Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I am SO excited to share an author interview with you guys today! I had the pleasure of interviewing Timothy Starnes, who is an incredibly talented playwright! You can follow him on twitter, @MrTimtheWriter, and check out a few of his plays here!!

Thank you Tim for taking the time to grant me an interview and I wish you all the best of success with your future endeavors! 

·         When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
I think I always knew I wanted to write, without knowing it. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be an impresario. I’ve always loved entertaining others, and making my ideas come to life. I never really acted on it, though, until I grew older. Growing up where I grew up, doing such things really wasn’t an option. That is why, when it was time for college, I left. That is some advice I give to anyone out there – if you can’t do what you want where you live, go off to pursue it. If your family doesn’t support you, don’t fret, it will always be a sore spot, but, you’ll quickly find others that support you.

·         What inspired you to write plays?
Originally, I wanted to write novels, that was a dream back in High School of mine. However, as time went on, I realized that it wouldn’t quite work out. While some writers say they “think in words,” I always see everything as if it is a movie running through my head – I imagine the way the characters look, the way they move, how they sound, how the world is around them – as if I were a movie director. I would spend pages of description with no dialogue, which does not make for a good novel. I put off writing for a while to find myself in college, then wrote a stageplay on a whim. That play was The Color of Coalsmoke, which ended up being my first published work. It was written over the course of two nights, in creative desperation.

·         How many plays have you written?
Currently, my catalog rests at five. However, my catalog is always growing. I intend to have at least five new releases out this year, time permitting. Three of these releases are written and simply awaiting release. One being Sassafras Cannon, my latest work, which will be releasing very soon, and two shorts, one being a return of some favorite characters, taking the middle slot in their planned trilogy.

·         What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on musical-izing Tune In, an already-published play of mine, about an unlikely group of society-made rebels that come into the ownership of a television station. It is a lampooning of educational public television, which I grew up watching the children’s block of while I was growing up. Some of the characters are parodies of real figures from such channels. I consider it a parody of America at its core, really.
I am also working on the later stages of outlining Re:Public, the sequel to Sassafras Cannon, my latest project, which is preparing to be released by Off the Wall Plays. I didn’t quite intend to write a sequel for it, but after the production wrapped, there was much interest and outcry for one, so, here I am.

·         Which of your plays was the hardest to write?
The hardest, so far, has been Sassafras Cannon, which is considered my best work to date. I write like many comedia and vaudeville writers – each scene contains some sort of joke or trick, and the storyline is written around these portions. It was a challenge to come up with these scenes, along with writing the storyline which took place in both the real world, and the world of the play. It took many re-writes to make the time-twisting nature work. There around 15 versions of the first scene, alone. The final cut was a mixture of the best pieces from all drafts.

·         Who is your favorite character from one of your stories?
I would have to say my favorite is Mr. Feltbetter, a parody of Mr. Rogers of fame in America. I watched a lot of Mr. Rogers as a kid, and it is great fun to create a fictional alternate persona that is nothing like him. I also like to use his character as commentary of the current state of social politics and the arts in America right now. That was the inspiration for the first play he shows up in, Tune In, which is actually the spinoff to a play I haven’t finished writing yet. So, in this case, the spinoff came before the original, but, in this case, it works well.

·         What do you do when you’re not writing?
Honestly, to my own torture, sometimes, I’m one of those people that never stops working. Generally, I am always brainstorming, and when not doing that, I’m working on my freelance work, which I do as well for both income, getting my name out there, and practice. Again, to my own torture sometimes, I am an activity-hound, as well. Any time there is an opportunity to go out to eat, throw a party, or travel, I’m there.

·         What is the strangest writing habit that you have?
I have a tendency, when working on dialog or stage directions, to act out things I write from my chair. I have had a few occasions where I’ve been walked in on reciting some sort of punchline while posing from my chair like a follies showgirl. Not my prettiest of moments.

·         In your opinion, what is the hardest part of getting published?
I believe that in the publishing industry, if you aren’t self-publishing, you have a direct need to prove yourself a viable investment before you will be taken seriously. The first time getting published is a lot of times a stroke of sheer luck. However, once that bolder is rolling, you will find an easier and easier time to find a publisher and support. If you take the route of self-publishing, you will have to overcome the challenge of it, as many will consider your work sub-par, since it was not picked up by an official publisher. You will fight an uphill battle to get readers. However, I know many self-published writers that end up doing very well.

·         If you had to choose, what would you say is the most important thing an aspiring writer needs to do if they’re trying to get published?
Have patience, in multiple forms. Loads of patience. Bushels of patience. Never enough patience. Without it, you’re doomed to give up.

