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Q and A - Jacob VanEngen & TJ Moore
Jacob – “Tell me about this book…Mind Games. What’s it about?”
TJ – “This is a suspense-thriller about a CSI photographer living in San Francisco. People start disappearing from the city and he and his team of detectives have to follow the case. There’s a lot a twists and turns in this book. I actually interviewed real police, detectives, and a judge to write the book. I also took Forensic Psychology to research this field.”
Jacob – “Describe the process it took to start writing this novel.”
TJ – “I have experience writing screenplays, so I started with the characters, then added the situation, and I worked with a timeline, so I did draft it out on a scene by scene basis to figure out what might happen. There’s a lot of foreshadowing throughout the story, so I had to know what happens at the end either way.”
Jacob – “Did you have this whole story planned out, or did you start writing then go along from there?”
TJ – “It was a discovery process. When I took Forensic Psychology. I went back and integrated a lot of authenticity into the book.”
Jacob – “Will you write another novel?”
TJ – “Yes, I already have many more ideas for other books. I want to write something more comedic next time.”
Jacob – “Will you write a sequel to Mind Games?”
TJ – “There is a character in this book named Max. I really think he could have his own sequel. From the people that have read Mind Games and talked with me about it, Max is their favorite character. I think there’s a lot more that we could know about what he’s going to do next.”
Jacob – “Did you base the characters off of people in your real life, or did you come up with them out of the blue?”
TJ – “There are bits and pieces that I take from real life, but no one was a direct characterization of anyone that I know. I used to work at HyVee, and there are certain things I would notice about the ways people behave in public, for example. I really wanted to incorporate some of that behavior when no one thinks anyone else is paying attention.”
Jacob – “Would you consider yourself a behavior analyst…where you take [those details] and pour them into a book?”
TJ – “I believe that writers have to constantly be observing what’s happening from an objective point of view. You start seeing things you normally wouldn’t be looking for.”
Jacob – “Have you found yourself seeing the behaviors of different people without even trying now?”
TJ – “Yes, I actually studied lie-detection technology for this book; and it’s very strange to watch when people are lying there are a lot of different changes in their body language and voice. I tried to incorporate that with some characters in the book…to describe what was happening to them physically instead of just saying they were lying, I could show they were lying by what happened with their face and their body.”
Jacob – “I think you’ve already sold me on this book. What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?”
TJ – “You can’t wait around for inspiration. Creative writing has to become a habit. If you want to complete a project of this length, you have to discipline yourself to form a plan and have goals along the way. It’s great to have an idea at the start; and that’s the best part of the process. But to stick with the characters and the story long enough to finish it, that’s the challenging part.”
- November 3rd, 2015
Brookings Register Article - Moore Expands Writing Range
The play may be the thing for Shakespeare, but Brookings native TJ Moore has gone from films to writing books. Mind Games, Moore’s first foray into novels has been available on Amazon.com since Oct. 13, 2015 as a paperback and has been getting high praise from readers. The story follows Cameron Frost, a CSI photographer who discovers San Francisco citizens are disappearing and sets out to solve the case. “TJ Moore’s novel Mind Games pulled me in on the very first sentence and kept me intrigued and frightened throughout the entire book,” wrote one Amazon customer. “This book was an adrenaline rush from almost the beginning!” wrote another. “Totally amazing suspenseful, twisted book,” wrote Miranda Kelly on the Facebook page for Mind Games.
“In one word: suspenseful,” Moore said of his creation. “I also describe it as a beat-the-clock thriller because there’s a time element involved.” Growing up in Brookings, SD, Moore was known for his films more than his writing. “My sister (Jodi Andrews) and I grew up writing plays,” Moore said of his start. “Many of my interests have been rooted in film. I made a documentary when I was in fourth grade. That’s where it started.” He listed Becky Ekeland, Sharon King, Ricky Ganci and Chad Caldwell as teachers who had an influence on him. “Each one has been encouraging and inspirational and supportive for the screenplays,” he said. The first three were English faculty; Caldwell teaches honors chemistry and human anatomy, “more of a personal friend,” Moore said.
“When I wrote Vector, it had science elements, and that was where he helped me,” he added. Moore wrote, produced and directed five feature-length films, with the last three: Special Delivery, Slick, and Vector being shown at Cinema 5 before he graduated from Brookings High School in 2012. He managed casts of 20-25 people for each film. While it was a lot of work, he enjoyed it. “Yes, it’s kind of like the time of my life, making those,” Moore said. “He went on to the University of Sioux Falls, where he is wrapping up a major in media marketing and working for Magic Makers Inc., where he is part of their design team. His background in film and his current studies led him to writing the book. “I like to experiment in different mediums. The storytelling is the most important part for me,” he said. “I never thought I would write a book simply because film is my favorite medium to consume. It really stemmed out of my love for the mystery genre. Reading should never be a boring experience,” Moore said. These days, people are used to getting information instantly he pointed out. “Mystery has a way of grabbing readers for longer forms of writing,” Moore said.
