Father of three and husband of one, Todd Wells plays upright bass in a rockabilly band, hosts international visitors through US Department of State exchange programs, and enjoys being patted down by TSA personnel at Midway and O’Hare airports. He writes about all of those things at traveldiaryofamadman.com. Other sites where his scribblings have appeared include Funny in Five Hundred, 365 Tomorrows, and AntipodeanSF.
How long have you been writing and what got you started?
For many years my wife and I have written one of those year-end holiday letters. People would say, “I usually hate those things, but yours is okay.” Spurred on by this high praise, I tried hard to make them as clever and funny as I could. I found myself getting sad when we mailed out the last one and there was no more writing to be done. Then one day it hit me that I didn’t have to wait until Christmas to write something. And so it began…
Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
The essay “Politics and the English Language”, by George Orwell. Great advice about being clear and concise. I think about it all the time when I’m writing.
If you could go back and find yourself five years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
That thing you just wrote? It’s not as good as you think it is. Let it sit for couple weeks, then take another look.
[Two weeks later]
See? It’s pretty bad isn’t it. Why don’t you fix it before you send it out.
What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
I like stuff that’s gripping (I like to be gripped? hmmm). Whether it’s a private eye mystery or a fantasy quest or a romantic comedy, make me desperate to find out what happens next.
I rarely read more than one book by the same author. An exception to that is Paul Theroux’s travel books. He’s got a dry wit that I aspire to.
How do you measure success when it comes to your writing?
I consider it a success anytime someone reads something I’ve written, tells me they like it, and gives the impression that they aren’t lying just to be polite. If I’ve entertained you, I’m happy.
How do you deal with rejections?
If my story is any good, someone will take it, eventually.
In the very short term after I’ve received the rejection, I remind myself that every fiction publisher has put up stories that are demonstrably worse than my rejected piece. Which means that my story was a bad fit, or the editor is giving too much weight to an author’s resume, or he was just in a bad mood when mine came through.
In your opinion, how important is a writing degree or MFA when it comes to achieving success in writing fiction?
I hope it’s completely unimportant, as I have neither of those things.
What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
What book(s) are you reading right now?
The Constant Gardener by John le Carre
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