How My Imagination Works
Posted by Literary Titan
In Once To Die, a homeless man, a burned-out priest, and a young wanderer must navigate a mind-bending supernatural world to find salvation and forgiveness. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?
I never quite know where the inspiration for a story comes from. I am the type of writer people refer to as a “gardener.” In other words, I don’t rely heavily on outlines or predetermined structure. I start with an idea for a story, but it grows organically and rarely ends up being what I envisioned. In this case, I set out to write a story about time travel. My vision was of a simple plot, a straightforward sci-fi story, with no spiritual overtones or themes. Once I got into the writing, the characters took over, and I ended up with a story that is completely void of time travel and is engorged with spiritual questions and conundrums woven and tangled through a plot that is quite complex. It is strange, how that happens.
There are several characters in the book who struggle with issues of faith and spirituality. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
I don’t define or create my characters; I discover them. That is how my imagination works. The characters reveal themselves to me gradually as the story unfolds, and life experience feeds imagination. I once saw a young homeless man pushing a cart, heavily laden, but he had a cool air about him. He wore dark shades, and carried himself with a lot of respect and dignity, in spite of his obvious struggles. He would sometimes park his cart and sit beside a busy street in a lawn chair to eat lunch out of a bag. I found myself wondering who he was, what was his life like, and what was his back story. Over a period of six years, in my imagination, Perry introduced himself to me, told me his story, and I wrote it down.
As for the spiritual themes, someone once told me that after the age of twenty-five, all big questions are spiritual questions. I believe that is true. I think we all wonder about and search for the deeper meanings of life, and ask questions about why we are here, what is our purpose, and how do we fit into the vast context of the universe. Those questions to me, are the most interesting questions there are, so I spend a lot of time pondering them. I suppose that is how the spiritual themes find their way into my stories. Those are the questions I grapple with in my own life.
The book deals with some heavy topics, such as homelessness, drug addiction, and gang violence. What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
If a writer is honest at all, his or her own life struggles will show up in the stories. My mom is very religious, and my dad was more worldly. My mom took us to daily Mass, and my Dad arranged for us to play music in the local bars for his friends. I became an altar boy at age seven, and a bar band musician at age eight.
As a young child, I learned about the gritty, sometimes ugly truth of adult behavior, including substance abuse, domestic abuse, bare knuckle violence, adultery, and white-collar crime. I also learned there exists a very high and mysterious spirituality that transcends all of that. As early as I can remember, I experienced the world as a complex weave of darkness and light, ugliness, and beauty.
My teens were a mess, and I was lost for about a decade. I had more than one close brush with death myself, and seven of my friends did not survive their twenties. I lost friends to car crashes, suicides, and gun violence. Crimes like rape and murder touched people close to me, and substance abuse was all around me. I was a music major in college and a road musician for about two years after college. The combination of those experiences created in me a lot of internal tension and raised a lot of questions about the beauty and horror of life and death.
After much exploration and searching, I ended up back in the church of my youth at the age of twenty-two. Yet, because of my background, I continued to perform music for money throughout my thirties. After that, I worked on staff at my local parish for twelve years, and in that role, had a lot of experiences trying to help homeless people. I acquired a strong empathy for how difficult their lives can be.
When you read this series, you can recognize those real-life influences. As a child I recognized in life a complex struggle between darkness and light, and I suppose I still see life that way today. I find it fascinating to explore deep questions, and that always leads to an encounter with supernatural realities. The story I’m telling with this series is fictional, but the evil and holiness I am writing about are very much real.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Once To Die is the first book in a series titled The Other Side Of Dead. Books one, two, and three are set to roll out at one-month intervals beginning in March of 2023. Books four, five and six are at various stages of evolution. Currently book four is in that fascinating place where the story has taken on a life of its own, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. I think it may be the strongest of the books so far, and it is due to publish in June of 2023.
About Literary TitanThe Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.
Posted on February 23, 2023, in Interviews and tagged author, author interview, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, christian fiction, ebook, fiction, goodreads, indie author, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, Once to Die, read, reader, reading, story, suspense, T.S. Epperson, thriller, writer, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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