The Writer's Life Chats with Tom White Author of Justice Rules

About Thomas White

Tom began his career as an actor, which lead to a degree from the United States International University School of Performing arts in San Diego. A Cum Laude graduate, Tom was also named to "Who's Who In American Colleges and Universities.

He immediately hit the road and spent several seasons touring across the country with various shows, working as an actor, tech director, stage manager, scenic designer, lighting designer, sound designer and finally a director.

Several years later Tom found himself as an Artistic Director for a theatre in Los Angeles and the winner of several Drama-Logue and Critics awards for directing.

As Tom's career grew he ended up doing bigger and bigger projects in the theatre world. He directed and co-produced the world tour of "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out Of Their Shells". The show toured for over two years, was translated into seven different languages and seen by close to a million children.

Justice Rules is his first novel and was nominated as a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2010 Literary contest.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Thomas. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: First, it's a pleasure to be here. I am a fan of The Writer's Life and it is an honor to be able to talk with you. I started my life in a log cabin on the backwaters of... no wait, wrong story. I began my career as an actor and eventually became a director. I have worked at many theatres around the country but based mostly out of Los Angeles and NYC. The novelty item on my resume' is that I directed and co-produced the world tour of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out Of Their Shells. Anyone who was a kid in the 90's should remember that show. I had a story credit on that show as well and that is when I really began to consider a writing career. But, while I have been dabbling in writing for most of my life, I would not say that I started writing until about eight years ago when I took my first online novel class. Thanks to the help of Jessica Barksdale Inclan and her UCLA writing class I was able to get out of my own way and actually become a writer. (I highly recommend this class by the way.)

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: Justice Rules is ultimately a novel about victims of violent crimes and their struggle to regain some sort of balance in a life that has been shattered by an unprovoked attack. Experiencing something that horrific is hard enough but imagine how unbearable it becomes when the perpetrator goes unpunished. How far would you be willing to go to attain justice and how far can you go before justice becomes revenge? Justice Rules deals with these questions in an in depth and up close manner.

The idea for the book came many years ago. It was just after the OJ Simpson acquittal and I saw an interview with Fred Goldman, the father of Ron Goldman, whom OJ "allegedly" killed. His frustration and anger was palpable and I felt so sorry for him. I imagined myself in his place, knowing who had killed my son and being powerless to do anything about it. Short of walking up on the courthouse steps and shooting him in the head he was helpless. Then I thought, "Well, what if it wasn't OJ? What if it was just some guy and he got away with murder? How would I get justice for myself and not have to answer to the very justice system that had failed me? The story grew from there.

What kind of research was involved in writing (please italicize book title here – no caps or quote marks)?

A: I did a lot of research into victim's help groups and victim's experiences. I was astounded at the brutality and senselessness of the majority of the attacks. I realized that, as a society, we have become numb to many of the atrocities that we see and hear. We hear that a child has been molested and shake our heads at how awful it is without realizing that the phrase, "been molested" is a euphumism for anal rape and much more heinous crimes. And we do so out of self-preservation, no one wants to hear the details of these crimes and I, for one, don't blame them. They are horrific. But with this polite version of the attack we tend to lose the reality of the experience for the victim. I wanted to deal with victim's that were unable to get over the injustice, the senselessness, and the horror of a personal attack on themselves or their family. On top of that I added the unspeakable injustice of these perpetrators going unpunished. Once these elements combine, the question arises; How far can you go before justice becomes revenge?

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

A: Bumpy as all get out! Though, if it were easy everyone would do it. LOL. I probably sent the book to forty or fifty different places looking for either an agent or a publisher. I kept the rejection letters in a file for a long time actually and later just tossed them. I managed to get two agents over a two-year period and neither of them ended up being very helpful. I had actually put Justice Rules away for a year or so until one day I thought to myself how wasteful it was to have this book sitting in a file folder on my computer rather than out in the world. About the same time I got a link from a friend that led me to an article about Apple. They had just signed an agreement with to have them provide content for the Kindle and the iPad. That was enough for me. After some research I decided to stop waiting for someone to tell me it was okay for the world to read my book and took the leap. I've never regretted it. Not that I would turn away from a big publication house wanting to market and publish Justice Rules but they are so limited in what they can publish in comparison to the work that is out there deserving of publication. I was tired of waiting. To quote Bruce Springsteen,
"My soul checked out missing, as I sat there listening,
To the hours and minutes slipping away.
I was tired of waiting for my life to begin,
While it was all just slipping away."
I just finally said to myself, "If this is going to happen, you have to make it happen." And here I am.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

A: Well, I am self-published through so there was no contract and as soon as the book was formatted and accepted it was available for sale. One of the advantages of being self-published is that it works on your timeline, not anyone else's.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: I have to write a disclaimer here before I begin talking about this particular subject. Generally speaking, I hate agents. So, if that is a turn off, skip to the next question.
Okay, here's why. In my career I have been a professional actor, director, producer and writer. Three of those four categories use agents and the fourth deals with them. In my experience as an artist, they have offered me nothing that I did not get for myself and my recent experience with agents in the publishing world has not altered that opinion. I have had five agents in my life, two as an actor, one as a director and two as an author. None of them ever did jack for me. Well, that's not entirely true, all of them, at one point or the other, told me I couldn't accomplish a goal I had set. I suppose if I was shy and retiring I would need their help to negotiate a contract but I have a lawyer who doesn't act like he created me and that I work for him to do that for me.

