Well, it’s almost the end of 2012 and I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what an incredible year it’s been. I may post this early. I will just post it today. Frees up the rest of my year to just read, write and spend time with family. I’ll add any big developments before New Years. There are probably a bunch of things I’m forgetting.
Last summer/fall, when my first novel (Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children) and first novella (Iron Butterflies Rust) came out, was a very surreal time. I had been striving to learn how to write well enough to sell my work for almost a decade. It was a relief to sign the contracts, to get my author copies in the mail and see them, to mail copies to my readers, to dedicate the books, to get some feedback and strive to learn more.
This year has been even better. I had a ton of work come out.
But it’s funny how we can roar but still feel like we aren’t doing enough. When I was talking to my buddy Shaun Ryan, which I do so much you’d think we were married, I remembered that I always feared dying young. Like I’d never make it to forty. I think it’s been in my subconscious, spurring me on to write every story taking up space in my heart as quickly as I can before the worms claim me, before the cold, damp earth is my pillow. I do want to leave something behind whether I die prematurely or whether I live as long as Ray Bradbury did. Something of substance, that has meaning for somebody other than myself. I don’t think it’s a lofty goal. I think all true artists, whether they’re successful or not, want to connect with other people and share the beautiful things they’ve seen, and the tragic times that have scarred them, and how the world has shaped them. As writers, or painters, or musicians we hold a mirror up to ourselves and the time we live in, and it’s not easy. We’re a very quiet voice that can easily be lost in a lot of white noise. But I see how important it is to try and keep trying. I’ve gained some wonderful fans. They might not know it but they know me through my work.
Narrator Matthew Stevens recorded my first audio bookNURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN. We’ll also be working on the audio for the sequel THE DAMPNESS OF MOURNING after New Years.
I also had a local paper interview me, which was neat. Thanks to reporter Bill Petzold! That was a lot of fun and I found I enjoy being interviewed much more than I ever thought I would.
Some other highlights this year were meeting John Connolly, Lee Child, Michael Sears, Stanley Trollip, Les Edgerton, Michael Connelly, Michael Koryta and Sabrina Callahan at Bouchercon (The World Mystery Convention.) I don’t know that I would be the writer, or even person, I am, if not for the books my heroes have written.
Me and my hero John Connolly
Me and the awesome Lee Child
Some of my heroes (Tom Piccirilli, Jack Ketchum, Brian Hodge, Robert Dunbar) read my work in 2012 and gave me blurbs. Having your heroes read something of yours is one of the greatest feelings there is. It’s fireworks in your head and a sudden jolt to your heart. It’s quite dreamy.
Reviews, which I never get very many of, have really taken off this year. Especially on Goodreads, which is one of my favorite sites. I get to talk to fans on there, too, which has been wonderful. And one of the groups (Horror Aficionados) has invited me to be the guest author for January 2013. They’ll be reading my brutal novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL and we’ll all discuss it. Very neat, yeah? Thanks to Jason and Tressa for the opportunity!
Sales grow as my audience grows. Thanks so much to everybody who has been buying the work and spreading the word about it! Word of mouth is vital. It helps me when I feel like I can’t write worth shit and then I find a stranger who enjoyed something I wrote, which leads to me finding my balance again. To remember that, yes, I’m writing for me, but I’m also writing to connect with other people. It’s weird, but it’s good.
New novels… I wrote three novels this year (The Collected Songs of Sonnelion, The Lesser People, and The Wolverine) and got halfway through a fourth (Gossamer). I have ideas for the next ten books that will range between 70-90,000 words. All I have to do is write them. Easy. My goal is to write four novels a year. I tell myself to take it easy, don’t work so much, but it’s part of my nature. I am an obsessive and the work gives me purpose that life would be too depressing without sometimes.
I signed a three-book deal with Darkfuse/Delirium Books in December. I’m very excited about it since Shane Staley has been awesome to work with and he publishes what he believes in. I’m writing and turning in a standalone novel every March, which works out great too because I have a ton of novel ideas and nothing for novellas or short stories lately.
Since I am quite prolific when it comes to novels, and I write more than just Dark Fantasy, I’ve decided to use several pseudonyms. I’ll keep the Dark Fantasy under my name. Have the name Thomas Morgan for Heartbreaking Coming of Age tales with a Historical Thriller slant; James Logan for suspense fiction that is very tightly plotted but has more hopeful endings than all my other work; Julian Vaughn for novels that are more big-concept with a lot of heart/more touching than horrific.
I had a writer I met at the World Mystery Convention (Les Edgerton) refer me to his agent for the pen-named work after he read WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL. That was really nice of him and whether it works out or not, him trying to help me counts for a lot. I’m really not worried about it since all of my worry is that the books are what I want them to be.
I got to interview a bunch of my favorite writers here. They are amazing.
I sold a couple of short stories. The River to my favorite mag Shock Totem. It will be in issue #6 along with Jack Ketchum and interview with me! And The Most Mysterious Silence sold to Nameless Magazine, owned by Jason V. Brock who made a great documentary about Charles Beaumont.
