Happy Friday! Today is an important day! It’s No-Alarm Day Eve!
Last week, I showcased Nathan Timmel’s We Are 100 as a spotlight and a review. Since then, I had the opportunity to do a written interview with him and get to know him a little better! A comedian who has performed in various places, including overseas for American troops, he has six albums and several previous books, but We Are 100 would be his first fiction book. He’s been a joy to work with and he gave some great answers to my questions!
And so, for the first ever author interview on Cozy with Books, I present: Nathan Timmel!
I know you have a handful of previous books, but they were all nonfiction, what made you give fiction a go? Any inspiration in particular?
I am, at my core, a stand-up comedian; standing on stage and making people laugh is my favorite thing in the world.
(My wife and kids aren’t going to see this, right? Um, maybe standing on stage is my second favorite thing, after my family. Heh.)
That said, like any normal human, I have “unfunny” thoughts and ideas. The work of fiction became my way of getting those not-funny thoughts out of my head and into the world.
When was the first time you wrote a book? How long did it take from idea and first draft to publication? What about for “We Are 100?”
First time would be somewhere around 2010.
This is embarrassing, but true, so I’ll admit to it—I’d been blogging for about six years, and “everyone” was saying, “OMG, you should write a book!”
Well, I let my ego feed off those kind compliments and did just that: wrote a book. I Was a White Knight…Once came out in 2011, which means it took about a year to write and put out into the world.
We Are 100 follows somewhat the same timeline, with one big twist: the pandemic.
In 2019, I began writing and was moving along at a fairly decent clip. When I’m on the road performing, I have all day in a hotel room with nothing to do, so that’s when I got the majority of the work done.
When the world came to a standstill in 2020, so did my writing.
Thankfully, my wife had a job that allowed her to work from home, so I became Daddy Day Care. We have two wee ones, and I had to keep them on track with Zoom school, keep tabs on them when they weren’t in “school,” and run the household. At night, then, I was too exhausted to write.
When the schools opened up again, then, I was able to get back to business and finish everything up.
The moral of the story is that because the book came out in March of 2021, I had plenty of people saying, “Wow, you wrote a book during the pandemic? All I did was watch Netflix and get fat.”
Well, all I did during the pandemic was watch Netflix and get fat(er), too. So don’t beat yourself up.
How did the writing process, between nonfiction and fiction, differ for you?
I don’t want to say, “nonfiction is easier,” because that might cheapen it a little. The truth is, though, nonfiction is easier.
If something really happened, your story is already there. All you have to do is type down the words.
With fiction, oh boy. You have to have an idea, it has to make sense, you have to dream up the characters, the dialogue, the action…
Yeah, fiction is a pain in the tuckus.
So, the writing process was different in that fiction takes much more imagination and effort.
You’ve written many books by now, including the smaller ebooks. Has your writing process differed from your first book to now?
I don’t know that anything has changed. I’m struggling to come up with an interesting answer here, because I think—not that I’ve ever examined the process—I just sort of… write. When it’s done, it’s done, and that determines what it’s going to be (long form book or mini-eBook).
What was/is the hardest and easiest part of writing for you?
The hardest part is the writing; getting that first draft out of my head and into the computer. The easiest part is the editing. Once everything is on the screen in front of me, altering sentences, making new word choices… that’s fun to me. I like the tinkering process much more than the “barfing everything up” part of writing.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I haven’t had to deal with that yet.
*knocks on wood*
I don’t know if there are right and wrong ways to write, but I only write when I “feel” like it. I know some people set aside a certain chunk of time every day to focus on writing, but that’s not how I operate.
I don’t like the idea of forcing myself to do anything. It’s like eating broccoli; I didn’t like it as a kid, but I grew into loving it as an adult. Same thing for writing, only without the kid/adult aspect.
If I sat down and forced myself, “OK, gotta write two pages today,” I’d probably churn out garbage.
So, I sit down to write, and if I write, I write. And if I don’t, oh well. I’d rather create something organic over something that felt pressured.
Do you have a favorite book amongst your own published ones? What about favorite book/s in general?
A favorite book of mine… hmmm… *scrunches up face thoughtfully*
I suppose if I had to pick, I might say that both books I wrote to my kiddos come close to the top.
When my daughter (firstborn) arrived, my wife came across a letter going viral online. A celebrity had written to their baby; a note for the infant to read when a young adult. My wife liked that idea, and said I should write to our tiny human. I did, and then kept going.