“The reason I wanted to do a book is in some of my screenplays in the past that I’ve written I had to think about all the logistics, budget, casting. Filmmaking is extra expensive. And so, there are plot restrictions,” he said. “I was looking for a way to tell a more in-depth story, and let it develop over time. In a novel, I can write characters the way I want them.”
He chose San Francisco as the setting because of the contrast between the city and the area outside the city. “San Francisco has fascinating structural history,” Moore said. “I don’t have the budget to film in San Francisco. With books, I can have a story take place anywhere,” he added. A couple of his goals with the book were to “infuse the plot with a very character-driven story” and since he likes fast-paced reads, “that’s what I tried to do with this.” Real life found its way into his story. Moore has taken forensic psychology classes. “One dealt heavily with motive and procedures (officials) use to prosecute criminals accurately,” Moore said. He did research by extensively questioning police detectives and infusing their answers into the story. “I tried to bring a big sense of authenticity, such as false leads,” he said, since that’s the way it would be in real crime solving. Since this was my first attempt at this medium, I was a little shell-shocked at what it took to complete,” he said.
It took three months for him to write Mind Games; then he wrote different drafts and did revisions. “I can confidently say this process gave me a deeper respect for people who choose writing as a profession,” Moore said. “The writing process opened my eyes…I have more understanding of what drives authors, and what haunts them as well. Now that the book has come out, it’s great to have the feedback from people who supported me growing up,” Moore said.
He also thanked Kaitlynn Wornson and Cassandra Swenson, who were “in charge of the cover of the book, branding and Facebook promotions,” he said. He welcomes reader reviews and said the easiest way to find his book is to search Mind Games TJ Moore on Amazon.com or the eBook/Kindle store. He invited people to visit his author website TJMooreBooks.com or the Facebook page TJ Moore Books. As for the immediate future, “I will be taking a break from writing a long piece,” he said. Moore has many other ideas for novels, but has his own method. “When I start a big project, I have to finish it,” Moore said.” “I doubt I would become an author that only pursues one genre,” he said. “I don’t want to repeat myself. For my next book, I would probably do something more comedic.”
- November 16, 2015. Story by Jodelle Greiner
USF Monthly Article – October 2015 Volume 3 Issue 2
In a world where it’s exceptional to find a young author, TJ Moore, a USF Media Studies Marketing student, is publishing a novel while finishing his undergraduate degree this year. Moore makes his entrance to the literary circle with Mind Games, a mystery thriller set in the city of San Francisco. On Tuesday, October 13th (2015), the members of the USF community can get their hands on a first edition copy.
Moore says he acquired a fascination for mystery and suspense at a young age. “Even when I was young, I was inspired by mystery and what’s around the corner. I was really interested in magic tricks growing up because they make people smile and there’s that question of what’s going to happen next,” Moore says.
In writing Mind Games, Moore used his personal interests to help spark his creative process. It was important to him that his work expressed his interests. Included in his novel are examples of his curiosity towards the criminal justice system, forensic psychology, and CSI work. For a number of characters, Moore placed emphasis on the motives.
“Because there are places I want to go in the scenes, and things I want to say – they’re not things I would say, and they’re not things I would do, but as the storyteller it’s a platform to let those things happen,” Moore says.
Works by authors such as C.S. Lewis, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King inspired Moore and helped put this project into motion. Instead of personalizing the story, he worked diligently to allow the characters and the story to naturally develop. Moore placed an emphasis on not dictating the plot, but rather letting the character manipulate the story.
Moore says he remained organized throughout the process because of his deliberate use of foreshadowing. Being knowledgeable of what was to come later in the book was invaluable in forming his mystery-thriller style.
“You cannot rely on inspiration or your mood. You have to sit down and write,” says Moore.
Moore says this novel proved to be a tremendous learning experience; one of the biggest takeaways being character development. Moore’s discovery about making readers love the characters allowed him to have freedom with individual character developments while still enticing readers to continue.
In addition to writing, Moore has written and directed several feature films including Special Delivery, Slick, Vector. In order to bring realism to his fiction, he studied Forensic Psychology and interviewed detectives.
Be on the look out for TJ Moore’s Mind Games available first on Amazon on Tuesday, October 13th (2015) at 10AM in the Jeschke Fine Arts. Mind Games is also available as an eBook on the Amazon eBook/Kindle store.
“It’s remarkable,” says Ceca Cooper, Associate Professor of Art at the University of Sioux Falls. “I’m really excited to read it. I hope that this is just the beginning a big career in writing.”
Moore would like to extend a special thanks to Jodi Andrews for editing his novel and USF Alumni Kaitlynn Wornson and Cassandra Swenson for their help in the publishing and marketing process.
-Story by Simon Floss