Today’s interview is with Tory Gates. Welcome to the blog, Tory. Tell us something about yourself.
I’m a broadcaster, and have managed to survive 32 years in this business so far. I’ve had just about every job there is to have in it. Currently I’m the Morning Desk Anchor for the Radio Pennsylvania Network, which serves 65 radio stations across the state. I also am known as DJ`Riff, host of The Music Club on the London-based Radio-Airwaves Station. In addition, I am a singer/songwriter with the indie folk-rock duo the Dharma Fools.
At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been making up stories throughout my life, and I guess from an early age that was a way to get attention (laughs). Writing has always been a part of my career, both creating and editing…my first real story was a short western when I was about 14. It was terrible, but I was encouraged to let my freshman English teacher read it. I think that’s how I passed the class!
My first attempt at full-length writing didn’t happen until the early 90’s; I did a sci-fi novel which again was pretty bad. My real, serious effort did not begin until about 2007; it took, because I have not stopped writing since!
Tell us about your writing process.
Usually, I will get an idea, but I try not to write anything for a while. I let a story “cook” upstairs for about 3-6 months, sometimes more. During that time, I’ll see if it’s anything like stuff I’ve previously written, or if I have something different. I’ll do character sketches and build a story line during that period. Eventually I commit to writing, and I don’t stop until the manuscript is done.
What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?
I used to read a lot of history, because that was my interest in school. Growing up, I read a little of everything, partly due to what my English classes in school had me do. I was fortunate to be introduced to Tolkien at a very young age, and long before he became fashionable again! I read “The Hobbit” at nine, and “LOTR” at ten. It fascinated me, and that I think set the table for my imagination; it taught me to always look beyond. Today, I try to mix it up, but always to look for a writer that interests me, known or unknown.
Most of my writing is young adult/crossover fiction, in that my main characters tend to be young, but as is often the case, they and those around them are dealing with grown-up issues. I don’t like being tied down to one genre; I write YA, some adult fiction (my first book Parasite Girls is that, and I’ve done a mystery novel, which is unpublished.
What are you passionate about?
Too many things for my own good! Radio was my first love, and I am a survivor in a business that is slowly bleeding itself to death. It’s what I first aspired to be, and it still pays the bills somehow. My writing, yes…the influences that surround that are many…music, always that.
What is something you cannot live without?
Coffee, for one! Over time, I realize the things I thought I could not exist without can go away…gets easier as you get older.
It does at that! When you are not writing, what do you do?
I write all the time, not just on paper or a computer screen. I tend to think an awful lot about my various projects, and how to make them work. When I’m working, that’s the focus there. I also swim to stay in shape, and I like to cook (vegetarian stuff).
Have you written any books that made a transformative effect on you? If so, in what way?
I think my latest, A Moment in the Sun, did something for me, in that I began to see my writing style change. Again, as you grow older, you get a bit more experience, and you see how your direction gets focused.
A couple of unpublished works also have shown me things, in one in particular. I have a story called “Time the Healer,” which is about bullying and the violence and madness that stems from it, and what happens when you don’t deal with it. I went through it; no different than any other kid who could not fit in, but the story allowed me to re-examine the past, and how I somehow managed to move above it, and after a while, see how time did heal things to an extent.
Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?
Small things lead to big things. Both Parasite Girls and A Moment in the Sun were inspired by BBC news articles, which dealt with social issues. I think I already had something written for each, but those triggered it.
Music, as well…one song can set an entire story in motion. Another of the unpublished, “Drifters,” is inspired by the Gordon Lightfoot song of the same name.
Nice. Love Lightfoot. What sort of research do you do for your novels?
Depending on what kind of story I am writing, I will research the social, mental and political issues, and I’ll try to find what history I can if it pertains to the story, and putting you “there.”
Several of my stories are set in Japan, so I’ve made a study of customs, history, and social mores. They do not always fit, but you make them. I try my best to be accurate if I’m using an actual place for a setting.
If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?
I write in a style that hopefully takes you “there,” puts you in that spot, and you find youself amongst the characters, almost as if you are right there with them.
Do you have a special place where you write?
Those tend to change. I can write just about anywhere. I often spend my time writing in coffee shops, because you can listen and watch people while you’re at it! And, coffee is a must! I just recently purchased a home in Harrisburg, an old row house. I’m still setting up my office, but it is comfortable, as is my bed. My cats are my editors! (laughs)
Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?
I do tend to write and create for a lot of screwed-up characters! I think most of them are versions of me, or the varied personalities that have popped up in my psyche. A lot of them seem to be fighting their way out of nightmares…not sure what that means.
The point I make is to try and not base anyone on a specific person…most of my characters are several people. Rei, the lead in “A Moment in the Sun,” is a girl who is modeled after a childhood friend who died too young, but also certain other people that fit with her personal way.
I seem to have a lot of young people in my stories, and a lot of my work tends to revolve around school. You see that in manga and anime a lot…I think also, I go back to my youth and what I missed. I was not a very social person at school, and an indifferent student. The bullying and isolation I felt may have had a hand in that. I guess I’m looking back to bring forward to people today that what was faced, no matter how hideous, crazy or just plain weird, you live through it. You survive, and you move on.
Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?
Bit of both.
Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer? Why?
Both again…my story line is Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc., but I never go in a straight line. I’m constantly dropping things in and yanking them out.
What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?
I’ve never been able to do narrative very well. I think it’s because I’m still not fully comfortable with “me” doing the talking.
I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?
Well, if I can go outside, a rifle, hiking boots and a camera. My laptop, lots of notebooks, paper and writing tools! Books would probably be a bunch of manga, I’d grab a few classics, and a three or four I’ve not read, and go from there.
Talk about your books individually.
Parasite Girls was first put out in 2013, on Amazon.com and Smashwords. It is the story of a burnt-out journalist named Aidan, whose last assignment nearly got him killed. For no reason, he turns up on the Tokyo doorstep of his old college friend, Mima.
Aidan is trying to remake himself, and finds himself involved in Mima’s world of trying to get by…two of her dearest friends are living at home, and tagged by the very real stigma of “Parasite Single.” Aidan knows all have stories, and Mima and her friends all do.
There’s a crossroads all must hit at the same time, and the answer is different for each.
A Moment in the Sun is available on Sunbury Press Books, and Amazon. A 16-year-old girl named Rei appears to be the perfect Japanese teen, with looks, intelligence and art skills. She is, however, a survivor of self-isolation, known as “hikikomori.” She’s got out of it, and we see how Rei did it through flashbacks.
A friend introduces her to an online underground called the Dwellers. A missing friend from school, Sho, is one of them. Rei determines to get him out. She and Sho’s mutual friends realize they must all face their pasts before they can face their futures.
Right now, Sunbury and I are informally talking about my next, “Live from the Café.” It’s fiction with a YA/fantasy slant, about a strange little town in Quebec, and the odd little coffee shop that everyone hangs out at…and all the interesting people who “show up” there.
Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?
No. I leave that up to the readers to decide if there is one or not. I may have a message, but I don’t mean it in any kind of moralistic way.
What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?
That you were entertained, but I also hope that you were made to think a little bit. I hope you found a character you liked, identified with, and perhaps you were given hope that no matter what your issue is, you can move forward and defeat anything in your path.
You can find Tory Gates and his books at the following –