Not the Final Cover
Tuesday’s Training, my weekly writing advice essays for novice writers, has been a lot of fun. I know it’s helped a few people. That’s nice. I had help too: from things I’ve read, questions I asked answered by people far busier and far more experienced than I am, and help just through the encouragement that comes in something as simple as a smile.
Thanks to the publishers who have put their faith in me, the writers who encourage me, the pre-readers who help so much by offering feedback I can’t come up with on my own, the fans who help pay my bills and continue to come back for more of my work. 2013 is going to be an even more incredible year, which is really hard to fathom. But it will be. What a life. Thanks for helping me live my dream! Now go buy all my books for your friends for Christmas!
Tons of famous writers have used pen names for various reasons. Some writers’ who have used pen names, or these are their pen names: Dr. Suess, Ayn Rand, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Stan Lee, Stephen King, Ed McBain, Donald Westlake, Dean Koontz, Douglas Clegg, Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Robert Jordan, Lee Thomas, Max Brand, Benjamin Black, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, John Le Carre, Anne Rice, James Joyce, Joyce Carol Oates, Nora Roberts, Lawrence Block, Harlan Ellison, Michael Chrichton…
You may be for or against pen names for whatever reason. I didn’t like the idea of them until recently. I felt that we should have our name on all of our work, but the more I learn the more I see why pen names are useful. I’ll list several of the reasons I’ll be using a few pen names…
#1. I’m very prolific…
I only have to write about a half hour a day to knock out two novels and two novellas a year. Easily. Some days I don’t write at all because I’m tired or lazy or life gets busy or I just want to read. But when I get back to the keyboard I’m flying. Could be because of all the dexterity I developed through years of guitar playing but I am an extremely fast typer. Plus I have about the next eight book ideas lined up, with some of the pivotal moments for each, so I can just bridge the gaps between those pivotal moments and have a new novel done in no time. In the last two years I’ve written and sold the following novels (Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, The Dampness of Mourning, The Collected Songs of Sonnelion) and novellas (Iron Butterflies Rust, Immersion, Down Here in the Dark, When We Join Jesus in Hell, As I Embrace My Jagged Edges, and Within This Garden Weeping). See, I need more names. That’s too much for one person to do. And the more I write and the more my name gets out there the more time I’ll have to write. I can’t fathom writing three hours a day every day. I know I’d knock out a library of books in a decade. But hell, that’s what will probably happen since writing is therapy, and it’s a compulsion, and it’s a challenge, and it’s fun.
#2. I want to write in more than one genre…
I read widely and want to write widely. If somebody reads one of my more touching novels that I plan to write and then they went and read one of my Dark Fantasy novels they’d be upset. And I couldn’t blame them. We’re automatically tattooed with certain emotions by a writer and their work. For example, I’m nearly finished with a Historical/Family Saga/Thriller novel called The Lesser People. I know that it won’t sit well under the Darkfuse (or any other small press roof, though I’m going to let my publisher read it to see what he thinks), so more than likely I’ll be looking for an agent for that book, and I’ll be selling it under a pen name. I also have a sad and touching novel I’m going to write called Shine Your Light on Me that isn’t Horror or Crime, again more in a Family Saga/Price-of-Fame scope. And I have a few YA novels that I want to write that will be kinda edgy, gritty, and very realistic. Plus I want to pen some straight-up Crime fiction like some of my heroes. And I have a Western trilogy called Past Hard Seasons that I’m going to tinker with and modernize to see what I can make of it.
#3. Well, I don’t have a third reason. But those first two reasons are enough to warrant some fake names to write under.
Reasons other professionals have used pen names (besides using one for the same reasons I am):
They didn’t like the sound of their real name…
They didn’t want their family to know what they were writing…
They were paranoid and didn’t want people to know their real name…
They use a lot of real-life material in their novels and want to protect themselves from judgment…
To disguise their sex…
The list goes on.
It’s up to you to decide if you need or want a pen name. I’d follow the more ‘need’ side of it. My reasons show me I need a few. Follow your heart and trust your gut.
My standalone novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL was just released on Kindle(other digital formats out Sept. 25th). Go snag a copy! It’s a dark and harrowing tale of love, loss, revenge, and over-compensation. My hero Tom Piccirrilli read it and said, “Lee Thompson knows his horror-noir. He fuses both genres together in the turmoil of terror, tragedy, blood, guilt, and lost chances at redemption.”–Tom Piccirilli, author of THE LAST KIND WORDS
Our creativity comes from what has touched, scared and stimulated us before this present moment as well as through thinking on what has never been, what could have been, and what might yet be.
We form narrative from light and shadow, wisps of smoke, whispered prayers, all in hopes that the finished product will connect with and move someone else (hopefully a lot of someones.)
Our muse, our inspirations, come from a number of places and take various processes from quick absorption, a streak of lightning, or the slower, gestating movement that rattles us to our core and takes our breath away. Sometimes the lightning strike produces the gestation, but no matter what inspires us a key aspect of a healthy writing career is to STAY inspired.
