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Brittany Hughes graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing, and subsequently earned a Masters in Teaching. She recently spent two years living in the Midwest, a landscape that inspired the setting of her novel, "Breaking Clay." ... [more]

As a kid, A.L. Torres fell in love with fantastic stories of worlds beyond our own such as "Animal Farm," "On the Beach" and "Metamorphosis." More recently, he's added "The Giver," "The Road" and "Hunger Games" as some of his favorites, ... [more]

Robert Steedman is a proud native New Yorker, receiving his B.A. in Art History from State University of New York at Geneseo and an M.S. Ed. in Art Education from Nazareth College. His first YA manuscript, FALLING, took First Place ... [more]

Janet Zupan earned her M.F.A. from the University of Montana in 1996. Her work appears in the collection, MONTANA WOMEN WRITERS: A GEOGRAPHY OF THE HEART (Far Country) ... [more]


• The Six Act Two-Goal Novel

• Maximizing Opps For Verve

• A Dose of Antagonism

• Guide to Best Comparables

• Crossing the Epiphany Line

• Novel Coverage Counts

• Storyboarding Scenes

• Sympathy Factors in Hook

• Third Person Point of View

Algonkian Emerging Author Interviews            More Emerging Author Interviews

A Talk With Walter Thompson About His Writing Life and Novel

GENRE:  Literary Thriller
COMPS:  Koontz meets Robin Cook
WORDS:  85,000+

Whenever he is asked why he chose to write, the first personal anecdote that springs to mind is the period of time in his life before he could even read. His mother read Dr. Spock and was intent on being the best nurturing mother she could be. As such, she took to reading to my brother and myself when we were four and five respectively. And it was quality literature: TOM SWIFT AND HIS AMAZING INVENTIONS, THE HARDY BOYS, NANCY DREW, THE JUNGLE BOOK, THE JUST SO stories, and more. Before DICK AND JANE, I was developing an ear for character structure, plot development and descriptive prose. Whatever his achievements in the realm of literature, he will always owe much his mother.

As living organisms we have an innate drive to survive and prosper. Individual manifestations of that drive can be contradictory to the success of the species as a whole. We are the only species on the planet capable of making decisions that can negatively affect our survival. It is that basic contradiction that fascinates me and compels me to write.

- Name of Walter Thompson

A: Tell us something about yourself as it relates to your writing life. Also, what inspired you to begin the novel?

I have always been fascinated by dreams and the possibilities of psychic abilities as revealed through them. Another interest is healthy nutrition, especially as it relates to slowing and even reversing aging - along with the majority of my Baby Boomer generation. Associated with this, the short cuts that many seek to achieve the results sought by many intrigues me, especially the depths of moral compromise that individuals will make to achieve those results, when it relates to their mortality. Thus the idea for While Angels Dream was born, and from it grew the ideas for books two and three of the trilogy. As a group, they tell the story that no one book could effectively convey.

A: Who are you reading now? Which authors and novels have been an inspiration to you, and why?

William Golding - LORD OF THE FLIES. Khaled Hosseini - A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS - The protagonist of WHILE ANGELS DREAM is a woman faced with difficult choices. I look here to get insight of writing from a female's POV. Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D. - THE COMMITTEE OF SLEEP - how dreams have led to artistic visions and scientific insights. Stieg Larsson - THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO - The perspective of another female protagonist confronted with challenges. Randy Taguchi - FUJI SAN - Excellent contemporary short story writer with a superb grasp of the use of symbols and the descriptive interweaving of dream and waking states Stephen King - Anything - Stephen's imagination and his ability to make the improbable seem not only plausible, but sound like the story of the people down the street is an inspiration. I am particularly enamored by the scope of THE STAND.

A: Can you tell us about your novel?

WHILE ANGELS DREAM began as a story about man's need to survive, and his effort to extend life through whatever means available, even when those means require the sacrifice of the innocent. As I explored the concept, I discovered that there was a much bigger story to be told. From this discovery evolved books two and three. Can't tell you where the story leads, spoilers. But I can tell you that the story has grown far beyond what I originally imagined. From this I learned one very important lesson: Let the story take you wherever it leads. Whenever you determine the outcome, you limit yourself to whatever you know. What you don't know that you know may surprise you, delight you, and even change you forever.

