I had the pleasure of interview Tim Hemlin. I’ve gotten to know his wife over the last year on social media, and she introduced me to her husband’s writing. The Wastelanders was a fantastic dystopic Sci-Fi novel. In fact, you can check out my review of his novel here! Now let’s get on with the interview!
First, let’s get to know Tim with some fun, quirky questions!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.
Right away I’m going to cheat a little because my first choice is a handsome hardback composite put out by the The Library of America—Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick. The novels include The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (which the movie Blade Runner was loosely based on) and PKD’s masterpiece, Ubik. Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite sci-fi writers and has been a huge influence on my work. The other two books I’d take are War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and The Complete Poems and Plays by T.S. Eliot. I’ve read Eliot since college and still enjoy his work. As for Tolstoy, I love his shorter works so maybe by being stranded on a desert island I’d finally get through War and Peace.
Nice. I thought about War and Peace for my answer. It’s long and I’ve never had the time to read it, so a desert island seems the perfect place!
What animal best describes your personality?
Bear. He’s strong yet introspective and he also has healing powers. And on occasion I’ve been accused of being grouchy . . .
If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?
I’ve always wanted to go to Paris. In particular, Paris 1922. I’d love to hang out with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Stein, Picasso, Joyce, Pound . . .
Are you a cat or dog person?
I lean more towards dogs. I have two dogs—a Westie and a Shi Tzu—and a cat. The dogs are so happy to see me walk through the door in the evenings and they appreciate the attention I give them. The cat will bite my toe at night if I roll into his space at the end of the bed.
If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?
John Adams. Any man who claims “that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress” would make an interesting dinner companion.
I have never heard that one. It maybe my new favorite quote to one of my favorite founding fathers.
Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!
Besides writing, what are you passionate about?
At the top of my list I’d say running. I’ve completed a number of marathons, half-marathons, 25 & 30Ks, and I’d someday like to tackle an ultra. Running is a type of meditation for me and in that way it compliments my writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on a story, gone for a run and come back hot, sweaty and excited because I’ve had a breakthrough. I also enjoy swimming, biking and fly-fishing. I guess when I’m not writing I like to be active, though I do read a lot. To paraphrase Stephen King, you won’t have the tools to be a writer if you’re not a reader.
The outdoors was never my thing, but I can get down a read a book with the best of them.
What drew you to the craft of writing?
Since high school I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. I enjoy word play and for the longest time I wanted to be a poet. I even studied with Charles Simic and MeKeel McBride at the University of New Hampshire. Then I discovered the work of John Gardner (Grendel, October Light, The Sunlight Dialogues) and similar writers and gradually made the transition to writing novels.
When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?
Fly by the seat of your pants sounds so capricious, yet that’s mostly what I do. Robert Frost said no tear for the writer, no tear for the reader. I take that to mean a writer must invest himself in his work and be willing to bear his soul through his characters and the world they live in. I do this best when I give my characters the freedom to speak to me and show me what’s going to happen next in a book. If I don’t give my characters that freedom I often write myself into a corner and then have to backtrack to find out where I went wrong. That’s not to say I don’t have a general idea of where I’m going in a story, but even that can change. When I wrote The Wastelanders I felt sure I knew where I was going with it. And then the time-witch appeared and changed everything—for the better. She kicked that novel into another gear.
I recently learned the term “pantser” from Janna Kaixer to describe the more adventurous writers. I definitely only have the loosest of outlines when I write.
Your novel The Wastelanders is a sci-fi thriller. What attracted you to writing speculative, genre fiction?
The Wastelanders came about because of my concern for the environment. I feel it’s my duty, in the words of Dr. Jonas Salk, to be a good ancestor so future generations can enjoy nature as much as I have. Yet in the novel I also deal with power, political corruption and mass movements and cite often from that unique, American blue-collar philosopher Eric Hoffer. I like stories that mine for feelings and explore complex themes. There’s nothing like being immersed in PKD’s Ubik, Frank Herbert’s Dune or Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five (all big influences on my work). That’s not to say I don’t also enjoy lighter reads. The young adult novel I recently completed is less complicated than The Wastelanders in that it’s more direct. It’s a love story and a coming of age story that focuses on good versus evil, and I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent with those characters.
