Interview with Thomas Foster

How do you approach cover design?
To be honest I simply looked for an image that provoked a certain feeling. Nothing fancy, but something that got right to the heart of the issue, or the "Theme" of my book. To Dance With Death. When one uses the sword he is embracing Death, laughing with it, at it, and there is no fear of it. My cover embraces that ideal, that knowledge and understanding that death is something we should learn to dance with, not to fear. It seemed a fitting cover, though perhaps not one that would attract as many buyers as something less provocative, but instead fancier. However such thoughts are not what is foremost in my mind, though perhaps they should be. Anyhow, practicality in conveying a down to earth, and practical message was what I had in mind when choosing my cover, not marketability.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This is not an easy question, as I have done a lot of reading in my life. I do not think I could easily create a list of my favorite books. I know that is not an answer you want to hear, but that is the truth. I can tell you that the types of books I enjoy are those which remove me from the humdrum daily life many of us live, such as fantasy or science fiction.
What do you read for pleasure?
Science fiction, fantasy, but not just anything. I enjoy well written work, and I am a bit picky about what I will read.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Again, I am not picky when it comes to such things. As long as the words are there, I will read them. They do not have to be displayed in any fancy way.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I've no idea, as this is my first book. Ask me in 6 months and I will have an answer for you. Maybe.
Describe your desk
What an odd question but alright. It is small, as small as possible, so as to not take up very much room. It is functinal, and practical, much like myself. That's it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a small town in North Carolina. We had 2 neighbors within a 5 mile radius. One a farmer, and the other a small family with a single child. It was an ideal place to live. We had a home on 5 acres of land. Trees grew everywhere, shading our home all year round, as many of them were pine. The house was set back far from the road, so shoveling a 4.5 acre drive way in winter, well, it was no picnic. However we also had a tree house and woods surrounding us on all sides. If you were a young child, it was the ideal place to grow up. Your imagination could run wild, as could you, with little worry.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing at a young age. Though this is my first "published" work, I wrote my first book at the age of 15. I wrote many a short story starting at the age of 11. Writing was always something I enjoyed.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The story is a simple one really. I started to learn to the sword when I was very young, first the mental, then the physical aspects. It was trying, and difficult, as most things worth learning usually are. As I got older, and learned more, I began to teach others, only to discover that there were many, many people out there who taught the sword only for commercial gain. Most of what was out there in the way of teaching the sword was incorrect, and this bothered me more than a little. Those incorrect things affected peoples expectations as to what they wanted to learn, hence, even if they had a real want to learn what was right, they had no idea how to find it, as their own expectations and wants were based on wrong learning, and muddled their expectations. After many years of seeing this first hand, and experiencing the stereotypical view that most people had of the sword, and it's proper use, I finally decided to write a book on how to use the sword correctly. It doesn't pander to peoples expectations, or incorrect views on the subject, as most books do, as most everything out there is written or taught with the sole purpose of making money. Mine was written with the sole purpose of conveying the correct message, regardless of how popular it may, or may not be.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The market is flooded with crap, and that crap comes from the crap that runs the show. You can't find any good sources of information out there in the mainstream that will convey what is right, and correct when it comes to teach of, and learning of the sword; there simply isn't enough money in it you see. People want mumbo jumbo, and esoteric sounding BS when it comes to learning martial arts. They want to believe, because of what they have been exposed to in popular culture, that learning martial arts will be some kind of transformative experience, and that will change them into this humble, wise, Yoda like character simply by the act of learning of it. Basically the mystique of the sage old hermit.They want what they have seen in movies and read in books, or that which they have been taught by other sources is being correct, usually magazines or bad teachers.

The image of the sage old hermit, or wise martial artist is deeply ingrained in most peoples minds and hearts, and it is that fantasy that makes money. The belief that, if you learn the sword that you will be changed into some wise and powerful person is very prevalent, and it is that myth, that aura of mystery that makes money. Things that tell the truth, and demystify something, making is accessible and understandable in a way that is actually "real," well these types of things are not generally big money makers, as reality tends to be unpalatable to most who seek out learning the sword. Why? Because all too often those who seek to learn the sword are seeking an escape from reality. The sword and its learning are not an escape.

