Author Interview: Tod Niretac Tinker
Community can be a very important thing for writers. We naturally spend a great deal of our time alone crafting our tales and finding others who can support and commiserate with us during the long process of creating work fit for public consumption is immensely motivating. We also tend to devour craft books with abandon and I personally am always on the hunt for a good writing how-to that resonates with my style and goals. Tod is a trifecta author. Not only is he an award-winning author (and a pleasant conversationalist), he's also a motivating force for my online writing group and an amazing editor. Today marks the release of his first writing tips book, Fiction Tinker's Guide to Whimsical Worlds. Not only did I get to snag an advance copy of this helpful guide, I had the honor of interviewing Tod all about the process of creating Whimsical Worlds.
About the author (official bio from the Balance of Seven website): Tod Niretac Tinker is the editor and author of multiple award-winning books. Tod grew up dreaming of fantastical worlds and creatures, leading him to author a series of young adult spiritual/fantasy novels: Peace of Evon, Gift of War, and Lost King. With his degree in Applied Mathematics, he was gifted with the best of both worlds—a love of language and a keen eye for details. He holds a certificate of editing from the University of Chicago.
In addition to being co-owner of Balance of Seven, he is the owner of D Tinker Editing and provides authors with freelance developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, and formatting services. He teaches master classes on worldbuilding and point of view and is an active contributor to the Houston Writers Guild anthologies. As a seasoned author himself, he understands the personal nature of writers’ works and strives to make their words and style shine.
Tell us what compelled you to begin your writing journey. What education have you pursued and the experience you’ve gained that has brought you to this point?
I’ve had stories in my head for as long as I can remember, but when I was thirteen, I befriended a girl in my class who was an artist in so many ways. She painted, drew, wrote poetry, and wrote fanfiction. Her writing inspired me to put my stories down on paper, and it was that year that I decided I wanted to be a writer.
I didn’t pursue writing in school because nonfiction writing didn’t appeal to me and I was urged to study something that would get me a paying career. The closest I came was a creative writing class I took during a three-week stint at Cambridge for their pre-college program.
I started writing the first book I really wanted to finish during my first year of university. School and eventually the search for a job pushed my writing aside, but two years after I graduated, I rededicated myself to writing. Two years later, I self-published my first book, Peace of Evon: Missing Heir.
Now, this is where I tell people to do as I recommend, definitely not as I did. When I published Peace of Evon: Missing Heir, I had no editor, I did all the formatting and cover design myself (I don’t proclaim to be an artist, and this was long before I studied formatting), and the only people who had really read it before I published it were family. Not a good mix for a quality book.
I have since joined writing communities, employed an editor and a cover designer, studied editing myself at the University of Chicago (which included an education of formatting), edited for several small presses, and released two editions of that original book broken up, plus the third in the series (not necessarily all in that order).
In addition to being an award-winning author and successful editor, you’re also co-owner of a growing publishing company, Balance of Seven. Could you tell our readers a little bit about how that company came about and the community you’re cultivating around it?
I actually started Balance of Seven with the publication of my first edition of Peace of Evon (my second publication). At the time, it was just the publisher name I was publishing my own books under. In 2017, though, I met Ynes Freeman through Debbie Burns’s fiction-writing program, Fiction Expedition. We hit it off and decided that we both wanted to help other writers publish (as well as publish our own books), so we joined forces—my math and editing skills with her experience in publishing and marketing. In 2018, we filed the LLC for Balance of Seven and published our first anthology, Rogues and Wild Fire.
For all that, though, Balance of Seven really began with community. Writers and readers are our family, and we do everything we can to connect with them as much as possible. I used to be heavily involved in the Houston writing community when I lived down there in 2014–2016, and I gave myself a press name with the inkling that I might one day help others publish. Besides Fiction Expedition, Ynes and I first met in Creative Central—an 800+ strong Facebook group for women (and now non-gender-conforming) writers. Our first anthology came from a writing challenge in this group, and Ynes and I took it over from Debbie Burns when she had to step away. Ynes and I have since handed off Creative Central, but we’re still part of it (we’re now Guest Speakers with the latest changeover).
Ynes, I know, has gotten more involved with the Houston writing community during the last couple of years. She has taught a couple of classes at Writespace, as well as taking over their Saturday 600s. The latter—a once-a-month writing session—paired well with the writing program we run through Balance of Seven: Word Splurge. Word Splurge isn’t just about getting words on the page, though it is a great support for that. Word Splurge has become a family, where we support each other, cheer each other on in writing and in life, and relax together to keep our creativity from going stale.
As a member of Word Splurge myself, I can attest to how helpful it has been in keeping me motivated and on track with my own writing. I’ve met the most lovely group of writers through that community and it has been invaluable. However, you deal in a lot more than just penning books. How do you balance the dual worlds of creating fabulous fiction with the very serious business of running a publishing company, marketing, and building a brand?
With difficulty? I have to be in certain mindsets to focus on each part of the literary career puzzle. Sometimes I fail—I’m constantly having to shift how I do things—but one thing that has remained consistent in the last couple of years is setting aside time every week to write. That’s one of the things I love about our Word Splurge program. It gives me, and the rest of our Word Splurge family, set times every week that we know are dedicated to our stories. We might not always be in a writing mood when we come, but being around the creative energy helps.
