When Gilbert Anderson takes a shortcut through the cemetery, he gets more than surprised. He gets the answers to the universe. More importantly, he finds a way to fix his broken family. The Mayor of Winchester Gates with his unique brand of fun and humor helps Gilbert bring love and understanding back into a household that has lived with unfathomable pain for longer than he knew. In the process, Gilbert learns what his mother and father have endured, and what his own personal journey will be.
Did you know that the secrets of the universe reside in a cemetery? Todd Lincoln Richards, has joined me today to take us on a ride through the humor within the pages of ‘The Mayor of Winchester Gates’. Todd, thanks for sharing a little of your time today to talk about your novel. I’m quite intrigued by the idea that the answers of the universe reside in a cemetery, and they can be used to fix a broken family. Where did the seeds of these ideas come from?
It started with a thought, a daydream of sorts. I imagined a boy walking through a cemetery at night and being approached by a really fun dead person, not a zombie thing, not scary, well… a little scary, but mainly surprising and fun.
Have you spent much time in cemeteries?
When I was a teenager, my Boy Scout troop used to maintain an old cemetery. It was incredibly run down, so we cleaned it up, stood up old headstones, cleared brush, mowed, etc. Parts of that experience were things that I remembered while writing this.
Those Boy Scouts do some fantastic things, and I’m sure the experience of cleaning up a cemetery would allow you to approach this tale from a different angle. Did you also carry out research alongside these personal experiences of cemeteries to add depth to your initial daydream?
I did. Ultimately, this book is about a family who lost a child to S.I.D.S. I did a considerable amount of research on the subject.
How did you approach the character development of this family who lost their child?
I don’t really know. That’s the great part about the creative process, when I leave myself open to just imagine things, they appear and develop. In this instance, when the story started to form on the page, it felt fun, though strangely mixed with tragedy. I wanted to explore the concept of healing in a non-traditional way.
Do you think that the exploring the concept of healing formed the characters, or instead was your viewpoint on healing and that side of the plot formed more by the personalities that emerged within the family?
I built the plot around the characters, their personalities and quirks were things that I wanted the plot to take advantage of.
Do you see this main family, and other characters within the book clearly enough to be able to cast them in your mind? Have you ever seen an actor and thought they would do justice to one of your characters?
Oh, I have no idea. Acting is something I know very little about. I’m sure there are a lot of actors who could play these parts, all I would ask is that they really apply themselves and bring a fun spirit to the roles.
I think that’s a reasonable ask for an actor. Is that fun spirit the most important aspect that you wanted to pass onto your readers? Or was there another point you feel you would prefer readers to take with them?
This will come across as sounding very hopeful, I suppose. I wanted there to be an underlying theme that love can be found in all things and in all situations, even tragic situations.
Do you feel that sharing this hope of love was the most satisfying point of this writing venture, or have you found rewards elsewhere?
The most rewarding part of writing this story was actually living inside it while it happened. My level of concentration sort of transports me to be with these characters and go through what they’re experiencing. So, I laughed, I cried, I went on the journey with them.
What did you learn from your journey that you joined your characters on?
Strangely enough, though I could never experience it firsthand, I learned a lot about what a mother’s life must be like, the sacrifices they make for their children and how delicate that situation is. I think most of us take Mom for granted, when in reality we owe most everything to her.
Mothers really do make huge sacrifices for their children and I agree that most of us owe our mothers more than we could know. If you could take on the experience of writing this novel again, would you change anything?
I’d drink a bit less coffee.
I wrote The Mayor of Winchester Gates during a particularly frenzied writing binge. For months I worked very long hours. It wasn’t healthy, but it was fun. When I get a good idea, I run with it, and I run hard, fast, and go as far as I can. I ride the wave right up onto the beach, so to speak. I tend to develop tunnel vision when writing a compelling story like this, everything else in my life takes a back seat.
I’m glad to hear that you had fun, and maybe next time you should add some cups of tea or decaf coffee into the mix! Speaking of next projects, are you currently working on a new writing project?
For the last 3 years I’ve been writing a gritty YA novel. I will have it out later this year. It’s called “Top.”
