Ted Magnuson [tedmag]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
Wow, the answer to that question goes way back. Besides the Scholastic Book Service in elementary school, my family was big into reading. Miss Pickerel Goes to Mars by Ellen MacGregor and the Mushroom Planet series by Eleanor Cameron come to mind as examples of SBS reads. Grandmother sent me The Frogman Spy by J Bernard Hutton. And of course, Dickens and Mark Twain. As for being a writer myself, I began keeping a journal during college and wrote several longhand drafts about draining swamps for golf courses in Florida and traveling around the country with a guitar in tow but it wasn't untl 1991 when I went to a Writers Conference that I began writing in what might be called 'earnest.'
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I read historical fiction, political action thrillers and science fiction. I am also an avid reader of Foreign Affairs, the Economist and Thomas Friedman. I am very impressed with audio books Please visit www.tedmagnuson.com to check out my work.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I keep a notebook to write down ideas, questions and outlines of things I am working on. I'll quiz friends on their opinions of stories I'd like to develop. If the initial stages of developing a story are a bit of a slow slog, then along comes drafting rewrites. As a result of all this, I am a big advocate of the 40 hour work day as writing can be a very time consuming activity. It cuts into reading time, too!
What type of reading inspires you to write?
My most current project is a contemporary political thriller, that attempts to answer the question 'what if alternative energy drastically reduced the demand for oil? For this project I've read Kermit Roosevelt's Countercoup, Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater, Samuel P Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations, Stephen Kinzer's All The Shah's Men and many more. Reviews of my reading can be found on Amazon. see http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/AYSN0J8XHRWG
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
A story is the presentation of a place and time where someone the reader can care about solves a problem. It is the author's duty to develop the story in a credible way that helps the reader envision a world where the problems, while difficult, are also solvable; a state of affairs, I would add, that isn't readily visible in real life. This is the value of story, to arm readers to 'press on' in resolving the challenges in their own lives.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
First person is the greater challenge. Done well, it adds a great deal to the story. Doesn't Kuzio Ishiguru do a good job with this, allowing the world to be reshaped according to the precepts of his leads? The butler 'Stevens' in Remains of the Days comes to mind.
What well known writers do you admire most?
There are a great many excellent writers out there. While many of the more popular ones crank out a book every other year or so, there are also a few of us lower volume folks. David Baldacci and TC Boyle are both prolific writers who do a great job. Jack Finney and Edward P Jones have done some excellent work on a much lower rate of production. Wow, this list could go on for quite some time. Should I also admit to being a big fan of Mr Sherlock Holmes and A. Conan Doyle?
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
It is hard to be deliberate about it, but if a character is to come alive, ultimately they are based on either famous folks, people the author knows, or certain encounters one has had along the way. Good names are crucial of course, as well as picking up on the character's speech patterns, or specific phrases, quirks and habits. Disclaimer-such characters are still embellished, processed, 'manipulated,' and amalgramated and to say the very least--fictitious.
(The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland- comes to mind "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date...) In my adventure set in the future...The Moses Probe, Cheryl Bellini is based in part on my sister Laura. It was her early death at age 37 that gave me a needed nudge to get serious about putting ink on paper and taking the plunge into writing.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
That depends on whether we're talking about a conversation or a 'presentation.' I am getting better at 'spinning yarns,' but truthfully, I am a notorous wordsmith. Much like George HW Bush, too often my speaking is all chopped up. I mess up my syntax and this doubtless challenges (amuses) my friends as to what am I getting at.
As if that weren't enough, I need to grab that exact Proper Noun or description of the process only to delay my end of the conversation.
To help me 'get over' all this, I've joined Toastmaster International. Toastmasters has helped my rehearsed 'presentations' immensely. Believe me though, where I speak at a toastmaster meeting, the Ah counter has complete Job Security when it's my turn to talk.
No wonder I've turned to writing to express myself.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Jennifer Anniston. Or, o seriously, Dylan Thomas answered that question for me far better than I ever could. In 'My Craft or Sullen Art, the Welsh poet writes
"For the lovers, their arms round the griefs of the ages."
That being said, I think there are far too many sad stories being written. I would want to write for the incorrigibly optimistic who can smile through the 'griefs of the ages,' and carry on, like Jennifer, I guess.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
If I answer that question, do you promise not to tell my therapist?
Does reader feed-back help you?
Most definitely. I can really see my characters come alive when readers tell me they 'read' my characters completely differently than I do.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
Yes, my books have received awards for cover art, for story and I will continue to enter competitions.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Yes, This is a very important and exciting thing to do. Writers and readers are entering into something of a conversation. If one does not get any initial feedback from 'an audience,' the author's voice is somehow dampened. It is important than for authors to really hear what accomplished and attentive readers are telling them. People for instance, like you. Please do comment on my listings at Amazon. Do drop me a line.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
The answer to that for me is a qualified 'yes.' More important for me is that the book finds a voice and for the book to find a voice it needs to be populated by characters who have found their voices.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
It could very well be possible that there could be great gems hidden in stuff that has been sitting somewhere on a shelf gathering dust. Evn if it were only a character who could be resurrected, or a plot or a scene...
Who knows, maybe the whole book is great.
In order to make that determination, I have several questions to ask:
1) Are you willing to look at this work with a critical eye?
2) How many drafts has it gone through so far?
3) Has no one else looked at it? Really? Why?
4) Are you absolutely passionate about this book...or just a bit obsessive?