I’ve heard tons of people talk about writer’s block. Don’t have a clue how to get through it because I’ve never had it, but I think one of the reasons I haven’t is because of variety, multiple points of inspiration, and a pretty simple approach to life (kinda black and white actually, which isn’t always good but isn’t always bad either because it keeps me focused.)
So, let’s look at the various parts that feed and sustain our muse, our energy, and make our time more effective both before and after creating something new, and hopefully makes what we put ourselves through worthwhile…
It’s easy to stay inspired when you have knowledge that you’re passionate about, whether it be some aspect of the writing craft, or some aspect of what it means to be human, or the importance of stories, or a deep and abiding knowledge of human emotions. Some of it we pluck consciously from every day life, some floats up like gold-encrusted debris from our subconscious, from lessons learned that can only be learned via hindsight.
But how we come by inspiration isn’t as important as acquiring the seeds that produce more of it.
That spark of an idea that stirs something in us is always exciting. But we also get inspiration from other places and probably should. Those who wait for inspiration to strike them are happy when it does and tortured when it doesn’t. Who wants to live and create like that? We can make our own inspiration a lot of times by reading books that level us, by reading those that have before, by participating in other creative endeavors (which also bleed over into our writing in a cross-pollination sort of way!), by listening to the wind, watching the stars, letting our minds wander and by remembering what it was like to be a kid without our parents around, when the world held possibilities and not an endless, bone-crushing grind. I find inspiration in all of those things, a little every day, plus in studying beautiful and striking artwork, in playing guitar, in talking to a best friend, in listening to (and sometimes mishearing) a family member. Don’t always wait for inspiration. Breathe life until you’re about to burst so that there is always material creating itself in your subconscious.
Trust in our heart-of-hearts that what we write about matters to us and means something is incredibly important. If we don’t trust our process then it’s already standing on shaky ground. It’s easier to be inspired and find inspiration when we know deep in our gut that we’re going to find something worth saying, with characters that bleed and bond together, with dialogue that crackles, with obstacles that push our characters to their limits, and in turn, the reader.
What I’ve done to build trust in my process is to accept that nothing I ever write will be perfect, not to me, not to anybody. It takes some of the pressure off, lets me say, “Hey, I’ll just do my best and that’s all that’s required.” Then I go do my best and more often than not I’m mostly satisfied with the results.
Your muse will probably kick you in the nuts or vagina if you never let your imagination run wild and naked through the forest or bound recklessly down slick city streets. Imagination is paramount. It’s as important as the execution of a tale. It’s details, the way they’re told, the massive scope of the project, and it carries the weight of stars and land and sea. All of the greats had bucket loads of it pressing at the walls of their brains. They dipped their pen in that gushy mass of nerves and created what wasn’t there before.
When I read slush for Horror Library Vol. 4, back before I’d ever sold a story, one of the things that struck me about most of the rejected pieces was a lack of imagination. You know why? Because the majority of them would tell the same stale tale and how do you get excited about that?
We’re all given and nurture (or not) a certain volume of imagination. Those gifted with a lot must be wary that it doesn’t override the story because its easy for the very imaginative to let that fire burn away the story and diminish it. We learn through experience when we have too little or too much. Those who lack imagination are in a similar predicament, but theirs is that their work can come out too bland, bound by the constraints of what their logical, rational minds allow. We have to let go of our place in the world if we’re to let our imaginations grow. I think part of what holds us back is conditioning by parents and preachers and school systems. When we chase security it flees from us because it doesn’t exist. It’s a mirage.
There are many writers but only a handful who have truly inspired me, muses many times in their own way down dark passages and those open, lovely times that are crowded by bliss: William Faulkner, Tom Piccirilli, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Mr. Poe, Jack Cady, Greg Gifune, Robert Dunbar, Sara Gruen, Dennis Lehane, John Connolly, Peter Straub, Douglas Clegg, Clive Barker, Cormac McCarthy, John Gardner, Gary Braunbeck, Jack Ketchum, Brian Hodge, Lee Thomas, and Neil Gaiman. I’m going to dedicate my serial novel THE COLLECTED SONGS OF SONNELION to them because they are all in this, hidden between pages and crowding sentences with their undeniable mark.
So, go find those seeds that you can toss to the wind. Be patient while you work and every now and then as you toil away in your closed little world, eyes straining and heart aching, you’ll peek over your shoulder and see those seeds have taken root. What will grow? God only knows. But that’s part of the fun.
Tons of things going on here and all of them rocking. I’ve got the signature sheets for DOWN HERE IN THE DARK in front of me. The digital is out now, the signed/limited hardcover coming mid-April. It’s a hell of a story and picks up right after the end of IRON BUTTERFLIES RUST. It’s dark, twisted, cryptic and stunning. Alfred Hitchcock (my pet monkey) said it’s a tour de force.
Like everything else, I think it stands alone, but it’s a sliver of the Division mythos and I think it’s going to be badass when every book and short story is complete so everybody (including me) can read them in order and experience the full effects of these character’ trials and successes.
