When the name Dom Testa comes up in a conversation, most people think of the host of the Dom and Jane Morning radio show on Denver’s Mix 100. However, teenagers know a different Dom Testa. He’s an award winning YA writer of Science Fiction with his Galahad series which starts with The Comet’s Curse. He is also a frequent visitor to schools to discuss writing and the founder of The Big Brain Club.
Recently I had the opportunity to ask him about his writing.
CC: When did you start writing?
Dom: Like most writers, I've been creating stories since I was a kid. I began to get serious about it in my 30s, but it was the work that I began doing with students that inspired me to write a young adult novel. The Comet's Curse was the result.
CC: I read that you write what you liked to read as a teenager. What else influences your writing?
Dom: It's true. When I was a kid I was a big fan of The Hardy Boys, and a series called The Three Investigators. I enjoyed the combination of action/adventure, along with a bit of mystery, and felt like kids today might want the same thing in an updated version.
I'm also influenced by the science magazines and television shows that I'm hooked on. It seems like there's so much material in the realm of the unknown, especially in deep space, that it allows young people to really fire up their imaginations.
CC: The Comet's Curse has garnered lots of positive press. What do young readers tell you about the book when you visit the schools?
Dom: Kids love the concept of a group of teenagers on their own, without any adults around. It's truly a coming-of-age tale, but also a story that inspires kids to learn responsibility and cooperation. Technically the book is science fiction, but the characters are so strong that it goes way beyond its genre. I've had kids (and parents, too) tell me that they'd never really read science fiction before The Comet's Curse, and they were now hooked. That's a huge compliment.
CC: Tor has picked up the Galahad series. Is this the first publisher you have had?
Dom: The Galahad series was originally a product of my own publishing company. After publishing three books in the series, I reached an agreement with Tor, and they have re-issued the first book (The Comet's Curse) in hardcover. They'll follow with the second book, The Web of Titan, in early 2010.
CC: You have committed yourself to helping youth with your web site The Big Brain Club. In what ways has your dedication to youth brought you satisfaction?
Dom: As a society we sometimes dwell too much on the negative stories we hear about young people, primarily because that's how the news media make their living. Yet, once you work with young people, you see so much to give you hope, and make you smile. The Big Brain Club gives kids the confidence to pursue their love of learning, without worrying about any negative stereotypes that otherwise might have held them back.
The Comet's Curse, and the rest of the books in the Galahad series, features characters who essentially embody the spirit of The Big Brain Club. The stories highlight the very best in kids, and hopefully inspires young people to achieve great things.
CC: For all those writers of young adult fiction:
Please tell how long you marketed the book before signing with Tor.
Did you go the agent route or submit to publishers yourself?
Did you ever consider self-publishing?
Dom: I did publish the books myself at first, which is quite a lot of work. I didn't pursue a traditional publisher, or seek out an agent, because I was anxious to get the books into the market right away. There are certainly trade-offs taking that approach; you DO control the product completely, including the timeline, but you're also responsible for everything, including distribution, marketing, sales, etc. It really eats at the time you have left for writing. I'm thrilled that the Galahad series has a new home with Tor!
CC: What advice do you have for writers?
Dom: Well, that's difficult to answer, because all writers are different. Like most writing teachers will tell you, it's all about discipline, about carving out that time to write as often as possible. The competition is staggering, but until you get your butt in the seat and stare down that keyboard, all you have are dreams. And nobody's buying those right now.
CC: You have three full time jobs with the radio show, writing, and speaking. How do you balance them all? Are you able to write everyday as writers are told they must do?
Dom: Finding balance is a challenge sometimes, but it helps that I love all of the things that I do. I'm fortunate, because so many people are dissatisfied with their professional lives, while I enjoy multiple careers.
However, given that they are all careers, the reality is that at any given time one of those activities is hogging my time, which might mean that writing has to take a back seat temporarily. But usually not for long! It always calls me back.
The Comet’s Curse is available on Amazon.com and major booksellers can order it if they don’t carry the book on their shelves. Locally, in Colorado, many grocery stores are also carrying it.