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Red Rain by Tim Wendel- A Review an Interview and a Giveaway

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Teresa's Reading Corner: Red Rain by Tim Wendel- A Review an Interview and a Giveaway

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Red Rain by Tim Wendel- A Review an Interview and a Giveaway

Synopsis from Goodreads:  As the B-29 bombers began to pound Tokyo and most of the other major Japanese cities to rubble, the Japanese military became desperate to find a way to once again instill fear in its enemies. Out of such efforts was born the greatest secret of WWII — the fire balloon. One woman, Yoshi, camouflaging her identity, is sent to uncover these delicate but deadly creations.

My thoughts:With my new fascination for the historical fiction genre, the synopsis of Red Rain intrigued me. I've only read one other novel recently that focused on this time period.  Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas focused on the lives of Japanese Americans in the internment camps and their trials within the community.  While it starts out in the internment camp, Red Rain quickly moves to Tokyo and gives perspective on the war from that front. 

Wendel does an excellent job of explaining the instruments of war to the reader (me) who isn't familiar with them.  Since the fire balloons are such a major part of the story, he starts out with a preface explaining them and the position that the US Government took on them during the war.  

He immediately introduces the main characters so that the reader has time to get to know them, but doesn't drag it out to the point that you are waiting for something to happen.  The characters are easily liked so you are quickly invested in the story.

Neil Starling is fighting the war from his new and slightly unusual posting in the US and Yoshi is fighting as best she can from her posting in Tokyo.  The story switches back and forth between the two fronts exposing the reader to the different battle each faces for the same cause.  

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII stories.  There is the war aspect that will appeal to some, but there is also an element of interpersonal relationships that will appeal to others.

I really enjoyed Wendel's writing style and am looking forward to reading some of his other titles which include his newest release High Heat and Castro's Curveball.  

In addition to writing Tim teaches fiction and non fiction writing at Johns Hopkins University.  (I wonder if they offer a long distance option, I think I'd like to take his class)

As part of the Blog Tour I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim.  Please welcome Tim Wendel to Teresa's Reading Corner.

How much time do you have to spend researching for your novels?
I’ll research for a few months and then I’ll force myself to start writing. Researching can be a lot of fun, especially in the Washington, D.C., area, where I live. I’ve seen several of my peers begin researching a new project and starting having so much fun at the Library of Congress or National Archives that they forget to start putting words on the page. So, I like to get writing and when I reach a dead end, I’ll research some more. A dead end could be an area I don’t understand or it could be a major scene that I’m trying to pull off and I don’t have enough sensory details yet. That’s when I’m back researching again.

What is the first assignment a student receives when they step into your classroom?
Motivation is a key for me. So, in the first class I often ask why they are here. Many of classes are held in the early evening, so they’re missing dinner, perhaps their favorite TV show, to be in a classroom with me and other writers. So I ask them why? It’s important to understand motivation. If you cannot articulate your own then it’s perhaps even more difficult to know your characters’ motivations. Why they are doing this rather than that?

What book are your reading right now?

I often have several books in play. Right now I’m reading THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield and EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON by S.C. Gwynne. The later has been a tremendous read. It’s about the Comanches, which were the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. They held the territory that eventually became big chunks of Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico. They held it against the Spanish, French and, for a long time, the Americans. I love history. I thought I knew U.S. history, but I didn’t realize what a force the Comanches were. After that I’ll finish the final book of Stein Larsson’s “The Girl” trilogy.

Who would you say is your biggest influence and why?

I always enjoyed reading as a kid. My family grew up in the country, between Buffalo and Rochester in Western New York. Of course, this well before cable television and the Internet, so reading was what you had. My parents were big readers and going to the local library was a huge deal. We went every weekend during the winter. Richard Ford, who I’ve had the good fortune to do a workshop with, once said that if you love reading then it’s only natural to try writing yourself. That’s what I started to do by junior high school. I wasn’t particularly good back then. I was a lousy speller, for example. But I worked on several newspapers in college and then after graduation. They were a great proving ground. I covered everything from fires and murders to sports events and concerts. That period really improved my ability to write and do it on deadline. Later on in my career, I wanted to learn more about writing and that first took me to conferences at Squaw Valley and then to do graduate work at Johns Hopkins University.
To me, nothing is more satisfying that writing well. 

What are your five favorite books and why?

