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A Gentleman and a Bon Vivant: T. Lawton Carney's Wild Science Fiction

An Interview with Thomas Williams, AKA T. Lawton Carney by Silver Webb

Thomas Williams, pen name T. Lawtown Carney, is a consummate gentleman, world-traveler, and bon vivant, whose favorite beverage would be a Pina Colada under the banyan tree in front of the Moana Surfrider Hotel on Waikiki beach. He is also an aspiring writer, having contributed his story "Emeralds for Andromeda" to Volume 1 of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal, which you can find here. Thomas is a Pisces, and in the Chinese zodiac, an Ox. Which I think means you can depend on both deep feelings and persistence from him. Thomas has written several books on interior design, and you can visit his Amazon writer profile here.

Silver: Where are you from originally and how has it influenced your writing?

Thomas: I can’t say being from Memphis, Tennessee, has influenced my writing style, but the sultry summers in that town slow one down and allow time to consider life. More significant was having important family members living near. My mother, particularly, started me reading at a very early age, then allowed me into the adult section of the library when I was only seven. My grandfather was also a man who could tell a story that stood your hair on end if he wanted to. His memories of traveling on a river boat on the Mississippi River as a child are incredible and filled with history. So, Memphis was okay, but it was the people there who influenced me.

Silver: When were you first gripped by the determination to be a writer of fiction and what was the inspiration for it?

Thomas: I’ve toyed with the idea since I was sixteen years old. But, I needed to go to school and college and then find a job to support myself. So, I let the writing slide. Then, in 2007 I was inspired to write a non-fiction book and that fired me up again. Within four years I had produced three non-fiction books and enjoyed the process. When we moved to Palm Springs my interior design career collapsed and I was left with nothing to occupy my time. Then it hit me. I have all the time I need now to write. So, get on with it. And, that’s what happened. I started writing and haven’t looked back.

Silver: How often do you write? Are you driven to do it?

Thomas: I write five and sometimes six days a week. Usually I start in the morning and might wrap up by lunchtime. On other days, I work into the afternoon. The process for me is strenuous in the sense that my mind is working overtime when I write. I don’t find it exhausting, but I need to relax after writing for a few hours.

Silver: What do you hope people will feel like after reading your work? Are there particular emotions you hope to elicit?

Thomas: More than anything, I hope they enjoy the tale I tell. I particularly want to envelope the reader in the action and characters. I like setting a mood to start a story then taking the reader into the developing action. I hope at the end, they like the resolution I create and look forward to reading another story.

