Julie Eberhart Painter welcomes TK Toppin talking about her July release of The Master Key, sequel to Lancaster Rule. Today we're talking about TK's writing life.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I hope I don’t make you uncomfortable by asking, first, what does TK stand for? It took me months to figure out your were not a guy.
TK: Hahaha!!! I think some in the Champagne Books writer’s loop thought the same thing. I can think of one in particular who truly thought I was a dude. I have since corrected him on my gender. T is for my first name, Tomomi. K is my maiden name, Kaharabata. I know…NOT what you were expecting, right? My parents were Japanese.
Julie: What was the first book you ever read?
TK: I’d have to say it was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. From there, I was hooked on words.
Julie: How did your education contribute to your writing?
TK: Uhm…I’m not sure. I loathed school — still do and probably would prefer a multitude of tortures than to go back to school. I remember in English class, in creative writing — I used to enjoy that — my teacher encouraged me to keep at it. He liked the fact that I wrote contrary to what was expected. For instance, we once had to write about ‘The Bully’ and most chose schoolyard bullies to write about. I chose to write about my neighbourhood’s tomcat that terrorized my own cat to a shredded pulp. I think I got an A for that essay. The rest of my academic experience is a self-induced blur.
Julie: Sounds familiar. How long does it take you to write a completed manuscript? Do you rely on an outline?
TK: Usually I do rely on outlines. I like to keep things in chronological order, so I’ll write out a beginning overview, a middle, and an ending. Also, I’ve come to realize as I get into the writing groove, I can’t progress with a work in progress if I know another story is still unfinished. I can put aside the new WIP and go back to it, but my mind still drifts back to the unfinished one.
For the first book, The Lancaster Rule, I had a bulleted overview of what I would write. Of course, I hardly consulted it since the story itself was fully ingrained in my mind. I merely kept notes on certain things like dates, names, and places so I wouldn’t get those wrong. For that book, it took me three months to complete. The sequel, took roughly the same amount of time, but the third in the series took the longest…close to six months. And then there was the reviewing of it, filling out certain chapters, and edits that took more months.
Julie: Since you live in a warm climate, Barbados, do you write outdoors?
TK: Nope. I love my creature comforts, and not the comforts of creatures. By that I mean peaceful cool (preferably in air-conditioning) as opposed to mosquitoes, sand flies, other flying bugs, bird’s pooping, and slobbering dogs. I’m not so sure I like outside that much.
Julie: Did science fiction find you or you it?
TK: It found me and we’ve lived happily ever after.
Julie: How long have you been writing?
TK: I’ve been writing seriously for the last two and a half years. Before that, it had been half-hearted attempts, (the intent was there, as well as the ideas and plots).
Julie: Do you remember your first rejection letter and what it said? How long before you found a publisher?
TK: Yep…it’s another one of the self-induced blurs. But it was really polite and came straight out of a form rejection template. I believe it was roughly six months later that I finally found a home at Champagne Books.
Julie: What do you like best about Josie, your main character in The Master Key, your sequel to Lancaster Rule?
TK: Hmm. I like her resilience — she’s like a rubber band and snaps back into shape. But as main characters go, so much happens (mostly bad, character-building stuff that makes for good reading) that I’d quickly grow tired of her if she were for real and a friend of mine.
Julie: If you were awake in a pod, what would you take to read? Who are your favorite authors?
TK: I’d take J.D. Robb’s mystery series, I’d take Frank Herbert’s Dune series just in case the world ends up like the desert planet and I need to face some sandworms, I’d take the Harry Potter series, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, Jonathan Stroud Bartimaeus Trilogy, and a few choice Dean Koontz. I’d also take my iPad to read some new favourites, like T.M. Hunter and his Aston West series, K.M. Tolan’s Dancer series, books by SFR writers Pauline Baird Jones and Sara Creasy.
Julie: I can see your books as 3-D movies. Do you think your generation will finally get 3-D television to work as dominant style in the media?
TK: I hope so!!! And thanks for saying my book has movie potential. Some people have made mention that they’d love to see the movie. So would I. And yes, I’m sitting here patiently, waiting for the day 3-D TV goes mainstream.
Julie: Had you not become a writer what would you have been doing, not counting your current job as a graphic artist. In other words your dream job?
TK: A professional daydreamer. Hahaha! But seriously? I really don’t know. I had phases in my life where I’d wanted to be a vet and made all the academic steps to line me up in that direction. That idea fizzled the moment dissection in biology came about…and my aversion to germs. I ended up studying management studies for the hospitality industry, and actually envisioned life running a hotel or restaurant. But I hated the hours. I fell into art pretty much because I knew it and was comfortable with it. Well, to put it bluntly, I understood it without having to think about it.
Julie: Have you or would you do your own book covers?
TK: Soooo many people have asked me that. People who know me as The Artist. I had to keep reminding them that as T.K. Toppin, I am The Writer…and writers have no business designing book covers. Honestly, it’s tempting to design my covers — after all, I know the books I write intimately. Plus I know about designing and how to do it. But that doesn’t mean I’d design a cover that would sell the book. I think I made the right choice by distancing myself from the design aspect of book covers.
Julie: Do you dream of other worlds or are the scenes in your books more like your daydreams?
TK: That’s a good question. A little bit of both, I guess. I’d love to create, one day, a new world in another world or universe. As it stands, I’ve only created a world that is merely an imaginary extension of the current world we live in. My so-called vision of what the future may hold. No aliens, no monsters, no strange new languages. Basically, real as hell and totally believable. But there’s hope for me yet…
Julie: Is there anything you’d like to add, speak now…
Only that I’d like to thank you for this opportunity, and hope I haven’t bored you too much. And I understand you have an upcoming release of a murder mystery called Kill Fee (hmm, maybe I should take that into a pod as well). I wish you every success with that.
Julie: You’ve been a delight. I appreciate your coming to talk with me and sharing your stories with all of us. Leave us with your links and Web sites so that we can keep an eye on your career. If you have a Buy button, you can include it here.
Facebook: The Lancaster Rule or Written by T.K. Toppin
Buy Link: Champagne Books – http://www.champagnebooks.com
Also available on Kindle
The Master Key buy link: Champagne Books