Your characters almost seem alive in your head. You live, breath, and die with them, and spill all the joy and pain onto the page.
Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Wastelanders come from?
You’re right; inspiration is a fascinating phenomenon. It’s the Muse handing you the key that unlocks the right door to that perfect world. I mean wanting to write a book because I’m concerned about the environment is one thing, but that’s a theme, not a story. Themes are just mannequins. Characters, plot, and setting are the clothes that dress them. So where did the inspiration for The Wastelanders come from? It came from Dune, from PKD, from Slaughter House Five, and from some of the idiot politicians we have today who manage to get voted into office. And just when I was about to lose hope in humanity, inspiration came from young love, from old love, and from the good heart of an enigmatic gunrunner.
The Time Witch’s sections definitely had a surreal, PKD vibe.
What is your favorite character from the Wastelander?
My favorite character is a toss-up. Bear is the enigmatic gunrunner who has prescient abilities and is indomitable. On the other hand, the time-witch took hold of my imagination and ran with it. I’m fascinated with the concept of time, time travel, and “bending” time. This all came out in her. It’s been pointed out to me that this is incongruous with sci-fi novels, though I strongly disagree. As Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Playing with time is a fun story technique. I’ve always enjoyed stories with those angles was happily surprised when I came across it in your novel. And transhuman abilities have always been a staple of Sci-Fi. No one questions Dune as Sci-fi with all its prescient
I understand you have a Young Adult novel in the works called Son of the Kitchen Witch. I would love to hear a bit about the plot.
Son of a Kitchen Witch is a coming-of-age young adult urban fantasy with a large dose of the paranormal, adventure and a touch of romance. Seventeen year-old Bobby Hawthorne has always known his overprotective mother is a witch. However, he never understood the depth of her powers until he learns the truth about his father’s death and the ancient group of fanatics determined to hunt down and kill every last witch on earth.
As if being a high school student isn’t already hard enough, Bobby and his best friend, Angelina Dellapicallo, struggle to understand the emerging secrets of white magic in the wiccan community, secrets strictly guarded by Bobby’s mother and her friends. The unexpected appearance of his spirited grandfather, though, sets in motion a series of events that sweep the young teens down a dangerous path, one inhabited by an ancient evil that threatens not only Bobby and Angelina but the wiccan community as well.
Pixies can’t stop the hellhounds . . . but they have sounded the alarm . . . and the magic users must respond . . .
Sounds like a fun read! I can’t wait to read it.
Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?
Write. Write. Write. It’s like a runner preparing for a marathon. You don’t just wake up one morning and run 26.2 miles. You put in those training miles first, and the more you put in the better (most likely) your race results. I don’t know if you recall, but recently you and I had an exchange about how bad our first efforts at novel writing were. Well, it’s those horrible efforts that never saw the light of day that lead to the books that are now out on the market. I’d also suggest picking up Stephen King’s On Writing or one of Natalie Goldberg’s books—Writing Down the Bones or The Wild Mind. They have great advice and good exercises for beginning writers. And read. I think it’s a cop out when writers say they don’t read because they don’t want to copy that author. Reading is part of a writer’s heritage. Own it.
To a new writer who has just completed a book I say get out of the house and go to a conference. Join a writer’s group. Get an author’s page on Facebook. Join Twitter. Join online book clubs. Start a blog. Mine is on Word Press at timhemlin.com. Review other writer’s books. Make an author’s page on Amazon. Look into the Indie scene. There are a ton of resources for independent writers. Use them. It’s a lot of work, but so was writing that novel. And don’t you want people to know about it and read it?
Some great advice! Write, write, write! That’s what everyone says, but it’s the truth. It’s been great talking with you Tim. He’s a great guy.
Now that we’ve gotten to know Tim a little bit, let’s check out an excerpt from Tim’s novel, The Wastelanders.
