INTERVIEW WITH CHAD TOLSON, AUTHOR OF AVA AND THE U.G. (Volume 1)
SYNOPSIS – Ava and the U.G. (Volume 1):
Ava is an orphan raised on an island of orphan girls. When she is finally “adopted” she meets a mysterious man named Q, and discovers the world is laid out nothing like she ever dreamed. Ava finds out that she has been designed to be beautiful and unable to have children. And like every other girl from her island, she is intended to be a pleasure object of the super rich “elites” that control the world of oppression and lies. But there is hope. Q has prepared a dangerous mission for Ava, that if she chooses to undertake could change the fate of all. Ava believes she can learn to face death. But what if she discovers love?
In “Ava and the U.G.” Ava will have to choose between the most wonderful boy under the stars, and saving every girl she has ever known.
CHAD TOLSON – OR “MR. TOLSON”, AS HE’S CALLED BY THE MEWNOWTV FAMILY
The MewNowTV and Big Squid team has enjoyed a close friendship and occasional working relationship with author Chad Tolson for years. Most recently he worked as the Boom Pole Operator on Big Squid Productions’ upcoming feature film ‘ZombieCON’. Throughout all, he has consistently proved to be a kind, hard-working, dependable and creative artist with a heart of gold— Whether writing novels, traveling the world as the entertainment host on cruise ships, playing original songs on his guitar for strangers, or rocking the boom pole on feature film sets, Chad Tolson is a renaissance man and a very talented gentleman. Read on to find out about his newly published novel, “Ava and the U.G.”
Q. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
A. Wow, that is a great phrase, Literary pilgrimages. It is true that I left LA to kind of seek out the world, and find out, I don’t know… about the world as I tried to learned about how to tell stories better. I worked in construction and on cruise ships. Cruise ships inspired me to write “Ava and the U.G.” so that is definitely a great one. I have driven coast to coast twice though, and one of those times was a 7,000 mile 40 day odyssey of adventure, almost completely camping and staying with friends. There is something incredible about taking America in all at once in that way. Something about the freedom, and vastness, those memories and moments, the grandness of it all… anytime I recall it it’s inspiring to me. I guess there is something about a rode long trip like that, when you don’t have very much money at all, that feels a bit like a pilgrimage. Maybe of the soul more than of writing, but maybe that is what writing is all about.
Q. What is the first book that made you cry?
A. “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Those are beautiful books to me. Simple, but elegant. C.S. Lewis is one of the greats.
Q. What is your writing Kryptonite?
A. Oh man… Anything. Procrastination is a substance that can take almost any form. I am an outdoors person so warm sunny days can make for a good excuse.
Q. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A. I would say it is going to take longer than you think, it is going to be harder than you think, but you definitely need to do it, because even when you fail and you fall on your face, and even when it seems you have been passed over time and time again, there is no better feeling than living a life in the pursuit of something you truly believe in.
Q. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
A. I’m reading a book right now called “The Mystic Dreamers”. I saw it in a library and loved the title so I picked it up. It is a about Lakota Sioux before Europeans arrived to the plains. It begins with a young warrior on a vision quest where he sees a white buffalo. He then sets out to marry a girl from a distant tribe, who, as a child, touched a white buffalo. I have no idea how obscure, or not, the book is, but I have been really surprised by the quality of the writing and the depth of the world.
Q. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
A. Ummm… Yes, in a way very much. You really have to face yourself as a writer. What you feel strongly about, and what you really care about. The right and wrong, the beautiful and tragic. The way you see them in the world and the way they are maybe, in some way, a part of you. So if you are doing it right, I suppose you are writing from the deepest part of yourself.
Q. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A. Well, except for Ava, all female characters that I have written, are written like I have seen women my whole life. From the outside, what they say and do. So, in a way, they are not so different from writing male characters. Now with Ava, it is a bit different. I’ve never been in a woman’s head before, but I think you just try to imagine your own thoughts and you tried to pull together what you know, or think you know about women, and you try to think about all the ways you and a character are similar and different, and the situation they are in, and then you try not to question it too much. I suppose as long as it feels true to you, you keep it and hope others feel the same way.
Q. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
A. I’m not sure. Maybe manual labor. haha I’ve done it in order to write. But ideally, if I could do anything else, I would be a musician. Maybe that is cheating picking another art from but I really love music.
Q. What is your favorite childhood book?
A. “Shadows of the Empire.” I loved Star Wars and it was set in between The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I tried to read a couple of other Star Wars books after that, but for me they just didn’t hold up to “Shadows of the Empire”.
