Timothy Starnes: the ‘Tune In’ and ‘Sassafras Cannon’ playwright


Timothy Starnes is a playwright, located in Charlotte, NC, mostly known for his plays ‘Tune In’ and ‘Sassafras Cannon’. His first short play is published by JAC Publishing while Heartland Plays and Musicals, and Off the Wall Plays manage the rest of his plays.

I had the pleasure to have a little chat with Timothy and ask him about writing and publishing.

Here is what he said to me…


  • How did you decide to pursue a writing career?

“My publishing experience has been eclectic, to say the least. My first short play, now published by JAC Publishing, was first written as largely both a time-waster and joke, during my freshman year of college. After sharing it with a friend that had been theatrically involved for years, she encouraged me to do some submissions and see where it went. I, honestly, wasn’t expecting anything to come of it. Off to a wide selection of companies, all who rejected it.

Nearly 6 months later, out of the blue, I received an acceptance letter. From there, the play was run in the magazine Scene 4 – I sincerely believe that the combination of these two things are what truly opened the door for me. You’ll probably hear this from other writers as well, but I find that after your first published work, things become much easier, as you’ve proven yourself to be a viable investment, at that point.

Other plays of mine are currently managed by Heartland Plays and Musicals, and Off the Wall Plays, which currently handles the majority of my label and catalog.”


Lose your “special snowflake syndrome”


  • Was getting published hard?

“I have to admit, getting into the publishing industry is one of the fastest ways to get promptly put into your place, and completely unapologetically, at that. I try and tell anyone who tells me that they want to get published as well, to lose your “special snowflake syndrome” or you’re going to end up either, one, hating your idea and throwing it out after a few rejections when it could really be published, or two, end up lashing out at the editor who sends you your rejection letter, which will get you widely laughed at, and if you think that the all-caps email you sent back won’t spread faster than cellulite at a candy convention, you’re dead wrong.”

  • Are your characters based on people you know?

“Yes, and no. Generally, all of my plotlines are in some way derived from personal stories, inside jokes, or stories heard from someone else. Characters in many of my shows possess qualities lifted from other people, for example, my long-time partner largely inspired Constance in ‘Sassafras Cannon’ in sassy retort and devil-may-care attitude toward others, but in reality, that is not what she is truly like. All characters are their own caricatures, where pieces of real personalities are far-bloated past their real state.”


  • What genre are your books?

“I categorize, and I suppose my publisher would agree on this, my books as dark, farcical comedies. I highly doubt any of the events in the scripts have happened in real life, as they are written. However, I have to admit, many of the plot pieces or details in multiple shows are based on realities, for example, Jefferson Davis appearing in drag during ‘Sassafras Cannon’. I’m sure any history buffs out there will understand what I’m talking about, even if that detail is debated. I have a strong belief that entertainment should entertainment – the world isn’t a great place to be, and for at least an hour or two, you should be able to escape. However, having said that, I also find that comedy that holds its roots in reality is the funniest, the ability to laugh at what is scary is an essential survival tool, and in the process, makes life more bearable.”

  • Which of your plays is your most favorite?

“I’d have to say, it is tied between ‘Tune In’ and ‘Sassafras Cannon’, for two different reasons.

‘Tune In’ will stay a permanent favorite, as it fulfilled a long-held dream. ‘Tune In’ was originally thought up in a near-library of short stories written between myself and my best friend, Wil Harris, even going as far as an 80-page unfinished novella, which currently sits on an unused external hard drive, occasionally opened up and read for nostalgia’s sake. We always said that we wanted to have something to do with the characters and plot to be published one day, and I made that dream come true. All of the works, in the growing catalog of that universe, are all dedicated to him.

‘Sassafras Cannon’ is another permanent favorite, as I was able to work with a cast of highly talented people who now are moving on to do other great things, and the material largely wasn’t appropriate for the place where it was performed. The anxiety of waiting to see what would happen day by day was scary, yet exhilarating. We did get away with it, and ran like the end after the production wrapped on opening night.”


  • What are your current projects?

“I am currently working on multiple adaptations of ‘Tune In’, including a comic and audiodrama, working on the upcoming published release of ‘Sassafras Cannon’, and freelancing on the side.”

  • What’s next for you?

“We’ll see as it comes.”


Timothy D. Starnes is originally from the small town of Waxhaw, North Carolina, a place consisting of aging train tracks and a few overpriced antique stores, and now resides in the bustling city of Charlotte, North Carolina in order to pursue his college education, where he studies Political Science and Criminal Justice in order to go on to law school. His plays have been featured internationally in Scene 4, a monthly arts and culture e-magazine by the Aviar Center for Preforming Arts, and have seen performances at events including the 24/7 Play Festival at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is currently writing new works during every moment of his spare time, an oversized martini glass of sweet tea in one hand and typing with the other. His works are best described as “realistic characters in impossible situations.” He draws inspiration from real life, scalping stories from his closest friends, family and even his own life experiences, turning them into pieces of art one stage direction at a time. Having studied endless books on history and watched more period dramas than would be considered advisable by the Department of Health, this research has allowed him to explore history through different colored lenses in his work. His theatrical series, the “Empire” series, based on post-Civil War America in an alternate universe setting is currently being written, with more plays being added to the series as time goes on. His personal knack for the odd, outrageous and macabre also shines through in his work, spicing scripts with odd occurrences, invasive visitors from outer space, drag queens, the mishaps of suburbia, small town politics, underground societies, hand puppets with PTSD, hauntings and more.


Timothy Starnes’ Play Scripts






Tune In – Two act comedy about a television station


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