“101 is typical Tom Pitts, the kind of novel that proves he’ll forever and ever have followers, trailing behind him begging for one more hit.” —Eryk Pruitt
This is gonna sound like bullshit, but … no. I’ve always lived my life believing I didn’t need the whole pie, just a little slice. I’ve never been that greedy. Years ago, when I was looking for some shady side work, an old gangster told me, “Tom, you’ll never make it in this kind of life. You’re not hungry enough.” And he was right. I know I’m never going to be huge, I don’t write blockbusters, I’m not trying to write the great American novel; I just do what I do and try the best I can. It’s important to have a little perspective too. Take a look at where you started and where you are. Occasionally I have to remind myself there’s always somebody down the ladder a couple rungs who’s sayin’, “Damn, look at how well Tom’s doin’.” As for the friends who succeed? I’m happy for them. Truly. Their success is there to inspire me and make me aspire. Besides, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing with all of your free time?
That’s gotta be a sarcastic question. Man, what free time?! As it is I need to carve out the time I have for writing, steal it from my life. I run myself ragged. I look back at my novels and wonder how the hell I did it. Between the job, the family, and getting enough sleep so I don’t crack-up and kill someone, there is no time, let alone free time. Oh, wait … drinking. I’d probably do a lot more drinking.
Have you ever given up on a writing project?
Two of note. Most recently I surrendered 20k words into a novel. It just wasn’t lighting a fire for me. I think the story line was too ambitious. I was out of my element and when I slipped back into my element, I felt like I was running over well-tread ground. The other one was a book I was writing while I was still out on the street. Joe Clifford still tells people I was pushing around a shopping cart with a desktop in it—and that’s not too far from the truth. I was out of my mind on drugs, but I was trying to write this huge crime novel that just kept splintering and splintering. Years (and years) later I went back and found the floppy discs (yeah, floppy discs) and downloaded the damn thing and had a look. It wasn’t too bad. The title was so good, I won’t tell you what it was ‘cause I might still use it.
Who was your intended audience for the novel?
Aside from folks who’ve read and enjoyed my last two novels, and the new readers I hope will discover it, I was acutely aware while writing this book that a lot of the people who the characters are (loosely) based on would be reading it. Some of them are not big readers either. I’m anxious to see what they think of my interpretation of their world. A lot of my pals who’re out there on the fringe give me great feedback about my work. It’s always a great feeling when someone tells me they don’t read and yet they finished a book of mine in a couple sittings.
How important is the setting in your novel?
All my novels (so far) have been set in and around the Bay, and the Bay Area’s played an important role in all of them. San Francisco is alive and well in my work and I’ve been told many times that I treat the city like a character. But with 101 the setting is even more integral. The backdrop of the story is deep in the redwoods of Humboldt County and I went to great lengths to deliver an accurate portrayal of life in the Humboldt hills. From way back in the bush to the little hippie town of Garberville, all the way down the 101 to Oakland and San Francisco, I cover a lot of ground in this baby. I’m finishing out my Northern California Quartet with the next book, Coldwater. That one is set mostly in Sacramento, but ends in Malibu, of all places.