Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our spotlight on author and editor Jeffrey Thomas, who will be in our store on Tuesday, July 5, at 7:00 PM with Paul Tremblay for a reading, signing, and talk.
Thank you very much for joining us, Jeffrey! For those who are unfamiliar with your work, can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing?
JT: I’m a writer of horror and science fiction, though I’m uncomfortable with the limitations of genre and much of my work would be considered a blend of them. I’ve had three mass market novels published, and numerous novels and short story collections released by independent presses. I’m best known as the creator of the milieu Punktown, a dystopian far future setting where a good deal of my fiction takes place.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
JT: Whether I’m writing science fiction or horror or some synthesis of the two, I think I chiefly like to evoke a sense of wonder. I like when characters experience the unexpected; ideally the reader will share that thrill of discovery. In science fiction, the phenomenon that elicits wonder might be some mysterious heavenly body that appeared in the sky overnight. In horror, that heavenly body might unfold limbs and open a mouth full of fangs and hurtle at the Earth. Yep, because I believe horror can utilize a sense of wonder, too – when characters are confronted with the inexplicable, and their formerly mundane lives are thrown off balance. Again, the reader is going to identify with them throughout this confrontation. Fantastical fiction, even when it’s of a dark nature, gives the reader a needed break from their own world, and I’d go so far as to say that connecting with a story’s protagonist, imaginary status aside, works the important muscles of empathy. Writing these types of stories engages my imagination, and that’s like a kid stepping through the front door of an infinite toy store. Also, these wonders and terrors can be used as metaphors to address challenging themes and subtexts.
What was the inspiration for Subject 11? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
JT: Stories can find their initial spark in an image, a character, a location. I guess it was the last for me. I wanted to set a novel in an eerie location – an interconnected series of abandoned buildings – but from the onset, I was also inspired to establish a certain tone. That is, I wanted the story to be mysterious, enigmatic. I wanted to disorient my characters, and through them my readers, in such a way that they were vulnerable and open when scary things start to occur. Another part of my inspiration was that during the period in which I wrote Subject 11, I was laid off, and that brought about feelings of helplessness and desolation. I thought I could address those feelings through my characters and, also in a way, comment on our country, our times. First and foremost, though, I wanted to write a story that was going to really creep people out.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
JT: I consider myself a world builder, and so a great many of my stories take place in fictitious settings – like my far future dystopia called Punktown, or the series of stories I’ve set in Hades. However, writers can’t help but write of the actual places they’ve familiar with. Because I’ve traveled to Vietnam nine times to date, I’ve set a number of stories there, and there is definitely a good number of stories I’ve set in New England. An example would be my novella “The Sea of Flesh,” from my short story collection Worship the Night, which is set in Salem, Massachusetts. I love New England, love the autumn especially, and would be content to live (and write) here for the rest of my days. My brother, Scott Thomas, is also a horror writer, and he’s written far more stories set in New England than have I, though his stories generally take place in the 18th or 19th Centuries. We have quite different approaches to our work, but boy is Scott good.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
JT: I don’t know how I make time for anything. I have a day job (not a huge surprise if you really know about the writing life), and I’m a dad to two beautiful kids: a 23 year old autistic man and a 6 year old daughter. I love spending time with them. Too infrequently, these days, I sneak in some writing time, but I also permit myself some veg time occasionally, and when I can pry myself away from Facebook I like to watch a movie on DVD or Netflix or what have you. I also love to travel (see aforementioned comment about Vietnam, my daughter being half-Vietnamese), but one can’t always afford that.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
JT: A collection of my short stories titled The Endless Fall should be coming this year from the Lovecraft eZine Press. In 2017, Centipede Press will be releasing a massive omnibus of all the short stories set in my world of Punktown. A role-playing game and a series of comic stories based on Punktown are also underway. I have stories scheduled to appear in a bunch of cool anthologies. And currently I’m being interviewed for a book-length critical study of my fiction called There Are Worse Worlds Than These. So yeah, all other responsibilities aside I stay busy with the writing!
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
JT: At the web sites of my various publishers, but for one-stop shopping I have an author’s page at Amazon.com: Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Jeffrey-Thomas/e/B000APMJZ4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1462240940&sr=8-3
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
JT: I’ve neglected my blog of late but I’m very active at Facebook, where I keep people abreast of my latest story sales and sundry literary activities: https://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.thomas.71
Thank you so much for joining us on the blog, Jeffrey! We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, July 5, at 7:00 PM at our 65 James Street bookstore.