Friday, December 2, 2011

Tom Mach - An Innocent Murdered - Author Interview & Guest Post

My thanks to Tom Mach for stopping by The Character Connection for an author interview and guest post during the blog tour for his book, An Innocent Murdered.

Author Interview

1. Who is your favorite character?
I had several wonderful characters in An Innocent Murdered so it is a bit difficult to choose just one. For example, I fell in love with Susan Stratford, a 46-year-old former nun and a plain-looking woman with a heart of gold. She plays a key role in helping Detective Matt Gunnison uncover the real murderer of the priest. I felt sorry for her because of her frustration in wanting to learn about sex for the first time in her life, yet tormented by guilt in not only having to ask Matt to have intercourse with her but to realize she may be committing a grievous sin. But overall, I would select Matt Gunnison a 49-year-old detective on the murder case.

2. Why is he/she your favorite?
Matt Gunnison in An Innocent Murdered is not your typical police detective. For example, when the police are badgering Mrs. Tremont, the mother of a woman who ran away and who is suspected of murdering Sara Gibbons, Matt takes the mother aside and talks to her as friend. “Enough of that, you guys!” Matt tells the others. “You’re stressing her out. Give this poor woman a break.” Turning to her, he says “My mom used to tell me that if I put a cold cloth on my forehead and drank a cup of tea, my headache would go away. Mrs. Tremont, how about we leave these fellows here and we go to the kitchen—just you and I?” She gets up from her chair. “You’re a kind man,” she says. Matt shrugs. “Just following my own mother’s philosophy.”

3. How did you come to create him/her?
I created Matt Gunnison back in 1990 when I first wrote the original draft under a different title and somewhat different storyline. I put the book away for several years partly because I didn’t know how to deal with the sensitive subject of child molestation and partly because Matt back then did not spring to life for me. But I had an epiphany two years ago where I resolved both issues together. In An Innocent Murdered-I only mentioned the molestation incident briefly in passing, concentrating instead on the murder itself. Also, I envisioned Matt Gunnison in a whole new light.

4. When did he/she first enter your mind?
I had met a real detective when I first started writing the original draft of a novel with a different title and the idea for the original Matt Gunnison was very different from the one that appears in An Innocent Murdered today. My former character was a hard-nosed, “let the chips fly where they may” type of guy, but I didn’t like him. I didn’t like his language or style. But when I looked back at this story two years ago, I completely changed the plot and some of my characters--including Matt.

5. Where was he/she given life in the creative process?
What happened was that I started writing short mysteries, with one of them appearing in a story entitled The Crossword Puzzle Murders, which is one of my stories in Stories To Enjoy. In that story I had a female detective who was sensitive to the needs of her brother who was having a mental breakdown. I decided then and there that Matt Gunnison was more than a great detective--he was also a human being with needs and wants and pain and intermittent joy just like the rest of us. I put flesh and bone on him and Matt became a real person in An Innocent Murdered. With the combination of the right images and the Agnus Dei music in the background, Matt’s character came to life again in the following book video.

6. What do like the most about him/her and what do you dislike the most about him/her?
In An Innocent Murdered Matt was a likeable guy. Born and raised in Arkansas, he developed rapport with people. Yet he was a superb detective by not only being able to put clues together, but knowing when to act on his hunches--such as traveling to Chicago to meet a suspect murderer of a woman when the police were sure the suspect had gone to Denver. I think, however, Matt was at time a bit too trusting. For example, he was shocked when he learned his intimate friend Heather Johnson slept with him partly because, without his prior knowledge, she wanted him to be the father of his child--a child she had plan to share with her lesbian friend, Cassandra.

Guest Post

For years I had struggled with character development in my fiction. I used to think if you gave readers her physical attributes--eye color, height, weight, hair color and style, as well as other descriptors, you had a character. Not so. I finally had an epiphany when I wrote my first published novel Sissy! because my main character, Jessica Radford, came out of nowhere, revealing herself to me as if I knew her personally. I found I could spot her in a crowd, hear her voice, predict what she’d say to someone under trying conditions, and know what she was thinking. She’d have warts and imperfections, but she had an essence of something I admired. Actually, I had gone with her image for months and the culmination of my true ability to draw a solid character was proven one day. That’s when a friend of mine asked where Jessica was buried and he was stunned to learn I made her up.

