Please meet Tom Winton author of Beyond Nostalgia
Now Published by Night Publishing.
I am absolutely delighted to update my interview with Tom Winton. Tom's book is now available on Amazon .com Beyond Nostalgia is an amazing read. Warm, tender, often humorous and painful, as only love can be.
I was born in New York City, Soooz. They say a blizzard was raging the day my pregnant mother took the subway from Queens into Manhattan to deliver me. I can well believe that. As for now, I live in Hobe Sound, Florida which is less than an hour north of West Palm. I returned to Florida two years ago after a five year stint in rural Maine. I had moose, wild turkeys, and all sorts of other interesting animals show up in our yard, and I want to move back there in the worst way.
After two teenage soul-mates are brutally ripped apart, they are forced to take separate paths. Twenty-four years later they are reunited. Is it too late?
Queens, New York, 1967. Against all odds, a pair of misguided teenagers forge a communion of souls far stronger than those most adults will ever know. But it doesn't come easy.
Dean Cassidy and Theresa Wayman, two under-class kids who've been slapped around by hardship all their lives, are forced to hurdle a barrage of obstacles. They must deal with Theresa's schizoid-alcoholic mother; Dean's suicidal mother and vile-tempered father; and the relentless hardship that gnaws at them all. Hand in hand, they fight off all these setbacks and more. For twelve months, it seems nothing will ever stop them. But everything suddenly changes when they are mugged by an entire gang of cruel events. Bullies, that not only tear them apart, but rob them of all means of future contact in the process.
With damaged hearts and treasured memories, Dean and Theresa traipse on with their separate lives. Eventually, they both marry. Dean struggles to support a family. Theresa runs a successful business. And twenty-four years slip away. Then, one night in an Atlanta Bookstore, a force far stronger than fate alone, suddenly reunites them. Is it too late?
You wrote Beyond Nostalgia with a pen dipped in your soul, Tom. How much of you and who you are is invested in the book?
Although BN is a work of fiction, many of Dean’s experiences and beliefs are my own. Some of the scenes are embellished; some are exactly as they happened; a few I plucked from the rampant thoughts and ideas that sometimes whiz in and out of my mind.
How long ago did you write it?
I finished it almost twelve years ago. I edited it seven times, and it took two and a half years.
Why did you give up on it initially?
BN was the second novel I had written. I don’t have a MFA, any literary training, and don’t even know what a past participle is, but, in my gut, I really thought I had something special. The only other person to read it was my wife, Blanche. She loved it, of course. But we all know how overly generous our loved ones can be when it comes to critiquing our work. Like my first attempt, BN garnered the interest of a few agents. Each requested a few chapters, said nice things about them, but ultimately told me to hit the bricks. At that point I figured I was wrong—BN wasn’t as good as I’d thought it was.
What made you haul it back out of the closet?
Ah haaaa! You’ve read my profile on Authonomy, Soooz.
Yep...Girls gotta do her research...So what happened?
For the benefit of anybody who hasn’t read it—when I gave up on BN, I disgustedly threw the manuscript into a closet, and there it stayed for eleven years. Alongside it, on that closet floor, I also left a piece of my soul. I wrote virtually nothing from then on, and I wasn’t very pleasant to be around.
One day, early last December, I was at my local library. I had already chosen the books I wanted to check out, but I still had some time to kill. I perused a copy of Writer’s Digest, like I used to so often back in my writing days, and stumbled across something interesting. There was an article about online sites for aspiring writers. Hmmm, I thought, this could be kind of cool. Since I knew the librarians, and the magazine was six months old they allowed me to keep it. That weekend I uploaded it onto Authonomy.
I am also a child of the 60s. The Vietnam conflict…the music, the angst and the awakening revolution…this is a powerful combination, did you choose the time frame because it fitted your personal comfort/discomfort zone?
The beginning of Beyond Nostalgia takes place in the late 60’s because many of the story’s “unimagined events” took place back then. It was a natural starting point--a done deal from the outset. Plus, a certain richness has been added to the story (I hope) by its many references to the styles, mindsets, music, and world-events of those wondrous years.
How much of you is written into Dean?
