Todd Keisling is a two-time recipient of the Oswald Research and Creativity Prize for fiction. Born in Kentucky, he now lives with his wife and son somewhere near Reading, Pennsylvania. Contrary to popular opinion, he is a cat person.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Corbin, Kentucky, but I outgrew the place, so now I call Pennsylvania my home.
Tell us your latest news?

My first novel, A LIFE TRANSPARENT, has been re-released by Precipice Books, and is available now in a variety of formats.
When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until high school. As for the Why part of your question, I have always had a desire to tell stories. As a kid, I dabbled in a number of different mediums, but writing seemed to make the most sense when it came to communicating the stories I wanted to tell.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I won a contest during my freshman year of college. It was the first time I ever received money for something I wrote, and the first time I ever had any sort of validation as a writer. That’s when I realized I’ve been a writer most of my life.
What inspired you to write your first book?

A dead-end job, a feeling that I wasn’t going anywhere in life, and the fear of being forgotten.


Do you have a specific writing style?

My style tends to be very character-driven and cinematic.

How did you come up with the title?

The title came one day while working at the aforementioned dead-end job several years ago. No one spoke to me that day, like I wasn’t even there, and I had a morbid epiphany that I could disappear and no one would notice. The sentence “I’m living a life transparent” popped into my head, and then the rest fell into place.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The predominant message in the novel is one imploring the reader to chase their dreams, to not give up and fall complacent with the way things are. I want readers to take hold of what they want to do, and feel empowered enough to follow through with it. Don’t let mediocrity fuel your obscurity. Define yourself.
How much of the book is realistic?

A fair portion of the book could be considered realistic. While there are some fictional, fantastic elements, the story is rooted in the real world, and I tried to show some of the mundane aspects of the daily office worker as accurately as I could.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Sure. When I created the protagonist, Donovan Candle, I tried to imagine myself ten years into the future, still in the same place, working the same job with no advancement, clinging to the hope of one day finishing a book that might turn things around for me.

Some of the characters were inspired by people I know, and the setting was based on the city of Reading, PA (minus the cows and outlets).
What books have most influenced your life most?

This is a dangerous question to ask because it’s a very long list. Let’s see. To name several: “The Stranger” by Albert Camus; “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk; “Intensity” by Dean Koontz; “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury; “The Great and Secret Show” by Clive Barker; “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami; “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman; “The Cheese Monkeys” by Chip Kidd.

And the list goes on . . .
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I can name a few. The one most people will know is Chuck Palahniuk. We exchanged a few letters several years ago, and his encouragement always seemed to come at the right time.

A couple of others are (or were) instructors at the University of Kentucky: Tom Marksbury and Dr. William Campbell. Both pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. You might say they’re mostly to blame.
What book are you reading now?

I usually split my reading time among a number of books at a time. Right now I’m reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Back(stabbed) in Brookyln by Lenox Parker, and Tokyo Zero by Marc Horne.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

A number of indie authors have caught my interest as of late: Henry Baum, Eddie Wright, Lenox Parker, R.J. Keller, Zoe Winters, and Tracy Lucas spring to mind.
What are your current projects?

The next novel is currently with my editor, who is pulling her hair out over my various shortcomings as a writer. We’re shooting for a late Fall publication date, but that is tentative. I’m also working on a novella and a collection of short stories which I hope to have published sometime in early 2012.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

My editor, Amelia Snow. She’s always been there to help me in times of severe self-doubt, and has helped to restore faith in my own abilities far more than I can mention. I’m grateful for her support, and for believing in the things I’m trying to do with my work.
Do you see writing as a career?

I do, but I also have a day job. I try not to have any illusions about that. It would be great to write full time, and that’s something I strive for, but if I’m okay if I can’t reach that point. I still have something that pays my bills and allows me to support my family.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I would probably fix a couple of typos that made it past the editorial filters, and a very minor formatting issue just because I’m neurotic like that.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Not specifically. I’ve always had an interest in telling stories, and while I dabbled in a number of mediums (I was originally going to major in graphic design), writing always felt right to me. It seemed to be the best way to do what I wanted to do.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I would love to, but my editor would crucify me for displaying unedited work, so I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Oh yes. Lately it seems anything I work on wants to become something much, much larger. When I first jotted down the premise for ALT, I wrote a note “Maybe 2k, possibly less.” Now it’s a novel. Right now that’s probably the most challenging thing: keeping stories under control.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

A few years back I would’ve said Chuck Palahniuk, and even farther back, Stephen King or Dean Koontz, but lately I’ve moved away from their work. These days, I’m not sure I have a favorite, though the old standbys of Bradbury or Vonnegut are still pertinent no matter when I read them.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

No, not really. So far my stories haven’t necessitated travel.
Who designed the covers?

My wife designs my covers. She went to school for graphic design, and even though she’s moved on to other things, I’m fortunate that she’s willing to dust off her Wacom tablet and fire up Photoshop when the need arises.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Believing in it. I know that’s a vague answer, but it’s the truth. I put that above revising, rewriting, and editing it. There was a period of time some years ago that I considered it a failure and stepped away from writing altogether. It wasn’t until around early 2009 when I decided to return to the work that I realized the book struck a chord with a lot of people.

Once I overcame the initial self-doubt and found renewed faith in my work, I had a much easier time with it.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned a lot of things, and the first to come to mind is that nothing is as perfect as you might think. There will always be something that you missed or that you didn’t consider. I learned that I’m not impervious to common mistakes made by every other writer. For instance, during the editing process, I learned that I like to use the word “it” a lot. Somewhere in Arizona, my editor is nodding in agreement.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t give up. Believe in yourself, even when others tell you it isn’t worth it. Disregard the naysayers and stick to your guns. Learn to take criticism. An editor is invaluable, and once you find the right one, they will make you realize just how much you still have to learn.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope you check out my book. It’s a weird story, with equal parts Franz Kafka and Dean Koontz, and I think you might like it. Thanks for your interest and support. More importantly, thanks for reading.

__CONTEST __ Comment below for a copy of Todd’s book A Life Transparent

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