Interview with Thomas Fenske

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I often wonder what happened to that one. It was a short story I dashed off as extra credit for an American History class when I was a junior in High School. It was a quick first person narrative of a Civil War soldier caught up in the third day's battle at Gettysburg/Cemetery Ridge and ended with him punching over the short wall at the top of the ridge and being captured. My history teacher liked it a lot.
It's funny because although I later majored in history, I never focused too much on the Civil War. After I moved to North Carolina, I got much more involved in private research on the war. The story was written long before the movie Gettysburg and long before I ever visited the battlefield but details I remember from it seemed quite accurate. I may have to rewrite it one day if I can't ever find it.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember a book of Indian stories, mostly from the Southwest, like Navaho or Hopi. I don't remember the title. I read it cover to cover a number of times. Little morality stories I guess, each emphasizing some issue or conflict that had to be resolved. I don't remember a lot of details but remember reading it a lot when I was just starting to read. I loved to read. My mother told me she got called to a teacher conference once because I was always in the wrong place when we were doing group reading in class. Apparently I didn't have patience and would read ahead faster than whoever was reading out loud. When it was my turn, I'd just continue where I was. Okay, attention problems, maybe. Reading? No problem there.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My bio says I'm a native Texan and that is the truth. My family's roots go back before the Texas Revolution and that is very important to me. Although I left Texas to follow a job, well, a Texan never stops being a Texan. The story in The Fever stretches across the state. I mention local places (within the time frame of the book) and many landmarks. Most reviewers reflect on the overall "Texas" feel of the book. Not all of my unpublished stories are about Texas, but most follow themes in the Lone Star State, at least so far.
Who are your favorite authors?
One of my favorite authors is not a fiction author. I greatly admire Ernie Pyle's matter-of-fact style and his keen eye for details most of us miss, from the mundane to the profound. He wasn't so much of a war correspondent as he was a human correspondent. Any writer would do well to pour over some of Ernie Pyle's work.
Of course I love Tolkien, and I have an abiding affection for Science Fiction authors Larry Niven and David Brin. I also have a lot of respect for Edgar Rice Burroughs and Dashiell Hammett and draw a lot of inspiration from both of them.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Fever is about obsession, pure and simple. An ordinary man encounters an extraordinary situation and becomes privy to some intriguing information about a lost gold mine. Over time, that obsession almost consumes him. He's been so protective of his secret he has alienated almost everyone around him. But as the story unfolds, he begins to understand that his goal is a lot bigger than he is, and if he is ever going to solve his mystery, he's going to have to start letting people back into his life, and is going to have to start accepting help, even to the point of soliciting it. Of course, that's when things start to get complicated, right?
What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on a sequel to The Fever, and have called it A Curse That Bites Deep. It continues the same story, following Sam in his quest for the Lost Sublett Mine in the western reaches of Texas. It contains more info about the mine and how main character Sam interacts with those he has come to depend on. As the title implies, there is evil afoot and it follows Sam to an explosive conclusion. Ebooks are scheduled for a September 2016 release, print books in October.
What is your writing process?
All of my novels have been National Novel Writing Month projects ... I've written five of them, all with the same process. For each story idea, I work up a simple outline, with up to thirty sections (one for each day of NaNoWriMo). Some are major events I've thought of regarding the story, some might be as simple as "something changes" but all indicate bullet points where I think I can write about 2000 words. I end up consolidating some of the items, or moving them, as the story evolves. I see each new story as a something dynamic and alive. Who knows what will happen next?
I do 90% of my writing/revising in my favorite easy chair in the living room with my laptop on my lap. I usually have to fight with one or two cats for that lap time too. I use the chair's arm for a mouse pad. Most of the time I put some light classical music on very low in the background.
I still have a full-time job, so if I can manage an hour or so in the morning I feel like I'm doing pretty well, but it is slow going.
In NaNoWriMo, I always try to stop the day's work on an up beat, that is, especially when I'm on a roll, I just stop ... I want to leave myself knowing pretty much how I'm going to start the next day, finishing wherever I left off. This is like a jump start for the day.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
When I'm actively writing a new novel, it's funny. The way I structure things, I don't always know exactly how things are going to turn out. When I am in that phase, I am stoked to get out of bed and get back to work because I can't wait to see what is going to happen next.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Love the Nook. Now that B&N has gone to a full-fledged Android device they have left all of the minor problems with hardware behind. Most of those revolved around their insistence on proprietary power sources. I trashed one simply because I couldn't charge it anymore. I went with the larger Nook HD plus for a while, which was great for video, but you know what? I didn't like reading as much on it as I did on a smaller device. I have continuing power issues with it too, so I got the smaller Samsung device when it came out. It's a first class tablet and is wonderful as an e-reader.
I've never used a Kindle but when I published my first book I loaded the Android Kindle app on the Samsung so I could check the Kindle version of the book. Yes, I loaded the Kindle app on my Nook. That just seems so wrong somehow.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Most of the ebooks I read are freebie and cheap ones I get from bookbub. I've been pleasantly surprised by quite a few of them. Some have been unpleasant surprises as well. I know people who say they don't like to read ebooks. I love them. They have a backlight so you can read in any light, and with a good cover, heck, you feel like you're reading a book. I think they just haven't tried.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
This is a tough one because my successes have been so slow to materialize. When I started I had no infrastructure. Now that I have a blog, a web page, a twitter feed, and a facebook "book" page, I have slowly been carving out a niche. It just takes perseverance. There are an astounding number of "author marketing" sites out there. Most seem promising. Some are cheap. Some are expensive. As near as i can tell, almost all of them effectively market only to other aspiring authors who are their customers. "Preaching to the choir" marketing I call it. I've reached quite a few people with Facebook promotion ads, but reaching to the point of sales has been rare.
My best attempt so far was a collaboration with a popular YouTube cooking show. At one point in my novel The Fever, the main character enjoys a specialty of the house at a local cafe. The cafe and the proprietress both loom large in the story later. I pretty much made up the dish, but got the idea to see if the cooking show might recreate a version of it. I'd been an early fan and supporter of the show, Hilah Cooking, and she was very interested in the idea. Her interest increased even more after she read the novel. We became mutual fans!
Judge for yourself: https://youtu.be/Uddl-KOO2-s
Published 2016-06-29.
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Books by This Author

The Mossback Cafe Cookbook
Price: Free! Words: 8,740. Language: English. Published: March 18, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » American / Southwestern States, Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » American / Western States
(5.00 from 1 review)
Mosey on in to The Mossback Cafe ... Enjoy Some Good Eats From The Best Little Fictional Cafe in Texas!