Set in the future of America where climate change has driven the citizens of the US to live in “bubbles” cities protected from the harsher, outside air. They survive thanks to the Cartel, a huge company that provides water through desalination.
When the Water Cartel’s #23 desalination plant explodes, Deputy Bernie Hawke finds himself under surveillance by Home Sec authorities. They suspect he knows the whereabouts of his son, Joey, who a year earlier had gone missing from the civilized society of the bubble to the Wastelands. Believing Joey carried out the attack, the Home Sec agents show Bernie video of his son inside the city’s bubble. Convinced of his son’s innocence, Bernie puts his sleuthing skills to work and backtracks his son’s footsteps to a shady bar on the edge of the Rim, the land that borders the Wastelands. Bernie knows government agents are tailing him. What he doesn’t expect is an attempt on his life. Inadvertently, Bernie cuts down a Rim guard and once again finds himself interrogated by the irascible Agent O’Hare.
Bernie Hawke shivered. He sat in the fussy little concierge’s fussy little office. Every instinctual bone in his body had told him to run. Only a Herculean effort overcame that urge. Now as he listened to the jowly O’Hare and dealt with iron-spine Crisp, Bernie was glad he’d not panicked.
O’Hare, who’d been speaking with one of his officers, pulled up a chair across from Bernie. The office held little more than a cheap metal desk, a handful of chairs, a black synthetic-leather couch and the flags of Texas and America. The obligatory picture of President Litz hung on the wall behind the desk. The rest of the walls were empty except for a pair of cutter mounts and the video-cams. Old-fashion ceiling tracks held the lighting which could be dimmed or brightened. O’Hare had tried them bright. Now they were dim.
“I told the little pixie to find us a pot of good coffee even, by God, if he had to go back to the Bubble to get it,” O’Hare announced.
“You know why I’m out here,” Bernie stated. His head swam from lack of sleep.
“All in good time, lad. All in good time.”
“Why are you here?” Bernie persisted.
O’Hare winked as though they were the best of friends, old warriors who looked after each other. Pure political bullshit, Bernie thought. Yet, curious. Home Sec had jurisdiction everywhere in the country—hell, they believed they had jurisdiction anywhere in the world—but this was Rim guard territory—the sub-czar’s domain. And Bernie had killed one of their own.
The fussy concierge entered the room with a silver tray and coffee service which was as incongruous with the setting as raincoats in the dessert. “Jamaica Mountain Blue,” he explained, hands shaking as he set the tray down on the desk.
O’Hare half listened as his men came and went.
“Very rare, now that it’s only grown in bio-houses. And raw sugar. And cream. Anything else, sir?”
“Aye, laddie,” O’Hare said while accepting a cup of coffee. “Who is it that allows this stinking brothel to operate outside of the Red Courtyard?”
The fussy little man paled.
“Speak up, man, my coffee’s getting cold.”
“Why, sir, we’re not a—”
“Mind your words carefully,” O’Hare warned. “While my boys were printing the air we caught many an interesting shadow.”
Bernie watched the concierge swallow hard. The infrared-like dust captured energy images, downloading them to cell cams. In Bernie’s circles it was known as filming ghosts. Judging from the exchange between O’Hare and the concierge, it was obvious not all of Home Sec knew about this fine establishment. Someone allowed it to operate below the radar.
“Aye, think about it, lad. I’ll be getting back to you. Be gone now. Mind the front desk.” O’Hare turned his full attention to Bernie as the concierge backed out of the room. “As you said, Deputy Hawke, I’m aware of your reason for being on the Rim, but why is it you’re in this stinking place?” The old cop gestured for Bernie to help himself to some coffee.
Bernie obliged and poured a cup, black. “Pure coincidence.”
“I’m to believe that?”
“What do the air-prints show?”
O’Hare stirred another cube of sugar into his coffee, tapped the side of the cup with the spoon and tasted. “Aye, it is good.”
“I haven’t had enough sleep to be patient.”
“And why is that?”
