose you'd say - advocating for the issues I care about.

6. What motivates you to want to write? What do you enjoy about it?

Lots of times a current event will inspire me to write something, but my real motivation is much more personal.

Try imagining a favorite movie that you never want to end. That's what writing is like. For the duration of the period when you are putting words to the page, you are in the only place you want to be for as long as you want to be there, and because it's your job, you can't be accused of wasting time. Part of the reason I am writing a sequel is because I still want to be beneath the surface of Geo-213. In fact, during the editing phase of Geo-213: the Lost Expedition, I found myself having to cut out a lot of descriptive passages because I think they were just exercises in self-indulgence rather than inclusions that served any purpose.

7. Do you have any advice for new writers about perfecting their craft?

Yes: Work hard.

That sounds flippant, but I am absolutely serious. Most writers, myself included, do not work hard enough.

Chances are, if you like writing, you have some talent and a natural inclination to write. Chances are, if you've written something and given it to a friend of yours to read, they've told you it was awesome. But, chances are, you are not as good as you think you are.

I am not as good as I think I am.

Friends, parents, relatives and co-workers all have a vested interest in staying on your good side. You may say to them "Give me your real opinion." But they may be reluctant to do that, and so they become like hired help. They tell you what you want to hear whether it is true or not.

And so you are completely on your own. You have to make sure you've done all the research. You have to make sure you've gotten all the facts right. You have to make sure what you've written will appeal to your readers.

My other word of advice is that once you get published for the very first time:

-Don't think that everything you write is publishable material. I've got thousands of pages of stuff that will never see print because it's just not good enough.
-Don't think that you've made it to the literary equivalent of the corner office, where you can light up a cigar and basically just phone it in from now on.
-Don't think because you have loads of fans clamoring for more that they are going to love the next thing you give them.

Writing is a craft, and the skilled authors are the ones who keep trying to perfect it. It sounds harsh and judgmental, but I believe we're not doing our readers any good unless we constantly push ourselves to be the best we can be.

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