E: Hi, Tommy! Welcome to Erindipity. In honor of the cooler weather, I’ve baked us a pumpkin pie. Sorry about the bite out of the middle of it. Charlie only likes the middles and he got to it while it was cooling. I didn’t even know corpses liked pie.
T: Reanimated corpses usually like brains and/or human flesh, don’t they? This is what I’m told, at least. These same creatures like your pumpkin pie? That’s…interesting.
I don’t think I like his tone.
E: Your book is Poisonous. What can you tell us about it?
T: It’s the story of a girl, Lilac Chambers, and the deadly force inside of her, the Living Poison, which brings her to acts of violence and destruction. The focus is also on a retiring detective and the ringmaster of a circus, both of whom attempt to stand against the Living Poison. As indicated, there is a heavy dose of violence in the book. Besides the obvious external conflicts, the story also explores the conflict that exists between Lilac as a human girl and Lilac as a deliverer of destruction.
E: What inspired you to write it?
T: Those who are familiar with my short stories of the past years will know that I’m not one to shy away from blurring the genre divide, but with Poisonous, the intent was to write a full-on horror story. It draws some influence from some of the classic slasher horror movies. There are also some more personal motivations. In many situations of the past, I’ve had a lot of venom and negativity directed my way. After so many such experiences, it’s sometimes difficult not to retain some portion of that, but the way I react to it, the way I deal with it, is my choice. Lilac never had a choice. This is where one form of horror becomes another.
E: Do you have any upcoming events, book signings, etc?
T: I’ll be a guest at Konsplosion, which is a multi-genre convention held in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Last year was its first year, but I wasn’t able to attend. I’m gathering that a lot of people will be coming from some distance around for this one, so I’ll be looking forward to a sizable number of people showing up there.
E: Are you currently working on anything?
T: I’m writing another book, also a horror story, but its direction is of a different sort than Poisonous. It does revisit St. Charles, where Poisonous is set, but it actually takes place in the seventies. Besides that, I’m still writing short stories.
E: What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to books?
T: Guilty? Does this mean something I like that everyone else thinks is awful? Reading things that other people wouldn’t expect me to read? I’m not sure. I’ve enjoyed ice cream on occasion. Does reading the ingredients on the back of the carton qualify as a guilty pleasure, or is that just making an informed choice?
E: Who has influenced you the most as a writer?
T: When I was younger I had access to a large storage room filled with tons of books by different authors. That was my early introduction to genre fiction. I read numerous and varying books of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and anything else, except for romance, as long as it interested me. It isn’t easy to pin down one particular influence, but one that I remember piquing my interest and stimulating my imagination was J. R. R. Tolkien. This is going to be a confusing answer for the people who read Poisonous, but everyone should keep in mind that question, “Who influenced you?” is very different from “Who do you write like?” I’ve seen and heard some other authors out there ask questions such as, “What author do you aspire to be? Which book do you wish you wrote?” but it’s a mindset I don’t relate to. I view it as important for an author to find her or his own voice, if at all possible. I’m not going to pretend that authors don’t have their influences, because they must, and there is nothing wrong with paying tribute to those influences, but to make a primary goal of emulating what another person has already written seems the antithesis of creative progress.
E: What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out?
T: The writing itself is where it all begins. There is a lot of bad writing out there. That’s just the truth. Being familiar with the fundamentals of writing will provide you with a foundation that will help you to climb above the slush pile when sending your work out to a potential market. If you’re new to it, you should find others who have some level of experience and might be able to provide you with helpful feedback on what you’re doing. Joining a critique group is one option that might be available for a newcomer. Whichever way you choose to go about it, you should learn where you stand in your abilities, and work to improve. You should become aware of your weaknesses so that you can overcome them.