Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thief of The Gods Audio book Edition - Narrated by T.W. Ashworth

Before I became a writer, I wanted to be many things; A filmmaker, a comedian, an actor. But being an actor always seemed the most appealing. In the end, I figured I had to pick one and not have an ever-growing list of dream occupations I wanted to fill. I thought that you had to pick just one.

However, I was happily proven wrong by one man.

His name is TW Ashworth.

Today we’re sitting down with him because I sought him out to narrate one of my works. Thief of The Gods is a Novella about a Scientist working in Area 51. It took a bit of time to write the book but, as any author will tell you, that’s only half the work. What a story needs is to be told and by the right person.

TW Ashworth is a multi-talented man of many hats. He has acted in such hit shows as HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, SUPERSTORE, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and CRIMINAL MINDS. He also starred in Justin Timberlake’s explosive music video “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” He paints, directs and is also a musician.(Banjo/Accordion)
And now he’s launched himself into audiobooks.

Hi Tom, thanks for joining us.

So what drew you to acting in the beginning?

I was 17, in high school in Scottsdale, Arizona, and there was an audition for the play RHINOCEROS by Eugene Ionesco at my school. A friend dared me to audition. At the time I was a student body officer, a three-year letterman in track, a math wiz kid, etc. The audition was mostly improv and I got cast in a nice role. BAM, changed my life. We had a very strong arts, music, and theatre department at Coronado High School, and it just was home from the first day.

What did it feel like to get your first callback?

I really can't recall. I've always gotten a lot of callbacks. Obviously, it doesn't mean as much in school because it is not your source of income. I've always pursued commercials and with that part of the market, you audition a lot more because there is more work...so more callbacks.

What made you pursue audiobooks?

My wife, Christine Ashworth, is a writer. My recently passed father-in-law Chester Cunningham was a noted pulp fiction writer with over 300 published novels, many of his Westerns still available on Amazon. He wrote until a week before he died at the age of 88. So, lots of writers around. Christine's roommate bailed on an Independent Publishers conference in Southern California and asked me if I wanted to come. I went to the workshops she couldn't make and one of them was on finding the right audio book narrator. Suddenly I realized I had hundreds of contacts to pursue work, so off I went to learn how. This was last October mind you. I've been doing stage acting for over 40 years so I have a lot of vocal training, dialects, different voices, etc...so it was taking a well-trained instrument (I still take workshops & classes) and learning to play it a different way. I view it as a well trained classical violinist learning to be a Blue Grass fiddle player. You can't do it instantly but you can do it. I've done a lot of Shakespeare, and his writing really teaches you to suit the voice to the words.

Also, I get be the character of Bottom from Shakespeare's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. He wants to play all the parts, and as a narrator, guess what? I get to play all the parts. Some are easier than others, but it is always the harder ones that make it fun.

As far as the story goes, this was pretty heavy. It’s a first person POV throughout the entire book told in diary form.  Was it difficult to get into that character?

No, it wasn't hard. As an actor first person POV is easier for me. The train of thoughts you don't say out loud on stage or in front of the camera you get to actually say. At this stage in my development, it's the novels with a lot of third person narrative that I find hard. Who is talking? The narration is a character with a point of view. 
The lead character is also a scientist. Math and science have always been things I've enjoyed and I still read about. Science and math matter to humankind, for good and for evil. Your book is very forward about that. The lead character is very ambivalent about those issues, making him very human and easier to play.

Do you do any warm ups before a performance?

I vocalize every day for at least a half hour, so yes. I just do it before I record. I also sing about a half dozen songs on the ukulele, guitar, banjo, etc., that are in the emotional feel of the novel. THIEF OF THE GODS got a lot of early Paul Simon, THE BOXER, SOUNDS OF SILENCE, I AM A ROCK, etc. Gets my articulation warmed up, and the emotional connection between voice, body, soul, and what you're reading going almost effortlessly.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a director or an actor?

Since I've directed over 40 plays, I'll share something that I always do with my actors...the audience dreams of you being wonderful, so just enjoy yourself and be wonderful.

Even though I wrote the story, I really felt like this was a collaboration. You gave me two good notes that really made the story stronger. One of them was the fact that in the original story, the scientist is in a hotel room with a Television set. But, as you pointed out, there would be no television sets in hotel rooms in the 1940’s. Have you ever pointed out ways to make the character or story stronger when being cast in a show?

No, actors do not give other actors notes, period. There are exceptions to this of course if you have a different relationship with a fellow actor, but usually, it is a huge NO.
In the development of a play or a screenplay, however, when the writer is there and you are reworking scenes, lines, etc., there is a lot of back and forth. I've belonged to several play development groups in Los Angeles and sometimes a writer will tailor the role to your talents. It varies on the situation.
A director may call you aside and ask for feedback, but again that is not me volunteering it.

You brought many different emotions to this story. Do you ever find yourself getting sucked into a role that it begins to get harder to step away from that particular character?