Q. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
A. When you are working a story and you know what is coming up in the story but you don’t know how to get there. I’ve described writing before as solving a puzzle while making the pieces up as you go. And it is those moment when either the pieces don’t fit or when you can’t see the picture clearly, or both, that are the toughest times. It is moments like that when you can sometimes think, “Ah, this will not work,” “This story isn’t compelling or plausible enough,” and that could be the case, but usually you just have to step back, or push through, and eventually something breaks and the flood gates open. And then, that is probably the best part of the creative process – when things just flow. Darkest before the dawn kinda thing, one might say. You just have to keep at it.
Q. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A. Six months, would be a good number to shoot for. Then there is editing and formatting to consider, but I would like to release a book every six to eight months. I have yet to do this. haha But it’s where I would like to be with it.
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. Sometimes directly from my life, sometimes it’s the desire to express an theme, and so the story is something that really comes into being to say that this is bad or this is good, or this is inspiring, be inspired.
Q. What about for “Ava and the U.G.”?
A. “Ava and the U.G.” was all about a theme. It is a story about injustice. I was working on cruise ships when I came up with the desire to write Ava and the U.G. Although, at the time it didn’t have that title, and it was originally set up much differently. In the original 10,000 words I wrote Ava as a trained assassin. But it didn’t work. I discovered a lot of unfairness traveling, and I wanted the audience to discover, through Ava, the same sense of injustice that I discovered and it seemed to me that only if Ava was also to see the greater world for the first time, would it then be the same for readers. Hopefully anyway. So that was where the orphan on an island element came from, and after that the other parts of the story just began to fit together.
Q. What is your writing process like?
A. It always takes me about an hour of to kind of clear my head before I work. Just alone time. It could be going for a walk or a ride, cleaning my apartment, playing guitar, sometimes it is just listening to music. Then I sit down to write, and I do that for a max two hours generally, rarely ever more than that. If I try to write longer than two hours, it generally just doesn’t work. I just can’t hold the story together in my head properly and the new words just stop being compelling.
Q. What was it like for Ava and the U.G.?
A. It was the same for Ava and the U.G. I never engineered it to be my style or anything, it just kinda is the way it works for me, I suppose.
Q. What advice do you have for writers?
A. Always demand the very best from yourself. If you are sitting down to write give your utmost effort. And, I think if you do that. You’ll always grow, you’ll always get better, and hopefully, you’ll always enjoy it.
Q. What’s the most surprising thing you learned from writing and publishing Ava and the U.G.?
A. Well, I came from a screenwriting background. Which is much more terse. Which can be very challenge because you are working with a limited amount of space, fewer words. And with Ava and the U.G., it became this immersive experience because you had the opportunity to create a much fuller world, and in Ava a very rich main character. So for me, writing this story in first person, was an emotional experience. Writing for Ava was almost like acting in a play, where you go through all the emotions of the character that you are playing. I am always trying to imagine and feel the world the way Ava does, the only difference is that I am writing instead of acting, and if it was a play, I would never get the part, because I am a grown man with a beard and Ava is a seventeen year old girl.
Q. What’s your favorite part about Ava and the UG?
A. Ava and the U.G. has a lot of moments of tension and suspense, and I suppose because of that, I would say the more romantic moments of the book are the ones that I like best. I like Ava and Jordie under the stars.
Q. What advice do you have for other writers who haven’t yet published a first book?
A. If you get published through a major publishing house. I really cannot say as I have not gone that route. Now, to anyone self-publishing… Don’t waste any time looking for someone to put your book together. Learn to proof it, learn to edit it. Be critical of your own work within yourself and make it the best you can. Learn to use photoshop or some other software to make your own cover, and study how to format the inside of it too and do that. It is faster and better to do it yourself. No one cares about your book as much as you do. You have learned to write, you can learn to do this other stuff too.
Q. How have your life adventures working on the cruise ship informed or changed your perspective as a story teller?
A. I think cruise ships showed me a bigger part of the world. I met, work with, and became friends with people from all over the world. We all worked and made a home together while moving across the sea and going to places that were often equally foreign to us. It taught me, through friendship with people who were also very far from home, about the world. About how different we are, and how different we aren’t. It taught me first-hand about parts of the world I got to visit and parts of the world I only knew people from, and it gave me a greater perspective on where I am from. It was unforgettable and life changing. And directly as a story teller it made me want to expose some of the great injustice in the world that I never before really considered.