It also ties in directly to THE DAMPNESS OF MOURNING which is out early as a Kindle Exclusive. The signed/limited hardcovers are coming out on Valentine’s Day!
I did an interview on Literary Mayhem. Also just turned one in for Darkfuse that was a lot of fun and should be live soon. Working with Dave Thomas on some promotional stuff that should be a blast for everybody! I think I’ll be playing guitar and reading some opening chapters.
NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN is in production as an audio book and so far I’ve heard the first 13 chapters (my lucky number!) and it is so cool to hear somebody else read my work.
I’ve also been interviewing some of my heroes lately. So far I’ve sat down and sipped absinthe with Robert Dunbar, Tom Piccirilli, and Lee Thomas. All amazingly talented bad boys. Up next I’ll be interviewing Greg Gifune. Working on his questions now. It’s been a lot of fun talking to those guys and picking their brains. They’ve been surprisingly candid and I love ‘em for it.
I finished the rewrite on the second Red Piccirilli book WITHIN THIS GARDEN WEEPING. I’d submitted it to Chizine but since I’ve written one novel and three novellas while waiting to hear back from them I figured it a good idea to use what I’d learned while waiting to make the book stronger. It’s the sequel to the first book BEFORE LEONORA WAKES, a simple but interesting YA story. I’m very proud of both of them since they set the foundation in what comes in the adult novels and novellas. You can read the opening of the second book on the lovely Book Den.
Another Division story, THE RIVER, is under consideration with Apex’s Dark Faith 2 antho. It’s the only short story I have unpublished right now and I love it.
Two short stories (Daddy Screamed With Us and Crooked Stick Figures) will be in the anthology American Horror Stories, vol. 1 from Delirium Books later this year, too.
I’m working out the threads of the third Red Piccirill novel COLLECTED SONGS OF SONNELION. So not ready to write this one yet. It’s going to be incredibly dark for Red. It’s going to break my heart to write. But I know I have to get to it at some point because this is the book that mostly shapes who Red is in the Division novels Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, The Dampness of Mourning, and The Patron Saint of Infinite Sorrow.
Also working on the threads of a very touching, yet very disturbing, YA novel called A Monster of Many Faces. It’s going to tackle issues that have bothered me my whole life and people are going to die (one of them is already dead.)
I’m anxious (somewhat) for when reviews start coming in for all four books coming out this year. I enjoy feedback, and especially enjoy it when people tackle the challenge each story presents. I know not everybody will get them, and not everybody is going to like my work, but I’m grateful some do (some who I have a ton of respect for.)
I’ve heard news that my Thunderstorm novella is on the fast track and look forward to seeing the finished product. It’s going to be a beauty.
I’m very excited that some people are loving the Division story line and characters. I see it all so clearly and its such a massive story it takes my breath away knowing that it came out of my wee little imagination. Crazy.
Feeling very relaxed. No pressure here. But expect some great things.
Lee Thomas is the Lambda Literary Award and Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Stained, Damage, and The Dust of Wonderland, and the critically-acclaimed short story collection In the Closet, Under the Bed. In addition to numerous magazines, his short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Darkness of the Edge, Supernatural Noir, Horror Library, Vol. 4, and Inferno, among others. Current and forthcoming titles include the novellas The Black Sun Set, Crisis, and Focus (co-written with Nate Southard). Lee lives in Austin, Texas, where he is working on a number of projects. Lee’s website.
The first thing I read by Lee was his story in A WALK ON THE DARKSIDE, “Anthem of the Estranged.” I loved it. Then before I’d ever sold anything I had the pleasure of reading slush for the Horror Library and was the first to read and recommend Lee’s fantastic story “Flicker” for HORROR LIBRARY, VOL. 4, and the editors, in their good taste, purchased it.
I loved The Black Sun Set and sent it to my buddy Shaun who enjoyed the hell out of it as well. Then recently I got to share some pages with Lee in A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE. What fun! Again his story, “Ghunt,” was one of my favorites alongside work by Jack Ketchum, Joe Lansdale, and Marie Green.
And I remember reading something Lee said last year and since my first novel came out about that time it made a lot of sense. He said something like we all dream of selling that first book and we like to believe that’s the goal but it’s just “The Starting Line.” Yep.
Thanks to Lee for spending some time with us and thanks to everybody who reads and shares! Go check out some of this guy’s work!
Me: Over the last ten years you’ve built a respectable body of work. How has your view of yourself as a writer changed in that time?
