IRDA Winner Tom Pearson: “I am motivated by the ideas themselves and how they develop…”

Still, the Sky was the SECOND PLACE fiction winner of the 2023 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author Tom Pearson.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Still, the Sky. Published in 2022.

What’s the book’s first line? 

“My departure instigated his exit,/Longer, slower, more deliberate, the way/Of the sensitive, thoughtful and reflective,/Even through heartbreak.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”. 

Still, the Sky is a speculative mythology rendered through poetry and art that combines the tales of Icarus and the Minotaur and creates for them a shared coming-of-age through a correspondence of written fragments, artifacts, ecofacts, and ephemera. Fragmented memories, relics, and confessions combine in a labyrinth of fever dreams and meditations which contemplate innocence and experience, war and peace, exile and homecoming, flight and failure, love and loss.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event? 

Still, the Sky fuses a fictionalized version of my own coming-of-age with that of the Greek mythology of Icarus and of the Minotaur. I began assembling poems for the volume and hooking the through-narrative into a mythological framework during an artist residency at the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy.  I think the Italian Riviera had a large impact on the world of the book and defined many of its locations and characters.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of? 

The adolescent versions of Icarus and Asterion (the Minotaur) that I conjured for the book remind me a bit of Gene and Finny from “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles.  I only realized that just now. That must’ve been residing deep in my subconscious all along. I really loved that book when I was younger. I’ll have to reread it.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book? 

I hope the book speaks to the reader on multiple levels. I worked hard to invoke thought and memory pathways that might help a reader connect with their own stories of coming-of-age, and ideas of solitude, imagination, and secret worlds. I tried to balance the guiding narrative with space for the reader to see themselves in the story in an ode to innocence and experience.

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

I don’t know, maybe Jaden Smith as Icarus and Barry Keoghan as Asterion (but we’d have to do it soon). Or, since these roles refer to such iconic mythologies, a couple of emerging actors who don’t yet have well-known public personas might be best.  Most importantly, I’d want it to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. He’s 94, but I hear he’s still working.

When did you first decide to become an author?

Probably when I was around 12 or 13, back in the mid to late 80s. It was after I read Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day by Nikki Giovanni that I wanted to be a poet. Before that, though, I am pretty sure I knew I wanted to write something even in grade school, back when I was reading Newbery books from the library.

Is this the first you’ve written?

This is my second published book of poetry. My first, The Sandpiper’s Spell was published in 2018.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I’m a multi-media artist, and I work on a lot of over-lapping projects, but most of my “day-job” work is in theater and performance-based projects.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

It varies depending on what else is going on, but I try to do a few pages each day. I also leave myself a lot of voice memos which I count as writing too.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?   

The hardest part is not having the resources to properly launch the book as widely as traditional publishing houses are able to do, to really give it the full publicity/marketing/distribution it could have.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?  

Yes, I would, exactly for the reason mentioned above. I want the potential reach to be as deep and wide as the creative process. We owe it to our creations to give them all the best opportunities we can, but I will continue to publish however makes sense. The most important thing is to get the work into the world in whatever way is possible at the time.

Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)

I am motivated by the ideas themselves and how they develop, what they say that they want from me. Sometimes, that means the idea becomes a book of poetry, sometimes a piece of visual art, and sometimes a performance-based work. I am motivated to be authentic and to be medial, to move things from one space to another—to really listen and invite inspiration and then work it into something that is shareable that could help someone else.

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

There are many, but I read and reread Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés the most. It’s my go-to. And I know and love her dearly, and for many reasons, both for what she’s written and what I know it took to write and publish it, it’s her, by a long shot.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

I love Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey and everything she says about poetry and poets and life. I don’t know that I wish I could’ve written it, but I want to embody all of it.


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