Name: Tory Gates
Where are you from: Originally from Cambridge, Vermont, now living in York, Pennsylvania.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:
I was born and raised on a dairy farm, which my family still operates. I have been a broadcaster for 31 years, and have had nearly every job there is to have in the business. I’ve been a DJ, a journalist, producer, talk show host, traffic reporter and manager.
Currently, I’m a reporter for the GeoTraffic Network out of Philadelphia, a news/sports writer/reporter for the Radio Pennsylvania Network, and a producer for iHeartRadio in Harrisburg. In addition, I host a Sunday afternoon program called The Music Club on the London-based Radio-Airwaves Station. I also write songs and play in a folk-rock duo, the Dharma Fools.
My first book, Parasite Girls was released in 2013, and is available through Amazon.com and Smashwords. So I guess you’d say I like to keep busy!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My second book, A Moment in the Sun is set to come out this summer on Sunbury Press Books. It’s a young adult/crossover story of a young woman named Rei, and her rise out of self-isolation to return to society. The story examines the Japanese concept of acute social withdrawal, known as the hikikomori.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing, or rather making up stories all my life. I did it for attention I suppose, but also my own form of entertainment. Over time, I began to see this form of expression as a means of therapy.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t seriously consider myself one until I began to write poetry and songs in the late 80’s, while I was still in college. Again, that was just getting things out of my head. I never believed I had anything to offer to the public for years, it was just something I liked to do.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’d written a science fiction novel in the early 90’s, which came out of an intense period of creativity. I envisioned a series; but I envisioned a lot of things and didn’t have the drive to see them through. I still have a copy of that novel somewhere, but it reads like Star Trek fanfiction; it’d take a lot of work to make it more original.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t think I write in any revolutionary or unique style. I try to be straight-forward in dialogue and description.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
That came out of one specific scene in the story. Rei, who is a former hikikomori (even though she didn’t know it at the time) is reunited with a friend named Sho, who has become one. In a rare moment of his being “outside,” he shows Rei the one place outside his room that he feels safe, atop an abandoned water tower on an equally abandoned site. From this place, Sho finds something that is his. For Rei, it is a moment that permits acceptance, for Sho, and for each person. We all get that one moment of acceptance for who and what we are, hopefully.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
One of the underlying themes in A Moment in the Sun was one that I didn’t even start out thinking of. We are a very exclusive bunch, humans; and we tend to shut out not only ideas or concepts that are alien to us, but also people. We even do that to our own families; we ignore or forget them for whatever reason. Rei has to examine her past, before she can move into her future. For her and Sho’s friends, they are forced to examine the matters of class and social rank. They all view this a little differently, based on where they stand in society; but they all come to realize a need to learn about people in different, and dire circumstances before they can grow.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I learned of the hikikomori through an article I read on the BBC website. I didn’t know there was such a name for people who are reclusive in this way. The thing is, this is an issue that happens everywhere in the world. This can be (and is) everywhere.
I hope that what I did was bring home that the issues such people face are real, and perhaps readers see something of themselves in here.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
It’s been difficult to write about me, but some of Rei’s character has had events that parallel my life, and some of Sho is me as well. When I create characters, I often work actual people I know or have met into them, but never base them on just one person. The characters always change in the writing process, anyway.
When I began to write seriously in 2007 (and haven’t stopped), I found I could not write about myself. I just couldn’t do it; I wasn’t able to get to areas in my life and within myself yet. So I wrote about other people’s experiences, and then slowly I was able to tap my own experiences for my work.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
It’s funny, I’ve read all my life, but I do not think I am well-read. I’ve tried to change that as time goes on. My first real brush with the classics has stayed with me: I read The Hobbit at nine, and Lord of the Rings at ten, so I read them long before they were fashionable and cool, thank you very much! These are masterworks of fiction and imagination that will never again be approximated. Tolkien’s ability to expand his horizons as he created that amazing world and those incredible characters showed me early on there are no boundaries, and you should never have any.
