Joanne: Welcome Tom Noel Smith to Author Interview Friday. Tell us a little about yourself.
Tom: I am interested in promoting my book anywhere I can. I am a local Florida writer—Arcadia—I have written three books of poetry. “’Dust’ and Other Poems,” “Words of the Times,” and “Impressions and Memories.” “Impressions and Memories” has just recently been published. I have also written several short stores, not yet published. I am currently working on my fourth book of poetry as well as two short stories.
Joanne: It is a pleasure to have you with us today. Do you have a background in writing or did you take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
Tom: I have a degree in English and a degree in Theatre. Speaking strictly as an English major, I found myself fascinated by literary works of all genres. In poetry I was fascinated by the works of such writers as Andrew Marvel, Matthew Arnold, Longfellow, Emily Dickinson. Of course I was enthralled by the master, Shakespeare. I studied their words and listened to the rhythms of each piece. It was like a grand symphony—words and rhythm, all working together to weave a wondrous spell on the mind, the heart, and the spirit. Yes, poetry touched me in that way and I wanted to be able to write with command of words and rhythm and music.
In terms of writing I was swept away by such writers as Dickens and Conrad. I was fascinated by the works of Twain and Cooper, and even contemporary writers such as Pat Conroy fired my imagination.
But my background…I suppose life’s experiences demanded that I listen and hear and feel. I spent the early years of my childhood in France, Germany, and England. I lived in a number of states and I guess that the knowledge that we would be moving about every 18 months (or every 3 years, if we were lucky) taught me about the instability of the world around me, and that in itself must have sparked the creative demon that came to live within me. I suppose all of that guided my steps toward writing.
Joanne: I think life’s experience can sometimes be our biggest inspiration. You know the old saying, that truth is stranger than fiction. What other work have you done and how has it impacted your writing career?
Tom: I began my experiences as a magician. I did stage shows, close-up magic, mentalism. I have worked in professional theatre. I went to Ringling Brothers Clown College and travelled with a small, one ring circus for two years. I was a professional clown, I also did magic in the show. I taught Theatre in the public schools, but I gave up teaching and went back to my first love—acting. I now work as a film actor in Florida.
How has this impacted my writing? I think that it is rare that any individual gets to experience so many different phases and faces; smiling faces, young faces, old faces, care-worn faces. How can all these work experiences not impact my writing? Just being an active part of life and all its experiences—all this must impact the manner in which one writes and the subjects about which he writes.
Joanne: A magician, that is interesting. Do you have any special time or place you like to write?
Tom: Yes. I do have a special time. I like to write late at night when all the world is sleeping. The air is still. There is a quiet that I may not find during the earlier hours. I go into my office and I write for hours.
Joanne: What does “finding your Voice” mean to you and how did you find yours?
Tom: I think that our “voice” is always within us, just begging for the chance to free itself and find its way onto our pages. Finding a voice, for me, is akin to listening to a melodic sound and then humming what’s within one’s head. For me, it means casting away one’s inhibitions and allowing the passion that burns inside to have a vent, a way to express itself. It means to me, that one must give himself permission to be himself.
I went to a poetry conference not too long ago, and there were poets who were telling me that I did not write in the modern style or the style that was accepted by the contemporary world. At first I felt dejected. I felt as if I didn’t have any talent. However, there was something within that telling me that if I heeded all those voices, I would not be true to myself. I would not be an individual poet. I remember they kept asking me rather contemptuously if I just wanted to write for myself. I took this as a rebuke. Then I found myself. Yes, I want to write for myself. If I am not pleased with my words how can I expect any reader to be pleased? But I am writing with my own voice not someone else’s. The key to finding one’s voice is to remember the words: “And this above all: to think own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Joanne: I can’t agree with you more. First, we must write for ourselves, before our voice can be heard by the masses. What inspires you to write when you’re feeling down or less confident than usual?
Tom: This is the time the I do my best writing. I don’t know why but when I close myself off and I begin to write and the words seem to come more easily, and I often surprise myself at what happens in those dark hours when I am down or upset.
Joanne: Why do you write?
Tom: Why does the sun rise each morning? Why do we pursue dreams that could easily be deemed foolish. I write because there is that within me that I cannot explain. The words must come out. They aren’t always intelligent words, sometimes the words weave nonsensical tales, but all those words are a part of me and they beg for release. I would be miserable if I did not write. Isn’t acting enough? Acting is a very concentrated art form, like writing. But each art form is different, and while acting satisfies one aspect of fulfillment, I also need writing to make me complete.
Joanne: Spoken like a true poet. Thank you Tom. You are not alone in your feeling. I have heard it said “Writer’s write because we have no other choice.” We walk around with these characters or thoughts in our heads all the time. We are never really alone.
Readers, if you enjoy poetry, click here to buy Tom’s books on Amazon.