Monday, January 30, 2012

Interview with Todd Keisling

This week we're giving away 5 books. That's right, FIVE! You can find out how to win at the end of this interview.
Hello, Todd, thanks for stopping by PYN. I see that you like writing in different genres. Which one do you think is your favorite?
I don't think I have a particular favorite. I started out writing horror stories when I was a teen, but I've dabbled in thrillers and pseudo-literary stories since college. These days I try to write stories that span multiple genres so there's always a little something for everyone no matter what their tastes are. I don't want to be known as a writer who can only write one type of story. I want to write them all.

I love this: "Mediocrity is a man-made disease. Affliction is a choice." And it seems to be a theme for you. How does this push you to be better?
I suppose it would be a theme for me, in some respect. When I wrote it, it was meant to underline a central idea in the story that people choose their own way in life, often to their detriment, and it's usually in a passive manner. In A Life Transparent (or ALT), there are repercussions for not living up to one's potential, such as permanent obscurity.
I try to live by it, taking it as the warning it's meant to be. I can choose to live up to my capabilities, or I can choose to take a passive role in my own life. The danger of taking an easier road is the obscurity referenced in the book. I'd rather be remembered for something.

What inspired this story?
I was 23 at the time, just out of college and working at a dead-end job. One day I went to work and no one spoke to me, sparking a simple thought: I could disappear and no one would notice. As I explored that idea, I uncovered some uncomfortable truths about myself. I wasn't happy at the time. I felt as though I'd squandered my potential, sacrificing my dreams for the sake of a steady paycheck. These truths surfaced in the narrative, reflected by the protagonist, Donovan Candle.

My favorite review so far was this: "I wanted a book that was 'out of the box' so to speak and I really got it!! This book is part scary,part sci-fi and part fantasy all rolled into one." How does that make you feel and is that what you were aiming for?
Honestly, when I wrote the book, I just wanted to see where the story would go. I knew it might have some supernatural elements, but I didn't expect it to wear so many different hats. What the story became helped shape my outlook on genres in general, and I think the review reflects this.
That being said, having a book that fits so many different categories does make it difficult to promote--ALT is certainly a niche book--but it also caters to many different readers. If a person likes thrillers, I can say "Yes, you'd like this," and the same applies if a person likes horror or paranormal fiction. Calling it sci-fi or fantasy is a stretch, but I can see where people might get the distinction. I do play around with alternate dimensions and supernatural creatures, after all.

What inspired these characters?
The characters in the story were a mixture of different things, borrowing from my own psyche, characteristics of people I’ve known, and basic archetypes I studied in school.
For example, the story's protagonist, Donovan Candle, is rooted in my own psyche. As I mentioned above, he's a projection of myself, but aged about ten years, about 30 lbs. heavier. He's an honest guy, tries to play by the rules, and deals with a lot of inner turmoil. He is your typical tortured writer trying to make it in a corporate environment. Naturally, a lot of my own insecurities manifest in his character - from his fear of not being able to provide for his family, to his fear of being unhappy. His transparent affliction--a thing called the "flickering"--stems from my fear of anonymity. That I may live and die without leaving some sort of legacy terrifies me. His devotion to his dreams is matched only by the devotion he holds for his wife.
I could spend a lot of time discussing the other characters, especially the villains, but I’d rather let new readers discover them on their own.

What was your favorite part of the research to create this book?
A couple of anecdotes come to mind:
1) In the early stages of the first draft, I polled co-workers about what they considered to be the most boring, mundane things in life. The results were varied, from infomercials to reality television to sales calls and listening to NPR. I had a lot of fun with it, and some of them (the calls and talk radio) made it into the story.
2) During revisions for the second edition, my editor asked if I’d ever fired a gun (I haven’t). She insisted that I do so, but it wasn’t something I could easily arrange, and we were up against a deadline. So I called my best friend who happens to be a card-carrying member of the NRA, and we spent about two hours on the phone discussing trajectory, recoil, how a bullet would react upon collision with solid concrete, and so on. The conversation accounted for about three sentences in the final draft, but it was a lot of fun learning about the intricacies of gunfire. I felt like a part of the Warren Commission.

So you’re writing Book 2. Is there anything you can tell us without giving away the plot? A teaser?
The second book is titled THE LIMINAL MAN. There isn’t much I can give away without spoiling the first book for readers. It takes place about a  year after the events of ALT and involves a growing number of disappearances across the city. Length-wise, it’s about twice the length of the first book. I think it’s a much darker, violent, heavier story, and it deals with themes of doubt, fear, and redemption.

I’m currently working with my editor on the third draft, and I expect one more draft before it’s ready for publication. We’re hoping to have it ready for print sometime this Fall.

Where can readers purchase your book?
A LIFE TRANSPARENT is available at all major retailers in hardcover, paperback, and digital formats:
May we read an excerpt from the book?
Sure thing:
Donovan raised the gun and peered around the corner of the shack toward the grove of trees. What he saw made a pit open in his stomach and all his insides fall into his feet.
The tiny, white things marched across the grass, a veritable army of them numbering in the thousands. They looked harmless while standing on the shoulders of others; now, as they advanced, he found their mass intimidating. There was more movement in his peripheral vision. A small wave of the little bastards crashed over the fountain, their pudgy bodies sprawling across the walkway. Their backward voices meshed into a constant, buzzing drone as they advanced.
He looked at the 9mm, then back at the swarming, white legion.
One of the things saw him. It screeched and pointed. The others cheered.
“I’m not seeing this.” His declaration fell deaf against their wall of reversed language. He tried to look away, but found he couldn’t take his eyes off them.
The throng of miniature albino soldiers marched onward. When they reached the plaza’s perimeter, Donovan turned and ran, managing only a few strides before he realized he was surrounded. The Lilliputian monsters streamed from all corners, over the grass, the benches, even on the limbs of trees. He was lost in the Monochrome wilderness, and had stumbled into a hive.
Donovan stepped back against the wall of the shack and raised the pistol. I’m going to die here, he thought. They’re going to drag me down and tear me to pieces.
The creatures stopped a few feet away. They chattered in unison, looking up at him from a sea of black, empty eyes.
“It is a shame Mr. Guffin could not follow instructions.”
The creatures fell silent as Aleister Dullington’s voice boomed overhead. Donovan felt the ground vibrate with each pronounced syllable. On the phone, Dullington was soft spoken, disarming. In the Monochrome, his voice thundered with authority, asserting one immutable fact: this was his kingdom, and here he was God.

Where can your readers connect with you on the web?

My website and blog are here:

I also frequent a social network or two:
A big thanks to Todd for letting us interview him. If you'd like to hear more, we'll be interviewing him live this Wednesday on our Blog Talk Radio show at 3:30 PST. To set a reminder for the show click here. To enter for a chance to win a copy of A Life Transparent please leave a comment along with your email adress.


  1. Great interview! Todd is an amazing writer, and ALT is definitely a story to check out. It's unlike anything I've ever read, which is a nice thing to be able to say ;) Can't wait for The Liminal Man!

  2. Sounds like an interesting book. Best wishes for your success. P.R. Mason

  3. That's really sad, the thought of no one saying a word to Todd all day. I can't imagine how that must've felt, but I can definitely see how it spawned the idea for Life Transparent.