Interview with Tom Spence, author of “Throw Away Kids”

How important is research to you when writing a book?

It depends on the book. Some have been mostly formulated in my mind and only a detail or two needed to be verified.

What inspires you to write?

Uniqueness. If I have a special perspective on something, it will at these be a short article on one of my blogs.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

Yes and Yes. If I have a specific project, I have a schedule.

Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

No. I write until I feel I am not as effective as I should be.

Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

Who cares? If you write then all life experience is grist for the mill.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Making sure that I give the best part of my day to it; and coming in second—self editing is growing more difficult with age.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Getting away from structure and just talking on paper.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

It compels the reader to turn the page.

If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?

Even the Elect. It had the right ending but I was never satisfied that it was the best ending. Might have to write a sequel.

Have you ever designed your own book cover?

Only from a menu. I have given graphic artists my thoughts and they got close.

Do you attend literary lunches or events?

Sometimes. Usually have to organize them to have one.

How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

Been there. Done that. I take what the publisher sets up.

Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Get serious sooner.

Do you read any of your own work?

Yes, occasionally I will pick up something just to see if I still want to turn the page.

How realistic are your books?

Most very real, with an occasional venture into a Twilight Zone short story.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

I have just finished a book that developed out of classes that I developed for inmates and have made it applicable to anyone that has trouble with authority. https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781682548295

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Sometimes just finding the time. As a pastor, my schedule is not such that I can say from this time to that time is my writing time. I have adjusted by writing shorter books and many articles. One day, when I can devote more time in larger blocks, I will write novel again.

Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

Yes, but often my day job (ministry) results in my writing.

Do you have a daily habit of writing?

Yes, I write every day but most is for my “day job” writing sermons, devotions, blog posts, and the like.

Is it true that anyone can be a writer?

I believe that you can teach anyone to write but having an identity as a writer is a calling or a passion.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

I have not experienced much glamour nor do I seek it. I am compelled to write. It would be a blessing if my writing was also widely read.

They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

If I see the movie first, I will seldom read the book. There might be something to this?

Have you ever taken any help from other writers?

I have hired out some editing, tried to maintain a writer’s group, and have asked others that I thought might have some insight into writing to give me a review; but to date I don’t really have anyone (other than the Tate Editors) that will converse with me.

What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?

Accepted an offer to do this once and the two of us could not work carve out the time. Somewhat open to it, but not my first choice.

Is writing book series more challenging?

I have written companion books: Throw Away Kids and PoMo Poverty but have not tried a series.

Now when you look back at your past, do you feel accomplished?

Yes. I have been blessed to have been given two callings in my life. My first was as a Marine Officer. My current calling is as an ordained minister. Writing and being published was a significant part of both.

What do you do in your free time?

The time that I have that is not dedicated to pastoring or writing is usually doing something with my grandkids.

Given the chance to live your life again, what would you change about yourself?

A good writing prompt but not something that I do in the course of teaching people to live going forward.

How do you feel when people recognize you in public and appreciate your work?

I am mostly recognized for the ministerial work that I do and am sometimes surprised that people I don’t know actually know me.

Did the thought to give up writing ever occur to you?

No. It has been put on the back burner for a season or two, but never at risk of being permanently kicked to the curb.

Do you keep a diary?

No. I have from time to time kept a codex of ideas and diagrams and other thoughts that eventually make it into some written form.

What does the word ‘retirement’ mean to you? Do writers ever retire?

I will never retire as an ordained minister. I may do less of a work week at some point, but I always see myself taking good news to the world. I also do not see a time when I will retire from writing.

Was there a time you were unable to write, At All?

If you are talking writer’s block, then no. I was deployed to many places as a Marine where the logistics of my situation made writing practically impossible, but sometimes even then I would make a note of an idea or creative provocation that I might work on later.

Has it ever happened to you that someone published your story in their own name?

I have seen many stories lines similar to things that I have written, but I don’t think anyone has ever stolen a story from me.

Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?

No. I have made so many changes that the final did not much resemble the first, but I have never totally trashed anything that was a complete draft.

If you were to rate your best work, how would you rate it?

Even the Elect is compelling to read. I still want to turn the page even though I know what is on the next page.

How possessive are you about your work?

Very possessive as a writer but not so possessive as far as copyright goes. I have self published some skits and plays with instructions to copy and reproduce as much as you want with my permission as long as it is to the glory of God.

Often, we are stuck in situations that we are not able to find a way out of. Have you ever incorporated a real life situation from your own experience into the book and made the character find a way out of it the way you could not?

I have not personalized my writing in that way, but I love to get into trouble and find a way out in my writing.

What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?

I would love to be able to write for the rest of my life and that it would in return provision me to write for the rest of my life.

Do you think translating books into languages other than their origin forces the intended essence away?

The Bible has been translated into many languages with great fidelity; however, most books do not receive that level of effort.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

Active. I won’t play the Facebook comments game. If I have something to say, I write an article and post the link to it. Comment threads are too sophormoic and have too many rabbit trails.

Tell me something about yourself and your writing.

If I have a compelling thought or an interesting provocation, it will manifest itself in written form at some point. It may only be a four paragraph blog, but it will be written.

Why are you promoting Throw Away Kids?

This book is a call to action among parents who have been successful with their children to mentor those parents who have thrown in the towel on parenting—and that latter group is growing larger every year. We can turn the tide here. It won’t come with government programs but with person to person and family to family guidance. This is something that every parent must read. We must take on the yoke of leadership and help those who have quit parenting to get back in the game. If you have children, parenting is not optional: Hence my passion for writing and now promoting the book.