“Would you like me to spell it out for you?” asked Bernie. He sipped his coffee, too, but hardly tasted it.
“Oh, would you be so kind?”
Bernie tossed out a finger with each point. “I came looking for my son. I have doubts that he was involved in the bombing. I wanted to hear his story with my own ears. I’ve not been able to locate him.”
“Even in the wilderness?” O’Hare asked.
“Yes, I did leave the trails. I walked the bayou. Anyone with half a brain would suppose a person trying to make it to the Wasteland would first travel the bayou.”
O’Hare took another sip and then asked, “You didn’t happen to meet anyone else out there, now, did you?”
“Not a soul, unless you count the ’gators and mosquitoes.”
“Yes, we’ve matched your cutter.”
“Of course you have. And you’ve looked at the air-prints. Since emotion was high, you’ve detected images confirming my story. By the way, I thought printing old images was doubtful. Were you bluffing our fussy little friend?”
O’Hare set his cup down on the desk. “Not quite, lad. As you said, emotion runs high, here. And then when you combine it with an abundance of activity, they may produce a blurred ménage, but the intent is clear enough even for a Rim guard to understand.”
“So what did looking at my cutter—time-matching it—tell you?”
“Aye, lad, you fired in self-defense at your assailant.”
The heavy way in which O’Hare responded triggered a reflex in Bernie’s training. He knew the routine, the alternating between direct and circuitous questioning. O’Hare, playing again good-cop, came at him all folksy and from the sly. Bernie had expected Crisp at any moment to barge in and briskly take over. Now he wasn’t so sure. “Something else happened tonight,” Bernie said. “Isn’t the killing of a Rim guard bad enough?”
“Normally I’d agree.”
“Try the killing of two Rim guards, lad.”
Bernie leaned forward. “Two? Hey, I was only assaulted—”
O’Hare raised a hand. “Take a guess where they found the other guard?”
“The woods.” As Bernie spoke he knew in his heart Joey had been involved in the killing. Damn if that didn’t nail the kid’s coffin. Of course, he didn’t express his suspicions to O’Hare.
“Now, I’m willing to believe you’re incredulous reaction,” O’Hare told him.
Bernie said nothing.
“However, the sub-czar has a different idea.”
“Disagreeable fellow by the name of Rex Fielder. I’d admit that to no one but a brother of the law.” He paused.
“They think that since I was in the woods I killed the man,” Bernie said.
“All they had to do was look at my cutter—”
“We both know that can be covered with a good cleaning.”
“I haven’t had the time.”
“We found no air-print evidence you did so in your room, that is true. And if you had been cleaning it, you’d probably be dead.”
Bernie picked up his cup but then set it down without drinking. “So what are they saying? That I resisted arrest?”
“They might’ve, had they gotten here first and erased the air-prints. Fortunate for you, lad, we had you under the eye.”
“Yeah, my lucky day. They’re saying something. What is it?”
“According to the Rim guards mouthpiece it was an act of blood.”
“An act of blood? You mean the two men—”
“Brothers, lad. Brothers.”
Bernie stared dumbly off into space. Brothers? On one level it sounded perfectly logical. Joey kills the Rim guard during his attempt to escape and then his brother sets out to take revenge on…he shook his head. No, this was all too tidy.
“What is it, lad?”
Bernie looked up. Crisp had entered the room as though he kept a baton sheathed in his ass. “It doesn’t make sense.”
O’Hare eyed him carefully. “Why is that, now?”
“What time was the guard in the woods killed?”
A glint as though a burst of adrenalin entered his gaze. “The official time hasn’t been released.”
“But the official motive for the attempt on my life has,” said Bernie.
“It appears so.”
Crisp stopped behind O’Hare and stood in icy silence.
“The time frame,” Bernie thought aloud. “The time frame is too close.”
O’Hare replied by pouring himself more coffee.
“That’s why they haven’t—and I’ll bet won’t—release the time of the first guard’s death. It won’t align with the attack on me.”
“Seems mighty coincidental the two dead are brothers.”
