Welcome to the Virgil Thompson page. The question I hear the most has an amazingly simple answer. Go ahead. Ask.
How does one become an author?
One becomes an author by writing. I've been writing all my life. I write because I can't help it. If there were no computers, typewriters, and printers, I'd write with pen and paper. If there were no pens and paper, I'd write in my mind and stand around the camp fire telling stories. I'll tell stories forever.
I write character-driven suspense, thrillers, and epic fantasy. Contemporary, futuristic, pre-industrial. Doesn't matter. When I was in school and, later, while I was married, I wrote late at night after my family went to sleep. I couldn't stand to keep the words in my head. I had to let them out. A manuscript that's about three hundred pages takes about a month. I used to write from about midnight (after a power map) until four or five a.m. People used to say I had to publish my work so I could get some sleep.
My advice to writers is write. Yeah, everyone says that. It's still true. Write. Don't listen to critics. Don't listen to your inner-critic. Write for yourself. Then ... After you're finished, put your work away. I write hard when I am on a first draft. I go, go, go. I've found that an outline works for me. Doesn't work for everyone but writing with an outline works for me. I like to have research at my fingertips when I'm on a first draft. In Body Snatcher, my protoganist becomes bait for an otherwordly creature called a morfran by standing in the middle of a cage, a very strong cage, while sharpshooters aim down on the beast. The creature has come around for dinner. You can't buy this kind of cage at Home Depot. You need to build it. How strong does the cage have to be? The answer, I realized, was a very interesting foray into the world of cage-building. The strength of the cage would be very important to the poor bastard stuck inside. A good friend asked about door hinges and power locks, hardwiring, and what happens when power is dropped. I like research.
When you can't write, read.
As I said, when you complete the first draft, put away your work. I write book-length fiction, so I prefer to let my first drafts sit a month. When I pick up the manuscript, I'm looking for cohesion. Can I see on the pages what I saw in my head when I typed the first draft? Are my characters alive? Are my characters vivid? Do I understand the characters' motivation? Does the story have a good pace? Are there loose ends?
In a completed manuscript, I found a section wherein two characters are saying farewell. One character is not expected to survive the next chapter. The characters have been friends since boyhood. They do the equivalent of "Bye, see ya." I don't know how many edits this error survived. Finally, I'm slapping myself on the head, going, "Look what you've done."
Word processors are heaven. Edit, people. Edit. Get rid of everything you don't need. Watch your pace. Remember that you are writing to tell a story. Write the first draft for yourself. Then edit to tell a story.
Never stop writing. Have I mentioned this?
I started Final Things: A Novel of Suspense as a "what if" to an older manuscript. The older manuscript was a murder mystery. While the older story was in edit, I began to wonder how one of its characters would handle going to prison. No just going to prison. How would he handle going to death row? The character was facing the death penalty at trial. His concept of the penalty was quite off the mark and necessarily ill defined. There was so much going on at trial and behind the scenes. The idea of "incarceration until death" was not, in this character's mind, an option. I knew him so well by the end of the second edit that I was capable of writing ten pages on his final hours. The piece was "first person" and present tense. It was quite draining. Scary. Inadequate. Also naive. I recognized right away the difficulty writing from the inmate's perspective, even when the inmate is wrongly convicted. I was a little intimidated. A few years later, my interest in the ten-page "final hours" piece got a jolt. I suddenly wanted to do it. I knew I could write about an innocent on death row, tell how he got there / who really did it / why. I already had tons of research. I was weak on the corrections side. I found corrections officers eager to talk (unofficially) about their work and I went to the witness room outside the death chamber in Raleigh, North Carolina. (No one was in there!) The challenge was to tell Final Things with the protagonist's voice. Could I see prison as my main character saw it? Could I feel prison with my senses, my mind, watch seasons come and go from a maximum security cell and know I was not getting out of prison except through a sterile needle? I have to say I love most challenges. Final Things was a challenge.
I have recently (summer, 2005) completed an epic fantasy about a condemned prince and a weapon of wizadry. If it had a back cover, the description would read: Here is a tale of heroic deeds, a power descended of an ancient race, and a love that defied destiny. It's working title is The Gilding. Look for it!
For the remainder of the summer I will be directing my energy to putting out a magazine on which I am collaborating with a number of amazingly talented individuals. The magazine will feature up and coming authors writing horror, fantasy, and crime fction. Look for it this fall. It's called Shadow in the Window.
Oh, yeah, someone always asks. Is Virgil your real name? No, Virgil Thompson is my pen name. Weird? Maybe but I like it. I've written as Ryan C. Charles, too. What else? I am a woman. I was born in March under the sun sign Aries. My favorite author? I'll never have just one. My favorite fantasy authors are (not in this order) Guy Gavriel Kay (Sailing to Sarantium, Lord of Emperors), Tanith Lee (The Gods Are Thirsty, The Birthgrave Trilogy, The Novels of Vis, Tales From The Flat Earth, The Secret Books of Paradys), John Maddox Roberts (The Seven Hills, the SPQR series), and Carol Berg (The Bridge of D'Arnath series, Song of the Beast, Restoration). I will devour anything Cecelia Holland puts out. I am in debt to Rosemary Sutcliffe and Mary Renault for bringing to my doorstep and the stage of my mind the past in vivid color. My favorite contemporay fiction authors are Colin Harrison (Manhattan Nocturne, Afterburn, The Havana Room, Break and Enter) and Scott Turow (Reversible Errors, The Laws of Our Fathers, Personal Injuries, Presumed Innocent). I adore Peter Straub and Stephen King. I don't have a favorite film, although my favorite actor is Gerard Butler (Dear Frankie, Beowulf & Grendel, The Phantom of the Opera)). I've been blown away by many films for many reasons, including epics like Lawrence of Arabia, Dances With Wolves, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and The English Patient. My favorite stage-to-film musicals are West Side Story and The Phantom of the Opera. With films, I could go on and on. I love the movies. I'll go by myself if I have to.
Final words of wisdom? From me? Lol. How about this? Forget what everyone tells you and just do what you love.
All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2005 Virgil Thompson.
7365 Main Street Ste. 325 Stratford CT USA 06614
No part of this page may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the author.
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