Interviewed by LINDA M. FAULKNER - Author Exchange Blog
Taryn Simpson is an award-winning novelist, Pulitzer Prize competitor, ghostwriter, screenwriter, and blogger. Additionally, Taryn has enjoyed success as a classically trained musician. She credits her musical creativity as a stepping-stone to her successful writing career. Her screenplay, Conversations with Pearl, was featured at the Southern Festival of Books in 2002. Her current novel, The Mango Tree Café, was written with co-author Alan Solomon.
Your first career was in music, which you credit with being the foundation of your writing career. Tell us about your musical background.
Sure, I had a love for music that began early in my life. I was always drawn to percussive sounds which began my interest in drumming. So I became involved in marching band throughout school which garnered me a scholarship to college where I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Music. I had auditioned at The Julliard School when I was 17 and discovered that Manhattan and Julliard were too expensive so I went to college locally. My background in music reflects classical training where I played in orchestras, operas, musicals, and percussion ensembles, master classes with Leigh Howard Stevens and other notables. I’ve also played in concert bands, jazz bands and even a steel band! You name it, I did it.
What got you started writing? Tell us about all the different genres and types of writing you do.
When I was around 4 years old, my mother made sure that I learned how to read before I attended kindergarten or elementary school. She is a voracious reader and felt that if I became one as well, all types of opportunities would come my way. As a result of early reading, I also learned to write poetry and short stories from her. She wasn’t formally trained, but had a natural talent for it, so I had a built in teacher. My favorite genre is fiction, although I’ve only come to love it within the last 10 years or so. John Grisham opened the door for me on that one with The Firm. So, I began writing fictional thrillers. After that, I developed an appreciation for literary fiction. Norman MacLean, Wally Lamb, and others have also shaped my writing. As a ghostwriter, I enjoy writing memoirs for clients, as well. You meet some really interesting people along the way. I still like writing short stories and blogging. I have a personal blog where I talk about my growing up years, politics, pop culture, and life in general. I love to read words that cause me to pause.
Your current book was co-authored with another writer you’ve never met in person and who lives in China. Give us the scoop about this!
Yes, that’s correct! One day, I suspect that Merriam Webster will have an entry that states: Alan Solomon and Taryn Simpson--See Serendipity. To give you the background, a writing colleague of mine called one day and asked if I would be interested in ghosting a fiction book for a client. I asked for the client’s phone number so I could get more information about the job. She chuckled and said, “You might want to email him. He lives in Beijing.” I couldn’t believe it. I emailed the client, who turned out to be Alan Solomon. I began asking him questions about the project and he stopped me and simply said, “Read the first chapter. If you hate it, no harm done, we’ll part ways and go about our day. If you like it, we can discuss further.” I read the chapter and fell in love at first read. I knew this would not be a ghostwriter job. The novel needed some tweaking, rewriting, and polishing and I was determined to be the one to do it. We always kid each other that we can never meet now, neither on the phone nor in person: It would mess up our chemistry for writing!
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
There are times like other writers where I get blocked. I’m going through that right now with a novel I am working on. But, I find if I give myself time and space, the right direction will come about. But I the biggest challenge, I would have to say, is to be truthful. I remember when I was watching the movie “Biloxi Blues,” there is a scene where the nerdy guy in the barracks is sneaking a read from Matthew Broderick’s journal. He read some unflattering thoughts about the nerd and he was confronted about it later. Broderick felt badly about it and tried to erase the hurtful passage in his journal. The nerd cautioned him to always own what you write. It takes courage to write the truth. I’ve never forgotten that scene and try to be true to the written word. No matter how vulnerable it might make me feel.
What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
The Mango Tree Café, Loi Kroh Road by Alan Solomon and Taryn Simpson is the latest one to be published.
The synopsis: Imagine owning a restaurant near the jungles of Thailand that sits upon the most legendary mystical road in the world. Legend states that whoever walks upon Loi Kroh Road will be forever changed or shall never be seen or heard from again. In fact, the English translation of "Loi Kroh Road" is "Wash Your Bad Luck Away." Larry, the main character, is seductively lured to the world-famous street to purchase this restaurant. The restaurant serves as a place where he observes world travelers, such as himself, as well as locals who discover their fate upon this historic road. He is on a journey to discover his mission in life as he is guided by a ghostly figure that appeared to him as a child. On his adventures, he comes face to face with his greatest fear, his lingering questions of mortality, and his soul's lonely reflection.
The book is available on both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s website, as well as other online book retailers.
What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?
I’m working on a novel that is tentatively entitled "The Long Road to Extradition" where you will meet Nicholas, a precocious yet sensitive teenager who is also the black sheep of the family. He witnesses a horrific act that tears his family apart. From the time he is 13 years old, he makes his way through the foster system until one day he escapes his life of misery. Through his journey, he meets unforgettable characters along the way who make lasting impressions upon him, which prod him to delve into his bruised emotional issues to make peace with himself. His extensive travels prove that his problems will always be a cumbersome and heavy burden that will sit upon his shoulders until he has his day of reckoning with his emotional baggage. His journey by foot is a long one, but his journey to made amends is even longer. It is through his journey that he discovers "The Long Road to Extradition." Sheesh, I hope to have this one completed by the end of the year and published soon after.
Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?
Do not take any writer’s advice as “the gospel.” That may seem strange advice coming from a writer, but I have learned that there is no one correct way to do anything. Some writers break all the rules and enjoy success. Think outside the box! Follow your bliss! Be creative and take control of your career.
Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? How has membership/lack of membership affected your writing career?
I’m a member of Book Marketing Network; Authors, Speakers, Coaches & Pod casters; The Freelancer’s Union; and Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group. Being a member of all these different groups help you to see what others are doing with regard to writing or marketing their books. Sometimes it can spur some ideas of your own.
Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.
Actually, we are working on that as we speak, but nothing is set in stone yet. You’ll be the first to know though when it does happen!
Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.
Well, aside from "The Long Road to Extradition" being a work in progress, Alan and I are also co-writing another novel titled He Played the Game, which takes place in England. It centers around a well-to-do family; their lives are forever changed when the father announces one day that he is leaving for no apparent reason. The eldest son begins his search for his father and the reason why he left his family so abruptly.
I am also co-writing a couple of children’s books with Nancy Mura, a very talented child author who penned the book series, “Willie Whistle.” The two books we are writing together are called The Table and Chair and Rosie and Baby. I will have my hands in a lot of different type of projects in which I’m thrilled to participate.