I witnessed what happened to the lumber industry in the Northwest, and the garment industry in the east. Then I asked myself, what will happen when the jobs are gone?
T.B. O’Neill – 27 November 2017
The Back Flap
This quasi-dystopian tale and thriller takes place when the jobs are gone — that is, except for an elite class of Workers. Then, adding to the division, the city of Bakerton builds a Wall to separate the classes, and sets Nathan Englander, his family and friends, on a trajectory to change the order of things. Peace has been achieved all these years by promising Citizens their allotment, as Workers continue to toil for the greater good. Everyone has his place in this peaceful city and nation.
Then at the Wall’s erection, protest and violence shocks the city. Thrust into the spotlight for his heroism, Englander challenges the power brokers who erected the Wall and will use any cruel means to maintain control. Now politically connected, he uncovers a shadow government, and learns of an imminent terrorist attack. He may be able to prevent it. But not without paying a price and placing those he loves in jeopardy. Violence continues to wrack the city. A breaking point is near, and should he succeed is stopping the carnage that will decimate the peace, there still is the larger question: Where does one find dignity in a place where the dependents of society are convinced that they are “privileged,” and the right to work or engage in commerce is severely constrained? How did it get like this? And is anyone truly free?
About the book
What is the book about?
The story takes place in an era and society not unlike our own, but after the jobs are gone—at least for most. In this milieu, and with the building of a Border Wall between Citizen’s and Workers, our protagonist comes to realize how restrictive his society has become. Because of his heroism at the Wall during erection ceremonies, Nathan Englander achieves celebrity and eventually is brought into the political circle of his city, hoping to take down the Wall and expand Citizen rights, only to find himself and his family the target of dangerous people, in and out of government.
When did you start writing the book?
Gosh, maybe a few years ago. You know, first draft . . . set it aside and read it again and again, grimacing and making changes you hope might work. When totally unsatisfied go to something else and try again in six months.
How long did it take you to write it?
Total time, perhaps a year. Maybe a few months longer.
Where did you get the idea from?
I came from a working class family. Sitting on the porch one evening, contemplating how technology, robotization, globalizing the work force (out of this country) and immigration, have each contributed (obviously some more than others), to ever diminishing employment opportunities for people who work with their hands. Most people in fact. I witnessed what happened to the lumber industry in the Northwest, and the garment industry in the east. Then I asked myself, what will happen when the jobs are gone? When only those with smarts and specialized educations can get decent pay; when tradesmen must compete with failed baccalaureates; and when speaking the king’s English is required for even service jobs? What will happen to economic mobility? How will the government keep the peace, keep the rabble from rioting, pay for it all? I sat down the next day and started to write, not knowing where it would take me.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Defining the world without a bunch of boring backstory . . . keeping it believable, but frustrated that with the themes I chose (economic mobility, individual rights, political manipulation), I couldn’t expand on showing the evolution from our current situation today, to this next step. I could only hint at it.
What came easily?
Dialogue, getting under the character’s skin.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
All are fictitious. I did use my grandchildren’s names for major characters.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I can’t say that for sure. For modern writers I love Cormac McCarthy best, but also John Irving and Pat Conway. More recently Hannah’s Nightingale, and especially Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, whose book set my mind ablaze. So I guess you’d say I like rhythmic writers, those who feel the language as they tell their story.
Do you have a target reader?
Perhaps those who like political thrillers, or futuristic stuff (this is not scifi) . . . but thoughtful stories with a message.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I naturally gravitate to my study after my coffee and reading the digital news. Usually about six in the morning, and work to noon. Later, after working out, I’ll dabble in writing related correspondence to editors or my publicist, and read trade related material. Evening is for reading.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
Wealth is my forth book, after a legal thriller, and two memoirs, and no, I have never outlined. With a situation and character in mind, I sit down and see where he/or/she takes me. However, deciding to try it, I will soon attend a workshop to outline my next book.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
Both. I start the morning reading and making changes to the prior day’s pages. After the last word is written I will edit several times.
Did you hire a professional editor?
Yes, both for critique and line editing.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
No. At times I lean over and pet my dog.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
A couple dozen. Faced responses like “this is not what we are looking for.”
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
Two things: First, although receiving a recommended rating and good review by Kirkus, the two dozen or so agents I contacted were unimpressed. Secondly, a local writer’s work (I didn’t previously know him), was described in a newspaper review as worthy as anything on the NYT’s best seller list. I read it and agreed. Got to know him and found that he submitted the book to close to a hundred agents and publishers with no response. That sealed it for me.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
My publicist and I plan. It’s evolving with each obstacle encountered.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Yes. Don’t present your work to the public until you can safely say you’ve put in your 10,000 hours at the typewriter and feel comfortable with the craft.
Where did you grow up?
We lived a nomadic, deprived and cruel life, finally settling in Chico, California (a college and agricultural community). There I found stability and lived a small town life with girlfriends, football, and Friday night dances.
Where do you live now?
My Wife and I returned to Chico after forty years in Oregon, post retirement.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m not intent on plotting. I start with a theme, something that moves me, and a character who can meet the challenges I anticipate. I don’t write a word unless I have something to say.
What are you working on now?
Funny you should ask that. I’m laying out my prequel (remember what I said about outlines), to The Wealth of a Nation. My interest is not in dystopian tyranny, but in its evolution—how a 1984 can come to be; I relate that to present time. So this new book will show events at the outset which may propel us in that direction. A sequel is also planned, to explore the final fall into full blown tyranny. These books will all contain hints of classic dystopian fiction, the elements of the genre, but on their face, and in their style, will resemble political thrillers.
End of Interview:
For more from T.B. O’Neil, visit his website.