Friday, 14 September 2012

Spotlight - Tom Winton

Shah Fazli
Tom Winton, Welcome on Spotlight, it's a honour more than a pleasure, everybody says Tom's books are great, let's hear from Tom what he has to say about himself?

Tom Winton Thanks for having me, Shah! I'm 64 years old, have been writing for fifteen years, and should have started long before that.

Shah Fazli Tom, what do you think makes your books read great, that is what I hear from everybody?

Tom Winton I take my time with each one and do the best I can. I try to pull at the emotions of all readers, and also do my best to give them a cinematic sense of place. Recently I posted on FB that I spent five hours on a single paragraph--it might have been six. Know it's crazy, but I don't take that long usually.

Shah Fazli Can you describe one scene of your book Four Days with Hemingway's Ghost, in your own words before I ask you to read from it, one romantic, fighting, or any other scene please?

Tom Winton There is one scene in Four Days with hemingway's ghost that I'm particularly proud of. It takes place when Jack Phelan (my mc) is on Hemingway;'s old boat "Pilar" in a horrible Bermuda Triangle storm. I think it is surreal and very believable.

Shah Fazli Now tell us about Four Days with Hemingway's Ghost a little bit more in detail?

Tom Winton It is a story about a 42 year old underachiever named Jack Phelan. He is also a Hemingway afficionado. Anyway...he gets into a bad accident and while his comatose body is being flown to a nearby hospital he find's himself in Key West Florida, in front of Hemingway's old home, now turned into a museam. He leans on the brick wall out front and somebody stands next to hime--it is Papa Hemingway. Hem has been sent down by the "main man in the clouds" to determine if Jack has what it atkes to write a book for the man above. What Hem doesn't know is that the book is to be about him.They spend four days in Hem's old haunts before they part ways. Then Jack wakes up from the coma, but faces many demons of his own.

Shah Fazli Can you read a few lines for us from your book please?

Tom Winton Sure, just give one moment please.

Tom Winton It felt like we were in a ten-ton runaway elevator that had crashed at the bottom of a death-black shaft. My legs were about to buckle from the tremendous force. They didn’t, but the boat then listed hard to the right. I couldn’t hold on any longer.
As I flew into the cockpit wall, I swore I heard Lucifer’s demonic laugh. Ernest somehow managed to hold onto the wheel, but his legs swung from beneath him and slammed into the cabin door. He howled in pain, and since he hadn’t let go of the wheel, the boat jerked even more sharply to the side, and it swayed even more dangerously. I thought every plank and board in the hull would explode into splinters. The vessel jounced very, very hard, and it shuddered as if terrified. Up against the wall like I was, I heard and felt the wood creaking and straining.
Ernest had pulled himself back to his feet and was giving it all he had at the helm. Dark as it was, I was close enough to see him as he fought to gain control. His face and eyes were so intent you’d have thought the old man was fighting for his own life. But he wasn’t. He was already set for all eternity. He had his place in the hereafter. No, Ernest Hemingway was not fighting for himself. He was trying to save both me and his beloved Pilar from certain disaster.
Angry thunder grumbled loud overhead, and the whole boat trembled again. Then a bolt of bright lightning flashed so close that the electricity raised the wet hair on my neck and arms. It’s short, erratic light lit up Ernest’s rugged old face for just a split second. And as I looked at his white hair, beard, wrinkles, and scars, I suddenly felt a deep love for this man. And I suddenly believed he’d somehow get us out of this mess. But before he could, something very strange happened. I witnessed a miracle.
And as I watched, I knew it had to be divine intervention. Through the boat’s windshield, Ernest and I both saw a pinhole of white light suddenly appear in the bible-black sky. Neither of us could believe our eyes when a lone thin beam, as if from a heavenly spotlight, pushed closer and closer until it shone on the bow in front of us. And at that exact moment, all the malevolent clouds that had enveloped the entire sky began to lift. It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen.
For three-hundred-and-sixty-degrees around the Pilar, the doomsday overcast began to lift from the horizon. At first there was but a tiny sliver of bright blue everywhere the sky met the ocean. Then, as if somebody or something in the heavens were hauling up a monstrous, evil net, the clouds rose from the edge of the sea like an upside-down tornado. The higher the net’s bottom rose, the more the seas settled down. The rain suddenly subsided; the sunlight brightened, and more and more blue sky appeared. It was as if this amazing phenomenon had been choreographed. The higher the ugly clouds lifted, the bluer the ocean’s surface became.
Then it was over.

Shah Fazli Thanks, do you want to tell us a little bit about your main character Jack, what type of a character is he, and what makes him to be the main character in your book?

Tom Winton Once again, he's a working class stiff with a big heart. Things don't go right for him and his wife wafter he comes out of his coma. He has trouble writing the book he's upposed to, has financial problems that bring him to the brink of some very deperate measures, and he just may or may not lose it.

Shah Fazli Do you have an antagonist as well, or is it the nature or something else?

