Author Interview: S. Evan Townsend
Hi, S. Evan. Welcome to my blog. Thank you for allowing me to interview you. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us.
S. Evan: It’s great to be here!
Would you take a moment and introduce yourself to us?
Gladly. I’m S. Evan Townsend, a 51-year-old writer living in what we call the “dry side” of Washington State. I’m the author of two novels that have been published by World Castle Publishing: Hammer of Thor and its sequel Agent of Artifice. Even though the books are related they are written so that they can be read separately or out of order.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was about 12 years old, so that that’s going on 40 years now. I knew if I wanted to write I had to learn to type (this was years before personal computers), and my sister was studying typing in high school. So I borrowed her typing book and taught myself “touch typing.”
Would you mind telling us a little more about your book, Agent Of Artifice?
Agent of Artifice is an urban fantasy set in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It involves the Cuban Revolution, the U.S. efforts to depose the Castro regime, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the Cuban Missile crisis, and Operation Mongoose (the covert operation to kill Castro). Michael Vaughan is an “adept.” That is, he is a person who has powers beyond that a mere mortal man. After a revolution in his guild, he is a rogue that the guild leadership wishes to kill. He joins the CIA for the money and mobility to keep alive.
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
I’d written another book in this same universe called Hammer of Thor. That novel dealt with World War II and the Korean War. Then I had the idea of bringing the concept of adepts into the Cold War. And what more powerful symbol of the Cold War is there than the Cuban Missile Crisis. It grew from there.
What type of research did you do for it?
I read books on the CIA in the 1950s and ’60s. I traveled to most of the locals in the book (couldn’t get to Havana). I spent a day in the Chicago library reading old newspaper accounts of the Cuban Revolution (my hero, Vaughan, is in Chicago when the Cuban Revolution climaxes in late 1958). I read accounts of Havana before the Revolution to get a feel for what it was like there when the mob ran gambling and prostitution in Havana.
One interesting thing about research is sometimes it leads to the most interesting parts of the novel. I had my character escaping the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco by going down the stairs and running out the lobby. But when I went there, looked at the lobby, looked at the building, there were no stairs, just fire escapes. So Vaughan had to escape via fire escape. I re-wrote that scene and it turned into one of the best scenes in the book.
Do you have a favorite character from the book?
The hero/narrator Michael Vaughan is my favorite character. He’s me if I were younger, better looking, and had magical powers.
Have you experimented with writing other genres? If so, what kind?
Actually, Hammer of Thor and Agent of Artifice were experiments. Before I wrote them I primarily wrote science fiction without any fantasy elements. And earlier this year I wrote a mainstream drama novel about a man struggling with mental health issues. It’s based a little bit on my own issues with mental health.
Do you have any upcoming projects? Are you able to tell us a little more about it/them?
I just sent a science fiction novel, Rock Killer, to my publisher so it should be coming out maybe early 2012. It’s about mining asteroids and is a complete departure from Agent of Artifice.
And I’m working on a third “adepts” novel, a sequel to Agent of Artifice. I’m in the “think about the plot” stage. Last night I had an idea which may work. I’m thinking of setting it in 1969.
How do you find inspiration when sitting down to write?
By typing. It amazes me what ideas will spring from seemingly my fingertips. Even though I think ahead and plan the plot out, my own mind will throw in plot twists I never seemed to have thought of. The entire plot of Hammer of Thor changed direction when one character, a Nazi spy, said “Die Walküre” in answer to a question. I still have no idea where that came from
What has influenced you the most?
Great writers, such as Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Douglas Adams, Larry Nivin, or Orson Scott Card have always influenced me.
Do you have any recommendations for books that you think the blog’s readers may enjoy?
I have always believed in spreading the gospel of good books.
My favorite book is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein.
My favorite fantasy book is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Other fantasy books I’ve loved are Glory Road by Robert Heinlein and Three Hearts & Three Lions by Poul Anderson.
And if you haven’t read it, read The Princess Bride by William Goldman is a great book. And you have to read the introduction and the snippets Goldman adds. It was the first book I ever read for enjoyment (rather than a school assignment).
Do you spend your free time reading or doing research for future works?
Yes, to both, but not exclusively. I enjoy watching movies and the rare good television (“Mythbusters” is de rigueur in our house). I enjoy driving and travel. One of my goals is to drive across the US (and back). I serve on the board of the local economic development council and I belong to Toastmasters and Power Partners (a networking group). I enjoy spending time with family and friends. And I hate golf with a passion.
Do you take the time to outline your story or do you just go with the flow and see where it takes you?
I outline very broadly, sometimes as little as one sentence for a 5,000 word chapter. (In Agent of Artifice the last chapter was outlined with: “Final battle between Houser and Vaughan.”) But, as I’ve stated before, I don’t let inspiration get in my way if it pops up. It can take you amazing places.
Do you have any tips, or thoughts, that you would like to offer to the blog’s readers?
If you want to be a writer, the best thing to do is sit down and write. If you want to be a published writer, never ever give up. I found my publisher through a fellow author. You never know where or who will lead to your future. Be nice to everyone! And I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years and I’m finally published.
There you have it, Everyone. A lovely interview with the author of Agent Of Artifice, S. Evan Townsend. I hope you’ve all enjoyed learning more about him. Thank you so much for the interview, S. Evan, I look forward to more of your work and wish you the very best.
S. Evan: Thank you very much!
Synopsis: They live among us. We know they are there. No government can control them; no authority can stop them. Some are evil. Some are good. All are powerful. They inhabit our myths and fairy tales. But what if they were real, the witches, wizards, and fairy godmothers? What if they were called “adepts” and were organized into guilds for mutual protection and benefit? And what if they started mucking around with the affairs of “lessers” (that is, those humans not able to match their powers)?
During the height of the Cold War, Michael Vaughan is a rogue without a guild. He survives by working for the CIA as NOC (Non-Official Cover). Shortly after the funeral of President Joe Kennedy, Jr., he is sent to Cuba to assassinate Castro. There he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with adepts working for Fidel.
About The Author:
S. Evan Townsend is a writer living in central Washington State. After spending four years in the U.S. Army in the Military Intelligence branch, he returned to civilian life and college to earn a B.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington. In his spare time he enjoys reading, driving (sometimes on a racetrack), meeting people, and talking with friends. He is in a 12-step program for Starbucks addiction. Evan lives with his wife and two sons, aged 17 and 20, and has a 22-year old son attending the University of Washington in biology. He enjoys science fiction, fantasy, history, politics, cars, and travel.