Book Look by Carol McClain
It is my pleasure to introduce a critique partner and friend, Tom Tarver this week on Book Look. Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes is his debut novel. Tom is a witty writer with a unique perspective.
When you’ve created your own hell, you’ve smelled the stench of your own rotten choices, what hope do you have? Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes explores the eternal answer against the backdrop of Heaven, Hell, and modern-day San Antonio.
T. Neal Tarver, a native Texan living in Wisconsin, has served churches in Texas and Wisconsin. He, his wife Ellen, and son Daniel lived and worked for three years as missionaries in the Russian Far East. Tom speaks enough Russian to both converse and confuse.
In 2010, Tom was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest. He has written articles for the local newspaper and an international magazine.
He currently writes from his home in Richland Center, Wisconsin, or from wherever his travels take him. He posts articles weekly at www.tnealtarver.com.
Tom has spoken in churches across America, and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
In the heart of Packerland, home of the Frozen Tundra, he roots for the Cowboys and longs for a beach-side view of palm trees.
What inspired you to write Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes?
Back in the seventies (oh, man, does that date me), I was listening to a Christian radio program when a guy called in to share his near-death experience. A sailing accident, the boom bopped him in the head, knocked him out cold. The trauma sent him to hell. Jesus Christ appeared, and the man recovered consciousness. His short testimonial served as the seed for my story.
As for my writing journey, in his book Quitter, Jon Acuff suggests that your dream job isn’t one of discovery. Rather it’s one of recovery, a process of looking back and seeing what things, when done, brought you pleasure and a sense of accomplishment.
When I review my past before I wrote my first blog or my debut novel, I recall loving to write and to spin yarns. When I served as a pastor, I used the pastoral note in the church newsletter to tell stories. When I lived overseas, I wrote to my family back home about the adventures of living in and learning a foreign culture. When my family and I returned to America, my mother handed me a two-inch-thick folder full of my emails sent from the Russian Far East.
Writing a novel—one I had bits and pieces of for years—simply became the next step in my writing journey.
Is there one character that intrigues you more than any other? Why?
Out of curiosity, I asked my wife this question and she gave the same answer I would give—Weasel. An acquisition editor once described him as “Gollum with power.” Like Gollum, he doesn’t initially come across as intimidating or powerful.
Weasel is the antagonist who mysteriously appears when my young protagonist Nick Daniels arrives in hell. He becomes hell’s tour guide and leads Nick from one bad situation to another.
Weasel directs Nick into situations where his character is revealed. Nick discovers he is far weaker than his vain imagination could picture. He also finds his earthly past is darker and more demented than he’d have admitted.
What do you hope your readers gain from this work?
Moments of racing hearts, some laughter, a few tears, and the satisfied sense of having enjoyed their time in a story that is both dreadful (hell) and delightful (heaven).
What would you say the main theme is?
Redemption! Redemption! Redemption!
When I wrote the climactic scene, I wept. Ellen heard me crying and asked, “Are you okay?”
I couldn’t answer her in that moment. The awareness of the redemptive power of God in Christ Jesus overwhelmed me.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Writing at some point is both private endeavor and corporate venture. You have to squirrel yourself away from the world to do the unseen-by-others work of writing.
But I cannot discount the influence and help of so many others in my writing journey. My critique partners, Fearless Fiction Writers, taught me, through their own unique skills and personalities, how to drop the passive voice and embrace the active one. I often joke that JoAnn Swearingen in particular taught me to love the color red, but her diligence as well as my other wonderful crit partners has shaped me into a better writer and teller of stories.
My writing has not only birthed a novel but many friendships along the way. I’m blessed to have a partner, my wife Ellen, who not only supports what I do but, as an exceptional editor, offers an advantage other writers often do not have. Another author friend for whom Ellen edits calls her “my secret weapon.” She’s that and much more to me.
Thank you, Carol and the Pentalk community, for this opportunity to share my story.
God bless and good writing.