When I first read Tim Kreider and Shawn Smucker’s book Refuse to Drown I cried, I cheered, I had to stop and catch my breath. The book is beautifully written and powerfully told . . . and it will leave you inspired and change with a new perspective on the people we often villainize when we forget that they are people, too. Take a few minutes and get to know my dear friend Shawn . . . and then pick up Refuse to Drown. You’ll be changed in the reading.
Today we’re launching Refuse To Drown. It’s a true story written from the perspective of a man named Tim Kreider. The story starts with the murders of a boy and his parents, an event that took place in Lancaster County in 2007. The murders affected Tim’s family because his middle son, Alec, was very good friends with the boy who was killed.
What Tim didn’t know was that a month after the murders (which remained unsolved at that time), his son Alec would be committed to a mental hospital after threatening suicide. While in the hospital, Alec makes a confession that is a parent’s worst nightmare.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
My childhood was full of books and stories and sometimes all those stories I read swirl together with the “real” events of my life. When I was young, we lived on a farm, and I’d spend many a summer afternoon sitting on the large porch, reading about Narnia or The Hardy Boys or Middle Earth. It can be difficult for me to remember the difference between the woods close to our house and the woods the Pevensie children stumbled through on their way into Narnia.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
I’m fortunate enough to be a full-time writer, so my schedule is fairly consistent. I make breakfast for the kids in the morning and start writing around 8am. I break for lunch and then finish for the day around 3 or 4pm. When I am working on a specific project I always set a goal of 1,000 words a day.
4. Who are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. My first experience with Gaiman was the audio version of The Ocean at the End of the Lane – his voice completely creeped me out, in the loveliest of ways.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Brothers K by David James Duncan
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
All three books start with strong characters and move through themes of faith and doubt and family and fate. I’m always fascinated by books that explore those particular themes.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I don’t know. Probably not very well. It’s a pendulum, I think, and one that’s nearly impossible to stop in the middle. I am constantly reminding myself that good writing is its own platform.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
I talked a little bit about my days at home, but I also do a lot of memoir and biography writing, so one or two days a week usually involve me going out to talk to the subject of my latest book, interviewing them and recording our two-hour sessions. Right now we live in the woods, so I also enjoy taking the chainsaw out. I’m also tapping our Maple trees for the first time, about twenty of them, so that’s something else I’ll be spending time doing, usually in the afternoon when my brain is melting from all the words.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
My dream writing space takes place on warm spring and autumn days (or cool summer days) when I can sit out on our back deck and write and the passing of time is visible in the drifting shadows of the deck rails.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
Well, while in the rewriting stages of my second book the editor wanted to bring in another writer to fix up a few chapters. We were running out of time and my editor was dealing with some taxing personal issues which meant she didn’t have the time to put into finishing the project that she would have liked.
I was horrified. My initial reaction was that I would never write again – not after such betrayal, such an insult, such disappointment. I’d spend the rest of my life playing online poker and watching football, and eventually I’d be the old man all the children in the neighborhood were frightened of. But slowly the words started coming again, and I returned to the keyboard and the pen and I realized then that no matter how successful a writer I became, no matter how talented or acclaimed, I would always be a writer. It was a good realization to have.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Set a daily writing target (words or time) and then stick to it, every day.
Tim Kreider is passionate about helping people find healing and wholeness. He shares his story at churches, businesses, youth groups and other gatherings, and he started a non-profit organization called Also-Me that encourages people not to live life alone. He lives in Womelsdorf, PA with his wife Lynn. Shawn Smucker is the author of eight books, including Dying Out Loud, How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp, and Building a Life Out of Words. He loves helping people share their stories. Shawn lives in Holtwood, PA, with his wife and four children.
Now, go buy Refuse to Drown – http://www.amazon.com/