Quite a bit, Soooz. After all, most fiction writers ladle their stories from an entire stew of events--happenings they either lived, heard about, or conjured up. What other ingredients do we have to work with? Granted, if one chooses to write sci-fi, they will obviously go heavier on the conjuring ingredient, but they’ll still add dashes of their experiences, thoughts, and stories they’ve heard.
The descriptions of life are so painfully accurate, did you shed tears over this book?
Yes. While writing the drafts (recently the eighth) there were times when real tears splashed on my keyboard. There were also times when I laughed, put on a nostalgic smile, even got turned on a little. One time I actually had a panic attack and had to dash out the front door—I’m still trying to figure out what brought that on.
Theresa is so very real, is she based on an actual person?
Yes and no. Theresa is based on a few young ladies I knew back in the day—a couple of them show up in her character far more often than others.
What happened when you first posted Beyond Nostalgia on Authonomy?
That was when all my dusty hopes came back to life…excuse me…a surge of emotion just shot through my body like an adrenaline rush when I typed the beginning of this sentence. My eyes watered a little and a rash of goose bumps rose on my arms. Some people look at me and think I can be imposing, but deep inside I’m highly emotional. Maybe that’s why I try to write.
Anyway, back to your question. I posted Beyond Nostalgia on Authonomy on December 8th of last year. Really, Blanche did it for me. I was very close to computer illiterate at the time but have gotten considerably better with this contraption. A day or two after we posted it I received my first review. I distinctly remember the man saying, ‘This is far better than most of what I’ve read on this site…”. I immediately checked out his bio-page and found out he’d been on Authonomy for quite a long time. I couldn’t believe it, the manuscript had been buried for eleven years, and here was a complete stranger reaffirming my lost beliefs. I was absolutely euphoric. The first full month on Authonomy BN was rated (in the monthly rankings) third in Romance, 4th in Literary Fiction, and I think 9th overall—out of 6,000 books. You can just imagine how I felt. There were other high points on Authonomy, and Youwriteon too, but I’m not here to blow my own horn. I only mentioned the first monthly results so you can perceive the magnitude of my happiness after all those years.
Were you surprised by the reaction?
I had thought the book was pretty good (despite its grammatical and punctuation errors) but, once again, nobody but my wife had really read it. But yes, I was surprised that it was so well received. I got more than 400 reviews on Authonomy, and most of them were very good. A few of them, written by very accomplished writers, compared my work to that of some outstanding authors we all know. I won’t name the big-wigs because I think those comparisons were a heck of a stretch, and to even attempt to do so would embarrass me. Anyway, less than three months later, after tiring of the Authonomy game, I put the manuscript on Youwriteon. To say the results there were flattering would be one hell of an understatement, so I won’t say it.
I’ve read the book. It hits at gut-level…no punches pulled in the pain stakes, yet it is tender and at times almost unbearably moving, how did you feel as you wrote it?
Once again Soooz, I went through the whole gamut of emotions I mentioned earlier. I hoped the writing would have the same impact on readers as it did on me. I didn’t know if that was possible. I still don’t. But I do know that at least 25 folks have read BN in its entirety (one lady read it twice) and that they all truly enjoyed it. Also, more than a couple of ladies told me I had made their mascara run—more than once. A few of the guys admitted to crying. What finer compliment could any writer (published or unpublished) ask for.
I’ve thought all along that if I could get one agent to read the whole manuscript I’d have them hooked. From chapter 22 on is where I think it really gets good. But I’ve had two in New York read the whole thing (supposedly) and opt not to represent it.
Did shelving the book all that time affect you and the way you felt about writing?
Definitely--in a very negative way. Like I said, I wasn’t fun to be around. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total Frankenstein. My biggest issue was living with myself. I’ve always been an extremely merciless self-critic. Around people I was still OK. It was my mind that suffered the brunt of the unhappiness; my mind and my wife. Blanche lived with me day after day--she put up with all my persistent depressed behavior. She, and she alone, is who I modeled Dean’s wife, Maddy Frances, after in Beyond Nostalgia. She, like Maddy Frances, deserves to be canonized a living saint.
As far as the writing went during those years, it was all but nonexistent. I think I managed three or four short stories. That was it. During all that unproductive time, I deeply missed that wonderful high you get after a good, thousand word morning.
One of my dear friends and a marvelous writer, Terry Gould, wrote a book called “How do you mend this purple heart.” I notice in a brief bio I read of yours that it is also listed as one of your favorites, why?
