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BWW Exclusive Interview: Tom Lamarr author of THE TERMINATION CLAUSE

The mind behind "Zero Gravity" debuts his darkest comedy yet

Tom Lamarr courtesy of the author
Author Tom Lamarr

I'm not one for sharing spoilers but you may get one or two from this exclusive interview with author Tom Lamarr. His latest novel, The Termination Clause (Owl Canyon Press), goes on sale December 15. It is a must buy!

BWW: Your last book, Zero Gravity (BWW interview here), was for Young Adults but The Termination Clause is for more mature audiences. You've even written a non-fiction book about adoption. Which genre do you prefer and why?

TL: I prefer literary fiction. It seems the most natural. In The Termination Clause, we have a writer working under extreme pressure to deliver something that's going increasingly awry, mainly because his once daring premise has evolved into something more controversial than anyone wants to see...a dark comedy within a dark comedy.

BWW: The Termination Clause is not what I expected (a prequel to another Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi film). Your protagonist, Clay, starts out with a steady paying job, trying to support his writing habit. How closely does he mirror you?

TL: The biggest thing I have in common with Clay, apart from his sweet tooth, is the knowledge that writing a second book is hard. When my first novel, October Revolution, got good reviews and endorsements from heroes like Joseph Heller, I was caught off guard. Unlike Clay, my dilemma involved being a good hundred pages into a novel that was very, very different from the one getting reviews.

BWW: Is it unusual for investors, instead of a publisher, to give an aspiring writer like Clay an advance...in exchange for a percentage of his profits?

TL: I'll admit to knowing one writer who received a similar offer...to quit work and let a rich friend finance his writing. The writer wisely said no. I would have said yes. Thinking about that over time grew into The Termination Clause.

BWW: At one point, Clay thinks one of his fictional characters has called him on the phone (a shout out to John Gardner's On Moral Fiction). Did you 'channel' Clay and your other characters, what's your method?

TL: I can't claim to channel my characters but thanks to ADHD, I can take any potential situation and overthink it, coming up with dozens of possible outcomes.

BWW: Clay and Solstice's story ideas could easily take on a life of their own. What would you say if your publisher asked you to expand Give Me a Second while I Execute the Dog or Time As Measured in Cats, or Explosive Love?

TL: The biggest strength of this novel is that stories within the main story hold up on their own. Would I expand on them? I would give the idea consideration if pushed but I am already giving readers a sizable excerpt from Explosive Love.

BWW: When Clay's father-in-law, Will, had a stroke you describe him changing "I think I'm having a stroke" to "inkwell Millhouse coastal moose." I've heard of slurring words, but jumbling them?

TL: I'm writing from what I know. Five years ago, I discovered my own ability to speak in the infamous "word soup". We were taking a rental car to a family reunion on the Outer Banks. Crossing a waterway, I saw a raised railroad drawbridge and thought my daughter would find this of interest.

I told her, "Monkey shortcake pandemonium," or something to that effect. No one noticed at first...which shows how much attention I generally get...but when I tried explaining to my wife that "Moon Russia celery airplane" (I think I'm having a stroke), she made me pull over.

My language center had taken a direct hit. Three, in fact. I was fully cognizant of what I meant to say and how it differed from what came out. As for how targeted a stroke can be, I was driving as well as I normally drive. I even recalled passing a sign for a hospital or urgent care center. I just couldn't explain this to my wife, who for some reason wanted to drive.

Half an hour later, I was lying in a hospital room, fully alert and thinking, how strange, I used to be smart. And not even that long ago. Two days later, I received the ideal medical diagnosis of "damn lucky."

BWW: This book's antagonist, Randolph, became rich by inventing an unclothing app called 'StripOff' and Will declares 'Seminal Pig's' "Poison Apple" as classic rock! How do you balance reality with your imagination when writing?

TL: Even in Geezer Dad, the adoption memoir you mentioned earlier, there was plenty of fiction. I like inventing and fleshing out my own worlds. As for balancing that act with reality, I rely on personal experience and paying attention to the world around me.

BWW: If The Termination Clause was made into a movie, who would you cast?

TL: My books tend to have a cinematic quality, but I rarely think about that possibility when writing. It would be more fun to cast two of the fake novels that appear within The Termination Clause.

Explosive Love. For Jared, Ryan Gosling. For Pita, Margot Robbie. She's got the range to give that role the intensity it requires.

Time As Measured in Cats. Corbin appears to be 32 but is a very jaded 262. I could see Jude Law playing a broken 262-year-old stuck in a 32-year-old body.

BWW: Have you ever written under a pseudonym?

TL: My given name is Tom LaMarr Jones. When I was in the Writers Workshop in Iowa City, I joked that I would one day write Henry Fielding by Tom Jones. (Nearly all my books have made room for minor characters named Hank Fielding.) The only reason I needed a pen name is that Thom Jones, a gifted short story writer, was extremely popular when I finally gave into my writing addiction.

BWW: Any parting words for your fans?

TL: I hope you enjoy The Termination Clause and that someday I'll be allowed to sit in a room with other people and sign your copy.


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