Tony Martin has been writing ever since he was a “little bitty guy.” He is currently associate editor of The Baptist Record, the news journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, with a circulation of 70,000. He has written or co-written curriculum and devotional material for high school and junior high school students. A native Alabamian and self-confessed “son of the South,” he first became intrigued by the theology of ghosts and hauntings in a class on the occult at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reign of Silence draws from that early and latter research and from oral family traditions. He and his wife Teresa live in Brandon, Mississippi, and have two more-or-less grown children, Jeremy and Amy. When not working at his day job, Tony still works with teenagers, and enjoys performing magic, camping, travel, Civil War history, reading and writing, and has this inexplicable passion for any and all things Disney. Reign of Silence is his first novel.
Bio provided by author’s site
It was our pleasure to get a chance to interiew Tony and get to know him better. Tony is a hard working family man who has a passion for helping others as well as entertaining them whether through performing or writing a story. So please sit back with your favorite warm beverage and please give a warm welcome to Tony!
1. What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?
A. The best hook I can think of is to populate my stories with “everymen” and “everywomen.” Characters readers can identify with. With “Reign of Silence,” I thought putting purely ordinary, conservative Christian folks into extraordinary circumstances that challenged their whole belief system was pretty compelling. As for inspiration … that’s an elusive thing. I can’t remember if it was Zane Gray or Louis L’amour who said this, but it was something to the effect that “turn on the faucet and the water will flow.” In other words, you can’t really wait on inspiration. You just hunch over the keyboard and start working.
2. Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters? Or do you free write and work it out as you go?
A. I’m not one to sit down and do detailed character analyses, or work out an initial plot. I do make notes, or dictate thoughts into my iPhone as they occur, which tends to be when I’m in a meeting, watching TV, or when I’m disengaged from the actual chore of writing. What happened with “Reign of Silence” is that I had my two or three main characters firmly in mind, and the rest of the cast I just got to know as I wrote. My technique, which may or may not be proper – I sure don’t know – is just to put the characters in some situation and watch them try to get out of it. I took a week off from work to put in some concentrated time on “Reign of Silence,” sequestering myself in an old farmhouse and writing pretty much nonstop. I wrote close to two-thirds of the book in that one week. This kind of freaks some people out, but it got to where I was just transcribing what was happening and being said. One night I called my wife and said, “You’re not going to believe what just happened.” There was a significant twist toward the end of the book that I didn’t see coming, and where it got really weird for me was when during the first revision, I found that there was some foreshadowing earlier in the book pointing toward that twist. I never planned or plotted for that.
3. What is your normal writing day like? Do you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?
A. I’m one of the most despised of all humankind, in that I’m a morning person. So I get up around 5 or so and put in about 90 minutes of writing. My wife is in bed, the dogs aren’t up, and it’s a perfect time for me because that’s when my synapses tend to fire. I don’t set a word or page goal. I just do what I can in that time allotted and let it go. Then, in the evenings, I may put in another hour, but I’m not bound to that. I will say, too, that I do NOT self-edit in the early stages. I just write in almost a stream of consciousness mode, because I know I’ll come back and tidy and tighten up. As I said, if I waited until I was inspired, nothing would ever get done. I just do it. It’s pretty much a blue-collar exercise. I don’t think of myself as an “artist.” In my mind it’s more like nailing shingles on a roof, or putting mulch in a flower bed. Its work, and it’s not glamorous in the least.
4. Who is your favorite author and how did they inspire you to write?
A. That “favorite author” question is tough. My all-time favorite work of fiction is “Lord of the Rings,” the whole trilogy, but I wouldn’t consider Tolkein my favorite author. I guess Harper Lee comes the closest to being a favorite; her style and storytelling ability blows me away, and I identified strongly with the story she told. I knew every character in “To Kill a Mockingbird” personally – I grew up in a small Alabama town just like Macomb, Alabama. And I remember after I read my first Steven King book (“Salem’s Lot”), I thought – this guy is telling just the kind of story I want to hear. Same with Frank Peretti, although I think his earlier stuff was his best. I’ll admit to being a sucker for what some detractors might consider “commercial” writers – fellow Mississippian John Grisham comes immediately to mind. Not so much Dan Brown, who’s written the same book three times. Hard to argue with success, though!
5. It’s easy to see that you have a passion for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?
A. Is there any part of writing that I don’t like? Honestly, no. There is a certain amount of discipline involved, certainly, and if I’m not careful I can get derailed by trivial things. But I jotted down a quote from a gentleman named Mark Batterson, from his book, “The Circle Maker”: “Too many authors worry about whether or not their book will get published. The question is this: Are you called to write? That’s the only question you need to answer. And if the answer is yes, then you need to write the book as an act of obedience. It doesn’t matter whether anyone reads it or not.” So, for me, yeah, it’s a calling.
