Interview With April Tompkins
What inspired you to start writing?
I've always been a writer of some sort. It probably started in the third grade when my teacher, Mrs. Thomlinson, asked us to write our autobiographies. Mine wasn't exactly scintillating ~ I was nine; I hadn't lived much up to that point. Later, I took a stab at writing down memories of my life in one of those lined journals you can pick up at the local book store. I thought I was an awesome writer. I was terrible.
What comes first, the plot or characters?
Characters, always. I start with a family ~ all my books have been about families, either natural or chosen ones. Family dynamics are the most intriguing to me. There are always secrets and complications. Once I've developed my main character and her foils, I let the story take me where it wants to go.
Do you write fast?
I write excruciatingly slowly. And I'm a finicky editor. I'll write a paragraph and then go back and tweak it, sometimes over and over again. Once In A Blue Moon took a couple of years to finish, and Radio Crazy may have taken about three years. I've chosen to put that out of my mind.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
That's tough. Maybe that my main character generally doesn't say out loud what she's thinking, but there are a lot of italics that show her real thoughts. Sort of like real life.
Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.
She's got issues to work through. She hasn't exactly found herself, or recognized who she really is; but she gets there eventually.
Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?
Shelby Soderberg, for sure. I loved writing her, and I may have even lived vicariously through her as I was writing the novel.
Can you give us some insight into what makes the Shelby character tick?
She's not brave, but she blusters her way through life. She's hardened her heart due to tough circumstances, and she can give back as good as she gets. In the small hours, though, she's basically a bucket of tears. She needs someone to take care of in order to forget about her own problems, and she finds that person through bizarre circumstances.
Your story, Radio Crazy, is set in a small North Dakota town. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?
I grew up in North Dakota and I love its desolation. I also was reading a lot in the news about the big fracking boom taking place in the northwestern part of the state, and thus the story came together.
What is the significance of the title?
That is an excellent question. Titling books is difficult. It's the absolute last thing I do before publishing. Every conceivable title has been used, sometimes more than once. I believe "Radio Crazy" popped into my head as I was writing the third act and it wouldn't leave. I considered it a working title, but it grew on me.
What did you learn from writing your first novel, Once In A Blue Moon?
That I could actually do it, first of all. Also that I loved immersing myself in people I (I!) have created. And that these people never quite do what you expect them to.
Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers?
Yes! I have no idea what I will title it, but it continues the family dynamic theme of my first two novels, yet there is an actual murder (and I still don't know who did it ~ there are so many people with a motive.) I'm not a plotter. I let the story take me where it wants to go, which is a big part of the fun of writing; but I'm already in love with my characters. Stay tuned!