Author Interview: S. Evan Townsend

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

After getting past the fireman/policeman stage, I wanted to be a writer. At first I wanted to write for television then I decided to write short stories. I was 12 years old. Later (much later, as an adult), I started writing novels.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Yes, of course. One is to read a lot. Read the genre you plan to write. Read outside the genre you plan to write to get a different perspective. And then find a writers’ group that will give you good, constructive feedback. Have you ever killed off a character your readers loved? Can I plead the fifth? Yes, in one of my novels there is a character that everyone loved and at the end of the novel, I killed them off. I cackled with evil when I did it.

Have you ever traveled as research for your book?

Yes I have. But I was lucky, most of the travel I did for research I could tie into a business trip. For my novel Agent of Artifice, I went to Chicago and spent time in the library looking at old newspapers. I saw the papers my character would have read. And it allowed me to add some local flavor to the book. I once had a business trip to Miami. For the same novel I rented a car and drove to Key West. Finally, for Agent of Artifice, I drove to Seattle (not too far from where I live) to study the Space Needle as it is the setting of the climax. I went to San Francisco for a meeting and I just happened to stay in a hotel one block from the Huntington, which is in almost all of my Adept fantasy novels. I saw that it has fire escapes and a neon sign on its roof. So I re-wrote a scene involving both and it was much better than the scene I originally had.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

As a pantser, I tend to develop plot organically. I often just start writing with little clear direction of where the plot will take me. And characters are also organic. I will plan their name, job, and how they look. But their character reveals itself as I put them in stressful situations. Are they cool and calm? Or do they panic?

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have written seventeen books, thirteen are published, two are in the process of being published and will, I hope, come out soon. And two are sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to decide to publish them. They were both outside my usual genre (science fiction and fantasy). I also have some unpublished novellas and short stories. If you’d like to know more about my books, go to my website My favorite? That’s like asking who’s my favorite child. But I really do like Treasure of the Black Hole, a 1940s film noir private detective 3,000 years in the future.

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

The advice I give all writers: just keep writing. They need to know that all first drafts are garbage. There is no good writing, only good rewriting. And find a writers’ group for constructive feedback.

What books have you read more than once in your life?

I’m a little embarrassed by this, but the book I’ve read the most often is The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It’s such a fun book to read. I suppose you could call it my guilty pleasure. I have also reread some of my favorite Robert Heinlein books including The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers and Glory Road. What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills? Read a lot and write a lot. Writing is like any other skill: you need to practice it. And, as I’ve mentioned before, find a writer’s group to give you constructive feedback. But most important is to just keep writing and rewriting.

When did you first call yourself a writer?

I was working for a business and a nice woman came in trying to sell me advertising for the magazine she published. We were chatting and she said that she needed to review a wine resort and restaurant and just didn’t have time to do it. I told her I had just stayed there and could write her a review. With trepidation in her voice, she asked me to send her something the next day. When I got home from work, I wrote the review and sent it to her. She loved it, published it, and paid me for it. That was the first time I’d been paid to write. That’s when I first called myself a “writer.”

Leave a Reply