6. Do you make time to read and if you do what are you reading right now?
A. I absolutely make time to read. I just finished the Hunger Games trilogy, and it read like a streak. I was the last in the family to get around to reading it, and it was so well-paced I was sucked right in. Worked for me. One cool thing about Kindle and Amazon is you can take a chance on an unknown author (like me!) and not feel as though you’ve coughed up an undue amount of cash on a potential dud. So I’ve started on a two-book series by Aiden James, Terror X 2. The premise of these two intrigues me. I tend to read two books at a time, something fiction and something non-fiction. I’m also reading “Radical” by David Platt.
7. How did you get into writing about the Christian/supernatural, two topics that always seem to be at odds with each other? Is there personal life experience in the writing?
A. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by ghosts. So I wanted to try my hand at a pure, “classical” ghost story – a haunted house, bumps in the night, whispers and manifestations, the whole deal. The phenomenon of ghosts and hauntings is almost a cultural universal – you find it worldwide, in all periods of history. So, as a Christian, how do you interpret this? As a Christian and a minister, I have to acknowledge – biblically – that my faith deals with the supernatural, most obviously in teachings about angels and demons, and certainly also in belief in an afterlife. What happens when these worlds intersect? So I don’t see these two topics as being at odds with each other. If I’m asked, “Tony, do you believe in ghosts?” I say that I do. Now as far as what a “ghost” actually IS, well, we’ve got a lot of room for speculation, and that is at the heart of “Reign of Silence.” It isn’t that I was consciously trying to break ground, but I just couldn’t find any stories that dealt with hauntings from a Christian worldview. Regarding personal life experiences … well … yeah. There have been a couple of instances in my life, and in the lives of extended family, in which we’ve faced events that just simply can’t be explained away by “rational” means. The book, then, has a couple of mildly autobiographical events. Freaky, yes?
8. Your books have been published with Amazon.com, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?
A. My book is indeed available on Amazon via Kindle, and we’re working on it being available again in hardcopy. I wrote “Reign of Silence” years ago, self-published through Xulon Press (they did a terrific job), and it actually did pretty well for a season. Then, when I made it available on the Kindle in December of 2011, I was absolutely blown away at how I sold – sold – roughly twice as many books in one month as I did in the previous six years. It was an epiphany for me. All of a sudden, the old line gatekeepers were marginalized. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be delighted if an agent represented me – I probably approached forty or so – and I got that elusive book deal. It’s just killer when an agent tells you how wonderful your book was but it “isn’t marketable.” Now, the rules have changed, big-time. I can’t help but wonder how many absolutely splendid books never saw the light of day because of those “guardians.” I’m imagining that there are publishers out there who are feeling sort of like Kodak. If a writer can shuck any thoughts of self-publishing being some sort of stigma, no matter what the medium, then the playing field is pretty doggone level. The downside is that there is plenty of garbage out there now, too, but I’m thinking market forces prevail eventually.
9. Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?
A. Readers can keep up with what I’m up to on my blog (http://tonymartinscribbler.blogspot.com), and I’ll put samples of what I’m doing from time to time. I haven’t done a dedicated website yet, but that’s certainly a possibility.
10. Do you have any more stories in the works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?
A. I am working feverishly on a new book, “The Fixin’ Place.” I’m loving it. If you can imagine a mashup between “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt,” and a pinch of “The Green Mile,” that’s where it seems to be headed. Reading that last sentence, I recognize it makes no sense whatsoever. Again, I didn’t plan to blend these diverse tales, but that’s just the way it’s working out. It does take place in the same fictional town of St. Helena, Alabama, as did “Reign of Silence,” but that’s really the only tie. The working title of the next one is “Knights of the Golden Circle” (Google it if you’re not familiar with this actual organization), and think about how that group from the Civil War would look and operate in the 21st century.
11. Who would be your first choice to play Joshua Nix from your book “Reign of Silence”?
A. I’d like to see Chris Pine play Joshua Nix. Really. But the more important role from a casting standpoint would be who played Meredith Dubose. I’d pay good money to see Annasophia Robb play her. She’d be just superb, me thinks.
12. If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?
A. If I could meet any historical figure, it would have to be Robert E. Lee. I’d ask “How, throughout the course of the War Between the States, were you able to maintain your sense and call to duty?”