Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interview with T.J. Koll

I read Shadows of Wormwood a couple months ago and really enjoyed it. Today, we are lucky enough to have the author of that book, T.J. Koll, here for an interview. Let's get started, shall we?

Me: How long have you been a writer?

T.J.: I suppose I’ve been a writer since I first learned how to put words together on paper. I can remember writing little stories as far back as second grade. One of my classmates and I would have competitions for who could write the most pages, and I can recall coming up with some interesting tales about gigantic sea creatures and barbarians riding elephants. Fortunately, my elementary school hosted a young authors’ meet every year, so we were always encouraged to be imaginative. This is really where I discovered a love for reading and writing, and I’ve done a lot of both ever since.

In terms of professional writing, I began about a decade ago while starting out in college. I penned two novels in two years—neither very good and neither published, but they were excellent training tools. They taught me writing discipline and gave me an opportunity to experiment with techniques and style. As a result, my last two novels, including Shadows of Wormwood, have proven far better and more successful.

Me: What was the inspiration behind Shadows of Wormwood?

T.J.: In a lot of ways, the whole swine flu scare inspired a good deal of the book, at least what’s happening around the characters. I can remember teaching a night class at a local high school and arriving to find several custodians absolutely dousing the desks with chemicals. The media terrified people for no reason, and it really made me notice how often these “crises” arise. Our modern society is seemingly obsessed with its own destruction, and nearly all negative events are twisted and sensationalized into the next world disaster.

And I think this misguided focus distracts many of us from concentrating on the real dangers of this world—the daily problems that threaten our families and our shared humanity. In the novel, Bitsy and her family are themselves caught between the crisis the media assures is coming and the real daily-life-dangers surrounding them.

Me: You mentioned you were working on a textbook at the moment. Do you have other non-fiction works?

T.J.: I am indeed working on my first textbook, a fairly brief and informally-worded piece intended to help both students and the general public improve their writing skills. The editing process has just begun, so I’m not sure about a release date, but I’ll definitely add updates to my website

I do also have some non-fiction articles out there. Most recently, I published one for a Celtic heritage magazine about Irish slavery in early America. I’m actually thinking about expanding on the article in the near future for another non-fiction book.

Me: Do you have other fiction works planned for the future?

T.J.: Like many other fiction writers, I always have ideas for new novels swirling around in my head. I’ve begun the research phase for a historical fiction book set in post-World War II Germany. Like all my books, the novel’s real focus will be on the characters and how they relate to one another in times of difficulty and conflict, and that period seems ripe with both.

Me: When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Hmmm, I suppose this is my chance to make myself sound far more interesting than I really am. When not writing or grading papers, I try to spend as much time with my lovely wife and two-year-old son as possible. I also enjoy the outdoors, cooking, working out to burn off what I cook, reading, and watching scary movies. Additionally, I’m a big history buff—everything from ancient Rome to WWII—and am fascinated by subjects like philosophy and comparative religion.

T.J. Koll
About the Interviewee:

T.J. Koll is an award-winning author and college writing instructor currently living in eastern Kentucky. When not penning novels like Shadows of Wormwood or The Sultan, he can usually be found spending time with his lovely wife or chasing after his spirited two-year-old son.

In addition to his writing credits, T.J. also holds both a B.A. and M.A. in English, enjoys the outdoors and bad zombie movies (not really at the same time), and is passionate about helping others improve their writing skills.

For T.J., writing isn't merely a form of communication; rather, it is a method for exploring the inner and outer world, for participating in one's community, and for intimately connecting with other human beings. With this philosophy in mind, he attempts to craft fiction and non-fiction that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

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