Lee: Well I used to see myself as a hobbyist. I wrote because I loved writing and I’d write novels the way other folks played fantasy football or knitted scarves. With no intention of doing anything with the books, I wasn’t particularly concerned with quality, originality, commercial appeal or anything beyond getting the story on the page. I didn’t have to know what I was doing because if it made me happy, I’d satisfied my audience. As a working author, quality and originality and broader (if not exactly commercial) appeal become considerations. Of course, my work still has to satisfy me, first and foremost, but these days that’s a whole lot harder to do. The more I read and the more I write, the more critical I become. Part of that is the need to challenge myself, but another significant part of it is realizing that at some point the story is going to leave my happy bubble and make its way into the world. People, strangers, innocent bystanders, are going to go out of their way to read it, so it had better be tight. Of course, writing is still enjoyable, but it’s not the fun and games it once was, and it shouldn’t be. As a working author, you have to develop a critical eye. You should have an abusive relationship with your muse. There should be screaming and throttling and throwing shit, because every story idea is not necessarily a good story idea and every story direction isn’t going to lead you to El Dorado.
Me: You have a new novella TORN coming out from Cemetery Dance. Can you tell us about the process of writing it?
Lee: Several years ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to do novellas about all of the iconic horror creatures and possibly put them together one day into a single volume. Generally speaking, I’m not compelled to write about the classic monsters–vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc., – but they were certainly an important part of my formation as a writer, and they’re a hell of a lot of fun, so I thought a series of novellas would cover that ground. I started with PARISH DAMNED, which was my look at vampires, and then I did a ghost piece that blew up to novel length. Next was CRISIS, which was a riff on zombies. The publisher that bought it went through some hard times and the book was orphaned, so I put it up on Kindle as an ebook. TORN is my take on werewolves. I wanted to bring something new to the lycanthropy game, and TORN does that. It’s definitely an action piece with a good amount of nasty violence, but the human factor is equally compelling. I was really pleased with the way it turned out. I believe Cemetery Dance is already shipping copies to subscribers of the novella series, though the official release is March, 2012.
Me: Where do you see yourself going next? Do you have a plan or just take it one thing at a time?
Lee: Yeah, the second thing. Ha! The novel I’m finishing up, which should be done in the next few days, is a noir/dark fantasy piece set during Prohibition that’s very different from my earlier books. But then, THE GERMAN was different from the books that came before it. It can be hard to plan when you don’t know what you’re next book is going to look like, content-wise. I know the next book will have a contemporary setting, because I’ve done a couple of historicals back-to-back and I’d like to do something in the now. Beyond that… shrug.
Me: What advice can you offer new writers?
Lee: I am nobody’s role model. Seriously. I think writers are a diverse and complicated group and most of the “one size fits all” advice sounds good and might help the masses, but it can also be incredibly discouraging to a singular mind who has their own drummer to beat. Quite frankly we need more of those folks in the business, so I’m not going to chase them off by insisting they eat their Wheaties and write every day. My advice: Do what works and keep doing it.
Me: Is writing a want, a need, or a compulsion for you?
Me: Lol. Who are some of your biggest influences? Was their impact on you so influential that you’d be a completely different writer if you hadn’t read them?
Lee: My biggest influences in genre are Peter Straub, Clive Barker, and Stephen King. I was fortunate to have these three writers emerge during my youth (or relative youth in regard to Barker). Those three define contemporary dark fiction as far as I’m concerned, and I can’t imagine what I’d be writing if I hadn’t escaped into their stories all of those years ago. Later in life, around the time I started publishing, I began reading Jack Ketchum, and he too has had an impact on my current work. I could list influences all day, because there is such a rich history to draw from, but my early influences were those three guys. From them, I worked my way back to Matheson, Bradbury, Lovecraft, M.R. James, Machen, and a pantheon of other brilliant minds. And that’s just in genre. Around the time I was reading Straub and King, I was also reading Truman Capote, the plays of Tennessee Williams and others of the Southern Gothic school, so they are equally responsible for the shit that comes out of my head.
Me: Do you prefer writing or reading short fiction over the longer forms?
Lee: No. Not really. I wrote novels before I wrote short stories, so I used to have a preference for the longer works, but these days, I’m just looking for a well-written and interesting story and form doesn’t really play into it.
Me: Hot seat question… How do you feel about the .99 cent Kindle craze? For or against? Reasoning?
Lee: It’s a double-edged sword. First though, we should define what we’re talking about. Established authors are in a different position than emerging authors. So it might be best to discuss what this all means to the new folks. Plus, if an author is selling short stories for a buck a pop, cool and groovy. They get a thousand downloads and they’ve made about a pro rate for that story, depending on word count and such. Obviously, the same isn’t true for novels or even novellas. I would think that if writers are making long works available at that price, they are going to have to put in hardcore promotion hours to get any kind of reasonable payout. Or they are merely using the low cost to generate buzz. In the abstract, it’s a legitimate marketing strategy if it leads to a readership that will eventually pay a reasonable amount for the work. I mean Metallica built a reputation by encouraging fans to copy and distribute cassettes of their early demos, and they’re doing okay. Ha! There can be no doubt how effective a bit of artistic tease can be. But you know those hundreds of other bands that did exactly the same things Metallica did? No… me neither.