Tom Winton The antagonists are Jack's problems. The ones I just mentioned and, the biggest of them all, he's constantly afraid that if he doesn't get the book written "the main man in the cl...See More

Shah Fazli Thanks, where is the setting of this book, where do all these happen to Jack and the rest of your characters in the book?

Tom Winton Jack and Hem go together to Key West, Cuba, New York (where Jack faces some real demons as his memory begins to return), Ketchum, Idaho (where Ernest ended his own life back in 1961) and then back to South Florida--when Jack returns to life, and his wife. When Jack and Hem are together, readers will meet all kinds of famous deceased people. They're friends of Papa's like Gary Cooper, F Scott Fitzgerald, Clark Gable, Gertrude Stein and a host of others. Hemingway's reunions with these people are sometimnes comical and sometime emotionally charged.

Shah Fazli Do you give descriptions to certain environments where your characters travel, do you want to describe one for us please, how is everything there?

Tom Winton When we reached the shallows along the Cuban coastline, Ernest pointed to a beige stingray skittering along the sandy bottom. A moment later I spotted a seemingly motionless barracuda suspended in the gin-clear water. It wasn’t in the mood for company, and with one quick swipe of its tail, it zoomed out of sight. We were a hundred yards from the now dilapidated pier where Papa had tied up Pilar for twenty years. As we eased closer, three dark-skinned boys in cutoff shorts dove from what was left of the concrete structure into the warm Caribbean water.
“Look at that,” Ernest said in a surprised and happy tone. “Cojimar doesn’t look all that different than it used to.”
“How many years has it been?”
“Over fifty. I left here in 1960. Hey, look over there,” he said pointing to something just beyond the seawall before us, “in the middle of that circle of pillars. It’s a bust . . . of me. See it? It’s looking right at us. I’ll be a son of a gun.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen pictures of it in books. I read that after you died your fishermen friends went around collecting old propellers, anchors, things like that. They melted them down so they could have a tribute to you made. I think that was around ‘62.”
“I’ll bet my old skipper Gregorio Fuentes was behind that.”

Tom Winton The above scene comes not long after the horrible storm.

Shah Fazli Thanks, what is the most attractive thing about your book that you like and the readers do as well, you said it before, maybe you can add some more please?

Tom Winton Shah, I am the last person on this planet to believe in ghost, goblins, or any of that stuff. I don't even know where I got the idea for this book. But a word I hear in many of this book's reveiws is "unique." I've been told that it is unbelievably believable (wow...those are mismatched words). Folks say that they feel as if they are right there with the characters as well. I've been given a little heck from a couple of folks because they said they were up very late at night reading. Also...many folks like the little Hemingway's facts that are sprinkled throughout the story. I knew much of that before hand, but still had to do a lot of fact checking.

Shah Fazli Tell me in one word please, what is the genre of this book?

Tom Winton Emotionalsuspensewithabitofhumorheraandthere--wow...what a long word.

Shah Fazli Thanks, what is left for us to know about your book please that we haven't asked you, and you want to tell us?

Tom Winton I think I've capsulized as well as I can already, Shah. Many times the best ideas came to my mind when I was trying to sleep. It was as if they were "delivered" to me out of the blue. Of course they weren't, they just surfgaced from my subconcious. I keep a pad and pen next to my bed and write down those gold, no..."platinum" ideas.

Shah Fazli Give us some tips about writing please?

Tom Winton For new writers I'd like to relay what Hemingway said--"Write the truest sentence you can." After that aspiring writers might be suprised at what happens next. For writers who've been around a while--You never finish writing a novel, you abandon it. There comes a time (like my Beyond Nostalgia that I did NINE drafts of) that you have to put an end to your work on a story. If I'd gone over BN a tenth time, I would have made more changes. It never ends. That, and give your work a real good edit before putting it "out there".

Shah Fazli Brilliant, and what a joy for us, thank you so much. Hope to see you again on Spotlight.Visit:

ShahSight Literary Book Shop: Four Days with Hemingway's Ghost - Tom

Phyllis Burton Well done...

Shah Fazli Book your own interview by joining Spotlight @

Edouard Spyk Gheur, Great to see you, this is your special event on Spotlight, y
ou may want to tell us do you really think life is only naughty or it's a lot more than that?
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Catherine Kirby Great interview. Good to hear what went into your novel, Tom. I loved reading it. More good questions to reveal the authors work, Shah. :)

Tom Winton Thanks a bunch for having me, Shah. I had a real ball! I especially got a kick out of my one-word genre. Cheers! talk to you soon.

Tom Winton Thanks Phyllis and Catherine! And thank you so much for coming.

Phyllis Burton You'll have to start a fashion for one-word TAGS!

Catherine Kirby Very inventive!

Tom Winton WhatdidyousayPhylis?

Tom Winton Thanks again, Catherine. I figured, why not have some fun.

Phyllis Burton Goodnight

Shah Fazli That was the peak of this party, that one word genre made me smile.

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