Tim McWhorter is one of the quietest, nicest guys I’ve met in quite some time. But you know they say it’s the quiet ones you have to worry about and, with Tim that may be closer to the truth than most people care to acknowledge.
Tim’s third novel, Blackened, just released a few weeks ago and it’s the sequel to the popular (and scary as hell) Bone White. Shadows Remain, a supernatural tale, was released in 2013, and earlier this year saw the release of his short story collection, Swallowing the Worm and other stories. To say he’s been busy is an obvious understatement and I’m grateful he was able to take time out of his schedule to answer a few questions (some serious, one pretty asinine) for me.
Chris: You’re a busy guy. Part of that is, as an independent artist, you have control over every aspect of your work: formatting, layout, and cover design. As a guy with a publisher, I have zero control over format and layout, unless it’s integral to the story, and minimal input on cover design. I love your covers, so tell me where the ideas for those come from. Do they come before the story is down, during the writing of, or are they something you worry about once the writing is done? Also, do you do all the art yourself or do you hire an artist?
Tim: First of all, thanks for the compliment! I appreciate it. Designing my own covers is something I really enjoy doing. It provides an avenue to create visual art to go with my words.
The ideas themselves usually don’t come until the writing process is well underway. As I start to get a feel for the story, potential images and designs start running through my mind. If not a full-blown design, then at least a concept. For example, I’m roughly fifty pages into my next book and as of yet, have no ideas whatsoever for the cover. But that’s okay. It’ll come when it’s ready. I’m a long way off from needing it. When I finally sit down to create the cover, it will most likely end up being a mashup of both original design and maybe a stock photo or two.
For Bone White, I wanted the cover to be clean, portray a sense of innocence and be worthy of making a statement. For the sequel, Blackened, I wanted to show the transition from innocence to a world that has been tainted, while still calling to mind the Bone White cover. I get compliments all the time on both of them, so I think I accomplished what I set out to do.
The only cover I didn’t fully create is Shadows Remain. For that one, I photographed the photos that ended up being used, but hired someone else to put it all together. Even though I’m not solely responsible for that one, it was fun putting it together because I was constantly scouting for possible photo opportunities. After taking over a hundred photos, we ended up using two, and I think the cover came out great.
Chris: On the subject of artistic inspiration, where did the idea for Bone White come from? After reading it and letting it settle, it had a definite “Turistas” feel to me, and I wonder if it was influenced by any particular news story, movie, or something else.
Tim: I’m glad you asked that question. I love telling this story. The idea for BW originated about twenty years after similar events happened to my friend and me. Let me explain…
In high school during the late 80s, my friend, Rick, and I loved to fish, and we spent a lot of our spare time on the water around central Ohio. There was one evening in particular where we spent a little too much time out. We were at Hoover Reservoir and a big storm was rolling in, and I mean rolling in fast. By the time we realized our motor wouldn’t start, and resorted to paddling, the sky was about as dark a grey as I’ve ever seen without being straight black. The wind had gone from 0 to 60 as fast as a sports car. It was whipping up whitecaps on the water and was threatening to overtake us. Talk about ominous. We obviously hadn’t eaten our spinach that day because no matter how hard we paddled, the wind kept pushing us further and further to the far side of the lake, separating us even further from Rick’s truck. By the time we reached the shore, we were soaked through, exhausted and had no idea where we were. Keeping in mind this was long before cell phones, our only choice was to set out on foot in search of a house with a phone. It all ended well enough. We found a phone, called Rick’s father and we somehow managed to navigate him to the house.
So not only are some of the events in BW pulled from real events, but some of the locations exist as well. Without giving away too much of the plot, the parking lot with the lumpy road leading from it, the long and winding driveway cutting through the woods, even the small cemetery that isn’t quite as described, does exist and still served as inspiration. All of it is out there at Hoover, and I visited several times for inspiration while writing the book. Combining what happened to us with the creepiness of the locations, I just thought it was a great backdrop for a scary story. Hey, maybe I should give moonlight walking tours of all the sites like they do in Salem and New Orleans!