A: What gives you a passion for this story and why are you the one who needs to tell it?

I believe wholeheartedly in the basic goodness of the human spirit, and that we are here with a purpose. I also believe that purpose is grand in scope, grander perhaps than many will imagine, or even accept.

As living organisms we have an innate drive to survive and prosper. Individual manifestations of that drive can be contradictory to the success of the species as a whole. We are the only species on the planet capable of making decisions that can negatively affect our survival. It is that basic contradiction that fascinates me and compels me to write.

Just as information regarding our need to be effective stewards of our planetary environment has impacted people's daily decisions to recycle, I believe insight into our basic drive to survive and the negative, even malevolent, actions the drive fosters will inspire change that results in a more consistent and harmonious movement towards the growth and prosperity of the species, a mindset that could affect not only practical measures, but also artistic vision and cultural evolution.

A: What have you found to be your biggest challenges to writing a successful commercial novel?

Staying the course. The basic idea for WHILE ANGELS DREAM came to me in 2002. Over a period of ten years I would work on the novel, then set it aside. It underwent many changes. The protagonist has changed. The setting has changed, changed again, and then returned to the original setting. A secondary antagonist developed in significance, then was demoted. Another secondary antagonist was promoted. As these changes occurred, I started to doubt my vision. Then in the autumn of 2012, it all gelled. WHILE ANGELS DREAM grew into a trilogy, quite naturally. In fact, I cannot now see how it could have been anything else.

Learning the craft. I have taken numerous courses in story development, read multiple books on the topic. Once, a live one day seminar with David Gray in NYC proved to be seminal. A subsequent week-long workshop with Michael Neff of Algonkian put me firmly on the path. Still, even then I didn't know what I didn't know. Only time can reveal one's ignorance. In the fall of 2012 I found solid footing, this time in the form of a book on novel development by Donald Maass. Shortly thereafter, I coincidentally reconnected with Michael whose course outline included one of Maass's works. Now the onus of success is solidly and squarely on my shoulders.

A: Is there any particular facet of the Algonkian novel writing program that has helped you more than any other? If so, why?

First is encouragement. A writer's life is a lonely one. Having support during the dark and difficult times is not just important, it is vital to success. The act of writing is itself difficult and demanding. Having someone there to remind you that the effort can lead to successful accomplishment of one's dream can mean the difference between completion and the choice of failure.

Second is focus. Writing a successful commercial novel requires focus on what makes a work of prose fiction marketable. Curiously, the primary component to success is communication. Does the novel communicate? Does it communicate character and setting effectively? Does the plot line follow established protocols that lead the reader to targeted conclusions and expected, or unexpected, reactions? Having a knowledgeable writing coach who can keep your focus on what you want to accomplish and keep that focus consistent with devices that communicate effectively is priceless. Algonkian can provide that to the writer who is open to hearing what is actually being asked of him.

Character development. The AS course directs focus on specifics in each character's backstory, a technique that helped make the characters become more vivid, taking substantive form in my mind's eye. As a result, as I lay relaxing in a hot bath or driving to get groceries, scenes would pop into my mind which, while dictated by the constraints of story, were fully driven by character.

A: What bit of advice can you give to other aspiring authors just getting started?

Read! Read up. As an athlete strives to improve his game, he plays opponents above his current level.

Write! Even if it is to just copy text from a favorite or revered passage. The acts of reading and writing will continue to flex and strengthen the mental muscles required for writing well. That is neurological fact.

Continuity, continuity, continuity! If the passage is contradictory to internal development or to external fact, you will lose the reader's interest. An avid sailor does not refer to lines as ropes, nor should you, regardless of the hobby or profession your character is associated with. This leads me to:

Research! Do it, a lot of it. Your reader depends upon your verisimilitude. If your reader goes on a sail boat for the first time after having read your novel and refers to 'pulling in the ropes', more than likely he will project his subsequent embarrassment upon your failing, and justifiably so.

In your field of endeavor, watch, listen, and learn. Drama, thriller, horror, or romance - regardless of the genre, examine what works and doesn't work. Parse and parse again until you see the underlying key to success or failure, and learn from it. All writers borrow, so a borrower be. Just borrow effectively.

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