I don’t use the old-fashioned method of taking down a list of physical descriptions and personal history of every character. What I do instead is envision them as if I were watching a movie. I’d have to be able to “see” them, “hear” them, “understand” them. This process would take days, if not weeks, but once I finally got to know them, I’d start writing my story and they’d reveal themselves to me--sometimes with surprising results. For instance, in An Innocent Murdered, I didn’t realize Detective Matt Gunnison carried “baggage” from an incident many years back when his high school sweetheart was murdered by a gang of thugs. I didn’t know he had originally planned for a musical career but switched to criminology after that happened. I didn’t know his Methodist-based background would haunt him later after he uncovered the shocking truth behind a cold case murder involving an 8-year-old girl.

I think each author uses a different approach to character development. My main idea is to “show” more about a character than “tell” about that character. Dialogue brings out character, whatever others say about her brings out character, how she reacts to different situations brings out character. For example, in Advent, I reveal a character trait of Greg Sorensen when it comes to a woman like Audrey. “Honestly,” Audrey says, lowering her blue silk panties, “do I have to make e a sign and wave it in front of you to make it more obvious?”

Now, isn’t that a lot better than simply saying that Greg is shy?

About the Book
An Innocent Murdered

Book Details:
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Murder Mystery
Format: ebook
Price: $0.99
Buy Links: Kindle

Father O'Fallon has been murdered, and police officer Jacinta Perez is arrested and charged. Detective Matt Gunnison, however, is not convinced and with the help of Susan, an ex-nun, he discovers a fascinating link between the priest's death and the death of a child 25 years ago. Will Matt be able to solve both murders?

“What’s critically important here,” Matt said, “is the time this event happened. Mr. Zylinski, you said you knew it was about 9:13 pm when this occurred. How would you know that?”

“It’s all in the deposition, sir,” the man replied. “I checked my watch just before I got to my car. I had to be somewhere at ten and didn’t want to be late.”

The attorney leaned forward, a smile on her face. “I am sure you learned by now, Mr. Gunnison, that the bank clock was correct after all. During the day, that clock was not set back an hour for daylight savings time, but it was corrected by the bank manager at 6:00 that evening. So it really was 9:13 after all.”

Matt was a bit miffed at her know-it-all attitude. “Thank you for pointing that out to me, counselor.”

About the Author
Tom Mach

Tom Mach wrote two successful historical novels, Sissy! and All Parts Together, both of which have won rave reviews and were listed among the 150 best Kansas books in 2011. Sissy! won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award while All Parts Together was a viable entrant for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Award. He also wrote a collection of short stories entitled Stories To Enjoy which received positive reviews. Tom’s other novels include: An Innocent Murdered, Advent, and Homer the Roamer.

His poetry collection, The Uni Verse, won the Nelson Poetry Book Award. In addition to several awards for his poetry, Writer’s Digest awarded him ninth place in a field of 3,000 entrants. He also has a popular blog for writers of both prose and verse.

Connect With Tom:
Web Site

A $50 Amazon gift card to the commenter that Tom feels leaves the best comment. He will make his selection at the end of his tour. Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

From Goddess Fish:

Hi! Just wanted to let you know that Tom's sister passed away Sunday and he will be unavailable to comment on your blog post on his scheduled day. If you would add that to your post and assure people he will comment once he gets back into town, we would greatly appreciate it.


  1. If you 'know' your characters then I imagine it must be a tad easier to write about them. Did you find yourself interacting with them as you worked through the writing?


  2. Thank you for hosting Tom today!

    Unfortunately, there's been a death in his family and he's away from the computer for the next few days. He'll check back in as soon as he's able, so leave comments!

  3. Thanks for an interesting interview. I like to read the back story of a book...the meat of how the author got from page one to The End.

  4. Goddess Fish, thank you for letting everyone know. I am so sorry for Tom's loss.

    Marybelle and Karen - thanks for stopping by for Tom.

  5. Marybelle and Karen--

    Thanks for your sympathy toward the loss of my sister. I appreciate your kindness. Your comment, Karen, on how I got from Page One to The End is always one that I often wonder about too. When I start a book, I never quite know how it's going to wrap up. Marybelle, I commented earlier on your thoughts about getting involved with my characters. I do get quite involved with them.