November-December 2009 Interview
Q: Welcome! Tell us, how did you get started as a writer?
TF: I started writing fiction in college. In those days it was mostly science fiction having been inspired by
Isaac Asimov, and
Michael Crichton. I appreciated how
they could write engaging and entertaining stories where I also learned something. Asimov especially was someone whose
logic and story arcs were always impressive to me.
Q: Have you always been interested in art and writing?
TF: Growing up I was a musician. Believe it or not, I played the accordion competitively (yes itís true). In high school I
stopped music and pursued drama. Later, writing was the way to give my creative juices an outlet.
Q: How do you keep your creative juices flowing?
TF: My four children help with this. I make up stories for them just before bed time. Usually the stories follow the same theme.
For example, I'll tell a story about an ant who travels the world and eventually goes into space. Silly things really but it keeps
the creativity going.
Q: Do you have any projects youíd like to tell us about?
TF: Iím currently working on the sequel to The Time Cavern.
Q: Todd, I have read The Time Cavern. I think it is a wonderful book. What
inspired you to write it.
TF: Thank you D.B. I'm glad you liked it. Growing up, I was one of those kids that did not enjoy books. I remember having reading
assignments in school and Iíd impatiently count the pages to the end of the chapter assignedóreading was definitely a chore.
Then I read
A Wrinkle In Time written by
Madeleine L'Engle. I was engrossed in
the story. Before I knew it, I had finished the book and subsequently became an insatiable reader. Years later, I re-read the book
and relived not only the wonderment of the story I had experienced when I was younger but I also appreciated it on an entirely
new level as an adult. It was A Wrinkle In Time that inspired The Time Cavern. I wanted to write a book that featured everyday kids,
not the jock or the beautiful girl. A book that would let young people experience something as grand as their imaginationsóbut be real.
Like Madeleine L'Engle, I wrote The Time Cavern as a piece that does not talk down to children and young adults, but challenges their intellect while being
Q: Your book is targeted at young adults?
TF: The main character is a ten-year-old, so primarily the book is targeted at preteens and also young adults. However, Iíve found that
adults of all ages are enjoying the book. One older adult wrote to me and said, ďYou know why I'm liking this book? Because I can read it without any 'surprises'
coming out of the woodwork. Language, sex, violence...kinda like going back to my own childhood. I'm no prude, but sometimes itís nice to
just read a good story.Ē
Q: The story takes place in rural
Amish country. Why did you choose this setting?
TF: I grew up in northern Indiana near a large Amish community. My dad enjoyed taking our family for Sunday drives and many times we found
ourselves going through rural Indiana. Fascinated by the Amish horse and buggies, clothes, and lifestyle, I questioned everything. I think I
drove my parents crazy. The Amish we came across were so friendly. They always waved as we drove by. Here were kids my age but living such a different
life. I think it really made me appreciate what I had but also it gave me great respect for them. Using an Amish setting for The Time Cavern
was perfect. It provided both a literally and a figuratively journey through time.
Q: Not only does the reader learn a lot about Amish culture in your book, but youíve woven in information about astronomy, genealogy, and
science. How did you integrate this information?
TF: Having four children of my own, itís easy to see the world through their insatiably curious minds. They are questioning machines.
As my characters Aaron and Jake uncover the mystery of The Time Cavern, I simply included the questions my children would likely ask so
believable questions from a child would seamlessly carry the story. I think the result is not only entertaining but educational.
Q: This is the first in a three part series. What comes next for your main characters?
TF: While this is only part one, the story is complete by itself. The main questions posed at the beginning are resolved. However, the
end clearly lets the reader know, more has and will happen. I donít want to give away any spoilers. Letís just say that there will be a
number of role reversals for the main characters. While they believe they understand the secrets of The Time Cavern, theyíll quickly
learn that their journeys through time arenít as straight forward as they expected. They will confront the reality that getting back home
may be impossible.
Q: What is something you wish other creative artists understood?
TF: The item that comes to mind here has to do with promoting your work. There are so many excellent writers, musicians, etc.
Unfortunately, countless mainstream consumers donít know about them. Internet exposure provides a great equalizing platform.
It doesnít matter who you are, you can have a great website. This can also be a downside. There are so many artists
out there, how can potential consumers find you? How do they know if you are any good? It is important to understand that even if
you are very talented, if you want to be noticed, you must spend a lot of time promoting yourself. The best way
is to identify and to develop a relationship with your target audience. The smaller the niche the better because it is easier to find these
folks and to get them interested in what you do. Then, it is all about word of mouth.
Q: What are some of the challenges and obstacles you faced during your career?