Beyond that, my days are dedicated to TNT Editing and Balance of Seven, with one day set aside for admin work and one for finances. Or at least, this is my current attempt at the balance.
That’s quite the juggling act. The on-going pandemic and how it has changed how we live our day-to-day lives has undoubtedly affected that balance. As more people remain indoors, demand for books has increased. Fiction is arguably more popular now than it has been in some time, and there are more writers now than any other time in publishing history. In your opinion, what drives society’s need for good fiction and what does fiction provide to society?
Fiction provides so much for society. On the surface, it provides entertainment and a way to escape. But most stories are deeper than that. Most stories have a message and purpose that readers might not be able to specifically name, but that doesn’t mean they don’t reach the readers. Fiction can provide a vehicle for larger movements or inform readers of needs in society that they might not have been aware of. Fiction provides a safe way to broach subjects that might cause readers discomfort in a more direct conversation of literature.
I know much more of my worldview was shaped by books than by school or my family. I will always appreciate how well-crafted fiction can challenge the status quo. And you can’t have a well-crafted book without an understanding of grammar, structure, and storytelling. What motivated you to turn your editing tidbits into a writing craft guide?
Simple answer? Ynes Freeman. LOL. To be honest, though, it really was the next step in my editing career. The editing tidbits began in Creative Central and moved to my editing social media when Ynes and I handed Creative Central off to the next set of leadership. Between Creative Central and my social media, conversations would come up that asked for clarification and more detail, things I was happy to provide. But in order for me to grow, I needed to do more with them. So turning them into a book was the next step.
I’m so glad you did. I’ve really enjoyed your tips over the past year or so, and they’ve really helped me think about my stories and characters in new ways. Even though you had been sharing these tips for some time, compiling them all into a guide couldn’t have been easy. What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Figuring out the breakdown of each tidbit. This was the great thing about having a team, though. Holla Watson, the wonderful illustrator for this book, let me hop onto Zoom calls with her to talk through what all might be involved in each tidbit, and what that would look like broken down.
What did you edit out of this book? Any bonus tips you can divulge?
Unfortunately, since this book is now only the first of a planned series of five, I actually need to create more tips for future books. Most of the tips I already have that I didn’t use are set to be used for the last book of the series.
However, I did combine a couple of editing tidbits into one for this book. Two of them related to one similar topic: how characters relax. The tidbit that I ended up merging into the recreation tidbit was “What kinds of games or sports has your main character played? Think beyond your story, to when your characters aren’t busy.”
Downtime for characters can really help build character development and relationships in your story. It’s often what they’re doing when not saving the world that reflects their true personality. This is not your first publication by any means, but each one provides a unique experience. You learn something new every time you go through the process of writing and publishing. What did the process of this book teach you?
That a lot of things related to nonfiction can take a lot longer. We added an index and list of resources into this book kind of late in the process, which drastically increased the formatting time for the book.
You have an illustrator for this book, the talented Holla Watson at Sweet Issues Art. Could you tell us how that collaboration came about and what working with an illustrator is like?
Ynes and I met Holla Watson through Balance of Seven’s first book launch of 2020 and fell in love with her whimsical art style. She joined Word Splurge later that year, and she and I really connected over worlds and stories. Ynes and I agreed that Holla’s whimsical art would fit well with this book, and Holla was all for it when we asked her to collaborate on this book.
Working with Holla has been a blast. For some of the editing tidbits, Holla only needed to read the tidbit in order to get an idea of how to portray it visually. For others, she and I would hop on Zoom to really hash out what kind of feel I wanted for the piece. There was really only one tidbit that needed to be completely changed from the original idea she provided because the image didn’t get across the general idea of the tidbit.
Holla is such a vibrant person and I adore her art. I’m really thrilled to see her work highlighted in this book. I look forward to following the rest of your Guide to Whimsical Worlds series. Where can we follow you for more updates on your work or links to your books?
My website, www.theodorentinker.com, should be live by the time this interview goes up. People can follow my monthly short stories, worldbuilding book reviews, and goals and progress at www.patreon.com/TheodoreNTinker. On social media, they can follow me on Facebook and Twitter at @TheodoreNTinker and @TNTinkerEditing, the former of which I often go live on and the latter of which should start hosting my daily editing tidbits again in March.
I also plan to continue the fun in my reader/writer Facebook group, Fiction Tinkers Guild, including what I hope will be a monthly interview with an author on a worldbuilding aspect of their writing or an expert on a science or skill that might be useful to writers. And of course, all my books can be found through the Balance of Seven website, www.balanceofseven.com, and store, balance-of-seven.square.site. Also, I’d love to see people in Word Splurge (www.patreon.com/BalanceofSeven), where we can support them in their writing endeavors and where they can join my weekly Tod’s Thoughts for group conversations about writing and editing.
Thank you for taking the time to sit for this interview and sharing your Guide with me. It’s been an edifying read and I hope we can do this again sometime.
I highly recommend the Fiction Tinker's Guide to Whimsical Worlds to anyone who feels stuck in their writing or wants to learn how to expand their world setting and story. The bits of advice and questions are designed to help you expand your ideas and consider angles you might have overlooked. For more on artist Holla Watson, you can check out her site here: https://www.sweet-issues-art.com/
There will be a release blitz all day Friday February 26th. Join Tod's Fiction Tinker's Guild Facebook group for all day fun and the Gala of the Guild event.
Until next time,