Every week I was on the road performing comedy, I’d sit in my hotel and write to my daughter. I told her where I was, what we did that week, and stories from my life.
I did that for an entire year, and after reading all the letters, my wife said, “You should publish these.”
So I did.
Then our son came along, and not wanting to be in the unenviable position fifteen years down the road of being told, “You never wrote a book for me!” I followed the same pattern for him.
These books are called It’s OK to Talk to Animals (and Other Letters from Dad), and Hey Buddy (Dubious Advice From Dad).
As far as favorite books, I really enjoy both Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis. They’ve written some truly great works.
So has Sebastian Junger.
And Jon Krakauer.
I better stop now, otherwise I’ll just start running down a list of authors I enjoy.
How do you use social media as an author?
Ah, another embarrassing moment of truth…
Like anyone, I try and use social media like a big, flashing neon sign: Hey! Pay attention to me! Buy my book! Please?
Social media plays to our ego, doesn’t it? We use it to try to focus attention on ourselves, and I am a slave to its siren song as much as the next person.
What was the inspiration behind “We Are 100?”
I’m not a fan of injustice, and I get frustrated watching the news.
Sometimes it seems like there are very clear, obvious truths—like the idea drug companies shouldn’t be able to raise the price on medication just to increase profit—that get ignored by the powers that be.
The book is my sick… “fantasy,” I guess, about righting many of the wrongs I see in the world around me.
Who is your favorite character in the book? Least favorite or maybe most disliked? Personally, my favorite character was the main antagonist followed by Kristin, Michael, and then Susan. Hated that cop in the beginning though.
Ah, you make me blush, and here’s why: the main antagonist is based on me.
Most writers like to model themselves after the hero; the guy (or gal) who saves the day and gets the girl (or guy).
Johnny Squarejaw had an athletic build that made women swoon and men jealous. When he was on the case, criminals had to watch out…
That sort of thing.
Not me, heh.
I made myself the bad guy, because that’s who I identified the most with.
I mean, sure, I fictionalized him by making him intelligent and successful, but his beliefs are based on my beliefs.
When you get to the end of the book and understand his motivations, those motivations came from the question, “What would it take to put me in a position where I would act out in disruptive ways?”
Once I had that answer, I had a starting point for the book, and once I started writing I was like Forrest Gump jogging non-stop across the country.
I think I just sort of have the other main characters on the same plane of existence.
I do know that my least favorite character is the lawyer in Seattle. We don’t really meet him, we just get a description from another character’s point of view, but that guy is based on a real person (many in the book are), and when I read about him it made my skin crawl.
(Sorry about being vague, but I don’t want to give anything away.)
Some of my favorite Youtubers are/were once stand-up comedians and have said that a lot of their content and jokes came from personal experiences. There were occasionally some little inside jokes between Susan and Michael; things like how the flights worked on the job and such. Was that from research or personal experiences (like stories from FBI buddies?)
Google was my very good friend while writing!
I looked up many, many things to make my fictional world realistic.
At one point, I believe I wrote about a train in Oklahoma. I researched a train schedule there, and used Google Maps to look at the roads the tracks cross.
The internet has a lot to offer if you use it correctly.
I love watching movie bloopers and editor cuts of scenes that never made it into the actual movie or even those that did make it, but ended up cut out of the final product. Were there any “editor’s cut” scenes in your book? Given that there were so many different killers and victim scenes/chapters?
I’m trying to think if there’s anything I cut, but am drawing a blank.
I wrote as I went along, and didn’t have a master plan or outline or anything. So I didn’t have the problem of realizing, “Crap, I [sic] do I shoehorn this person into the mix? I just wrote myself into a corner.”
Will there be more fictions to come?
I don’t know. I really don’t.
One of the dumbest things I’ve probably done is to just put this book out with the thought, “And that’s how it all ended.”
The feedback I’ve gotten from people—the volume of very kind folk saying they want more from Susan and Michael—is overwhelming. And I mean that in a positive way.
I don’t have any ideas in my noggin in the moment, and I absolutely do not want barf something up for the sake of “cashing in.”
So… we’ll see.
Hopefully an idea will hit me, and I’ll start writing again soon. If not with these characters, with new ones.
(See what I mean when I said nonfiction was easier?)
Favorite website, blog, resources, etc. for writing? Or maybe just content in general? (I love me my Pinterest and WordPress readers app).
I really, really like On Writing Well, by Zinsser, and The Elements of Style, by Strunk. Those two books are bibles to me.
Do you have any tips for new writers?
Lol, yes! Get the two books I just mentioned!