As a producer, they have stopped clients from taking work that would have been very beneficial to that client, they have over-priced talent in certain venues and kept them from working, and they have been a pain in the ass. My two writing agents were at least civil. The first woman, a woman who read my work and wanted to represent me, for which I was very grateful, was very nice. She offered no input on the work itself and submitted it to those publishers she believed would be appropriate. Four months later she called to tell me that she was getting married and retired. The second agent, also a lovely woman, got divorced and moved on. Maybe it's marriage that is my roadblock? The second literary agent was different though. She helped me more as an editor than anyone else who touched Justice Rules. She is mostly responsible for Justice Rules becoming the fast paced thrill ride that it has been described to be. So, while as an agent she was not very helpful, her editing skills were magnificent. I will go back to her and hire her as an editor for my next novel in a second.

Do you plan subsequent books?

A: Yes, I am mostly finished with the first useable draft of my next novel entitled, The Siren's Song. Set in Santa Cruz, CA it tells the story of a decrepit mansion with a giant, haunted, tide pool in the back yard. With luck it will be ready to go after the first of the year.

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

A: I have a comfy office space in my home and that is where I do most of my work but I have to say that I started writing on planes. I traveled for my other job quite a bit and the solitude and serenity of being isolated on a plane, with a laptop and headphones was very inspiring for me. Especially when I would get that upgrade. "Yes, another chardonnay would be lovely."

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A: I would get a publicist and do the talk show circuit. I would buy radio spots and ads in the book sections of newspapers and magazines. I would give 1000 people the money to buy an e version of my book on Amazon to create a buzz.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

A: I cannot over state the importance of self-promotion. As an author you have two things to sell, your work and your self. To ignore one diminishes the other. You cannot separate yourself from your work. As a test, talk to someone about your book and follow up with them a while after. Chances are they bought it because they met you.

To promote Justice Rules I studied online marketing as hard as I could. I learned everything about social media, blogs, etc. I did everything everyone suggested. I got a Facebook page, a web site, a blog and I added to them daily. I have managed to maintain my Facebook presence and it has proven to be my most successful venture. I personally write to each person who becomes a fan, and there are over 500 of them at this point, and thank them for supporting Justice Rules. I then invite them to check it out if they get the chance and include the Amazon link. What this does is put it on their page, with the Amazon link that pops up under my message. All of their friends see it and that increases exposure.

Twitter, I just don't get. I do write a blog that I publish on several different sites but am not as consistent at that as I should be. I just have a hard time talking about a different subject everyday and am not confident that I have enough coherent things to say on a regular basis. I have a signature on every e-mail account that takes you directly to where you can buy the book. I have had business cards made up with the Amazon link and a blurb to pass out when people ask about it. As I said, the more people I talk to about the book, the more it moves. Shaking hands and talking goes a long way and I am slowly recognizing that there is a celebrity element to being an author that cannot be denied. If you meet someone they are more likely to buy your book because they know you. Talk about your own fifteen minutes!

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

A: When I finally embraced attempting to publish my book I would tell people that I had decided to become an author because at my age being a movie star was unrealistic. I said this to make people know I understood the outrageous act of trying to become published. Why do new writers give up their dream? Because it's so damn hard. It is really, really hard. It is fricking really hard. But then again, if it were easy, everyone would do it. I have to say though, that there is a difference between having a dream and wanting to try something.

When I was a young man and an actor I auditioned to attend a performing arts school in San Diego. The dean of the school was holding the auditions and asked me a simple question, "Why do you want to be an actor?" I replied, "Because I have no other choice, I have to do this." He smiled and I was accepted. Turns out, there was only one correct answer to that question and that was it. I feel the same about writing. If it is truly your dream to be a writer then you are going to write. If you want to make tons of money and be famous then maybe writing isn't the best way to go about it. While it is true that you can make tons of money as a famous writer, not many do. Many writers sit in their little rooms and move their fingers across keyboards with no concern except the next paragraph and the next plot twist. The object in writing is not to get published, the object is to write. If you become a good enough writer the publishing will follow.

Learn your craft first and then worry about your success. In my opinion, new writers who drop out were never real writers to begin with. The act of writing is an act of self-gratification. It is validated by publication and further validated by success but the act stands alone. And in the words of most every successful writer ever published, don't give up. Don't ever give up.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

A: As the publishing industry changes the opportunities to have your work published will increase. When I first started my attempt to be published I was not at all successful. I think if I was a better writer back in the day that would have helped immensely, lol. I jumped in and put myself out there before I was ready. This was the most important thing that I have learned, you only get one chance to make a first impression and it better be a good one. The one huge advantage to the publishing world now is that if you have a good piece of work you can get it out there. The bad side is the agents and publishers that have acted as the guardians of the gate, are no longer there. That means that somehow authors have to get reliable opinions on their work before they put it out for sale.

For centuries the publishing world has worked one way and one way only. Now it is up for grabs. The only way to rise above the fray and be accepted as a legit writer is to produce clean, professional work. Do NOT publish anything without it having been professionally edited and re-worked. You need outside input to make your work truly viable. No one in modern times has ever published a novel by themselves. Do think you will be the first to do it successfully. You have to honor the profession and hold it in the highest regard as you put your work into the world. You are your own guardian and you must be totally diligent in that regard.

Thank you for your interview, Thomas. I wish you much success!

A: Thank you as well. It has been a lot of fun expostulating for you and your readers. I hope that they have not been bored and that they all read Justice Rules, available at

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