Silver: Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

Thomas: As a direct answer I will say the inspiration comes from characters I’ve seen in movies and read about in books. But, my characters usually spring from my mind when I need them. It sounds crazy, but they are living in my brain, and when I have the need for a specific type or style of person, they present themselves. It is probably one of the most unexpected surprises for me and the work I do. I love creating the personae, the name, the look, and what part they will play in the story. Silver: How would friends describe your personality? Thomas: I can only answer by telling what I hope they see in me. I try in every way to be kind and considerate of those around me. I work hard not to judge and expect not to be judged. I hope I have a great sense of humor. I love to laugh. I can empathize with others challenges and try not to tell people what to do. Silver: I think all of that is true and more, Thomas! I perceive you as a very easy going person, but quite serious about writing. Are you ever satisfied with your work? Thomas: There are moments that make my heart sing. It’s when all the words come together and create a moment for the story that is unexpected and delicious. As I write and find something that doesn’t delight me I’ll change it and I’m rarely dissatisfied with the thoughts I put on paper. As with anything, it all always needs an edit or two. Silver: What’s the wildest adventure you’ve ever been on? Thomas: I don’t skydive, bust broncos, white water raft or things like that. I never did. Adventure and excitement, for me, is all about travel. So, even if the trip seems mundane to some I always get inspiration and feel excited when I travel. There have been numerous trips I would call wild adventure. Traveling three weeks across the Pacific on an ocean liner. Heck, even a transatlantic trip can be fun. Flying on the Concorde and sitting in the cockpit for landing both in Washington, DC, and JFK. All pre-9/11, of course. Surprising Robert by flying stand-by with only a passport and American Express card from Philadelphia to London. Hot air ballooning over Lake Tahoe. Any roller coaster, and I’ve been on a few. Visiting New York City in 1965 for the World’s Fair. The romance of travel is what makes it a wild adventure. Silver: Are you in a writing group and how has it affected you? Thomas: I joined the creative writing class at the LGBT center in Palm Springs in April of 2015. The group is moderated by a man who has been writing all his life. He has twelve books in print and more on the way. He allows each of us a chance to explore our ideas and what we want to write about. The critiques are always given with respect and never meant to demean. Everyone in the class makes suggestions as to what might work better. We all have a chance to read in class, and hearing your own words can be very helpful. The makeup of the class changes every ten weeks when a new session starts. Many members return and there are always a few new people. Each adds his or her own spin on fiction and often helps another class member come up with a new idea. The class helped me organize my time when writing, and it gives me an outlet for my creativity. The group as a whole is very supportive. Silver: Are there any particular authors that inspire you? Thomas: Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clark, Margaret Mitchell, Frank Herbert, Laura Hobson, Jane Austen, Dashiell Hammett. There are other, less well-known authors, who inspired, intrigued, frightened, and moved me. Silver: Any forthcoming or in-progress novels, poems, books, etc.? Thomas: I’m about two-thirds of the way through the third novel in a series of near-future murder mysteries with a favorite character named Sam Markum The first was set in Palm Springs, the second in London, and this third is set in Carmel, Ca. I’ve also completed six short stories, four longer novellas, and a number of shorter pieces. Silver: What do you find most gratifying about writing? Thomas: Writing allows me the pleasure of letting my mind run wild. Then it all just comes out on the paper. It frees me from the day to day horror of who’s running the country and where we might all be headed. It helps take me away from myself. I love developing characters, scene setting, descriptions, and working to fill any story with detail and excitement. That’s what I find gratifying. Silver: You've traveled a lot and always have good stories to tell. What have been some of your more interesting experiences and how have they affected your writing? Thomas: There’s so much to enjoy about life. I get a pleasurable buzz when I know I’m about to get on a plane and go somewhere. How exciting is that? Throughout my life I’ve loved old movies and the tight stories that were told on film. The glamour of it all, the sets, costumes, actors and the exotic locales all helped me and my ability to write. Everything I saw in those movies has, in some way, helped me arrive at a point that I believe lets me write a story someone else might want to read. All of it has fired my imagination to create. Silver: Tell us how you met your partner, Robert, and how your life together has influenced your writing. Thomas: I met Robert on a flight from Philadelphia to London in June of 1981. He was working as the purser on the flight and I was a passenger. After the meal service, I introduced myself and we talked for three hours as we flew across the Atlantic. Once in London I asked if he would like to have lunch as I had a long layover there. He said yes, but he needed to go home and sleep a little. He told me to come out to his place in Richmond around 11:30. I went into town and bought flowers for him at Harrods. He loved them and lunch was in his local pub. Then I flew on to Milan, met friends after a few days and traveled around France. Once in Paris, I called Robert and asked if he would like to go out to dinner the next night in London. He picked me up at my hotel and out we went. I moved out to his house the next morning and spent five days seeing the sights, plays and just fun. The day before I was due to fly home, we were walking along the tow path on the Thames, and he turned and asked, “Just what kind of relationship are we going to have?” I replied, “I don’t know, but it’s going to be expensive.” Between that date, July 3, 1981 and April 1, 1982 we traveled 32 times between Philly and London. I moved April 1 and we stayed in London another two years before coming to the US. Recently, when I was just starting fiction writing, I had put together a few things that might become a memoire. It was boring and I was getting no help from the class. Robert asked why I wasn’t writing science fiction. He reminded me how much I enjoyed that genre. The moment I started writing, it all came out in a rush. It seemed sci-fi would open my brain to the writing. Silver: Do you hope to bring LGBTQ characters to Sci-Fi? Thomas: I already have. Of the books, novellas, and stories I've written, six are LGBTQ themed. I have even taken three pieces I wrote earlier and turned the characters around to be gay or lesbian. That was a lot of fun and added to the dialogue and, I think, the interesting characters. I believe there really might be a market out there. Now, all I have to do is find the right publisher. Isn’t that what they all say? Silver: And you will find the right publisher, I know it! And you're fortunate to live in a community that is very LGBTQ friendly. Describe the perfect day in Palm Springs. Thomas: There are moments in every day that are perfect. Early, when we get up, the sun is strong on the mountain as it rises in the east. The glow is magnificent and the air is still just a little cool. Sitting with Robert with a cup of tea or coffee watching the morning unfold can be rapturous. Then perfection can be had when we’re at the Tropicale, surrounded by men and women all having a good time. The atmosphere is electric and the food ain’t bad, either. In the evening with the top down on the car driving home from a dinner party. I don’t expect perfection from a day, I loved to be surprised at the most unexpected moments. That’s a perfect day. Silver: Thank you, Thomas, and the very best of luck in your writing career. We'll be keeping an eye out for the Sam Markum mysteries!

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