An Interview with Steve Tomporowski
by Nancy Bielot
Editor’s Note: Steve Tomporowski, who is an Engineer II in Middletown, published his second book in the “Raven of Iskander” series. This one is called, “Raven: Mirabelle,” and picks up where the first book in the series left off. Considering he has now published two books, we thought it was time for another interview.
So, now that you’ve published your 2nd book, what does that mean to you?
I wanted to publish the second book quickly so that my readers, and those yet to read my first book, would realize that I was committed to continuing and finishing the series. I’ll bring up George R. R. Martin again, although I can sympathize with his predicament, but he’s left his readers hanging for years for the next book in the Story of Ice and Fire series (otherwise known as Game of Thrones). Does it make me feel more like an ‘author?’ I don’t know. I just know that I have a path through to the end of the series and I want to get there. I’ve mentioned it before that I have already written the last two chapters of the series and it’s great. I want to get there.
How helpful was your editor, Yvonne Marrs, in the publication of this book? After all, she is the one who encouraged you to turn the first story into a book.
Yvonne is a great cheerleader and an excellent editor. You don’t hear negative things from her, only concerns on what works and what doesn’t and, of course, there are her skills at sentence structure and punctuation. We do get into disagreements over the differences between American and English! For example, in the scene where Chaoschick’s music stand falls over and she says ‘Five.’ Yvonne didn’t understand that the brunette was counting how many times it fell over. But those are the times that she is indispensable. I have added a lot of material to explain situations and concepts because she catches that stuff that the reader may not understand. One thing that I did learn is that the reader may not have retained all the details from the first book. While I know exactly what’s going on in my created world, it’s important to recap what happened and what was explained in the first book. I’d like to think that someone could pick up the second book—without reading the first—and not be totally lost!
What is “Raven: Mirabelle” about? Does it pick up where “Raven: The Call from Central” left off?
“Raven: Mirabelle” does pick up right after the events of the first book, “Raven: The Call from Central.” Very early in the first book, we find out that the team is going on a tour of the ‘Inner Circle.’ This is a reference to the earliest planetary colonies and those closest to Earth. The first stop is Mirabelle. I actually place the planet Mirabelle in an existing star system and that is mentioned in the book. I was surprised at how much happened to the team during their two week stay on Mirabelle. Just for teasers, the team encounters the Royal Family, irate hairdressers, ocean-going predators, and purple bears. As a spoiler, one of the team, raised by the ‘state,’ finally finds her Mom.
You mentioned that Tricia Blanks’ laugh found its way into your first book. Are any characters in this book based on people you know?
Some of the characters are based on me! Tricia’s laugh was intentionally added because I believe it really made that particular scene. Otherwise I don’t think I’ve consciously created a character based on real life, although I do seem to ‘borrow’ names. I particularly enjoyed taking our shipping virtuoso, Joe Fitzner, and making him a piano virtuoso. You’ll hear about him every time Raven practices the piano. What can I say, the name really fits the situation. By the way, Lily, the twitteral music teacher, will be back in the fifth book… and it’s going to be a surprise, well, at least to Raven. Then, Bob Masotti found himself in the first book, although he did complain that I murdered his name (the spelling, that is). That was intentional. One of the most bizarre names I did come up with is the manager of Iskandar, Francona Epstein, who was named after Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, who were the manager and general manager for the Red Sox in 2004. To get back to the question, I haven’t consciously added a person I know to the books. I’d say that I do take bits and pieces of people’s personalities and form a character from them. For example, the character that has Tricia’s laugh, Damaris Barcemusen—again, you’ll notice that I’m borrowing names—personality-wise is a lot more pompous that Tricia ever was.
Do the words just “flow” out of you for your books, or what/how do you write? Do you lock yourself in a room so you’re not interrupted, or what?
I have a ‘computer’ room down in the basement, and most of my writing is done on the same computer that I play games and balance the checkbook on. I do carry a USB memory (stick) so that I can do some writing during lunch. Between the two situations, I’d have to say that I’m always interrupted, which is why I don’t end up writing linearly. Whatever inspiration I have at the time is written down in a separate chapter, and I use a number to roughly correspond to where it will fit into the story. Then I will revisit it, add more to it, and then do the writing to make it flow from the previous chapters and into the subsequent ones. It’s sort of a continuous editing process. At some point I’ll put all the chapters together into the same file and then begin the almost endless process of reading through everything to see how it works.
When will the 3rd book in the series be published? How many books do you think will be in this series?
It will most likely be sometime next year. As opposed to what looks to be the fourth and fifth books, I had very little material to start with for Book 3. The major hold-up in writing the third book is imagining the societies the team will encounter during the tour. Mirabelle came out wonderfully with the royalty, but every planet needs to be different to keep the interest high. So Book 3, which currently has no title, will cover the rest of the planets on the tour. This does mean that the third book may be very long! The team does get themselves into and out of various problems on and off the field. Near the end of the tour, well, I’ll tell you it’s on Triballi, everything pretty much explodes. How many books? I had started off believing it would be 4 books. Now it looks like it will be at least 6. Book 4 will be about the break between seasons, and Raven takes a surprise guest home with her. Book 5 will encompass the beginning of the new season. Back in the first book, there was a reference to another Necris, Vysse, entering the Tournament. She’ll become a major character in Book 5.
Any other books/ideas rolling around your head?
Right now my intention is to publish a book of short stories before Book 3 comes out. I thought that I had quite enough short stories written over the last 40 years to fill a book. Of course, reading them now, all but a couple require substantial rewrites. Not to give too many spoilers, the title of this collection will be, “The Day the Elves Stole My Wife and Other Stories,” and, as a teaser, I’ll tell you that one of the stories will involve something I always wanted to see as a kid: a poltergeist at a baseball game.
Which brings up a point, one of the short stories is ‘The Last Hegemon.’ It’s actually a follow-up story to a novel I wrote in my 20’s, which I’ve dabbled with rewriting but never seriously. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel, basically about a single incident, pretty much a war. A lot of the stuff in it is pretty trite, so it does need a substantial rewrite. It may be published one day.
Oh, and one more thing about the collection… Yvonne Marrs has decided that she would like to try writing a short story and add to the collection. I’m not sure how she did it, but she convinced me that we should each write a short story about one of the other’s characters.
Now that you’ve published 2 books, what does your wife think? What do your kids think of having a dad who is not only an Engineer, but also a published author?
Nobody in my family has the enthusiasm of a Nancy Bielot! I’m not sure that anyone in my family has an idea on how significant it is to have a book published. Well, I’m not sure if I have any idea! My kids are all over Connecticut, and the ones I hear from think it’s ‘cool.’ My oldest daughter always gives me a like whenever I post on the Raven of Iskandar Facebook page. My wife occasionally asks me how sales are going. Oh, and I have been asked why I carry around a calendar for the year 2243. I just tell them pretty soon it will be 2244.
Since you have this series planned out of whatever number of books, is there going to be a series ‘arc’ or just a series of incidents in the life of Raven?
Although the first two books read more like a diary than a novel, there actually is a series arc which will be very important to the series. It is going to be reason that something very significant happens late in the series, and will eventually be the reason for the finale. Is that vague enough? The clues are in three or four places, maybe more, in the first two books, but they are so subtle that you’d have to be a rabid conspiracy fan to ferret them out. Early in Book 5 it will hit you square in the face. The result will make you think that the series will end on a depressing note, but it will turn around at the end.