I’ve done it, with the novella I mentioned, CRISIS, just to test the waters. It went fine, but it wasn’t a bounty by any means, mostly because I didn’t do jack to promote it. Still, whether it’s .99 or free, the fact is when something is that cheap, it’s perceived as disposable. So a reader can load up their Kindle with a few dozen titles and may only read a fraction of them. A writer CAN build a legitimate fan base that way, some have, but most won’t see any genuine, long-term benefit to their careers because the product has been acquired but it hasn’t necessarily been consumed. Their stories are part of a digital library; it doesn’t mean they’re being read, and if they aren’t read and affecting the reader, driving him or her to pick up more of that author’s work, then it’s a bit of a pointless exercise. Further, if readers can get material free or dirt cheap, they may balk at paying what a story is really worth when the time comes. They’ll keep reading the free stuff, regardless of quality, because their affinity is to the unit cost, not the author. And the issue of quality is a major one, because many of these titles haven’t been edited by professionals, or even vetted through competent first readers. As a result, authors stand the real chance of losing readers who find themselves frustrated by poor grammar, typos, and/or storylines that are inconsistent or lack logic.
So on the up side, it is a practical marketing tool that offers a slim, though real, chance for burgeoning authors to build their readership. On the down side, a writer still has to shout through all the noise out there to get readers to notice them, and they’re driving the perceived value of stories down in the process.
Me: You collaborated with Nate Southard on your Thunderstorm novella FOCUS. What did you find most rewarding and most challenging about that project? Have you collaborated with others before? Do you plan to do it again?
Lee: The most rewarding part was working with Nate. He’s a great writer with a strong grasp of pacing and atmosphere. I had the basic idea of what I wanted to do, something like EVIL DEAD in an office building, and I wrote up the first chapter. Nate took the idea and ran with it, and we went back and forth until we had something much bigger and more fun than I’d initially imagined. My only other collaboration was with Stefan Petrucha for the WICKED DEAD series of books for HarperTeen. It was a completely different kind of collaboration because of the way the books were structured. In that instance we each focused on our specific parts and put them together at the end. Then we went back and forth with revisions until we were both happy.
I don’t have any plans for a new collaboration, but I’m open to the idea. It simply depends on the project and the co-author. But it will be a while before I can take on anything new. I’ve got a few projects keeping me busy these days.
Me: I just finished THE GERMAN and loved it. Where did the idea originate? Did you have to do a lot of pre-writing? Did it all grow organically from who the characters are and the situation?
Lee: Thank you. The story emerged as most of my ideas do, from a confluence of disparate elements, all of which occurred in a relatively short period of time and somehow fit together in my head. The first was a History Channel program about a Nazi leader named Ernst Röhm. Röhm was, for several years, one of the most powerful men in Germany, commanding the SA (or “Brownshirts”), during Hitler’s rise to power. Considered a threat by Hitler, Röhm was assassinated, along with many of his officers and sympathizers, in 1934 on “The Night of the Long Knives.” Further, Röhm was openly, and vocally, gay. Prior to this program, I’d never heard of the man, but I found his story fascinating. That evening I sat down and wrote a scene, which became the prologue of the novel. The second element was a daytrip I took to Fredericksburg, a small Texas town with a noticeable German heritage. Since I was relatively new to Texas, I didn’t know how extensive German settlement had been in the state, so that gave me a pretty good idea about setting. The third, quite frankly, was a porn flick I saw playing on the television in a gay bar. It was a generic setup of somebody peeking through a window and watching the “action,” and in that, I found the novel’s pivotal event. Further, I’d been looking for a story that would let me explore the nastier human traits, stemming from the defense of personal or social identity and how this can play out from schoolyard bullying to culturally sanctioned genocide. Character, setting, conflict, and that overarching idea collided and meshed. And though there was a lot of research involved, the character voices and story came quickly. Ultimately, I did little in the way of pre-writing, and for that matter, this novel went through far fewer revisions than I’m used to doing.
Me: Do you have favorite works? Which three would you suggest new readers try?
Lee: My favorites change with the weather, but I think THE GERMAN is currently at the top of the list of readily available titles. So I’d say THE GERMAN,IN THE CLOSET, UNDER THE BED, and TORN, the novella I have forthcoming from Cemetery Dance. If folks are more inclined toward YA titles, then I’d recommend MASON, which I wrote under the name Thomas Pendleton.
Me: Anything you want to say before we say goodbye?
Lee: Thanks very much for taking the time to chat with me. Be sure to direct folks to the interviews you did with my buddies Tom Piccirilli and Robert Dunbar. And continued success with your own writing. See ya!
Me: Thanks, Lee! And there you have it. Love this guy’s writing and you should give those three books he mentioned a try!
It’s very cool to see my name and work alongside so many great writers (like Stephen King, Greg Gifune, Robert Dunbar, Dan Simmons, Joe Lansdale, and Lee Thomas.) Thanks to everybody who has taken a chance on me. I know how tight money and time can be.
If anybody has read my work and loved or hated it feel free to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Thanks so much!
Buckle your seatbelt (this was a busy writing year…)
At the beginning of 2011 Ellen Datlow picked three of my stories for Honorable Mention in her Year’s Best Horror, volume 3! The first three stories I sold! It was a good start to the year and a nice buzz.
