Tony Mast is a man who seems to be everywhere at once. He hosts two podcasts (Back Seat Producers and Tony’s Losing It). He’s contributed to and edited three short story anthologies, the most recent of which – Storm Cloud – came out just a few weeks ago. He is currently accepting submissions for a fourth anthology, Built for Speed. He’s rehabilitated tired and used-up podcasters. He’s given poorly nourished gamers fruit.
Tony’s a man with a lot of energy, a lot of talent, and a remarkable ability to promote his efforts.
They don’t call him the Pimp-of-the-Internet for nothing.
Recently, I had the good fortune to spend an evening chatting with Tony about writing, podcasting, and other pimpy goodness. We started off with his short story writing…
ARON: I remember seeing the short story collection, Toasted Ravioli, at the first Fear the Con. Was that your first anthology?
TONY: My first anthology is actually The Sorrow. The second anthology I worked on is Toasted Ravioli. That happened with the St. Louis Writers Meet-Up Group. Actually, that’s how I met Tony #2 (of Back Seat Producers fame). We were members of the St. Louis Writers Meet-up Group and one of the first big meetings that ever actually really got off the ground with the group? We were both at that meeting.
ARON: Tell me about the St Louis Writers Meet-up Group.
TONY: The group meets every month. I have dropped out of the group, mostly because the group really favors people who are trying to get motivated to write, learning the craft, just starting out.
ARON: Is it a place where you’re accountable, where folks talk about what they’ve written since the last meeting?
TONY: Yeah, we did that. Sometimes there were roundtable discussions about different topics in writing. We brought in work to critique. We did writing exercises on the fly… we had a publisher come out. And a professional author… There was a core group of six or seven of us that were religously at every meeting. Tony #2 and I were talking (at a meeting) and we had this idea. The idea had been batted around a few times about doing an anthology within the group. We had seven or so people that showed up all the time and five others that were in and out. .. We figured we had enough people and if everyone was serious about it,and really wanted to do it, we could put together a book. He and I sat down. Banged out the idea behind it, the motivation for doing it. Just kind of started.
Tony #2 and I brought it to the group and said let’s do this. Everybody said “okay.”
We had some stipulations: You had to be a member of the group; you had to participate; you had to create something new; and the story had to relate back to St. Louis in some fashion. Hence Toasted Ravioli. Toasted Ravioli is a staple around here, kind of unique to this area. It’s a St. Louis thing.
We had expected to publish the book the same year we started. It quickly got way out of our hands. Deadlines got missed all over the place.
The mistake that we made with it… our M.O. for it was to get everyone published. Everybody who participates and puts forth a good effort will get their story in the book and get published!
ARON: Regardless of whether or not the story was any good?
TONY: (laughter) It was a noble cause, a noble effort! There are people who put a tremendous amount of work into their own stories, into other people’s stories. They really wanted the whole work to shine.
It was almost two years to get the book produced. When the books was done, it was probably the closest to giving birth I am ever going to think about coming to. Such a painful process toward the end. It was just rough all the way around.
I stopped referring to it as “The Book.”
It became “The Damned Book.” Or “The Effing Book” except I wasn’t editing myself. That’s just how I referred to it. I was done with it and had other things I wanted to work on.
ARON: Such as?
TONY: I had a novel I started two or three months before we started the process. It has sat since then. Just because I haven’t been motivated to get back to it. In fact it was just this morning that I had a shower epiphany. The big bad didn’t make sense and one of the characters didn’t make sense. It came to me this morning that all of a sudden if I put them together (the two characters) everything made sense! Something I never saw before. It just sort of came to me and now I’m excited to get back to the novel now.
ARON: Congratulations on your epiphany.
TONY: Thank you! It was one of those things for some reason it just popped into my head and the idea kept going and going and going. By the time I got out of the shower, I was “Ohmigod, I can do the novel now!” It makes sense. That’s the one problem I have. If things don’t make sense I freeze. It doesn’t work for me. If it doesn’t work for me, I can’t write it. I can’t force it to make sense.
ARON: Would you characterize that as a writer’s block?
TONY: No, I wouldn’t characterize it as a writer’s block. For me, it’s a block in such that I can’t finish that particular story. It doesn’t mean that I can’t write. It just means that story isn’t ready to be written yet. Either because the characters aren’t ready or because I am trying to put them in a situation that doesn’t make sense for those characters. So then the situation needs to change or the characters need to change.
Come back tomorrow for part 2 of the Tony Mast Interview!