Good luck for your final straight of ‘Top’. I wish you the best of luck getting it out this year. Other than the coffee and caffeine addiction, what keeps drawing you back to write?
Well, I hate to admit this, but I’m not good at much else.
*Laughs* I love your honesty!
I love storytelling. It’s on my mind constantly. I simply feel the need to publish good stories. None of us are here forever, but I can leave these stories when I go.
To make sure you make efficient use of this limited time, do you make lists, or otherwise keep track of the top ideas you want to explore?
I do. I catalogue thoughts, ideas, sentences, words, images, anything that I think might have merit, anything that could possibly be the origin of a great story. Most of them get thrown away, but the really good ones turn in to something.
How does the process of turning the really good ideas into something unfold for you?
Both. It depends. Usually I have an outline, so I know where the story is going. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just let the characters develop and lead me around for a while, they’ll tell me where to go if I listen to them.
Are there any practices that you do to help your characters start speaking to you?
I tend to write in very concentrated bursts, consisting of 1,000-5,000 words a day, usually. But a lot of the hard work of writing is simply thinking, daydreaming, and putting the story together. I might think about something for years before I begin to write it.
Wow, those are some fairly decent word counts you’re hitting there. Do you find that music helps you power through those writing sessions?
No music for me. I need total silence to write.
Have you found yourself trying to tackle writer’s block in this silence?
I’ve never had writer’s block, thankfully. I’ve always been able to sit down and get at it. Some days are better than others. There have been days when I simply delete everything I’ve written, but I’m always able to put words on paper.
Do you do much editing of your work, other than those days where you’ve deleted everything you’ve written?
I do, but I have a few talented friends that are kind enough to give me valuable feedback from which I can make editing decisions. Editing is the heavy lifting. I spend about 3 times more time editing than I do writing. Usually, by the time I’m done, the book has been edited 4-5 times from cover to cover, and re-written about 5 times. To get a 100,000-word novel, I typically write about 300,000 words.
Wow, that’s a huge number of words and culling a third of them highlights the strength of the final output. As you’ve written several books now, have you started working on your own author brand to call attention to your strength as a writer?
No. I’m a very poor businessman. I understand how important that part of writing is, but I have little interest in it and tend to neglect this part, to my own detriment. My main concern is creating. The rest of it is an afterthought. I know this isn’t good business, but I don’t care that much. Yes, I would like my books to be read by millions, but I’m just not the guy who’s willing to do heavy marketing. I’ve grown to dislike most social media, I think it brings out the worst in many people, and in recent times I’ve stopped spending time on it. I check my Facebook account about once a month. I just have better things to do.
I can completely understand your reticence to join the social media train when instead you could spend your day writing and exploring your creativity. As an author who has been self-published several times over now, is there any advice you’d like to impart to those new to the field?
I would tell any author that they need to realize that publishing a book is like pouring a cup of water into the ocean. If you’re definition of success is anything other than writing the best book you possibly can, then your priorities will lead you to heartbreak.
Publishing really is one big ocean isn’t it? We’ve now worked our way through all of the intense writing related questions in our interview, and I’m hoping we can take a few minutes to explore the more light-hearted side of Todd via the quick fire question round. Let’s get this kicking with: Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Be kind and generous. I try to do this. Some days are more successful than others.
As long as you keep trying everyday you’re going the right way with that. Where is the line between insanity and creativity?
I’m not sure there is one.
Interesting, I like this answer, I’m not really sure there’s a solid line out there between those two poles. What is your day job, and does it influence your writing?
I work with people who are struggling with mental health and addiction issues. I don’t think it influences my writing, but I find it very rewarding.
I’m glad you’ve found rewards with your self-professed limited skill set outside of the writing arena! And of course to leave our readers with a very important insight to your personality, can you tell us what your favourite flavor of ice-cream is?
I love vanilla, always have.
I have to admit to being quite particular to that really nice vanilla. The best vanilla contains the seeds! Todd, thank you again for joining me today to explore the graveyard within the pages of ‘The Mayor of Winchester Gates’ and I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming release of ‘Top’.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘The Mayor of Winchester Gates ( ASIN: B00LSDLIEA )‘.
Want to find out more about Todd Lincoln Richards? Connect here!