This year I’ve had stories published alongside some great writers in mags and anthos and webzines I love! Shared space with Joe Lansdale (x2), Lee Thomas, Jack Ketchum, Bentley Little, Jason V. Brock, Ken Wood, Maggie Jamison, Jeffrey Thomas, Michael McBride, Tom Piccirilli, Weston Ochse, James A. Moore, Nick Mamatas, Gene O’Neil, Ronald Malfi, Kevin Wallis, Steve Lowe, Shane McKenzie, etc. in Delirium’s Horror Wired anthology (February), Dark Discoveries #18 (May), Apex’s Zombie Feed, vol. 1 (June), Shock Totem #4 (July), Literary Mayhem (October), A Hacked-up Holiday Massacre anthology (November).
I sold the second Division novel THE DAMPNESS of MOURNING to Darkfuse Publications on October 19th! (Going to be released in signed/limited hardcover and digital in February 2012 and has a killer cover by Dani Serra. Bam!) This novel also came out early (Dec. 8th 2011) as a Kindle Exclusive. Pretty damn neat.
I sold my standalone novella WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL to Delirium Books on Dec. 14th (my dad’s birthday). It’ll come out in 2012 as a signed/limited hardcover and digitally! Another badass cover from Dani Serra! *Dance* This is one of my favorite pieces and was so difficult to write that it made me cry several times. And my hero Tom Piccirilli commented on WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL when I shared the rough opening on here. It made me extremely happy. Not only is he a badass author, he’s encouraging and kind and such a great guy. I’d probably give him a kidney if he needed it. Maybe not mine, but somebody’s.
My buddy, Jassen Bailey, bought me a book I’d been searching for forever! Tom Piccirilli’s first novel Dark Father! Thanks so much, bro! What a thoughtful, dude!
I wrote reviews for The Crow’s Caw which is a great site if you want to know what books are rocking the genre.
I’ve sported some stylish threads thanks to The Bag & The Crow. I think their tees have gotten me laid a couple times and increased my creativity.
I wrote quite a bit even though I was insanely busy working 60 hours a week at my regular job spring and summer, plus some Sundays at my old job, critting friends’ work, studying writing, reading, doing some reviews. Then when worked slowed down in the fall I spent most of my time playing guitar, drawing and painting (which I’ve never really invested any time in but found it’s super fun), and I had a blast talking life and its great mysteries with my buddies Shaun, Jassen, and Susan. I love those guys so much. Those three are like soul mates to me.
I’ve seen Susan search for truth, dive deep into the waters of her soul, and come back even more incredible, and I’m so proud of her. What a woman.
I’ve watched Jassen blossom despite slogging through the most challenging year of his life.
I’ve witnessed my buddy Shaun hone his writing voice and the stories he has to tell to a razor sharp edge. I can’t wait until people read his novels.
I’ve seen these friends suffer and watched them grow while facing adversity, with honesty, heart and dignity. Listened and shared. Lived and loved deeply and more passionately and honestly than I’ve ever been capable of before (and surprisingly, to me anyway, it had to start with loving myself and letting go of a lot of self-loathing and buried resentments. How weird. LOl).
My buddy and long time critique partner Kevin Wallis finished his first novel! Was a pleasure to read and give him feedback. Can’t wait until he sells that bugger!
My publisher, Shane Ryan Staley, built me a sweet website! How awesome is that? I could hug him several times, maybe even rub his feet.
I went to my first convention in October (Rock & Shock). Got to meet up with uber cool Jassen Bailey, sexy kitten Susan Scofield, iron man Ken Wood of Shock Totem, fellow authors Bill Gauthier and Adam Bloomquist, Tom Moran of Sideshow Press, watched Jordan Norton get molested by a big hairy guy and Scott Wieser of Morning Ablaze laugh at him, Andy Royal made me laugh my ass off, Danny Evarts was kind, Matt and Melissa Herron of Corrupt Culture were great and funny in the booth next door, and Kurt Newton and me had a fun talk. Sold out of the paperbacks of Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children (thanks to everybody who bought a copy and spent some time with me!) as well as learned some very valuable lessons. I really enjoyed seeing people picking up my novel, asking questions about it, as well as talking to them and signing copies for them. How fucking neat. Thanks to everyone for such a wonderful time!
I spoke to a 6th grade class (Jassen’s daughter Jayda’s) about creativity and imagination while on vacation in Maine. It was a total blast even though I’m very introverted. I read them the first chapter of my teen book Before Leonora Wakes, they sent me a very kind thank you, and I sent them a physical copy of the book. Win-win! Looking forward to speaking to more kids about creativity in the near future!
I did a fun and personal guest blog tour (though I did fall way behind on it since writing fiction was my number one priority and I didn’t have the energy for both some weeks. Yet the people who allowed me on their sites are beautiful and gracious and so understanding.)
I’ve had a ton of great reviews on pretty much everything that came out this year. From my first novel Nursery Rhymes for Dead Children to my first novella Iron Butterflies Rust, and garnered some nice mentions on stories that have appeared in magazines and anthologies. Sweet! Thanks to all the book reviewers who have taken the time to give me and my work a chance!
