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Interview With Author Tom Pinney

Today, I am thrilled to be bringing you an interview with author Tom Pinney.

Tell me about yourself.

I was born and mostly raised in Texas and the South, my dad was a minister and my mom is an accountant. Because of my dad’s job, we moved around quite a bit, and I ended up in Columbus, OH for the last few years I was in high school. When I graduated from high school, I attended Ohio University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in political science, competing on the speech and debate team all four years and earning a national title in debate among a host of other regional and state awards. After graduating, I went to Northwest Missouri State in pursuit of a master’s degree in education, and to make a long story short I found out I was never going to be able to finish so I left graduate school. In the meantime, I spent some time as a print and radio journalist, a rental car franchise manager, and now I am in apartment leasing and management in the DFW area of Texas. I also began a new master’s degree in social sciences through Ohio University online.

How long have you been writing?

In a very technical sense, I started writing very early with a short story in third grade that was hung on the fridge in my house when it received an “A”, and I wrote my first book between the 7th and 9th grade. In a way, that book – which will never hit shelves for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I’ll need to completely rewrite it for it to be legible – led me to write Offensive Rebound, as it gave me a love for storytelling. This is my first official book, and it represents my first creative-style writing since high school.

What do you like to read?

I love to read young adult fiction novels (by authors like Jordan Sonnenblick) and political fiction novels (like James Patterson and John Grisham).

Tell me about ‘Offensive Rebound’

For a one-sentence synopsis, Offensive Rebound tells the story of high-school senior John Wolfe as he attempts to shrink back to a comfortable state of notoriety after becoming an advocate for mental health issues in his school because of his own struggles.

The longer version is that the main character, John Wolfe, makes an attempt on his life in the middle of his junior year in the depths of his first bout with chronic depression, and after quite a bit of therapy, he decides to come clean to his entire school and tell them that they are not alone if they are feeling the way he is. This catapults him to a place where everyone knows him and wants to be his friend, and introvert that he is, he doesn’t much like that, so when he begins his senior year, he just wants to exist quietly, do the play (which he loves), and find his way out of his hometown when he graduates. But life doesn’t work that way, as there are a few people who want to mascot him because of his mental illness, including the basketball coach who is pursuing a third consecutive state championship as well as his ex-girlfriend who is looking to rekindle their relationship as a way to preserve her goodwill.

What inspired you to write it?

For the most part, two things. First, I had an idea while driving an hour and a half between Kansas City and Maryville, MO that someone should write a story about a kid who survived his attempted suicide to see what happens next, and I decided instead of giving it to one of my creative writing major friends, I would write it myself. As I started writing, I realized that I was basing John – his mannerisms, his wit, his personality – on myself, so I decided to make him me, but 65% more brave and good at basketball. He became an advocate in high school while I became one in college; he went into therapy immediately while I waited until I was in college (mostly because I was in denial). Save for the suicidal ideation, his timeline differs from mine by about 5 years.

What was your journey to publication?

I spent around 3 years – almost exactly – writing the book, during which time I had about 10 people reading chapters as soon as I could release them. I also had a close friend, Kyriana, serving as my editor and giving me content advice and proofreading for me. After that, I spent about a year shopping the book around to a few more friends to get more advice on the contents before starting to send it to publishers. I was mostly contacted by vanity publishers until Tea with Coffee Media requested the full manuscript after loving the treatment, and a few months later, I got a final interview; the contract came a few days later.

What are you working on now?

“Working” seems like a loaded term at the moment; I have a few ideas for my next book if I decide to pull the trigger on it, but I’m not terribly confident in them yet. I know that any future books that I write will have to do with mental health issues because I want to continue to break the stigma surrounding mental illness.

What comes first for you, the plot, or the characters?

They kind of come together, as the plot usually centers around the main character. For this one, I thought about how we hear so much about the people around someone who successfully committed suicide, but we don’t hear much about the people who survive their own attempts. So the plot – what happens when someone survives their own attempt – centers around the character. From there, the other characters really wrote themselves: a twin sister who feels a need to protect him and feels like she was asleep on her watch, a best friend who knows exactly what the main character needs, a love interest with a unique ability to connect to him. With that kind of inspiration, the rest of the plot writes itself.

What animal do you most relate to and why?

I like to think that I relate most to dogs with their joi de vivre, but my partner believes that I’m more like a cat – I don’t like leaving my home more than I absolutely need to, I thrive on naps and good food, and it takes me a while to let new people into my circle.

What advice would you give a first-time author?

When you get an idea, run with it. You never know what’s going to end up being good or bad until you actually do it. One of my characters talks about how musicians keep playing nonsense until something sounds good, and that every hit song is backed by 100 attempts that sounded like utter garbage, but you will never know what sounds good or bad until you actually play it. Writing is the same; you don’t know what reads well and what doesn’t until you put the words on a page.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Like I said before, I’m currently working as an apartment leasing coordinator in DFW. I also play 7 instruments, enjoy video games, snuggling with my dog and staring lovingly into my partner’s eyes. I know that sounds cutesy, but she’d back me up on it – I once literally watched her just doing her thing for the 3.5 hours between when I got home from work and when it was bedtime.

Thank you to Tom for sharing his story inspired by his own journey. If you would like to check out Tom's work, click on the links below;

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