As a teenager, I read a lot of novels, and was a big fan of Douglas Reeman. He wrote a long string of war novels, most of them about the Royal Navy and World War II. He placed his regular characters on the most unlikely of vessels, ie, the clapped out steamer with a couple of guns, a mini-submarine, a motor torpedo boat, etc. Reeman created real characters, doing the real fighting. They weren’t all larger than life heroes, they were much more down to earth. That too has stuck with me.
In recent years, I have tried to get back in touch with authors that should now make sense, in my older age. I ignored them before, but now I can count Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse as authors that taught me a great deal more than imagined in the past.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I read several books at a time; I usually have three or four going at once. I’m not a huge manga fan, but I am reading Yomi Hirasaka’s Haganai, a very twisted, at times dark-humored series. Moyocco Anno wrote an autobiographical one called Insufficient Direction, which chronicles her real-life marriage to an anime director. Wonderful caricatures, and drop-dead funny!
I just recently finished John Cleese’s autobiography, So, Anyway, and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
My last complete finish is Bread Pudding and Other Memories, by Dr. Edward Rielly. I have a personal connection: Dr. Rielly was my English professor for two years where I went to college. He has written numerous books of poetry, history and the like; this was a memoir of his boyhood, and it brought back recollections of my growing up. His and mine weren’t that much different, though he was of my father’s generation.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I recently met Megan O’Russell, who is the author of The Tethering Series. The second book of the series has just been released. I think it’s got great potential.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
A Moment… is currently in the final editing process, and as I said, should be out this summer. I hope to release a fully young adult adventure story next, called Drifters: Tales of the Southern Cross.
The big project I have been working on since ’07 is The Sweet Dreams Series. I have written six books in this long-running series of YA novels that deal in time travel, and the healing power of music. To be honest, the first three are pretty much ready, and we could stop there…but when I get wrapped up as I did in that storyline, I just keep going (laughs)!
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The performing world. I was involved in acting as a child, and I did theater for several years, in particular The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That show, and the numerous people I met through it, kicked open all the doors for me. Being onstage showed me that not only could I do that, that I could do anything I wanted. Playing music live, same thing. That said, it took me several years to get my head right and direct my energies in the way they needed to go.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’d like to. At my age, I’ve spent so many years in the broadcast world, and I’ve been a survivor of a business that has changed a lot. Still I was fortunate to pretty much do what I wanted to do, and even better, get paid for it! It would be nice to just write and know that you would have an agreeable publisher, plus an audience that at least would support you.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t know at this point. It’s gone through so many rewrites, that I feel I’ve got to where even if it is not perfect, it’s about as far as it can go.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
That had to start from my first being able to read. They say reading to your child is the best thing you can do, and my mother did just that. I have no doubt it keyed my interest in thinking beyond what I’d read and wondering if there was more.
One thing I’ve done at times, and this may seem really weird…but I often find myself identifying with a character in a movie I’m watching or a book I’m reading. I find the one I recognize, and sort of go along with that character as the story progresses.
That is something I can expand on: I hope that readers find a character in my stories that they identify with. I put my characters through a lot of stuff! I’d like to think that if they see this character going through things, they can see it in themselves, and think, “If they can get through this, what I have going in my life is nothing. I can get through that.” I want to think that not only do I entertain, but make you think, and even give some hope.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here is a little bit of A Moment in the Sun (where within I shan’t say):
“The thin, frail frame lay stretched on the mattress, half-covered by a blanket. On her stomach, the girl’s head lay to the side that faced the wall. She could not see the light that shafted through the bottom of the bedroom door; she didn’t want to see anything.
The girl stared into the dark at the point where the floor came in contact with the woodwork. Small hands dug into the pillow, teeth clenched behind tightened lips as the voice tried not to let anyone hear. Not that they would have cared.
Tears seeped from the girl’s eyes, the pillow long damp. She sniffed; the water was her emotion’s way out.
Down the hall she heard the voices, indistinct but the girl guessed the subjects. There were four voices, three male, and one female. The talk was serious; a child like her didn’t need to hear. The less she knew, the better.
