Interview with Tim Schoonard

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
It seems like I’m always busy, day and night. I try to write something every day, even if it is just business correspondence, or a re-vamp of something I have already completed. I try to spend at least a few hours a day, every day, writing. The rest of the time, I usually am in my studio working on my latest custom furniture commission or out on a construction project, bidding or designing one, or, when funds are available, working on the on-going renovation of our 1853 pioneer homestead. We like to live a simple, rustic lifestyle, so we cut our own firewood for winter heating and home-can a lot of our own vegetables in season.

I am a very family centered person, and my wife and I spend a lot of time together often taking long walks down the dirt road we live on to the lake, or on the many hiking trails through the woods on our property at Fawn Meadow. We stay very involved in the academics and activities of our young adult kids, helping them as we are able to get established in life. A good part of our family activity has always been worship centered, and we devote a lot of time each day to prayer and church activities too.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
That goes back a long way. I’m sure I wrote other things before, however my first focused endeavor was attempting to co-write a book when I was 12 years old. It was called The Adventures of Russell and Tim and consisted of several short adventure stories of two young boys that was somewhat a cross breed between the Hardy Boys and the Speed Racer cartoon series. I remember we worked for weeks and had several chapters written, to the surprise and admiration of our sixth grade teacher who really thought we were on to something. The project ended when Russell and Tim went on to different Jr. High Schools and new adventures of their own.
What is your writing process?
So far, I can’t say I really have a “process” to speak of. As I move into my newest fiction story, I have to change things up to outline the story and pull all the parts and pieces together, though some will evolve during the writing.

Basically, what I have written so far has been from either personal experience or historical record. After the mountain of research has been done, I have simply sat down and started writing, mostly chronologically, and all pieces fall into place as they need to.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I would like to say that Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs & Ham changed my life, though such books did teach me to open up and use my imagination as a child and that certainly had an impact on my later artistic ventures, I have to say that the Hardy Boys mystery series (of early 1970’s era) opened up incredible horizons for me on the creative front. I had at least 55 hard cover volumes, most of which I read more than once, and remember reading as many as two full books once in only one day when I was ten years old. I think getting lost in those adventurous mystery stories played a big part in the adventurous spirit I claim today. I do know they taught me, even as a young person, a lot about fighting for what is right.
How do you approach cover design?
First, I ask God about it. I have a general perception that comes about while I’m writing. I ask God, what do YOU want? I close my eyes and let my artistic juices start flowing; making notes about what colors or other images come to mind. That’s how I started with Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing. I then put all the thoughts and colors together in a long email to my graphics artist and let him run with it from there. Then I tweaked the result until it “felt” right, more than looked right. Your artist can do wonders, but will not be as personally connected to the work as you are. As a professional design artist, I would advise though that if you hire a graphics artist to do the work, give them some space to work and give them your concept without hemming them in. You may be pleasantly blown away by their artistic vision. If it needs some tweaking to carry your own ties to the story, then tweak it from there.

I chose to do my own graphic design on Taking Part in the Work and Through the Eyes of the Warrior. The result is my best version of what prayer and artistic meditation could come up with using the simple graphics software I have.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
It would be tough to narrow down hundreds of books to just five, but there are some that stand out above the others:

Medjugorje the Message by Wayne Weible. Without question one of the most spiritually inspirational Catholic books I have ever read - and written by a Lutheran! I made it required reading for all seven of my kids when we homeschooled them, and I have recommended the book to more people than any other. I read Medjugorje the Message and its sequels, Medjugorje the Mission, Letters From Medjugorje, and The Final Harvest in less than a week. Many years ago this book came into my life at an opportune time and inspired my spiritual life to such a remarkable degree that it has never been the same. I had opportunity to meet Wayne Weible at one of his many talks he gives around the world, and found him to be much the same down to earth and sincere person that he is in giving testimony of his personal journey in these books.

The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich by Very Rev. Carl Schmoger, CSSR. For many personal reasons this story touched my life. The spiritual gifts given this visionary mystic truly give us a glimpse beyond the veil of heaven and the spiritual realities of our lives. This and her accompanying Life of Jesus Christ is over 3,000 pages of eye opening inspiration.

