This is my 25th author interview! The writing of C.T. Westing instantly drew me in a while back when I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the novel he will be discussing today. The cinematic style of his richly detailed writing sets him apart. Also, C.T. would like to give away one electronic copy of his novel to one person who comments on this post. The name will be randomly drawn.
1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.
The Death of Wendell Mackey tells the story of Wendell, a lonely janitor who, through the turns of fate, becomes the unwitting test subject for a shadowy institution. Held against his will, Wendell is subjected to a series of horrific medical experiments. Upon his escape, he sees his body begin to rapidly change, but into what, he isn’t sure. Hiding out in his dead mother’s old apartment, Wendell plots his next move, certain that no hope is left, until an old woman crashes into his life and promises to help him.
It’s a psychological thriller, with some elements of horror in it (but the horror in no way overshadows the plot or goes too far). And it’s a story about what makes us truly human, about redemption and sacrifice and how our pasts shape who we are today.
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
I often say I write to get the characters and plots that I have knocking about in my head out, but that kind of sounds like I hear voices. (No, I’m not crazy…I hope.) I guess it’s part compulsion, part enjoyment. I start to create a character in my head, and before long, he or she is too big to stay put and needs to be written down in one form or another. Soon I start to add new characters and plot lines, and I find I have a story on my hands!
3. It’s hard to pick just one, but what do you consider your favorite novel and why?
Just choosing one is tough. I really enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo. Or perhaps Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. They both have characters that you want to root for, that you need to root for even. I think that’s important. No matter how dark or gritty your story is, give me some light in the darkness, even if it’s just a glimmer at times. That’s what will keep me until the end.
4. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?
The blog is called C.T. Westing. (Please stop by and make yourself at home!) I say that it’s a blog on writing for writers. Occasionally, I’ll drift off into another area, but it’s always related to books, or storytelling, or language. [Update: As of October 2016 C.T.’s website is no longer up and running.]
5. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
Self-published. For quite some time I considered the traditional method of finding an agent, praying for acceptance, and starting the walk down that long, uncertain road. For this novel, since it took so long to write, I just wanted to get it out there, so the self-published e-book route appealed to me. I did hire a professional firm to handle my formatting and cover art (and they did a wonderful job). But honestly, for my next project, I may attempt the more traditional route. That road is tough, but the self-publishing route has its difficulties as well.
6. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
You need to be aggressive. Don’t let up if you want to sell your work. Be your own best cheerleader and publicist. It can be difficult, and it will take time to see sales tick up. So tenacity is essential as well. Don’t give up. Push yourself as you push your book.
7. Describe your writing background.
I have two graduate degrees, one in theological studies and one in library science. Did they help me develop my writing? No, probably not, aside from writing paper after paper after paper for four years or so. But my first published work was actually a book review that appeared in the journal College and Research Libraries (I know I know, riveting read!). So, perhaps my graduate work helped a little bit.
But no, I’m just self-taught. I’ve read voraciously since I was young, and I started writing little stories for myself or for school projects back in the fourth or fifth grade. Somehow, something stuck, and I got the bug. I haven’t kicked it since.
8. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
I need some sense of organization to keep me going. Inspiration may get the ball rolling, but it never lasts. I often work from a rough outline that I gradually flesh out. As I do that, I write bits and pieces of the story, or I flesh out certain characters. But I have to have some general idea as to where my story is going. When I have some sort of plot framework in place, then the specifics get put in place.
As far as editing goes, I’m a bit of a nut about it. (I spent over five years as an editor for a publishing company.) I usually have to force myself to not stop and edit while writing a first draft. Still, I can’t help it; it happens. And honestly, I don’t really mind the editing process. I’m always looking for ways to improve the story.
9. What future projects can we look forward?
I’m in the process of outlining a novel now, a mystery with a supernatural thriller flare to it. It involves a young journalist who is invited by a world famous medium to develop an article and a documentary about him. As the journalist begins to learn more about the controversial medium, he realizes that there are things chasing the man that no one fully understands.
I’m also considering a screenplay. It’s been years since I attempted one, but I’ve been reading and rereading a historical account that almost screams at me for a little screenplay treatment. I’m still seeing where that’s taking me.
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know?
Honestly, I lead a pretty ordinary life. I’m a husband, a dad, and I teach at a local college. And aside from the usual for a guy like me—occasional crime-fighting, advising royalty and members of Congress, piloting my private jet, etc.—I write to keep sane. Whether people read my work or not, I almost have to do it. So please, feel free to look for my book on Amazon, and help feed my addiction!
You can connect with C.T. Westing on Twitter
Is there anything else you’d like to know about C.T. Westing?
Photo Credit: Policeman and Blocks “Keeping it Together” by Avolore.
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2013.
Another interesting author to read. Sci-Fi thriller. Oh yeah… 🙂
This really sounds like an interesting read. I love the fact that he has an ordinary life. What I’ve read would suggest that he is anything but ordinary as a writer. 🙂
Hey, thanks for saying that Susan! And with two little kids at home, I have to admit, it’s a pretty ordinary life!
I had someone ask me a while back about my writing background. The guy had an English degree of some sort. But he is the owner of a very good beer store (one of the best). It felt like a judgement of my abilities to meet his ideas of what I should or should not be able to do.
It is interesting to note that even without going to school as an English major you are still doing quite a bit of writing. Within a similar scope to you, I did my business degree through online course work at a local college (great when you work full time too). That degree was based on a mountain of writing even though it was not a writing based degree.
A good story is a good story regardless of what the gatekeepers try to tell us.
Actually, for my undergraduate degree, I did major in English. I’m not sure if that’s done much for my writing… I suppose it exposed me to a great deal of great writing, which was wonderful.
But in grad school the massive amount of writing was certainly helpful to me. You get into a pattern, a habit, of writing, which is essential when you start writing a book.
Another awesome interview, Jeri.
This book sounds interesting. As I was reading the synopsis, it reminded me of Beautify & The Beast (television series) without the beauty. I’m not one for horror, but you did say it doesn’t overshadow the book.
Congrats to Westing, and good luck with your writing.
Good interview, Jeri. I had to pop over to CT’s blog. There, I found his commentary on Victor Davis Hanson’s article Why we Should Read Old Books or something like that. Pretty meaty stuff I must say. And interesting.
Glad you enjoyed it Larry. I thought it was a pretty thought-provoking read. And sorry the blog hasn’t been updated for a while! With a summer semester upon me, I’ve been starved for writing/blogging time.
Very nice! Kids def can make any life ordinary. They don’t know any better than to be themselves no matter who their parents are.
Congrats to Larry! His name was drawn to receive the giveaway copy of C.T.’s book.