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Thomas Robins: The pull of family

Another guest post from the members of LOOW (the League of Extraordinary Woolwrights) – this time we’re visiting with Thomas Robins, the author of the popular SF novel Desperate to Escape – and someone who’s well educated on the subject of family!

20215748d8d60ad8986cef_L__V380644920_SX200_Carol Davis, friend and author extraordinaire, asked me to write a few words on the subject of family. I will do my best to contain myself, but I have written tens of thousands of words on the topic. I have two degrees in Family Studies
(bachelors and masters level degrees). I find the topic of family systems endlessly fascinating. When I talk about my area of study, I often hear this comment: “There’s no such thing as a functional family.” I beg to differ. There are a plethora of functional families, only none of them look the same.

5126maGf2SL__AA160_If I’m not careful, I’ll start regurgitating one of the lectures I used to give undergraduates in the intro class I taught years ago. Let me, instead, talk about how I conceptualize families in my writing. The thing I always try to keep in mind when I am developing characters is that we act in ways that sustain the system we are in, while desiring change as little as possible. Usually, a main character will undergo a transformation during the course of a novel, but those in his or her environment (including family) will work to regress the protagonist back to the norm so the friends and family can keep living the life they are used to (thereby avoiding change). The compelling story isn’t a main character who bests the bad guys, but the main character who can escape the pull of friends and family.

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Will Swardstrom – It’s a Swardstrom thing

Another member of LOOW (the League of Original Woolwrights): Will Swardstrom, who’s the author of SF thriller Dead Sleep and a number of short stories, including Ant Apocalypse and Contact Window.  It’s becoming a rule in his family: if you’re a Swardstrom, you write!

46d767c7f20f0a823908a6_L__V340853896_SX200_A casual look through the books and stories I’ve written shows a clear involvement of my family in my writing. I can’t help it. I think it’s the middle child thing.

Lemme back up. My name is Will Swardstrom and I’ve been doing this Indie Author deal for about a year and a half. As I kept writing and publishing, my siblings took notice. My sister Betsy decided to try her hand at writing fiction and my brother Paul picked up a pen for the first time in a long time. Collectively we published a set of short stories we called “Baking With Swords.” (Cuz my last name is Sward-strom and my sister’s married name is Baker…) It was definitely a labor of love. I really wanted 51zPFpWq5GL__AA160_to give my brother and sister a small taste of the publishing business and the fun I’ve had with it, but coordinating three distinctive personalities who each don’t want to hurt the others’ feelings can be difficult. (That’s the middle kid personality – soothing over arguments and hurt feelings.)

My brother continued to write a little and came up with a story he was stumped on. “Come on in. Play in my toy box,” he said. I played and tinkered. It was a lot of fun, being able to stomp around in someone else’s story and see the passion they had for it. In the end, we put both our names on the short story “Hotbox Runner,” and published it this summer.

51QeAV4EUAL__AA160_What’s happened since then? Well my retired dad has taken to writing as well. From what he’s said (I haven’t read any of it yet), it sounds like a massive space epic and I would love to see it come together. My younger brother also now works in publishing (albeit working in a book publisher’s warehouse, but still…).

Ultimately, though, I wouldn’t have even gotten to where I am without the love of reading and education from both of my parents. The bookshelves were never “full” at my house. There was always room for more and that’s what really drew me into reading as a kid. I knew there would never be an end to the adventures I could have in the pages of a book.

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Logan Thomas Snyder: Three Memories

I might not have entered indy publishing at all if it weren’t for the members of LOOW — the League of Original Woolwrights, a group of writers who came together through their love of Hugh Howey’s WOOL series.  We’re each other’s sounding board these days, a great group of very creative folks, and I thought you’d like to meet them.  I chatted with Dave Adams, Fredric Shernoff and Will Swardstrom when I started this blog; now it’s Logan Thomas Snyder’s turn!  Along with his Wool-inspired novel The Disappeared, Logan is the author of the SF epic The Lazarus Particle and the short story Becoming Violet, which he’s turning into a series.

60481049e8c30a9004842c_L__V348212331_SX200_When Carol asked me to write about how my family has influenced my writing, three distinct memories from childhood came to mind…

The first is my parents reading to me. I remember them reading to me constantly while I was growing up, and not just kids’ books, either; I have vivid memories of them reading me Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and Stephen R. Donaldson’s “Thomas Covenant” series when I was 9 or 10 years old.

517TioDVzbL__AA160_The second is a birthday gift my Aunt Judy gave me not long afterward. It was a dictionary. Most preteens probably would have chucked it without a second thought, but I loved it. A book of words! The very best words in the English language, no less! For years, that dictionary was like my bible. What made it even more special was the inscription: “Logan, This family needs an author. I hope this helps you on your journey. Love, Aunt Judy.” (Sadly, Aunt Judy passed last year, but she did live long enough to see me self-publish Part I of The Disappeared, and for that I’m so grateful. Part II is dedicated to her, and remains the only time I’ve dedicated one of my books to a single person.)

41prZAZaSbL__AA160_The third memory is watching my older brother write a story when he was 16. I was 8, and I asked him what he was doing. He explained to me that he was writing a story. At that point in my life, it had never really occurred to me that stories don’t just spring into existence. They’re born from the blood, sweat, and tears of authors, of creators… and my brother was one of them. Long before I discovered my favorite authors or the novels that would change my life forever, my number one influence was my brother the writer.

So, that’s it! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to grab a tissue and thank my family for raising me the way they did.

You can find Logan’s author page at Amazon here.

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Look at that! I’m going to zero in.

The common wisdom in the indy publishing biz is that you have to pick ONE THING — one arena — one subject.  You have to essentially become a one-trick pony, and do that trick over and over and over again, and pimp it relentlessly.

But anyone who knows me (or most of the members of my family) knows that the quickest way to get me to balk is to tell me, “You HAVE TO [fill in the blank].”  As a young friend once said, “That no work for me.”  So nope… I’m not going to write only sweet romance.  Or sci-fi.  Or supernatural mystery.  Or women’s fiction.  I’m not going to set up one series and write 500 chapters.  Because Oh Dear God.  That would be the fastest route to complete insanity for me.  It would suck all the fun out of telling stories.

What I *am* going to do is pick a theme — one that’s appeared over and over again in all the stories I’ve written over the years.  One that’s dear to my heart, because examining it helps me understand the people I love, and understand myself.

FAMILY.

The one we’re born with.  The ones we build through marriage, through friendship, through shared experience.  Our larger family as members of the human race.  As has been true in the stories I’ve written in the past, the backdrops will be different.  I may write about places you recognize, or worlds that exist only in my imagination, but I hope my characters will be people who seem familiar — people you’ll like, that you’ll cheer for or cry with.  With luck, they’ll help you understand yourself and the people you love just a bit better.

Here at the blog, I’ll be talking with some terrific creative folks about the examination of family in their own works.  Now and then, we’ll be holding some giveaways, and we’ll point you toward some great new books.  We’ll ask questions, and answer them.  As our family of readers, I hope you’ll enjoy the journey!

Look for a couple of posts a week.  And if you’d like to do a guest post, by all means drop me a line!