An Interview with
DELTA DAYS: TALES OF THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA
Vicki: Your first book is about to be released by Schiel & Denver, are you excited about the prospect?
Tom: I’ll have to confess that I am. It has finally hit me that it will actually happen. For the last several months, I have been deeply involved with the publishing process and even more involved with the promotion of the book. Cooperative publishing has many advantages for an author, but the bulk of the promotional work falls there as well.
Vicki: You mentioned cooperative publishing, how does this differ from the standard publishing system?
Tom: The cooperative publishing method is designed to provide a pathway to the market for works by first time, or little known, authors who have written a book of regional interest or with a narrow audience appeal. The author and the publisher share the fixed and variable cost of publication and distribution and share in the profits based on a pre-agreed upon formula. In my case, I opted to retain all of the rights to my book.
Vicki: In the dedication section of your book you mention that your motivation for writing the book stemmed from a desire to be sure your children and grandchildren had some idea about the world of your youth. Do you feel the book provides that understanding?
Tom: I certainly hope so. The challenge for me was to relate social conditions and local mores to kids that do not relate to those times at all. I realized that, as far as my grandchildren are concerned, the era of segregation in the South has about the same level of relevance as the Spanish Inquisition or the Norman Conquest.
Vicki: The stories you choose cover a wide range of subject matter. How did you decide what to include?
Tom: That was pretty simple. With the exception of “A Christmas Tale”, which was a pure labor of love, I based the stories on the things that were most important to a boy growing up in the 1950’s, mainly hunting, fishing, football, pranks, sex and girls, girls and more girls. In my case, I also had my eight years in the Mississippi National Guard to draw upon.
Vicki: In the book, you explain that while there is an element of actual fact in each of your stories, you have embellished some of them with an element of fiction. How does this work?
Tom: I believe that I refer to the stories as “factual fiction” or “fictional fact.” The amount of fiction vs. fact will vary from story to story. For instance, the story “An Evening with Marvin,” pretty much tells it like it happened. I had the pleasure of having lunch with Marvin Terrell recently and I gave him the original manuscript of the story. At the other extreme, “Bobbie Jean’s Boobs” is loosely based on our window peeping with the aid of a telescope intended to study the heavenly bodies. We played fast and loose in our definition of heavenly bodies. The balance of the story is pure fiction. This is a perfect case of if it didn’t happen this way, it certainly could have and probably should have.
Vicki: Do you have a favorite story?
Tom: As I said, “A Christmas Tale” was a labor of love. My maternal grandparents were the major forces in my formative years. I think my next favorite would be “Hello Colonel Lee.” One of the peripheral benefits of having written this book is that I had the opportunity to relive each of the incidents as if they were happening again. I haven’t had a drink in almost twenty-five years, but I could smell and taste the bourbon as if it were yesterday. It was great to hear the Red Tops again, too.
Vicki: Do you intend to continue writing?
Tom: Absolutely, I have another book of short stories about half way finished and the first eight chapters of a novel in the works.
Vicki: Tell me more about what will be coming.
Tom: The book of short stories is based on my four years at Mississippi State University and my early years in the corrugated container business. I hope to see these published sometime in the spring of 2012. As far as the novel goes, we’ll just have to wait and see. I have it in my head, but that’s a long way from publication. Time will tell.
Vicki: Is there anything you would like to share with other writers working on their first book?
Tom: You mean based on my vast experience of one book? I can only say this; if you enjoy writing as much as I do, just keep writing. The publication process is not nearly as much fun and it can really screw up you writing routine.