She already knew too much.
The girl groped in the dark for a towel and pulled it to her face. Teeth sank into fabric, and her body shuddered. This night was no different from any other; those outside didn’t care, and neither did she.
Now she sat up. Unwashed hair swept from them, her eyes peered over the towel; she could see the shadows of this square. Clothes were scattered over the floor, books and papers strewn about. The room was a mess, no more of one than she herself.
One anomaly was the series of books, these wire and paper bound of varied sizes. They were stacked to the side of the bed by a laptop computer. Neatly set and ready for use, a case of writing utensils lay next to them.
The walls bore the fruit of such tools: portraits in pencil, pen and ink of anime and manga characters, traditional subjects and others. Some were framed, but most taped to the wall, near to drop from their time of hanging. They were ignored, as was the rest of her.
She pulled her bare legs to her chest and wrapped her arms around herself. The room was cold; there were more blankets in the closet, but she could not move for them. This was effort enough.
The girl rested her head on her knees and shivered in the dark.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
My impatience with putting it down. I like to think about a story for a few months in my head, before I write anything. Usually I’ll have an idea, and I’ll sketch out the characters, what they look like, etc. Then I’ll have a brief storyline, which then is fleshed out chapter by chapter. I have storylines 50 pages long; but I try never to write until 1) I’m absolutely sure it’s ready to be written, and 2) that I will see it completely through. I hate stopping, once I start.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have one favorite author, I’m sorry to say I have several. Tolkien and Poe for the classics, if you will. Haruki Murakami, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Douglas Reeman for the more contemporary ones. The manga works of Milk Morinaga, Ume Aoki and Yomi Hirasaka I really admire. Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings on Buddhism and mindfulness training are exceptional, and I also admire Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way. That not only gave me a perspective on the sea, and life, but also helped me write Drifters. Great research material.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Most of my books are set in Japan, yet I’ve never been. That is due to my interest in that nation’s history and culture, but also because I just had to do something different. I could write about around here in the US, I had to go another way, and so I did. I must go there, and other places to research. I hope one day to have the time and money to do so.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Mitch Bentley of Atomic Fly Studios, in Harrisburg, PA. He has done numerous covers and works, and he gets the best out of my ideas by seeing an even larger picture than I do!
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The editing. First drafts generally come pretty easily to me; once I start, I don’t stop till they’re done. Then it’s go back, find the mistakes and errors you made, the grammatical messes, and the repetitive words. A Thesaurus is a very good thing to have at hand for me.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That when I create, and continue to do so, to keep expanding one’s mind from what you had in it. Certain situations became too much the same, or I’d used them before. It’s a matter of being able to change those up, without changing the intent.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write, and make no excuses. If you have an idea and it has taken you, let it take you. Doesn’t matter if you vanish for a little while, that’s what it’s for.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope that when you read A Moment in the Sun, you find something that entertains you. Above that, I hope it makes you think, makes you feel, and that you see greater possibilities in your own life. I hope then, that you act upon them.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I honestly cannot.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
For the former, absurd, cynical, dark-humored and just plain crazy things. The latter no longer happens in me.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Amanda Palmer. I am a fan of her work and of the Dresden Dolls; her music also inspired yet another of my stories, and she was kind enough to let me use some of her lyrics for that. I think that would be quite an experience.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
“He wrote what he wanted to see, not what others told him he was supposed to see.”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Music, guitars, songwriting, swimming, meditation.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch much television; films tend to be documentaries and strange stuff, but my favorites are:
TV: Pani! Poni! Dash!, Hidamari Sketch, QI
Movies: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Believe: the Eddie Izzard Story, Deep Water, Amazing Journey: the Story of the Who.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: Anything Vegetarian, Coffee (stronger the better)
Music: Blues, Rock, Americana
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
My fallback is to be a broadcaster, which I am; but beyond that, I really don’t know.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
“Words of a Pre-Curmudgeonly Zen Pagan”