“The attack on me was planned ahead of time,” Bernie continued. “What happened in the woods was a random act.”
“Be careful, lad. You’re wading into dangerous waters. To charge the company with conspiracy—”
“How else would you explain it?” interrupted Bernie.
“An act of blood.”
“The official word. Of course, you would eat whatever crap they put on your plate. But don’t you find the taste bitter?”
The coffee cup in O’Hare’s hand shook slightly as he took a sip. Rage flushed his cheeks and Crisp remained as rigid as the word of God. For a full minute neither said a word.
“Come on, O’Hare, this isn’t an investigation, it’s a pill being shoved—”
“Deputy Hawke,” the old agent cut in, voice low and harsh. “I’d suggest you mind your words. Unless you can offer evidence confirming this outrageous notion that’s found its way into your head then you’d be far better off accepting the results of the official inquiry.”
Bernie let out a short laugh, the kind accompanied by a faint grin. “Mind my words? Why? I have nothing more to lose, O’Hare.” An echo, he realized, of what he’d told Graham’s daughter at the pub. Instead of revisiting the litany he said, “What else can I lose? My freedom? Well, let me tellyou something, lad, I’ve been in a cage for a long time now, I just didn’t know it. Anytime a man’s afraid to speak his mind, he’s looking at life through iron bars.”
Crisp stirred and appeared ready to speak but O’Hare raised a hand. “A rousing speech, lad, the very kind, if spoken outside these walls, that might transform those metaphorical bars into the literal. Were that to happen how would you go about quenching the fire in your heart?”
Bernie said nothing.
O’Hare set his cup down and stood. “When you’ve had your fill of this surprisingly good coffee, you’re free to go.”
“Free?” Bernie sounded suspicious.
“Aye, lad. Self-defense in an act of blood is justifiable. You know that.”
“What’s going on here?” asked Bernie.
“The sun’s rising, Deputy Hawke. A new day. As my dear old mother used to say, ‘Looks like another hot one.’ She loved the heat, God rest her soul. But we know better, don’t we? We know how hot it can get, especially on the Rim. We know when to dive headstrong into it, and when to seek shelter in the shadows. At least I do, Deputy Hawke. I pray for your sake, lad, you do too.”
If you want to read more (and how could you not, The Wastelander is an amazing book), you can pick it up from Amazon.
And don’t forget to check out Black Silence, the short story the reunites the characters and may serve as an exciting prelude to the Wasterlanders upcoming sequel!
Can the enigmatic Bear join forces with warrior-priest Joey Hawke, and Caballito, the legendary descendant of the ancient Running People, in time to rescue them? Or will they fall prey like so many others to the black silence of the Wastelands?
You can pick up Black Silence from Amazon!
Tim is a marathoner, a former English teacher of 22 years who is now utilizing his master’s degree in counseling by working as a high school counselor. However, it’s his passion for the environment that sparked his need to write The Wastelanders, a dystopian-clifi published in both e-book and paperback by Reputation Books. He also has a short story, Black Silence, introducing a new character, Caballito, who appears in the sequel to The Wastelanders available through Amazon.
Recently the Muse has kindly allowed him to tap into that creative magic and pen a young adult urban fantasy titled Son of a Kitchen Witch. a coming of age story with a good v. evil backdrop. It is currently with his agent, Kimberley Cameron of Kimberley Cameron & Associates Literary Agency.
His current WIP is the sequel to The Wastelanders which should be completed in spring of 2016.
In the 1990’s Tim published a series of culinary mysteries through Ballantine Books and has recently gotten the reversion rights. He is planning on reissuing them through an elite new publisher, La Nouvelle Atlantide Press out of New Orleans. This series is set in Houston, Texas. The Neil Marshall series includes If Wishes Were Horses, A Whisper of Rage (nominated for a Shamus Award), People in Glass Houses, A Catered Christmas (the one he most enjoyed writing), and Dead Man’s Broth.
Tim has recently appeared on BBC UK The Big Film Review w/ Sudip Baduri film critic.by