Tom Mach wrote two successful historical novels, Sissy! and All Parts Together, both of which have won rave reviews and were listed among the 150 best Kansas books in 2011.Sissy! won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award while All Parts Together was a viable entrant for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Award. He also wrote a collection of short stories entitled Stories To Enjoy which received positive reviews. Tom’s other novels include: An Innocent Murdered, Advent, and Homer the Roamer.
His poetry collection, The Uni Verse, won the Nelson Poetry Book Award. In addition to several awards for his poetry, Writer’s Digest awarded him ninth place in a field of 3,000 entrants. His website is: www.TomMach.com He also has a popular blog for writers of both prose and verse at http://tommach.tumblr.com
Welcome to Immortality and Beyond Tom. Please tell us a little about your current release.
An Innocent Murdered is a murder mystery that would be considered a “whodunit” wherein a priest is murdered in the rectory with a suspect named Jacinta. This appears to be an open-and-shut case, a slam dunk, if you will because there is DNA evidence, a tape recording of her intention to murder him, her fingerprints on a cigarette butt left at the scene, her fingerprints on a photo at the scene, and a witness who claims to have seen her entering the rectory at about the time of the murder. But it’s not an open-and-shut case for Detective Matt Gunnison. The real murderer is out there and Matt still has to find him or her.
What inspired this particular novel?
I actually wrote the first draft of this novel back in the 1990s, when the media was filled stories about priests who were accused of committing pedophilia. I didn’t like the fact that all priests seemed to be painted with the same broad stroke since the vast majority were decent God-loving and God-fearing men. I wanted to turn the corner on this by asking what would happen if an innocent priest got murdered. Also, I was fortunate to have advice from a real detective on how such a case might be handled.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’m not sure anyone can really answer this question. I write because I have to, in the same way a person climbs a mountain because he/she has to. I thought about being an English professor when I went to high school because I loved literature and read a lot. But I never thought of myself as having a career in writing.
How do you keep your writing different from all the others who write in this particular genre?
The typical detective story is plot driven and the characters go through their motions to carry off the plot. An Innocent Murdered, on the other hand, is mainly character-driven. Before the priest is even murdered we learn a lot about him so when he is killed the reader cares about his murder. Also, the detective is more than a suit of clothes solving the case--he has faults, concerns, things that make him happy, things that sadden him. The reader ends up understanding this flesh-and-blood human being who happens to be a detective.
What was the hardest thing about writing this story?
It was difficult for me to write about a child molestation case. When I started this novel in the 1990s I struggled with how to do this because I felt I had to describe the molestation. I absolutely didn’t want that, and I left the manuscript alone for a long time. Just two years ago I made a decision to hardly mention the molestation and to give all my attention to the murder of the priest itself. The next hardest thing was for me to make the detective come alive. In the 1990s he was a stick figure, now in 2011 he is a three-dimensional caring human being.
What character was your favorite to write for in this story? Why?
Actually, it’s a tie between Detective Matt Gunnison and his friend Susan Stratford. Matt could not shake off his past when, as a teenager, his African-American girlfriend was murdered by a woman whom he now had to face as a suspect in the priest slaying. He struggles with that. Susan was a former nun who helped Matt solve the case but who had to trust Matt with her curiosity about sex even though she felt ashamed to bring it up to him. For her, sexual intercourse was both a sin and an epiphany.
Which was your favorite scene to write?
That would be the one where Matt and Susan enter the cellar of an abandoned rectory that is haunted by the ghostly sound of a little girl crying.
Will this become a series? If so, what inspired it to be a series?
I’ve thought about writing a series of detective novels that feature Matt Gunnison. I actually wrote a mystery in my short story collection entitled Stories to Enjoy. I’m still pondering whether I want to take the short story and expand it into a novel.
Now for a little fun, and into your everyday life. What is a day in your life like?
…5:00 am. Hey get your butt of bed and write. …8:00 am I really n-e-e-d that cup of coffee. …10:00 am Honey-do-this and Honey-do-that. …12:00 to 2 pm Find ways not to write. …3 pm Do crossword puzzle …5 pm--Write again if you expect to eat dinner.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Anything, as long as it doesn’t involve writing.
What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you.
That I came close to winning a Pulitzer Prize for All Parts Together (a novel about Lincoln), that I had a feature story on writer’s block that made the cover of Writer’s Digest. And that I once interviewed “Roots” author Alex Haley in his hotel room.
What do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
Right now I’m reading James Thurber. I love mysteries by James Patterson. But I also love the classics, especially novels by Dostoevsky.
Please tell us one piece of advice you were given as an author that you carry with you when you write?
One well-published novelist told me to always work on developing your characters because without great characters your novel is dead. I’ve always remembered that and pride myself on good character development.
What is one piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers?
My advice would be to spend 20% reading and 80% writing. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve approached me when I’m signing books and who say they’ve always wanted to write. Well, don’t talk about it, do it. Put your butt in a chair and write.
What are you currently working on?
Two books--one is a historical novel. The other is a Christian suspense novel.
Where can readers connect with you?
By clicking on my blog site http://tommach.com and then click on the “Contact Me” button on that side.
Father O'Fallon has been murdered, and police officer Jacinta Perez is arrested and charged. Detective Matt Gunnison, however, is not convinced and with the help of Susan, an ex-nun, he discovers a fascinating link between the priest's death and the death of a child 25 years ago. Will Matt be able to solve both murders?
See video: http://t.co/H1siZOg
“What’s critically important here,” Matt said, “is the time this event happened. Mr. Zylinski, you said you knew it was about 9:13 pm when this occurred. How would you know that?”
“It’s all in the deposition, sir,” the man replied. “I checked my watch just before I got to my car. I had to be somewhere at ten and didn’t want to be late.”
The attorney leaned forward, a smile on her face. “I am sure you learned by now, Mr. Gunnison, that the bank clock was correct after all. During the day, that clock was not set back an hour for daylight savings time, but it was corrected by the bank manager at 6:00 that evening. So it really was 9:13 after all.”
Matt was a bit miffed at her know-it-all attitude. “Thank you for pointing that out to me, counselor.”
Tom is offering one lucky commenter from his tour that he feels has the most intriguing comment a chance to win $50 Amazon Gift Card. So be sure to leave a comment with your email address for your chance to win.
Thanks so much for taking time to chat Tom, it's been a pleasure!