Father Elijah by Michael O’Brien. This book has been a favorite in our home. Michael weaves the book of Revelation into a well-crafted and suspenseful “end-times” novel. Inspired me as a Christian to better appreciate the journey we are on to fight against evil and meet Christ in the end. The suspenseful book was hard to put down. Michael O’Brien is also an artist, and his venture into writing has been a motivation to me writing today.

The Furniture of Gustav Stickley. This has come up missing since our flight from Kikkishaw County as detailed in Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, so I can’t tell you who the authors are. It was written well by two college professors. The book primarily features Gustav Stickley furniture designs, but the historical section I have read dozens of times over. Stickley is a prominent figure in American architecture and design, and the efforts and furniture design philosophy of Stickley has had a great influence on me as a furniture artisan. Stickley placed great importance on the touch of individual craftsmanship and quality hand work. I have always striven to give my furniture designs the essence of boldness and strength, a particular quality I see in Stickley’s works.

An Exorcist Tells His Story by Rev. Gabriele Amorth. An incredible excursion into one of the truths of our faith that a lot of people want (out of fear or apathy?) to ignore. Gabriele Amorth is the chief exorcist of Rome and highly experienced in the field. I’ve been through the book several times and always learn something new. I found out a lot of things I thought were superstition were actually real, and what fascinated and inspired me most from the book is how the power of the Church against real and tangible evil triumphs through faith. However, the danger is real. This book is a graphic and real eye-opener for any Christian.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love books on ascetical theology, stories of or writings of the saints or spiritual classics. I also love history books of all kinds, and historical fiction. Sometimes, when I just want the mental recreation, I dig out some of my kid’s youth action adventures. They aren’t a strain on the mind at all and move along pretty fast. They are an easy read and very entertaining.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a small but cozy home in a suburb of Battle Creek, Michigan. My neighborhood was one where folks rarely locked their doors and most next door neighbors had keys to each other’s houses. It was a welcome place, and we were surrounded by friends. It was a place that children felt safe and were free to explore and use their imaginations.

Looking back, my parents were a big influence on my later desire to write. They were always supportive of my academics and our house was always filled with books. Thus a unique friendship with books and reading began at a very young age. Dad was never a big book reader, but knew the value of knowledge and always made sure there were multiple sets of encyclopedia’s and other science books on the bookshelf in our dining room. I would spend hours upon hours over the years in those books, absorbing innumerable facts and history.

Now Mom was the insatiable reader, or speed reader to be more exact. Mom had been an exceptional student and had been moved ahead two grades in school, something unheard of in the 50’s. Many times on her days off she would clean house in the morning, and while laundry was in the wash, she could sit and read two full novels cover to cover in an afternoon. It was amazing. She taught me that all books should be respected and how to handle them carefully so they would last for generations. It is clear to me my love of reading was inspired by my parents.

My life growing up was also deeply imbued with music and creative arts. I come from a family full of accomplished musicians and professional craftsmen. Creative expression was always all around me. While my parents taught me the love of words, musical expression taught me the power of their possibility, and from the art of crafts I learned the love of design and creating beautiful and useful things.

My youth was a constant stimulus of creativity, and I have had the desire to write a book someday since I was a young child. To me, writing, then and now, seems to just an extension of what could be considered normal everyday activity. However as an actual book author, the real challenge now emerges as continually developing the skill to write well about meaningful things.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I am new to the writing market, so I really am no authority on this subject. I am just getting warmed up. I have been amazed at the traffic to my blog site though, and think this exposure has brought many people from all over the world to read my books. I am all ears to the advice of the real experts about good marketing techniques.
Describe your desk
I’m working on that one. Right now I am an itinerant writer. My “desk” is typically my lap because I do most of my writing on the road in my truck as we travel back and forth to client jobsites or the sawmill to get the hardwood we use when building our custom furniture. We live out in the “boonies” and the long drives enable me to get several hours of writing in each day this way. When I am home working out of the studio at Fawn Meadow, I have a breakfast nook I installed in our old homestead kitchen. It sits right next to the old wood cook stove that we preserved when we did the remodel and I love spending several hours there when I can listen to the wood fire crackle and pop while I write during the cold months, and large windows give me a great view of the woods and wildlife year round.