Brian Keene doesn’t know me from Adam, but he was kind enough to mention me on his website, which was damn cool of him! Then my buddy Susan sent me a link to Brian Keene’s Top Ten Books of 2011 and my first novel, Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, is on there. So, a big thanks to Brian for taking the time to read it and for sharing it! And thanks to Susan for always letting me know stuff like that is out there because I’m kinda lazy (or focused on writing) when it comes to keeping track of what’s going on.
Plus Brian let me use this awesome blurb!
“Thompson’s voice is his own — strong, hypnotic, and unsettling. Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children is a bleak fucking book, and therein lies its danger. So beautifully-constructed is Thompson’s prose, that the reader is often caught off-guard, mesmerized by a turn of phrase or a descriptive passage, until the book grabs you by the balls and rips them right off, breaking your heart and your psyche in the process.”
My favorite short story, Beneath the Weeping Willow, from Shock Totem #4 was recommended for a Bram Stoker Award. This story and the protagonist tie-in directly to the second and third Division novels. I’m very proud of that one so it holds extra special significance to me that other people dug it. Plus it’s cool to see my name near Stephen King’s. When on vacation at Jassen’s in Maine, Jassen took me to his house, too! Thanks, dude! I wish Stevie would have come out and we could have wrestled in his yard, that’d have been fun!
I feel like I’ve grown as a man, a friend, a lover, and a writer. There were a few times when I was utterly exhausted and I thought I might take some steps back—sometimes I probably did, I can get cranky or anti-social when I’m not well-rested or sick—but what a year it’s been. I’ve worked my ass off, but I’ve also been lucky to have so many amazing people in my corner. Because really there is only two halves of my success… First: I write. Second: I’m fortunate enough to have people as excited about the work as I am. People who give me feedback, a publisher who believes in me, book reviewers and readers, lovers of literature and people full of imagination.
So many, many thanks to everyone who has been my friend, taught me valuable lessons, offered honesty and encouragement, bought the books, reviewed my work, and spread the word!
Let’s see how 2012 shapes up next, huh? Perhaps it’ll bring some of us diamonds to share with the world.
Very cool that Brian Keene read and enjoyed Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children enough to include it on his Top Ten Books of 2011 list with so many great novels! Thanks Brian! And thanks to Susan for sending me a link and making me aware of it!
Here’s a snippet of what Brian said about NR4DC (I need to see if I can use it as a blurb!):
“Thompson’s voice is his own — strong, hypnotic, and unsettling. Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children is a bleak fucking book, and therein lies its danger. So beautifully-constructed is Thompson’s prose, that the reader is often caught off-guard, mesmerized by a turn of phrase or a descriptive passage, until the book grabs you by the balls and rips them right off, breaking your heart and your psyche in the process.”
If you haven’t read Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children yet go see why it’s creating so much racket!
And if you like that first Division novel you’re in luck because the second novel (The Dampness of Mourning) in that series is available as a Kindle Exclusive right now! And it will be out early next year in signed/limited hardcover as well as all other digital formats!
Get ready for 2012. I have four books coming out so far!
1. The Dampness of Mourning (Novel from Darkfuse Publications)
2. Down Here in the Dark (Novella from Delirium Books)
3. Immersion (Novella from Thunderstorm Books)
4. When We Join Jesus in Hell (Novella from Delirium Books)
Will be sharing my 2011 Year in Review very soon. Thanks to everybody for all the faith and support and friendship!
“Gossamer” is a mythical, almost philosophical book that strips the reader naked and forces us to challenge our assumptions about love with passages that will touch you in places inside yourself you forgot exist. - Anita Siraki/HellNotes
Lee takes the unlovely parts of real life and sets it in a setting so deliciously bizarre that you think you’re simply reading a story, when in fact you’re listening to a man sitting across from you and telling you all about pain. - Mercedes Yardley/Shock Totem
"10 out of 10 Stars... GOSSAMER: A STORY OF LOVE AND TRAGEDY will blow you away my friends. It is that good." -- Peter Schwotzer/Famous Monsters of Filmland.
"WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL is as crazy as its tormented protagonist. Hard as nails." -- Jack Ketchum, author of The Woman.
"Lee Thompson knows his horror-noir. He fuses both genres together in the turmoil of terror, tragedy, blood, guilt, and lost chances at redemption."--Tom Piccirilli, author of THE LAST KIND WORDS
"The Dampness Of Mourning is taut, tough, and terrifying..." -- Brian Hodge, author of Picking The Bones
“The Dampness of Mourning is a riveting thriller." --Midwest Book Review
"Thompson’s voice is his own — strong, hypnotic, and unsettling--grabs you by the balls and rips them right off, breaking your heart and your psyche in the process.” -- Brian Keene, author of Ghoul, Dark Hollow and The Rising
"Brooding, soulful, haunted." -- Robert Dunbar, author of Willy and Martyrs & Monsters