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An Interview with Tim O'Neil — Joannes Rhino - Bali Online Editor " />
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21 Jun

From a marginal high school student with an overactive imagination to the Military Police Corps of the U.S. Army, meet TS O’Neil…


JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

TO: My name is Tim O’Neil, and I use the pen name, TS O’Neil. My childhood was very ordinary. I was a marginal high school student with an overactive imagination and an uncanny ability to piss people off. I joined the Marine Corps Reserve to toughen myself up. It did broaden my horizons somewhat and led to a full ride ROTC Scholarship that got me through college, although based on my last deployment, I’m still paying for it.

I went to undergraduate school at Northeastern University in Boston and have an MBA from the University of Phoenix in Technology Management.  I spent a good amount of time in the military; first as an enlisted Marine in the Marine Reserve, then about ten years on active duty as an officer in the Military Police Corps of the U.S. Army and I finished out my career in the Army Reserve.

During that time, I traveled a lot of the world, picked up Spanish as the Army sent me to language school and managed to have a lot of fun and while mostly avoiding combat. While most sane people view being shot at as merely a life threatening situation, those in the military look at it as an opportunity for career advancement.

I got out of the military and eventually gravitated to the IT Field. I currently work as a Consultant in the Information Security field. I live in Seminole Florida with the love of my life, Suzanne.


JR: When did you first realize you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent?

TO: I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but it took a series of events in my life to get me to the point of wanting to actually write and publish a book. There were a few false starts along the way.


JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think a formal education in writing is necessary?

TO: No and no. I think among the field of famous and well-known authors you’ll find all levels education—from authors with degrees in creative writing to people who have no formal education but learned through trial and error. I don’t think there is any right formula.


JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as the main source of income? How do you organize your schedule and time in writing a book?

TO: No, I doubt I’ll ever be able to support myself as a full-time I usually dedicate a few hours on the weekend to writing and catch as catch can during the week if there is free time. We proofread and edit at night and then redraft the following day. It burns up a lot of free time.


JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

TO: Dan Pollock, the author of Lair of the Fox, The Running Boy, and many other novels, was an early influence, and he still helps me out from time to time with advice. He also interviewed me for his blog. http://danpollock.blogspot.com/. Elmore Leonard has influenced me in that I think he wrote some of the best and most realistic dialogs in the thriller genre. He also wrote a few books in the Florida Glare subgenre. Charles Willeford, the creator of the Hoke Moseley character in Miami Blues and several other books, is also an influence as he was great at dialog and humanizing his characters. I even like Norman Mailer’s portrayal of multiple marginal character’s lives spinning out of control in Tough Guys Don’t Dance.


JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

TO: Write for yourself and your loved ones as you may never achieve commercial or critical success. Learn to be happy to just tell a good tale. And of course, don’t publish a work before it’s ready.


JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

TO: I think the only habit is to try and crank out at least a thousand words per sitting and to do a preliminary edit the night after doing the work.


JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part of the process?

TO: It usually takes me about a year of writing, editing, and re-editing the manuscript before I feel it is ready for publication. The hardest part is the multiple proof readings and edits that need to happen to make sure the book is as perfect as possible prior to publishing it. Believe me, after it’s done, I’m sick to death of the book.


JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share with fellow authors?

TO: No, I’m very leery of people I don’t know editing my book. I’ve had some real bad luck with “professional editors” as I feel that the term in many cases equates to two lies in one in that they many times they are neither professional and don’t sufficiently edit the book. I use a professional editing program called Grammarly, and although it is far from perfect, it provides a valuable capability.


JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

TO: I’ve gotten faster and know the rules of writing better than I did when I started writing about five years ago. When I wrote my first novel, Tampa Star, it was a disaster. It was originally titled something else. I had to pull it off of Amazon and re-edit it before it became readable. It was a very humbling experience that also served as a very valuable lesson. Now, my wife and I have a more thorough process that involves multiple edits and the use of beta readers. Still, it’s an ever-evolving


JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

TO: I think all writers experience it at some level. I just set the work aside for a while and seek inspiration that will let me re-engage.


JR: Do you have a professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share with fellow authors?

TO: I’ve had a professional design the covers on the first two books, and I used a graphics program to do the last two.


JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

TO: Hootsuite will allow you to schedule bulk tweets up to a certain volume a week. Amazon has an advertising option as does Twitter. There are also virtual book tours to help an author to become better known. Additionally, there is a review group on Goodreads that will allow a new author to get legitimate reviews of their books.


JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

TO: At one time self-publishing was a joke, now it’s a thing. Eventually, it may be the thing—only time will tell. The industry is changing in that now the barriers to entry are just not there. It’s both good and bad as more people can write and publish books, but the quality control in all instances is often lacking. Also, the influx of authors has also driven the price of a book down, and readers are a bit cautious about buying a self-published book. Although in my opinion, the quality gap is closing. In the past, traditional publishers were allowed to be gate-keepers—supposedly to keep out the riff-raff, but who really knows how many great books never got published because they were barred from traditional publication. To me, the really exciting thing that’s happening that self-published books are getting made into movies, such as The Martian.


Mexican Hat TrickJR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

TO: I’ve written and published four books: Tampa Star, Starfish Prime, Mudd’s Luck and Mexican Hat Trick. I’m currently working on my fifth, Florida Glare.


JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

TO: I usually write in the Florida Glare genre because it’s insanely entertaining and a good outlet for my dark sense of humor. It’s full of near do wells, cops, molls, and tough guys careening through the plot until they collide and cause all sorts of murder and mayhem. http://www.tampabay.com/features/books/in-literature-a-new-lurid-genre-florida-glare/2129834


JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

TO: Like any good parent, I love them all. I think the best writing I did was the first chapter of Starfish Prime. I was looking to lure the reader in with a hook as some readers complained that my first book, Tampa Star, took a while to get I needed something to draw one of my main characters back into the Marine Corps after he had been out for a few years and had a brush with the law. This scene allowed that to happen. What happens in the first chapter allows the action in the rest of the book to transpire the way it does.

The first chapter was originally three, but my wife insisted that I edit out a lot of the background material. I wanted to develop three characters and then never mention them again—thereby leaving the reader questioning why they just read the chapter and incentivizing them to seek clarity by reading further. The characters in that chapter are intense—a Marine Raider who just finished a High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) parachute course and two Nihilist youth intent on committing mass murder. They collide in the middle of a shopping mall. The scene ended up being very fast-paced and emotionally charged. Later, I found out the chapter had the desired effect on my stepdaughter and as she wondered aloud why she had just read it.


JR: Any other works in progress?

TO: I just started a book today. It’s entitled Florida Glare, and I’m blindly confident that it will be awesome. I’ll publish it sometime in 2018.


JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

TO: Write every day. Find harsh critics and listen to them. When you don’t know something, research it. Be very cautious about who you hire to do things—there is no free lunch.


JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

TO: They can find me at these links:

Website: www.tsoneil.com

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7200359.T_S_O_Neil

Twitter: @tselliot3









T.S. O'Neil