Posts Tagged ‘T.K. Thorne’

Guest Blogger: T.K. Thorne – What the Heck is “Writing What you Know?”

March 9, 2015 5 comments

Cover-for-Angels-at-the-Gate--WebWhat the Heck is “Writing What You Know”? by T.K. Thorne

Write what you know. A well know axiom for writers. But is it really a rule? Is it good advice? What the heck does it mean?

I can’t tell you how many times I have scratched my head thinking, okay, what do I know? I know about police work, having had a career in law enforcement. I know about horses, having loved and worked with them all my life. I apparently know about a few other things, as I give out a lot of advice. Or perhaps, as my mother often said, I just like to generalize without specific knowledge.

But try as I might, I can’t seem to want to write a book about those topics . . . not yet anyway. And maybe that’s a good thing, because I don’t think that write what you know means limiting your writing to topics or places or people you literally already know about. If it does, then a woman should never write from a man’s perspective; a person living in Alabama should never write about a setting in New York; and a fantasy writer should just stop.

I certainly did not know anything much about early religion or Turkey or Asperger’s when I got a bug to write a novel about Noah’s wife. I wanted to write the story, not as a religious retelling, but one that I, as a humanist, could belief might have really happened. It took four years to bring that story to life and almost as many for my newly released historical novel, ANGELS AT THE GATE (the story of Lot’s wife). The research involved did help me “know” about the land, the culture, and the archeological and geological evidence that existed in my time periods and locations. Even trips to Turkey and Israel, although enriching, can’t substitute for being there at the time and experiencing what my characters experienced. But then, of course, if I lived in the time of NOAH’S WIFE or ANGELS AT THE GATE, I would be several thousand years old. Not really practical.

I believe you should do whatever research is required to honor your pact as a writer with your reader and establish NOAH'S_WIFE_COVER_for_AUDIBLE_for_webauthority in your writing. Getting details “right” is important, but I don’t believe in limiting your imagination or subject matter. Actually, I think write what you know is about something else.

All writers are experts about one thing—what it is like from the inside to be a human being, specifically, to be you. Write what you know means drawing upon that experience. You may have never been raped or divorced or thrown over a cliff (and hopefully not), but you know fear, an aching heart, and the terror of falling. You know it. When your characters feel something or think something, you must draw from that well of knowledge inside you, dig for it if you need to. It is about opening yourself to yourself.

As a police officer I saw things and spoke to people who had been through terribly traumatic situations. I tried to empathize with them, but unless their pain connected in some way to a pain I could understand, I didn’t really feel it. When your characters cry, will it affect your readers? It will if they connect with the reader’s sorrow or pain in some remembered or imagined way. You don’t have to lose your mother to imagine that pain in a very personal way, and so that is almost a universal emotional connection (unless you hated your mother.) As a writer, you can remember or imagine what it was or would be like (for you) to experience something your characters experience. And that is when the magic happens, and you are writing what you know.


T.K. Thorne

                  T.K. Thorne

T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” When she retired as a captain, she took on Birmingham’s business improvement district (CAP) as the executive director. Both careers provide fodder for her writing, which has garnered several awards, including “Book of the Year for Historical Fiction” (ForeWord Reviews) for her debut novel Noah’s Wife. Her first non-fiction book, Last Chance for Justice, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. Her new historical novel about the story of Lot’s wife is Angels at the Gate. She loves traveling, especially to research her novels, and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap.

The Next Big Thing

November 5, 2012 2 comments

The Next Big Thing by Debra H. Goldstein

A few weeks ago, author Linda Rodriguez, whose book Every Last Secret won the 2011 St. Martin’s Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, invited me to participate in The Next Big ThingThe Next Big Thing is a tag blog post idea from She Writes that is intended to help female writers promote their works in progress by answering ten questions about their WIP.  The blogger then tags a group of other female writers for next week.   I’ll be talking about my present WIP (that two agents just requested to read), but for now, although it isn’t a work in progress, I heartily recommend reading Linda’s Every Last Secret and visiting her website,  .

 Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing

  1. What is your working title of your book?   The working title is JavaTime, but I need to come up with a catchy three word title that the Candi Martin series can be built around.  Quirky, perhaps dealing with a female sleuth, maj jongg, citizens who range from 6 to 86, corporate intrigue, the law…….good ideas are being sought????
  2. Where did the idea come from for the book?  Candi Martin washed out of the police academy and is a young corporate attorney … I have a writer friend who once was a police officer and prior to becoming a judge, I was a litigator.  As a child, my mother always played maj jongg and as she has aged and I have observed the changes in her friends and her in terms of self-censorship and interacting with others, I couldn’t help juxtaposing their traits and abilities into a fictional work that also features children and grandchildren who are young enough to know it all.
  3. What genre does your book fall under?  JavaTime is a mystery.  It will appeal to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, female sleuths, and geezerlit, and, most of all, people who enjoy a fun read.
  4. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  This is such a hard one!!!!!!   Candi is young, strong, vulnerable, bright, and has flaming red hair (perhaps Dallas Howard? Or better yet an unknown?)  The two men who come through her life have Irish jet black hair looks and nebbishy Jewish looks…..the latter could well be played by Ben Stiller while the first?…I leave to your imagination.  The maj jongg group screams for Betty White, Debbie Reynolds, France Sternhagen, Angela Lansbury and others we have grown to love for their wit, humor, grace, and style.
  5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?  Okay…it is two sentences:  Police academy washout and junior corporate attorney Candi Martin must add murder-solver to balancing her legal career and regular visits to her father, who is slipping deeper into dementia at the Sunshine Village Retirement Home in Wahoo, Alabama after her estranged mother reappears, but is found a few hours later at the retirement home stabbed to death wearing another woman’s clothing.  Her parents’ secrets, corporate intrigue, interference from the Sunshine Village maj jongg game and leftover feelings for the detective assigned to her mother’s case complicate her efforts.
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  An agency, I hope.
  7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  About six months.
  8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?  After my publisher for Maze in Blue, my 2012 IPPY award winning murder mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus, ceased operations, agents told me they would like to see a new series.  I had written a short story, “Legal Magic,” ( 2011) that had a male protagonist and some great retirement home characters who played maj jongg and I was working on a story about a female sleuth, who had become a lawyer after deciding the police academy wasn’t right for her, and all of a sudden, it seemed like they belonged together.  Some writers say their characters talk to them, and in this case, they invaded my sleep and my waking hours until I brought them together on the page.  Now, they are drumming a sequel into my brain!
  9.  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?   Besides being an enjoyable read, my still to be named work in progress mixes a good plot, fun characters, and issues readers will identify with.

Next week, watch for blogs from:

T.K. Thorne —

Gail Handler —

Karen Cunningham –

Guest Blog: T.K. Thorne – How Do You Know If You Are A “Real” Writer?

October 8, 2012 7 comments

T.K. ThorneAuthor of Noah’s Wife – “2009 Book of the Year for Historical Fiction – ForeWord Reviews

How Do You Know if You Are A “Real Writer? by T.K. Thorne

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE  A “REAL” WRITER?  This question has plagued me for a long time, and I saw it recently on a writing web site, so I am not the only one who has asked it. For a long time, I was unpublished and wrote in the “closet.” I was afraid if I admitted to doing it (writing, folks) I would have to face that dreaded question: “Oh, what have you published?” To which, I’d have to say, “Well, nothing… but my mother loves my stuff.” And then go crawl under a rock.

I’m sure there are people out there for whom this would not be a problem, people who have lots of self-confidence and don’t care what anyone thinks of them. I tip my hat to you. For the rest of us, what to do? Should we go to the writer’s conference and expose ourselves as wanna-be’s or should we just stay home?

Now that I have a novel published, I have the perspective to return to this perplexing question. How do you know when you are a “real” writer? What is one? Does anyone who picks up a pen or taps on the computer qualify? Do you have to be published? How many times? Does self-publishing count? Does payment in art journal copies qualify or do you have to be paid for it? If you win an award or get an honorable mention, does that jump you to the “writer status?” According to the IRS, a professional is anyone who is paid for their work. My first publication to a magazine netted me $8.48. It was a great feeling to finally reach that milestone, but somehow it didn’t make the question go away.

Is the aspired distinction merely to be found in the eye of the beholder? If I like what you write, does that make you a “writer” in my eyes, but if I don’t care for it, you aren’t? Saying someone is a “good writer” or a “bad writer,” at least slaps the tag on them, but is he/she a “real” writer? If you keep a journal under the bed and scribe in it daily, are you one or not?

Okay, I’ve asked the question, now I’ll share my epiphany. By college, I was quietly writing fiction, but I took a class in poetry because my roommate talked me into it. It turned out to be the best move I could have made. Everyone brought their hearts and souls to class with their poems. And it was brutal. I learned that there was only one rule—Does it work?

Not, does it express what you really want to say? Not, does it use alliteration and rhyme correctly? Only, does it work? You can  break rules; you can follow rules; you can cry big crocodile tears onto your paper, but the only question is that one.

So, it doesn’t matter if you are published or not, have won awards or not. It doesn’t matter what you write or how often you write. It doesn’t matter. A writer wants it to work! If it doesn’t work, a writer is willing to produce it for critique, to listen to criticism, to cut, to add, to change, to ask questions, to learn, to rewrite, to stand his/her ground, to start over, to rewrite again—whatever it takes to make it work.

Of course, you can write without being “a writer.” And there is nothing wrong with writing for your own pleasure or self discovery or for your mother. Kudos to you and keep writing! But if you have a passion to tell a story, to paint in words, to reach people, to move people, then you understand the question—Am I a “real writer?” And if you have that passion and are willing to work to make it “work,” then, in my book, you is one!

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T.K. Thorne retired as a captain of the Birmingham Police Department and currently serves as executive director of CAP, a business improvement district in downtown Birmingham.  Both careers have provided fodder for her writing. Her fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have been published in various venues and garnered several awards, including “Book of the Year for Historical Fiction” (ForeWord Reviews 2009) for her debut novel Noah’s Wife.  A short film from her screenplay Six Blocks Wide was a finalist in a film festival in Italy and has shown at other juried festivals in the U.S. and Europe.  She has served on several community boards, including the Alabama Writer’s Conclave.  She writes on a mountain top east of Birmingham, Alabama.  To learn more about T.K. Thorne and her writings check out her website at .