Oh, that’s a tough one. I’ve had the good fortune to study under Ford, Oakley Hall, Carolyn Doty, Alice McDermott, Marita Golden, Margot Livesey, John Casey and Nicholas Delbanco. I’ve learned so much from all of their works. Perhaps I should give you the titles I tend to come back to while teaching my grad-level classes at Johns Hopkins.

Topping the list would THE GREAT GATSBY by Fitzgerald. To me, it’s perhaps the best use of first-person narration. Recently in my fiction workshops, I’ve been assigning WHO WILL RUN THE FROG HOSPITAL? by Lorrie Moore and CITIES OF THE PLAIN by Cormac McCarthy. Two very different works, but both employ similar plotting devices. I love the voice in Bob Dylan’s CHRONICLES. And, finally, I return to Michael Ondaatje’s IN THE SKIN OF A LION every few years. Of course, he wrote THE ENGLISH PATIENT, but I really enjoy this one.

I see that you've just released High Heat, do you have anything else coming up?

I’m still doing some promotion for HIGH HEAT. But I just finished a new novel, OVER THE FALLS, which we’re beginning to shop around. It’s set just east of Niagara Falls, where I grew up, and asks questions that Gatsby fans will find a touch familiar: Can we remake the past? Do we dare?

 Are there any upcoming releases that you are looking forward to picking up?

Thomas Mallon is working on a novel about Watergate, which I’m looking forward to. Also, I’m keeping an eye out for Stephen Hunter’s next thriller. I don’t read a lot in that genre, but his major scenes are so well choreographed.

Is there something that you've been meaning to read, but never get to?

I’ve learned a lot about myth and story construction from Joseph Campbell and I have read several of his books, including the classic THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. But the guy was too prolific. I cannot seem to catch up. The same goes for Joyce Carol Oates. We share the same hometown – Lockport, N.Y. I was born in Philadelphia, but my family moved soon afterward and I was raised in Lockport, which is on the Erie Canal. Remember the song that went, “Low bridge, everybody down?” We learned that in my elementary school. Anyway, some readers know that Joyce Carol Oates is also from Lockport. I finally got a chance to meet her a few years ago. She grew up on the west side of Lockport, which has changed a great deal in recent decades. She asked where I’d grown up and I told it was the other side of town, the east side, along Canal Road. Her eyes got big and she replied, “That’s the real Lockport.” Still not sure what to think of that.

 What is your typical day like?

I write in the morning. That’s the time that works best for me. It used to be evening, but I think raising two kids drove that out of me. On a good day, I’ll work until about noon and then the phone will start ringing or there will be some material to chase down on the research end.

What question are you never asked in an interview, but wish you were?  What is the answer to that question?

I suppose it’s a question my writing students kind of ask but not quite. They want to know if there’s some magic formula for doing a book. As in if you do X amount of work, it will result in what kind of book, even how many pages. Of course, each book is different and that’s some of the fun as well as the heartbreak with it all. I believe you have to carry a story with you for a time. You cannot just work on it when you’re inspired. Sometimes the most “blah” days can lead to real revelations and epiphanies about your story.
I wrote my first novel, CASTRO’S CURVEBALL, on the D.C. Metro, the local subway. At the time, I had an intense day job with USA Today. I didn’t have much free time, but I tried to write at least a page in my spiral notebook every day on the Metro going to work. One day I almost didn’t write. It seemed to be pointless. But with my stop only minutes away, I got out my notebook and started to write in a voice that I like to think is more desperate and innocent than my own. I ended up rewriting my first novel in that voice, the voice of Billy Bryan, the washed-up ballplayer in Havana. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t picked up my pen that day, that voice/character would have moved on to some other writer.

In closing, I’d urge readers to check out the YouTube book trailers for RED RAIN and even HIGH HEAT. These days a writer has to be part promoter, too. Both of these are short and can be found at:
And people can always reach me through my web site,

Thanks for your time, Tim

Thank you Tim!  This has been my favorite interview so far!

Thanks to Tim and the lovely people at Writers Lair Books I have one copy of Red Rain to giveaway to my loyal readers.   This giveaway will be open until Friday July 23rd at 12 AM Mountain Time.  I will choose the winner using and will email them notification giving them 48 hours to respond.  If I don't hear from the first winner within 48 hours I will choose another winner.  Good Luck!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Red Rain from the Author and Writers Lair Books to participate in this blog tour.  This is my honest opinion of the book.

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