TF: I think that probably the largest challenge an artist faces is humble self confidence. Believing in yourself and believing in
what you create is important but it can also become a barrier to success. Having people you donít know critique your work is the best
way to learn if you have created something that is worth other peopleís time and money. Most family members and friends simply cannot be objective.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
TF: Having people I donít know send me emails telling me how much they enjoyed my work. A woman recently wrote to tell me that
a group of dads with their sons had read The Time Cavern and they did several projects based on the book. She sent pictures of arts and
crafts the kids made based on some of the relics mentioned in the book. It was wonderful and amazing to learn that something I wrote
brought fathers and sons together to share time and creativity.
Q: What inspires you?
TF: My children, my family, other writers, other artists, and day to day life.
Q: How do you manage your time when you are working on more than one project?
TF: This is very challenging. Having and keeping a consistent daily schedule and defining goals are the only way for me to accomplish anything.
Q: What do you do to relax and to just have fun?
TF: I love to read. I also enjoy hiking and biking with my family.
Q: What is the number one thing you would like to tell new creative artists?
TF: Just finish it! Donít question its worth; make it all the way through whatever it is that you are creating. Regardless of the outcome,
there is great satisfaction in knowing youíve written a novel or completed any type of artistic work.
Q: Do you have a support system?
TF: My family and friends. I wouldnít be successful without the support of others.
Q: If, at the age you are today, you could spend a day with you at age seven, what would you take
back in time, what would you say, what would you do?
TF: Oh what a great question. I think I would say, ďAlways believe in yourself, be confident, have fun, and follow your dreams.Ē
Fortunately, I had a father like this so I can only hope to be as successful with my children as he was with me.
Q: When you feel creatively blocked, what do you do to get yourself back into the creative flow?
When your muse is napping, what do you do to wake him/her up?
TF: I just write whatever I see. It could be writing about what my kids are doing or building or whatever. Just writing anything
starts to get the juices going. Even if it is horrible I keep writing and eventually something good starts to flow. Of course
later, there is usually lots of editing to delete all the bad stuff!
Q: How do you recharge your creativity?
TF: I play with my kids. Being with them provides the perspective and wonderment I had as a child and suddenly a world of
possibility opens up.
Q: What is your greatest inspiration?
TF: Probably my father. Here was an incredible man who never finished high school but was the smartest man I knew.
Q. What makes you smile?
TF: Lots of things. Usually my kids when they are doing the craziest things (dancing with a broom, talking to their legos, you name it).
Q: What advice can you offer to a creative artist who is struggling with their inner critic?
TF: I mentioned this earlier Ė just keep going and finish. Donít judge, just finish. You can always go back later to edit
(if you are a writer). Finishing provides a sense of accomplishment and good shot of confidence.
Q: Many artistic people struggle to develop a routine that allows them time for their creative
work. What advice can you give that will help them create a balance between work and social life?
TF: I schedule my artistic time when my kids are asleep (early morning and late at night).
Q: What creative individuals do you admire?
TF: Probably an eclectic bunch from
and Leonardo Da Vinci
to Einstein and
Q: What is your favorite first sentence in a book?
TF: ďIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times.Ē
A Tale of Two Cities
Q: Are you listening to music as you answer these questions? If yes, what are you listening to?
TF: Hereís a question I wasnít expecting. But in fact Iím listening to
The Black Eyed Peas!
Q: If you only had one more day to live, what would you do with the 24 hours?
TF: Play with my kids.
Q: What traits, if any, do you think creative people have compared to people who are not
TF: Perhaps the belief that anything is possible, not necessarily in the real world but in the fictional world
they create through their work. Fiction provides endless possibilities.
Q: When do you feel most energized?
TF: Being around people while being myself.
Q: Can you see your finished project before you start it?
TF: Not concretely. I can see ahead but not clearly. Itís as if Iím looking through a cloudy window. I have an idea about where I am going
but it is not completely revealed to me until I start to uncover each element along the creative journey.
Q: Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?
TF: Iím not sure itís either way, perhaps we chose each other.
Q: What book are you reading right now?
TF: Iím reading two books at the moment, Soul Intent by Dennis
Batchelder and and Sorceress by David Korentz.
Q: What is the last movie you watched?
TF: I Robot with
Q: What is the best advice youíve ever been given?
TF: Always remember you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.
Q: Your famous last words, share a piece of advice, a favorite quote, a tip,
whatever you wish.
TF: Truly listening to others is a rare skill. Master the ability to listen and you will enjoy a life long journey of learning and
connecting with those around you.
Creative Artists Commnity