·         Who would you say has influenced your writing the most?
My works are influenced by my partner of many years, Savannah, who is a constant source of material. In every play there is a character based on her, and, truly, the roles are written as a role I know she would like to play. It acts as a bit of quality assurance.

·         What famous person would you love to have as a fan of your work?
If he was still alive, I would really enjoy Roald Dahl being a fan, as his works really inspired me and created the foundations for my creativity as a child - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and others. I think his stories really drilled in the “make anything possible” part of my creative identity into my skull. So, in a way, I have to thank much of my success to him, as it has been a major part of my early writing successes. I once interviewed Al Lowe, the creator of the Leisure Suit Larry games, who said something that really stuck with me. “Hit em’ where they ain’t” – when I asked him about his process of creating games. I think that is the best way to explain my philosophy as well.

·         I see you have two plays that involve Southern foods. As a Southerner myself, I love Southern cooking. Do you have any favorite Southern foods?
Oh, of course. There is nothing better than brunch. I was partially raised by grandparents, who were all born, raised, and lived in North Carolina all their lives. Needless to say, I grew up around rich southern foods and potluck dinners. I can’t say I have a favorite, but, I love it all.

·         Where did you get the idea for In the Drink?
In the Drink was actually a prototype for Sassafras Cannon, which I used to test the unique humor of the script on a test audience. It was a changed-up version of the script, with only two of the characters instead of the entire cast, with some re-done personalities to make them different. Once In the Drink did well, I took it as my clear to write Sassafras Cannon.

·         You were the acting producer for your show, Sassafras Cannon. What was that experience like? What was your favorite aspect of being the producer? 
Well, since I’m being completely honest, here, the content of the show was completely inappropriate for the organization funding it, and the opening night performance space. I won’t name the organization or space, though; I don’t have time for a lawsuit. Some aspects of being producer were fun and great, and others, challenging. To preface this, I had some of the best, top-tier talent on my production staff that I could ever ask for. Casting and getting the show put together was tough due to the fact that most of our actors were entering rehearsals for Sassafras Cannon as soon as they had wrapped up a particularly disastrous/difficult school production, and were studying the script even while still in the school show. As the show is set in the American Civil War, it contained language and phrasing that wasn’t exactly easy to remember, but, they pulled through. On my side, I had to cover up much about the show in order to keep its funding. Some of that process was quite stressful – alongside that, I had to oversee auditions in the opening night space (it was a traveling show, playing two places over two nights), then setup on opening night, which included themed refreshments and the such. At the end of it all, it really was a beautiful night. Like I said earlier, I’ve always loved entertaining people and being a showman, so, I find that the best part came inherently in that. When you’re in my position, the most relieving sound is that of the audience laughing.

·         Do you shy away from subjects that people might find offensive or are you more likely to “push the envelope”?
Yes, without a doubt, I push the envelope. In my opinion, there is no social change without someone pushing the envelope, even though, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m really not out to change the world, I just seek to entertain people. As part of my style, I use only Machiavellian characters, and utilize moral gray areas to tell my stories. Why? I want the audience to see the other side of the issue. For example, in Tune In, the main cast of characters is made up of rejects not of their own making. The storyline follows them as they start a television station, rip off the entire town, run a nursing home drug ring, ruin a child pageant, bribe the court, and other escapades. What I prefer to leave the audience is – you enjoyed these characters during the show no matter what they were doing… Was what they were doing really all that wrong, in their case? That is what is special about being able to write comedy – with roots in reality, the audience leaves laughing, but starts thinking on the ride home.

·         You are studying Criminal Justice and Political Science. Has studying these two subjects helped in developing your stories or your characters?
Yes, but I would say that history has been much more of an effect on my work than either of those two. I particularly enjoy playing on history, as it is interesting to see how far our culture has come. Some things like patent medicines and ancestor worship were considered real things then, as compared to now – so it is always fun to revisit this and poke fun, with the ultimate twist being that 100 years from now, the same thing will be happening with our computers and flatscreen televisions. They’ll be considered archaic and silly.

·         Where have your plays been performed?
Currently, the most of my plays that have been performed have been through a direct connection with me – some of those places include UNC Charlotte, and other locations in the North Carolina area. I’ve had performances not directly involved with my interaction or direction, as well.

·         If you were stranded on a deserted island and you could have ONE character from one of your plays on the island with you, who would it be and why?
Orpheus, from Sassafras Cannon. He’s the butler who can fix anything. He’d find a way to get us off the island! Well, either that or kill me. Go read the script. You’ll figure out why.

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