Saturday, April 5, 2014

Interview: David K Thomasson

Today I'm welcoming David K. Thomasson to the blog to talk about his new book, "The First Impression." 

First, a little about the book...

A man framed . . . his life ruined . . . and then the twists begin. Jack Bolt rose from a hillbilly childhood of poverty, neglect, and abuse. Thanks to his unusually keen mind and the faith of a teacher and a bookstore owner, his future looks bright. At age 25 he’s working maintenance in a college town, studying on a scholarship, and about to marry the girl of his dreams. During a routine service call at a church he runs into 13-year-old Sarah Ellison. Moments after he leaves, Sarah is brutally murdered. Bolt is charged with the crime and convicted by a brilliant prosecutor who uses his own honesty against him. He’s been framed with tainted evidence, but this is no whodunit. Bolt knows exactly who did it—Conrad Baylor, church deacon and deputy chief of police. Held in jail during his trial, Bolt is haunted by the ‘howdunit’: How did Baylor manage to tamper with the evidence and frame him? And how can he discover the secret and clear his name if he goes to prison? But then, in a strange turn of events, Bolt is offered a chance to prove his innocence and recover his once-promising future. That’s when a deadly game of cat-and-mouse begins . . .

The interview: 

1. What was your inspiration for this book? 
I was shamed into it! When I first got the idea (the very unoriginal idea of a person convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and then struggling to prove his innocence) I told it to a cousin, Sherwood, at a family Christmas gathering. The following Christmas she asked me how the book was going. I was obviously joking when I said I was hard at it (I hadn’t written one word). Yet another Christmas rolled around with yet another inquiry from Sherwood, and the same stale joke from me. By now I was feeling ashamed that I kept talking about a book but wasn’t writing it. So I resolved to sit down and get to it.

2. Would you classify your writing as plot driven or character driven? 
Character driven.  But then I think fiction is necessarily character driven, even when the author thinks it is plot driven. Recall the old Candid Camera TV show. A phone is rigged so the receiver can’t be lifted. The phone rings, and a visitor in the office is the only person there. How will he react when he tries to answer? The plot is the same every time, but the story depends on the characters. 

3. Can you tell us a little about your main character?
Jack Bolt’s bad luck was to be born into the rankest poverty and deprivation. His good luck was to be born with a fantastic aptitude for reading. Thanks to a teacher’s encouragement (more good luck), he quickly learns to escape his impoverished world and take shelter among fictional characters in classic novels. But the real world is still very much with him, and he must deal head-on with its dangers, one of which brings him to a live-or-die moment that sets the main storyline in motion. 

4. Without giving away too much, tell us a little about the main conflict in this book. 
Convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Jack Bolt can prove his innocence only by showing that a critical piece of evidence was tampered with. And yet there is no conceivable way anyone could have tampered with that evidence. Regaining his freedom will require him to accomplish what clearly appears to be a mission impossible.

5. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope they’ll come away with a sense of having had a rollicking good time. I hope they will feel affection and sympathy for Bolt (and other characters) that will make them feel a bit sad to say goodbye.

6. What song best describes your writing style?
I hope it would take more than one song! But perhaps: “It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing).”

7. Night Owl or Early Bird?
More of a night owl, definitely not a morning person. I should add, though, that I write fiction first thing in the morning -- before coffee, before shower, before anything else. I get out of bed and stumble directly to the computer. I find that when I’m frowsy and half asleep, I can sink most easily into the story and experience it rather than think analytically about it.

8. Skittle or M&Ms?

9. Who are your favorite authors?
Same as Jack Bolt’s: the 19th century Brits, especially Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and George Eliot.

10. Can you tell us about any future projects? 
I’m just beginning a suspense novel that centers on Poplar Forest, second home of Thomas Jefferson. He designed and built it as a refuge where he could escape from visitors who plagued him at Monticello. The story will take place in the present day. (Poplar Forest is just outside my hometown of Lynchburg, VA, a few miles from where I now live.)

Get your copy of "The First Impression" today: 

About the Author:

In "The First Impression" the murder is committed in Finchburg, Virginia, which anyone from central Virginia will recognize as Lynchburg, Virginia -- which is my hometown. Like Jack Bolt, I graduated from "Finchburg" College and have spent many a happy day at the Peaks of Otter Lodge ten miles west of Bedford Virginia.

After finishing at Lynchburg College (with a degree in math, of all things), I rattled around the countryside and wondered if I would ever grow up and set my sights on a career. The former is still in doubt, but I have stuck with writing for most of my adult life.

During my rattling about, I moved to Columbia, Missouri, earned a masters degree in journalism at the University of Missouri, and hired on as editorial page editor of the local newspaper, the Columbia Daily Tribune. After a year or so at that I rattled back into academia for a doctorate (in philosophy, of all things). Halfway along that trail I transferred to Brown University and finished the doctorate there. New England has its good points, but I didn't find it much to my liking, for two reasons: 1) The winters are too long and cold, and the winter days too short. 2) I am a Southerner and New Englanders, well, aren't.

For the next several years my writing consisted mostly of editorial writing -- at the Providence Journal while attending Brown, then at the Mobile Register when it was still a daily newspaper. One day I was at my desk pecking away at an editorial when out of the blue I received a phone call from someone in Washington offering me a job at a think tank. I took it and lived in the District of Chaos for fifteen years. My apartment was on Capitol Hill, a pleasant place that allowed me to take jogging routes that wound around the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and through the Capitol grounds.

In 2004 I left the think tank and went solo as a freelance writer. Sometime late in 2010 I got the itch to have a go at fiction -- as nonfiction writers seem wont to do -- which resulted in "The First Impression." In 2013, realizing that as a freelance I wasn't tethered to Washington, I moved back to my hometown of Lynchburg where I'm working on another novel. I'm still mulling over what I want to be when I grow up.

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