Not overly...but again I'm very well trained. One of the techniques I'm trained in is called Alba, and it is a very physical approach to acting, also very effective for me as an ex-dancer. (Yes, I had a 20-year career as a professional ballet & musical theatre dancer.) After every workout in the Alba technique, you do a stepping out process which is basically telling your body to get back to neutral. Yes, some roles are harder to shake, but the step out helps. If you are doing it right, your body assumes the role, breathing patterns, posture, and returning to neutral by stepping out gets you back to the here and now. You are basically training yourself to let yourself go as deep as you can because you know you can come back in a matter of minutes. Plus, in narration, you are frequently multiple people on the same page so it's hard to get stuck on any one.

Since this book deals mainly with a conspiracy theory, what was the first conspiracy theory you had ever heard of UFO’s and Aliens and did you get drawn into the mystery of it?

The first conspiracy theory I read was a short story from an anthology I read in the early 60's, about earthlings meeting aliens on a distant planet and discovering we were the bad aliens that conquered and destroyed a major portion of the galaxy and they were terrified we'd show up again. We did. I love surprise endings, and this short story had it. Can't recall the name sadly.

In our conversations, when trading notes back and forth over ACX, you said that you briefly hated me because you were reading my story and had missed your stop on the train. Ha ha.  Believe it or not, that’s the second time someone has told me that. What authors do you read frequently? Has that happened before with another book?

I read Haruki  Murakami, Herman Hesse, Christine Ashworth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Barbara Tuchman, Kurt Vonnegut. 

And usually on subways and buses in L.A. I read books that "I should read," such as William Makepeace Thackeray's VANITY FAIR or Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE. These usually aren't page turners that take you away completely. Though Brady Udall's THE LONELY POLYGAMIST - which I found laying on a bench at a bus stop and didn't have anything to read, almost did. Very funny book. Yes, I take public transportation when I can in L.A., traffic is astoundingly bad then you have to find parking.

So what’s next for you? 

Looking for work, that is what an actor does. Narration wise I'm doing a book on programming in LINUX, a really fun book called DEATH FALCON ZERO vs. THE ZOMBIE SLUG LORDS, and an audition for a Western trilogy.

Where else can people find you online?

www.thomaswashworth.com my personal website, or my IMDb page at http://www.imdb.me/thomaswashworth

Thanks for doing this Thomas. 
You’re welcome to come back on the blog anytime.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Book That Doesn't Exist

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We all have hopes and dreams. But what we seldom like to talk about are the fears and frustrations in between.

And that's what got me writing this novella. Originally, I just toyed with it while I was still busy on THE BIG SCI FI BOOK. That title still has a bit to go. 17,000 words in.

Lately, I've been going back to novellas because they serve a need within me to tell a good story that can be read in one sitting. I'm also expanding to make it an audiobook.

The seed of this story started as a dream.

I got this image of this guy leaving his basement apartment to join a few friends in his driveway who were tinkering with two cars. One was a Master Coach and the other was a pristine Studebaker. While they're chatting, the protagonist's friend reaches into this hidden compartment inside the Studebaker and pulls out a typewriter's carrying case. As he handed this item to the main character, the skies above were filled with thunderous clouds and a wind was picking up. As if this transaction was disturbing the natural order of things.

I woke up at around 6am, hopped out of bed, opened the laptop and just started writing as I was still waking up. It took me an hour and some change to get ten pages down. My wife and daughter woke up and joined me.

The story has changed a couple of times but the constant theme is frustration, of which I am familiar with.

I threw all the problems I had faced in life at the main character; juggling work and home life, fighting against poverty, finding your own voice as a writer, it was all right there. It kind of felt intimidating to write something that struck so close to home.

But the story continued to cook and after about two months, it was finally completed. At 52 pages long I can tell you that this has been the hardest one to write.

I labeled it a dark psychological thriller.

The next one that I'm planning to release, thankfully, is a much happier story. That one involves a writer too. That one involves a series of comical mishaps. I think I wrote it in 2010 but I just looked at it recently, polished it a bit, and think it will be ready soon.

I tell you all this because I don't want you to be afraid, as I was, to go to some dark places while you are writing. You may feel a connection to your characters. You may wish them not to come to harm. That's good. You care for them. That's relatable. But you have to let the story write itself and not try to save the characters yourself. Just sit back and see what happens. Be an observer, even when it is painful to do so. Because only then will your story hold something that rings true.

We all grapple with conflict, tough decisions, heartbreak, mania, doubt. If you completely exclude these concepts from your story, then you are holding back. And, as my wife always tells me when I'm working on a new story in progress, don't hold yourself back.

More importantly, write the book you would like to read. The one that you feel is missing on bookstore shelves.

Heck, write...the book that doesn't exist.

The Book That Doesn't Exist is being released on March 19th, 2017. It is now available for Pre-order. Just click the cover above to buy a copy.

As always, keep writing.

"Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of." ~Kurt Vonnegut 

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