Monday, February 28, 2011

Meet J. M. Dattilo

My guests today are Joe and Mary Clark Dattilo, co-authors (as J. M. Dattilo) of Time’s Edge, a sci-fi/fantasy novel.

JL: Let’s start things off by your telling us a little about the book.

JMD Time’s Edge is the first place winner of the Tassy Walden Award, a literary prize given by the Shoreline Arts Alliance of Connecticut. It's a sci-fi/fantasy tale with dollops of adventure, romance and humor. The narration from the book trailer is our favorite description of the story: Imagine being a Commander in the Galactic Armed Forces and on a mission so secret that you can’t be told what it is. Imagine being thrown into another time and place with no explanation. Imagine being stuck with a smart-mouthed computer, an ultra-correct android, and a seven-foot tall monster who knows both Santa Claus and Shakespeare. Imagine being lost in time with a woman who may either be falling in love with you or trying to kill you. Imagine being in a place that sits between worlds, dimensions, and times. Imagine Time’s Edge.

JL: What was the inspiration for this particular book?

JMD Time's Edge began as an idea Joe had while in college (nearly 30 years ago!). A science class got him to thinking about time travel and he wondered how a man from the distant future would view our present-day Earth.

JL: You write as a team. How did that come about, and how difficult/easy is it?

JMD We knew each other in college. While at a party, we began discussing plot ideas for Joe's time travel story and the next thing we knew, we were writing the book together. Is it difficult? Not really. We work very well together. Our basic method is for one to write a chapter and the other to edit the chapter. Often we each write the same chapter and then piece the best bits together!

JL: What’s your process in writing? Do you outline, or are you pantsers?

JMD We work with a very basic outline. We know where the story starts, where we want it to end up and some major points along the way. For everything else we trust to inspiration. This gives us a lot of creative freedom. We discovered early on that sticking to a detailed outline resulted in a too-rigid story. It's much more fun to place the characters in a situation and then see what they will do.

JL: How difficult was it to find a publisher for your work or, what was your path to publication?

JMD We had some publishing offers but we didn't like the predictable formulas which we would have been required to adhere to. (And if we hear the words "make it edgy" one more time...! Not every piece of fiction needs to be edgy!) So we opened our own publishing company, Cilcourt Books, and published Time's Edge via Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And we'd like to take a moment to brag that our sales are consistently in the top 1 to 2 percent with Time's Edge selling well world-wide.

JL: I understand you’re working on a sequel to Time’s Edge. When will it be available?

JMD Time's Secret is the next book in the series. It will be available in the Fall of 2011.

JL: Obviously you both like sci-fi and fantasy. Who are some of your favorite writers in the genre? Have any influenced your style?

JMD We really love Douglas Adams of "Hitchhiker" fame. Many others, too many to list, but a few are: Mary Stewart, Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury... As far as influence??? There isn't really one author that we could say overly influenced how we write. Our style is a melding of two authors, both avid readers, so we bring a wide-range of reading experience to our work.

JL: What other genres do you read?

JMD: Everything! We're pretty eclectic when it comes to reading. Mary likes mysteries, historicals, romances, fantasy. Joe reads adventure, historical, sci-fi and a ton of non-fiction.

JL: Any chance of a future book in some other genre?

JMD Never say never! We don't have anything planned right now. However, Mary writes plays. Her first play, "Francine's Will", won a first place award in the Nutmeg Players New Works Festival and is published by Playscripts. She is currently working on a play titled "Strange Capers".

JL: What do you do in the way of promotion for your writing?

JMD We have an author page on Amazon, a Facebook page, a blog and a Goodreads page (where we just wound up a book giveaway that drew over 1,000 entries). We also created a book trailer, which is available on all our sites plus Youtube. We speak at schools, libraries and bookstores and just about anywhere else we get invited.

JL: What’s your take on the future of the electronic novel versus print?

JMD: Ebooks are going to be BIG. The ebook version of Time's Edge outsells the paperback version 3-to-1. This is going to be a rapidly growing and changing format with ebooks becoming more interactive. We think extras like sound and animation will be standard features in e-novels in the near future. Personally, we still love books and we do not prefer to read books in electronic formats. Books are not going to disappear. They're just going to become less popular, especially with younger readers.

JL: What do you like doing aside from writing? Hobbies, interests, etc.

JMD: Hobbies! Where do we begin? Joe: Historical simulation gaming, photography, short-wave radio, and repairing the house (No, wait. That's a part-time job.) Mary: gardening, landscaping, drawing, acting. Both: hiking, travel, canoeing and getting into predicaments that often serve as the basis for some of the scenes in our books.

Thanks for joining me here today, guys. For more information on the Dattilos and their work, here are some links:
Amazon kindle:
Amazon paperback:
Barnes & Noble:

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Debt to Thorne Smith

I recently spent some enjoyable time watching a film based on a memorable character created by humorist Thorne Smith.

The film is “Topper,” produced by Hal Roach in 1937, directed by Norman Z. McLeod, and starring Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, Roland Young and Billie Burke. In addition to a superb cast and lots of laughs the film, nominated for two Oscars, features some wonderful music by Hoagy Carmichael. Topper is a staid and hen-pecked banker whose life is turned topsy-turvy by a fun-loving ghost couple, George and Marion Kerby.

The film reminded me of the debt I owe Smith, though his books and this film were produced before I was born. In fact, the film reminded me how many writers have been influenced by him—some probably even unaware of that influence.

Though most younger readers won’t even recognize the name, Thorne Smith influenced several generations of writers, particularly in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, and his ideas have been liberally lifted and reused in books as well as radio, television and film scripts.

I was introduced to Smith with the advent of the television series which had its debut in 1953 on CBS and starring Leo G. Carroll in the starring role. This led me to his books, which I discovered to have more depth and color than permissible on 1950s TV. Enamored of the theme, I was inspired to write a novella (my first long work) with a character I called Herkimer. Of course it was derivative and terrible. But it inspired me to keep trying and do better.

Would that have happened without Smith? Probably. But I still think I owe him a word of thanks for providing some incentive.

A native of Annapolis, Md., James Thorne Smith Jr. began his literary career as a poet, wrote a serious novel which failed, penned a mystery (“Did She Fall?) which was praised by Dashiell Hammett, and finally found his niche in humor. “Topper,” his best-selling work, inspired a film series, two sequels and a television series. Despite this success, high-living and poor money managing skills forced Smith to work in advertising to support his family. For a more complete biography and information on his career I direct you to the excellent tribute site,