I have plans someday to build a special place for my writing where I can surround myself with things that inspire and motivate me, but for now it’s just me and my weary and worn laptop on the go.
When did you first start writing?
Creatively writing? My earliest recollection is my previously mentioned sixth grade book writing adventure. I’ve always seemed to have a knack for it and was always in some kind of advanced journalism or creative writing classes in school. As an adult I have written several articles for professional or church publications. It’s something, at least according to others, I’ve always been competent at, and lots of people over the years have encouraged me to write a book. I raised seven kids and had my own business, so writing a book was always a dream that had to wait until later. I guess you could say my formal start as an author anyway, would be 2012, after a prayerful journey lead me to begin Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.
What was the motivation for you to write your first book: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?
Honestly? The request of so many people who knew what had happened to us. Most would never share such a personal story, and a lot of people thought that it may help other people who had had bad things happen to them that had caused them to lose or question their Catholicism or Christian faith in general to find a path to healing.

I’ve spent well over two decades trying to bring people closer to Jesus Christ through my sacred furniture and art creations. So, though I had absolutely no desire to re-live such a nightmare, the thought that I may be able to help people come back to or stick with Christ by doing so, after a lot of prayer on the matter, I finally decided to sit down and write the story, and let God take it where and to whom He wills.

I have had dozens of people who have read various things I had written over the last 30 years come to me and tell me I need to write a book someday, but this? It certainly isn’t a story I could have ever imagined would ever happen to anyone, let alone me, and be the subject of my first book. I had envisioned that first book commencement to be a profound and pure moment of mystical proportion, not a chronicling of a real life nightmare experience. But God weaves these fateful events into the fabric of our lives, and I had to ask: Was He calling me to do this? Will it help to save souls? When I made up my mind, I decided to just tell the story as it happened and as I experienced it, and let my readers take from it what benefit they are able. I have to trust the Holy Spirit on the rest.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The awe of true heroism and patriotism. There are books written by historians, and books written by and about great military leaders. But what about the grunt in the foxhole who stood face to face, up close and personal, to the enemy that wanted to take his life with great malice? As a soldier, I can testify that even in peacetime training, things don’t always go as planned. You go hungry. You freeze your fanny off. You experience fatigue that is beyond description. That is just to get you ready for the real thing, which is always much worse, and people are trying to kill you at the same time.

I knew Chet’s story, and I thought, for the good of this and future generations, it needed to be told from the soldier in the foxhole view, as the title says: Through the Eyes of the Warrior. It’s the story of a soldier’s life; from youth, through the horrors of combat against an enemy the likes of which had never been seen before, through re-acclimating to civilian life, falling in love, starting a family and business, and the faith journey that led to a lifetime of volunteer service to other young soldiers. I wanted, through the book, to give due testimony to Chet’s valor and achievements as well as the intrepid spirit of American fighting men and women everywhere.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Publishing fraud mostly. The pay-to-publish publisher who signed my story on took my money, and that of dozens of other author’s, and never delivered. It was somewhat bitter ironies to write a book about being defrauded and have the book publisher defraud you too. It was a mess of criminal investigations and court actions. Thankfully there were enough other victims that I didn’t have to participate. I began doing research into other publishers and found a lot of articles from indi-authors who do their own thing and a lot of good reasons why. I’ve worked for myself for over 25 years, so for now I’ll publish myself until a better (and more reliable) opportunity comes along. It isn’t easy, but it does work.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Time will tell if I am a successful author, but Smashwords has facilitated me to be a successful publisher of my books. After I lost all of my printing money to publishing fraud, I didn’t know what to do. Smashwords has provided me an affordable venue to publish my eBooks, and hopefully the eBook sales will provide the funds to print copies as well.

If you follow Mark Coker’s styleguide step by step, it takes a little time to do a really good layout job, but overall it is easy to end up with a good product. I have laid out and uploaded four books this year that were Premium Catalog acceptable. My first book, 85,000 word Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing sailed through the vetter process the first time. Smashwords process also allows me to tweak my eBooks to continually make improvements to various format layouts, or for that oops word error that got past the editor and me.

Without Smashwords, I’d still be dreaming of being a published author instead of actually being one!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Two things:

First, seeing my words in print. In spite of all the artistic endeavors of my life, there has never been anything quite as inspiring to me than to see my thoughts and words in print. I don’t really know why that is, but seeing your thoughts or ideas come to life on a page really does something.

