Sunday 10 October 2010

Dancing With Myself: TOM LLEWELLYN interviews TOM LLEWELLYN

Tom Llewellyn’s first book, The Tilting House, came out in June 2010 from Random House’s children’s imprint, Tricycle Press. The Tilting House is a middle reader novel—a mystery with a bit of magic realism thrown in. And word is Llewellyn is contracted with Tricycle Press for another book, scheduled for next September. Here’s his shot at 10 questions.

1. What’s your first book about?

It’s about 160 pages. Seriously, it’s about a family with two boys that finally leaves behind their crummy apartment (flat, for you Brits) and moves into their first house. This one has some problems. The floors all tilt three degrees toward the center. All the walls are covered in crazed, scientific scribblings. And the house is overrun by rats. But, you know, a little paint, a little elbow grease, a little imagination…The boys—Josh and Aaron—work on finding out why the house was built with tilting floors and what all the mad-science scribbles mean. Along the way, wackiness ensues. Walls disappear. Rats talk. Things grow to amazing sizes. And when they finally get close to solving the mystery of the house, the future of their family home is at stake.

2. Sounds a bit creepy. Is it?

Yeah. One reviewer compared it to a cross between Goosebumps and David Lynch. I guess I naturally lean to the macabre. One of my favorite chapters is a story all about how the grandpa has to get his leg amputated. It’s actually kind of a sweet story, but I left in all the creepy details. Grown-ups forget how much kids like details about stuff like that.

3. The book came out in June 2010. How’s it doing?

It’s gotten some great reviews (he says, humbly). Book Trends gave it 5 stars. Publishers Weekly called it “inventive” and “gripping,” which are now two of my favorite words. And Kirkus Reviews called it “a genre-bending page page-turner,” which I consider not just a good review, but a nice use of hyphens. And it’s sold out of its first printing and is on to number two. So hang on to your first edition. It could be worth, dare I say, millions.

By the way, if I were to use “inventive” and “gripping” in a sentence, I might say, “The butcher boy sure is inventive in the way he is gripping that slab of ham.” Or something like that.

4. This is your first book. How long did the process take?

Oh, Lord. Aside from the time I spent alpha-sorting my rejection letters and printing out unaccepted manuscripts, this took about four years. I first sent this one to Tricycle Press (a kids’ imprint of Random House) back in September of 2006. So what’s that? 45 months of negotiations, revisions, revisions, edits, and more revisions. But I had a great editor—the esteemed Abigail Samoun from Tricycle Press, who also edits the popular Edgar and Ellen series. She really helped shape this into a tight story.

Based on the money earned so far, I figure I’ve made about 50 cents an hour.

5. That sucks.

That’s not a question. Am I supposed to respond, or just sit here quietly.

6. Sorry. Let me try again. Does that suck?

Yes. It does. Thanks for asking. So in response to the sucking, I decided to write and distribute a book via blog— I began posting a page or two every day. Within six months, I had more than 10,000 unique visitors a month. With Google’s adsense program in place, I thought I’d start generating some serious income. After 10 months—when the story ended—I’d made about eight dollars. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that I loved the blog experience. Posting in the morning and getting immediate feedback—via blog or facebook comments—was pretty exhilarating. Aaannndd, Tricycle Press and Random House have decided the blog story is worthy of a traditional book. In fact, I just received the “formal offer letter” today. “Formal,” “offer,” and “letter” are three of my other favorite words.

The great news is that this time, the book—Letter Off Dead—comes out in less than a year. It’s scheduled for release September 2011, which seems lightning fast to me.

7. Pretty ironic, don’t you think, that the only way you found to make money with a blog was to go back to traditional publishing?

Yes. Oh, and if you were to ask me to use the words “formal,” “offer,” and “letter” in a sentence, I might say, “Mr. Postman, no need to be so formal in the way you offer me that letter—the one with the formal offer in it.”

8. I didn’t ask. But enough shilling for your next book. Let’s get back to The Tilting House. It seems setup for a sequel. Is one in the works?

I’d love for one to happen. I have it loosely outlined. It has this great subplot about a man who moves into the tree in the front yard and refuses to come down. But I’m going to wait and see if the publisher asks me to write it. So far they haven’t asked. If they don’t, I’m on to another story I’ve been mulling around for a few years.

9. That’s it for me. I’m all out of questions. Besides, I’m late for a meeting.

A meeting about what?

10. Hey, I’m the one asking questions here.

Right. Sorry. Never mind.


  1. Good stuff. I've heard lots of good things about The Tilting House.

  2. Good to see you here, Tom. I have a question you didn't ask: Is the guerrilla poster operation a money-maker, or is that a for-the-love-of-it endeavor?

  3. Great diagram of the agony of getting published. And there's still the Hollyweird/development/greenlight . . . maybe/ hell to come. Might have a better shot than most though. Anyone who gooses David Lynch is one brave son-of-a-gun (not the only one who can use the hyphen now are we, Mr. Llewellyn?) All this for a first book. That's very cool jazz.

  4. The guerilla poster thing makes almost enough money to actually fund the project. Lance Kagey, the other cofounder, and I never really planned on it as a money maker. That said, it is one of the great joys of my life. You can check it out at

    Tom Llewellyn

  5. I'm posting a comment. it adds to the comment totals. OH, and Tom writes very good stuff too.

  6. Your old babysitter from years gone by is so very proud of you Tom. Many Many blessings on you!