I have a copy of Terry’s book, and I consider him one of my friends. We communicate with each other from time to time. And wow, he is one fine writer. I’ve read most of his book, and the man has a rare talent. Anybody who can write an entire book that takes place almost exclusively in a hospital ward, and hold your attention the way he does, has a golden pen.
What now…where do you intend taking “Beyond Nostalgia.”?
You know, Soooz, sometimes I think my skin isn’t thick enough for this writing racket. Talk about emotional peaks and valleys, I’ve had them. A few months back, when I was winding down on Authonomy, I fired out a ton of queries. In one month I had seven agents ask to see all or part of BN—FOUR IN ONE DAY! Can you imagine that? My God I was riding high. That afternoon, three or four beers deep, out on the porch with Blanche, I picked out an age-enhanced Matt Damon to play the part of Dean in my sure-to-come blockbuster movie. I wanted Scorcese or Stone to be my director and had half the soundtrack figured out. But an hour after dinner the same old doubts started circulating my gray matter, again. Deep inside there, 7 agents or no 7 agents, I still saw the same half-empty glass. As it turned out, I was correct. None of them took BN. Two did say they were sure I’d find the right agent-“soon”, but that wasn’t good enough. Though I still felt that with just a bit of good editing by an agent or publisher the book could fly, I’d pretty much given up.
About a week ago, Brendan Gisby suggested I post the first chapter onto Night Reader. I figured, what the hey, it sounds like a low maintenance site so why not. A few days ago Tim Roux from NR contacted me and said he wanted to publish Beyond Nostalgia. I know his company is small and fairly new, but I liked Tim’s honesty and his candidness. He can get the book in front of far more eyes than I can. He’s got an extensive marketing background. Who knows, maybe with his knowhow and energy we can do something with BN. I look forward to working with Tim.
Did the positive feedback you received for “Beyond Nostalgia” encourage you to pick up your writers pen and start something new?
Yes. I’ve got the first chapters of two more books started. It is slow going—I’m a grinder when it comes to writing—but I think the beginnings are pretty fair. I know where I want to go with them, but I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get there. For now, if I can write a few paragraphs each day, I’m happy. I may not be getting the old “high” from it, but I’m beginning to feel a buzz.
Did you have a schedule that you adhered to during the writing of Beyond Nostalgia?
At the time I was still working full time as an outside sales rep. It was catch as catch can, but I was consistently writing when I had time.
How many drafts did it take before you could sit back and say, "Yes, yes…I’m done.?
I did seven drafts before I submitted to the first agents. I like the rewriting much more than the original composition. I’ve done one final draft since I posted it on Authonomy, so please, if anyone reads it there, keep in mind I’ve straightened out the few grammatical errors and punctuation issues. I’m now finished, other than a tweak here or there.
A famous writer whose name I’ve forgotten once said, “You never finish a novel, you abandon it”. I think he hit the nail on the old head.
Editing is a difficult process for so many of us…did you need to edit out much of the work?
No, not too much. I did change the opening first paragraphs and I’m real glad I did. I also took out some of my personal socio-economic views.
What next for Tom Winton?
Hopefully I’ll be able to contribute to the marketing of Beyond Nostalgia. I still think if we can get it in front of enough eyes, good things just might happen. I also want to progress with at least one of the two books I’ve started. And lastly, I want to figure out a way to move back up to Maine, and, maybe, come south to Florida for a couple of months each winter.
Okay... plug time…please list any sites that you would like my readers to be able to link to to be able to read some of your work.
The entire book is still on Authonomy. Anybody can read it there.
The first chapter is on Nightreading.ning. http://nightreading.ning.com/profiles/blog/list?q=beyond+nostalgia
The first two chapters are posted on “Youwriteon”. http://www.youwriteon.com/books/bookdetail.aspx?bookguid=220dd9ea-f04c-44f3-ae9c-3a53a22681e4
Oh…what the heck, I think I’ll toot my own horn just one time. After just six weeks on Random House’s “Youwriteon” BN finished in the top five for July. It is on their Bestseller List and in contention. with about forty others, for their “Book of the Year”. Fugetaboutit! I’m not even entertaining the idea of winning that.
Thanks for the fine interview, Soooz. And many thanks to anybody who happens to read it.