Second, knowing someone found my thoughts and words worthy and meaningful enough to read them.
What do your fans mean to you?
What good is being an author if you have no one to read your books? The whole point behind my writing is a humble attempt, by God’s grace, to help, touch, or even change people’s lives. All my efforts are with my readers in mind. Without them my writing would have no purpose.
What are you working on next?
I have at least four or five book ideas ahead right now, but my next endeavor is an adventure novel based on some ancient Christian prophecies I’ve read. The Saints and Sages of the last 20 centuries have a lot to say, and I’m excited about a story line I’ve been playing with for a few years.
Who are your favorite authors?
That’s a tough question. It would be a lot easier to narrow down the list when I was younger, because now that I am older, I have read so very much for so very many reasons, it is hard to pin down a few. I have read many inspiring books written by those who were obviously not great writers, and I have been bored to tears by many revered to be great. These days, most of the books I read are gifts from my highly educated offspring.

When I was a kid, hands down my favorite was Franklin W. Dixon, the collective author team of the Hardy Boys Mystery series. As a teen/young adult I was a science geek and basked in science fiction. I can’t say he was my “favorite”, but Frank Herbert’s Dune was top notch science fiction in my opinion because of the imagination it took to put such a story together.

Matthew Kelly is great, as well as his message, and I am really drawn to theological/religious history books by Dr. Scott Hahn and George Weigel. I have never disappointed nor walked away without knowing more about my faith. Other people must agree because their books always seem to show up as Christmas, birthday, and father’s day presents to me!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Honestly, two things. First my wife, and not just because she tells me it’s time to get up and put wood in the stove. One of the driving forces of my life and greatest joys is to take good care of her and our seven kids. I’ve always known I was blessed to have them in my life, but the point was particularly driven home during the outlandish trials and tribulations chronicled in my book Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing. The way they stood by me through all of it was heroic, and I will never forget it.

The other is God. My relationship to Him is very personal, and He is literally the first thing on my mind when I wake up. Even when I don’t feel like getting up to face what appears to be a dreary day ahead, there is always a quickening of excitement at those first waking moments at the suspense of wondering what events God has planned for my life today. I figure when I am able to actually wake up, and I am still breathing, then God has a purpose for my life. When He no longer does, He’ll simply pull the plug and I’ll be all done. So I must always keep moving forward. I’ve been a witness to how God can turn your life upside down in an instant, and open new doors for us. I guess I look forward to finding out what new doors He will open up for me each day. Writing seems to be one of them, and I really am excited about the future.
Published 2014-01-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Framed
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 93,960. Language: English. Published: April 4, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Catholicism, Nonfiction » True Crime » Hoaxes & deceptions
With the suspense of a detective novel, FRAMED shares victim-author Tim Schoonard’s incredible true story; chronicling the events surrounding his 2010 arrest and criminal prosecution in Keweenaw County, after he was framed for extortion by Ukrainian Catholic Church officials in what was revealed to be an elaborate attempt to cover up misconduct complaints against one of their clergy.
Hellman's Run: Strike Team Archangel
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 59,590. Language: English. Published: November 4, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Christian » General
Angry at both God and man, retired special operations Col. Jack Hellman is recruited by the Vatican to combat an evil uprising by the forces of Hell and their diabolical army. While struggling with faith issues of his own, he leads the extraordinary and unorthodox Strike Team Archangel in non-stop combat action from the U.S. to the Roman Colosseum in a desperate battle for the fate of mankind.
Through the Eyes of the Warrior: Korea 1950-1951
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 35,380. Language: English. Published: December 17, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » History » Military, Nonfiction » Biography » Military biography
Author Tim Schoonard takes the reader on an exciting foxhole to foxhole journey sharing the battlefield memories of decorated combat veteran CPL Chester Thiessen, a 17 year old who led men into battle on his first day of combat and fought with the 2nd Infantry Division on many frozen and bloody battlefields in Korea. Gives clear testimony to the indomitable spirit of the American soldier.
Taking Part in the Work: A Sanctuary Furniture Planning Guide for the Catholic Parish
Price: Free! Words: 12,650. Language: English. Published: May 27, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Catholicism, Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Fine art
Put knowledge and experience in the hands of your parish with this FREE book! At last, a down to earth, short and sweet, “layman’s terms” guide to understanding the great responsibility entrusted to those who seek to acquire sacred furniture for God’s house! Firmly ensconced in the GIRM and Living Stones. A great resource for busy pastors, committees, and design professionals .