On Spec interview
If you’d like to find out more about Phil Voyd, T. T. Trestle, etc., check out this Rumplestiltskinish interview I did with On Spec magazine.
The So-Called Thoughts of T.T. Trestle
Excerpts from the feature author interview by Roberta Laurie appearing in issue #82 of On Spec (used with permission).
On Spec: Can you tell us what the T. T. in T. T. Trestle stands for?
T.T.: I made that one up during one of my boyhood, running-around-in- the-forest adventures. It stands for Train Track. That’s probably why I’ve remembered it after so many years. What kind of kid would name a mighty adventurer after part of a railroad?
On Spec: You have written under several pseudonyms. Can you explain why?
T.T.: I’ve been writing exclusively under pseudonyms for almost ten years now. My real name is too generic to be intriguing. I think names are very important for the characters in a story and, to a lesser extent, the crafter of that story. Which would you rather read—The Story by John Graham or The Story by X. Varian Ferroconcrete?
It’s also a kinda-makes-sense, semi-wishful-thinking strategy since publishers are always looking for first novels by The Next Big Thing. I figure I can keep writing “first” novels under a succession of pseudonyms.
Heck, I’ve got dozens of pen names based on train parts alone.
On Spec: Why do you write?
T.T.: I often wonder why I do this strange thing called writing, especially after I’ve received a rejection letter. But that’s not really much of an answer. I guess the main reason I write is that I’ve always loved stories. As a small boy, being read to or reading was always magical for me. Of course TV and movies are addictive too. My mom would call me in from playing road hockey when Get Smart was on. I would stop playing and rush in to watch—which none of my friends appreciated.
Once you’ve been told enough stories, I think it’s natural that you start telling them, whatever your medium happens to be. I started telling my stories by drawing little comic books. I drew my first comics when I was seven or so. The question still remains, though: why do I love stories so much? I really have no idea. It’s as big a mystery to me as why I was so obsessed with Get Smart.
On Spec: Were there other inspirations for Axioms + Ecstasy?
T.T.: The inspiration for Axioms + Ecstasy was a real stew. Usually my short stories are inspired by one basic idea that I build up from. For example, what if someone tried to stitch together a magic spell from snippets of overheard conversation? That was the idea that inspired my first On Spec story, Eavesdropping. But Axioms + Ecstasy had a veritable cornucopia of ideas: the legend of King Midas and his golden touch, the Lovin’ Spoonful song Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind? and the fact that the middle finger has a special symbolic power in North America.
On Spec: Tell me about your decision to become a writer.
T.T.: I was teaching English in Japan. I had about six months left in a two-year contract, and I was sitting in my classroom between lessons, listening to the din of the pachinko parlour across the street. I was thinking about what I would do when I got back to Canada. I knew that being a lawyer wasn’t for me. I thought about my childhood love of stories and remembered a conversation I had with my friends. I was twelve at the time. We were talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. My friends were saying things like doctor, lawyer and engineer. I didn’t want to say, “I want to be Spiderman,” so I said writer.
I had considered studying creative writing in university but wimped out and took something marketable instead: economics of all things. But while I was sitting in my classroom in Osaka in the summer heat (about 832 degrees Celsius), that flicker of that dream came back to me. It felt like the right thing to do, and I’ve been trying ever since. I guess there’s nothing like being 10,000 kilometres from home to give you space to think.
• • •
Pachinko: A Japanese game resembling vertical pinball.
“Pachinko parlours” are usually noisy, garish, lively establishments with slightly unsavory reputations.
• • •
On Spec: I hear you’re working on a novel, a long novel. Can you tell us about that?
T.T.: I came back from Japan, hubris in hand, and decided that I wanted to write an epic trilogy along the lines of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, where a person from the real world ends up in a fantasy land. It was awful, and I decided to make a long story short by stopping after 80 pages.
I thought I should try some short stories instead, and that was a lot of fun. After I sold my first story, I called up the Law Society of Upper Canada and resigned my license to practice law. It was more of a symbolic rather than a “Rebel Yell” sort of gesture. I already knew that practicing law was not for me.
After I had written a bunch of short stories and a couple of novellas, I decided to tackle a novel-length work again. Well, the story grew and grew and ended up being this huge trilogy that I’m still working on today. So I’m back where I started. But why is the story growing and growing? I would blame T. T. Trestle, except I’m writing the trilogy under a different pseudonym. I guess I’ll just have to point the finger at that guy. Jerk.
On Spec: What are your plans for your writing in the future.
T.T.: Well, I’ll keep on plugging away at my monstrous trilogy until I finally pummel it into submission. Then I’ll send it out into the cold and cruel void. After that, I plan on writing some short stories. Then probably another novel based on this kind of Gen X idea that’s been percolating somewhere in there. After that, I’m not so sure other than it will involve tapping away on a keyboard and mumbling to myself, with occasional maniacal chuckles. So I guess I’ll be writing for a good while yet. I still want to be Spiderman when I grow up, but being a writer would also be pretty cool. After all, writers can spin webs, too.