You see the money is made by clouding peoples minds with BS, and mumbo jumbo that seems fanciful, and fanciful, and is cool, and hip. Reality is rarely either of these things. However, as making money is the main concern of mainstream, commercialized martial arts, the fact that teaching garbage gets in the way of actually learning, well that is not something that is a major consideration. After all, reality would get in the way of making money, and all too often those that teach this garbage are victims of the same nonsense that they themselves proliferate, and believe what they are teaching is real. Most simply do not know any better, though some do, and simply don't care, so long as the money keeps coming in.

However I have chosen to do the opposite, and convey my teachings in a way that is not in line with the popular, or the mystical view of the sword and its learning. I learned the sword from a young age practically, and have sought my whole life to simplify it further, not make it more complex, or convoluted. Such teaching is not so popular with the majority of people, as they want to learn something that is seemingly mystical, magical, fantastical, and that has an element of escapism to it. Sadly the correct way is not or fantasy at all, though it can indeed be fantastic. The fantastic aspects of the real sword only come after years of study and practice, and seeing as most want both mystical, and magical in a hurry, the majority reading this are not likely to be blown away by the message here. I am not speaking in riddles after all, nor sounding like a sage old wizard, or speaking like Yoda would. No. I don't convey the sword as anything mystical or magical, only as what it is, and how to to learn its proper use.

Sadly, too many people out there have had so much exposure to what is incorrect, that they have come to believe it is correct, and in turn may not be so attracted to what I teach, as it is at odds with their mainstream view of things, and their glass is full, preconceived notion of things. That is a shame, but I prefer to teach what is real and useful, to what is of no use at all, mere fantasy being sold as reality, simply to turn a buck. I have chosen a route in which "I" get to control my own words, and how they are presented to the world, a route that allows me to teach the sword as correctly and simply as possible, without it being clouded by peoples stereotypical expectations, or preconceived notions of what the they "think" the sword is about. It may not be a popular route, and it may indeed be a route that makes some uncomfortable, as it might challenge their long held beliefs, proving those believes false, were they to explore further. Hence it is not the most profitable of routes. That said, it is the correct route. That is why I chose the route of an indie author, I don't need to pander to anyone, and I get to teach what is right.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Well, it has made it possible for me to put my words out for the world to see and explore for themselves, so it has contributed in that way. It also opened my eyes to what can be done in terms of self publishing. For that I am grateful.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Hmm, for me the greatest joy is expressing myself. I, like most writers, enjoy listening to my own words. There is a bit of vanity in the writer, if I am being honest. A good thing too. If we did not enjoy the sound of our own voices so much, the lilt of our tone of voice, the sometimes cleverness of our words, we would likely never put pen to paper.

Seriously though. For me it is expressing myself. Nothing gives me more joy then getting across my thoughts and feelings in a way that is understandable and comprehensible to others. It really is an art, no different from painting or sculpting, and it takes a lot of years of practice to get really good at it, if you have any talent to begin with that is. Even then it is not always easy. To be able to do it with skill and without even thinking about, there is joy in that. I find joy and love in the doing of it. You cannot get much simpler then that in regards to what motivates me to write.
What do your fans mean to you?
I don't have any yet as far as I know. As I said earlier, ask me in 6 months, and we will see if I have any at that time.
What are you working on next?
Ah, well now that I have published my first book, there will be another I think, but I am not going to spoil the surprise.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Work, and the fact that you cannot stay in bed all day, of course.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Exercise, working, spending time reading the news, and keeping up with world events. Basically the same as just about everyone else.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes I believe I do. It was about an archaeologist, who found a hidden Aztec temple, and upon exploring it found many a clever trap he had to evade. In the end he barely got out alive. This was more than 30 years ago though, so if you ask me about a lot of specifics beyond what I have given, I likely won't be able to remember anymore.
Published 2015-05-17.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

To Dance With Death (A Practical Guide To Mastering The Art Of The Sword)
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 42,760. Language: English. Published: February 15, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Martial arts
(2.00 from 1 review)
This is an instructional manual on the proper use of the sword. You will learn everything you need to know about the swords use within these pages. This book is not written to be a philosophical work, it teaches the use of the sword as weapon, for killing other men, it's that simple. The gifts one gains from the swords use only come from learning it authentically, and that is what I teach.