Author Corner–Richard Thomas

E: Hi Richard, and welcome to Erindipity.  Charlie has a story idea he’d like to pitch you.  I mean, I already told him writers hate that sort of thing, and that the likelihood of you speaking corpse is probably low, but he threatened to pout until Christmas unless I brought it up.  Trust me, you don’t want to see him pout.  It’s not attractive.

R: Love to hear it. I’m sure he has some excellent insights he could share with me. Lay it on me.

E: You were included in the charity anthology Bleed from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.  What was it like writing for this project where the monsters being fought were metaphors for childhood cancers?  And which charity were you raising money for?

R: Of course I couldn’t say no when Lori Michelle approached me. We talked about a few different stories I had, and I sent her over “Death Knell.” It deals with a mother’s side of the grief after she loses her son to a random accident. It was a bit of flash I wrote later, in response to my original story, “Say Yes to Pleasure” which appeared in Warmed and Bound. There are always two sides to a coin, to a story, and it was interesting to explore both of them. There is a line in one of my stories that goes, “I was autistic with pain,” and that’s how I feel when I think about children and suffering. It’s so horrible. The charity is The National Children’s Cancer Society.

E: You had another anthology release earlier this month.  What’s the name of your story and what can you tell us about it?

R: I had two come out this month. Reloaded: Both Barrels, Volume 2 includes a bit of Southern gothic noir entitled, “Trinity” about three women who share a childhood secret, based on my time down in Conway, Arkansas. And there’s also my story “Victimized” collected in the anthology, The Best of the Horror Society 2013. This story came out a few years ago, originally in Murky Depths at 5,000 words, but later in its full version in my collection of stories Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press). It’s a story set in the near future where victims can find redemption in a boxing ring, fighting, and often killing, the men who raped and murdered their family members. It’s told from the POV of a female protagonist, Annabelle, and it’s a wild ride, for sure. And on Halloween, I have a story coming out in Fear the Reaper (Crystal Lake Publishing), “The Culling,” which is my homage to “The Lottery,” a tale about family and wolves and the choices you make to protect your own. October is definitely one of my favorite months.

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E: In addition to your short story writing, you also write columns for Storyville.  What can you tell us about the column?

R: It’s a lot of fun to write. It started as a way for me to share my experiences—you know, misery loves company. I talked about what I was going through, how I struggled, and eventually, how I was breaking through. I write about craft, process, submitting, the business, you name it. My hope is that it will help other authors with their own writing, to become better, more educated about the process, and to not give up hope, no matter how long they struggle to get their stories and novels out there.

E: You’ve also written a novel, TransubstantiateHow was that experience different for you than short story writing?  What do you like best and least about the novel length manuscript?

R: Well, the scope of it is just so much bigger. And for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take this neo-noir, speculative thriller, a mix of Lost, The Truman Show, and The Prisoner, and tell it from the POV of seven different people. It was a challenge, for sure. You have to stay focused, and think in terms of short arcs (scenes), medium arcs (chapters) and the big arc (the novel) with several different threads, plots and sub-plots, all meshing together. Hopefully, it’s cohesive and the audience can follow you. I want to entertain, but I also want it to stay with people, by using lyrical language, and emotions we can all relate to, whether good or bad, happy or sad, light or dark. The hardest part is staying with it, on task, and to keep the voice going. The best part is having the room to really expand the narrative, sit in those moments and scenes for pages and pages, really getting all of the details, and emotions, and impact that you can. My agent is currently shopping my second novel, Disintegration, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

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E: I’ve heard you offer editing services.  Is there anything you are unwilling to edit and what are your rates per service?

R: I try to work on writing where I feel I have something to say, some experience. And I’ve been lucky enough to write in many different genres—horror, fantasy, SF, crime, noir, neo-noir, transgressive, magical realism, surreal, bizarro—even literary. I probably wouldn’t take on romance, since I don’t write it or read it. I don’t write MUCH YA, but I’d read that, edit it—I’ve read Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and Lemony Snicket. I’ve only turned down one client because he was SO BAD that I was nearly in tears trying to edit him. He had SO far to go. The formatting, the structure, it wasn’t really even a story. I suggested some books, and some classes, and refunded his money. He had a strong vision, but he wasn’t ready. I charge $1-3/page depending on the amount of editing, whether it’s big picture overall criticism, a closer edit, or a full on copy edit that covers everything. I’ve been really thrilled to see “my clients/students” go on to sell novels to Perfect Edge Books, Post Mortem Press, and Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, as well as short stories to places like Juked, Red Fez and the American Nightmare anthology (Kraken Press).

E: You’re insanely busy.  On top of everything else, you’re also the Editor-In-Chief of Dark House Press.  What’s the best thing about being in that position and what is the one thing you wish you could change?

R: It’s really a dream come true to be able to publish the voices I’ve been reading over the past 5-10 years, authors that have inspired me, and pushed me to write, to take risks, and get my writing out into the world. In addition to Letitia Trent’s Southern gothic supernatural horror novel, Echo Lake, the Joshua City fantasy trilogy by Okla Elliott and Raul Clement, and the literary horror collection by Stephen Graham Jones, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, we’ve got two excellent anthologies coming out. In 2014, our first book, is the “best of neo-noir” anthology, The New Black, with stories by Brian Evenson, Stephen Graham Jones, Craig Clevenger, Paul Tremblay, Lindsay Hunter, Roxane Gay, Kyle Minor, Micaela Morrissette, Benjamin Percy, Roy Kesey, Craig Davidson, Matt Bell, Richard Lange, Joe Meno, Vanessa Veselka, Nik Korpon, Antonia Crane, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Tara Laskowski, and Craig Wallwork. There’s also a foreword by Laird Barron. I’m really excited about this book. Exigencies in 2015 is all new stories, and a fantastic collection as well.

I only wish I had more time, more money, more resources, more staff, etc. We’re only doing 4 titles in 2014, and 5 in 2015, but I could easily accept 10 books a year, 20. There is just so much fantastic writing going on out there, and so many authors that deserve to be discovered.

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E: Clearly, you must be a master of time management.  What advice would you give new writers about effectively managing your time?

R: Well, I don’t know about that. I’m constantly struggling to meet deadlines, turn in blurbs, get my columns done, and I’ve been slacking on my own writing, too. I think the best thing you can do is to make a list, short-term and long-term goals, and check things off as you go. It’s always a good feeling to go, “DONE!” Otherwise, you can feel overwhelmed. Sometimes when that happens, I just turn off the technology, back away from the computer, and get some fresh air—asking my kids to take a walk with the dog, or I hop on my bike, or grab a bowl of ice cream and watch dumb tv with my wife. I have to remind myself why I’m doing all of this, and also, to enjoy it. If you’re not enjoying it, the process, the writing, the submitting, all of it, then maybe this isn’t what you should be doing. I have to remind myself that sometimes. It can be frustrating, sure, it can be a slow process, but really, it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done—writing, editing, teaching, and publishing. It gives me a lot of peace and joy. 

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When he’s not listening to my pet corpse pitch novel ideas (ideas about novels, not original and splendid ideas because lets face it, Charlie just isn’t that creative) he can be found on his website.

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