Ryan Thomas works as an editor in San Diego, California. You can catch him on the road with his musical act, Cash’d Out. When he is not writing or rocking out, he is at home with his wife and two dogs watching really bad B-movies or reading comic books.
Ryan is the author of The Summer I Died, Hissers, and Born to Bleed amongst numerous others.
He was recently good enough to sit across a computer screen from Ravenous Reads and answer some not so random questions.
So, let’s start general: How did you become a writer? Was it a life long dream, or something you kind of fell into?
My life long dream was to be snake monster, but I don’t know enough about genetics. I always liked writing though. Used to make these flipbooks back in grade school that I’d get in trouble for handing out to other kids. Most of them were horror related or science fiction monster movie kind of stuff. Obviously they were the envy of the New York Times bestselling authors. Later I majored in communications in college, got a job at a magazine and got paid to write the most boring articles ever, like pieces on women’s shoes (no lie but at least I know all about pumps now), so to maintain a sense of sanity I started writing short stories on the side.
What draws you to the horror genre?
The open bar. No wait, I mean…I think all horror fans can make the disconnect between fiction and reality, and in that disconnect we find a catharsis in monsters and serial killers and ghosts. Myself, I generally want to be the monster in those stories or films, pretend I’m scaring people, pretend I’m eating my nosey neighbors with big razor sharp teeth. (In truth I can’t stand the sight of blood.) Other times I just like the idea that monsters or demons might exist so that we’re not admitting that life is just about what we can see before us. And of course being scared gets the adrenaline up, which is just good fun.
How did you come up with the idea for your first novel, The Summer I Died (TSID)? And did that idea go through much a of a metamorphosis or remain how you originally conceived it?
It started as a short story that I’d goof around with in between shoe articles. It really had no clear route. I just kept writing it and enjoying my time with it and pretty soon it was a whole novel and I thought, hmmm, maybe I should put this out there.
Roger and Tooth are both incredibly well-rounded characters that feel very real. Is there anything autobiographical in either of them?
Yeah, a lot of Roger is me and a lot of Tooth is who I wished I was back in high school. There are actual bits in the story that are true, like stealing the lawn ornaments and the fight with the skinheads. The former my friends and I did during the summer for laughs. The latter didn’t actually result in a fight, but my friend pulled me outside a bar with a bunch of skinheads here in San Diego and I kept thinking, well I’m going to die. Give my body to science when they peel it off the road. Here’s my buddy, five-foot-nine, facing down five skinheads because they pissed on his Asian girlfriend’s car, and me behind him because I said I’d back him up (must have been an open bar), and I’m praying for a miracle and thank God a cop pulled up right then for some other random reason, and the skinheads left. Credit to my friend for standing up for his girl, but I think next time I’ll just tell him to take the car to a car wash and let it go.
I think it’s fair to say, TSID is fairly extreme in content. Was that something you were aiming for as you wrote it, or were you surprised by the reaction readers had?
I definitely wanted to get gory with it, because of that disconnect I mentioned, but I figured people would probably hate it. Or I figured those that liked it would be serial killers in training (like the people who laugh at those Faces of Death videos). I really don’t know what people are thinking when they read it. I guess it’s like staring at the car wreck on the side of the road.
What kind of research – if any – did you do for a novel like this?
I had a lot of discussions with Rottweilers to get their motivation right. Turns out I got it all wrong. Mostly though I had to find out how to break out of handcuffs, so I contacted an escape artist and he explained it to me (not that I could probably do it if I had to). He sent me some diagram I think and checked over that scene for me. Other than that I went on what I knew. I went to college in New Hampshire for a bit so I knew the area I was thinking of. I’ve got a step brother who’s a cop so he helped some.
Were people in your life worried about you after reading TSID!?
Haha, yeah, I think so. But they know I like horror stuff so I don’t think they were too worried. Plus they know I’d never hurt a fly. Well, maybe a fly…it it’s trying to get my pancakes.
How did you go getting a novel of this nature this published? Was there any opposition to the violence found within?
Every single publisher and agent turned it down. Can’t blame them I guess. Pitching a torture novel is not a slam dunk endeavor. Weirdly, Coscom Entertainment took it, and they were a fairly religious publisher based in Canada. They were one of the last places I subbed to. I’m grateful they took it and they were good to work with. It got the book out there in the underground at least.
(Spoiler alert for this question!) The ending, in some ways, came out of nowhere for this reader, but just the same, packed an incredible punch. Did you always intend to end TSID that way, or did that come to you as you were writing?
If you’re referring to Tooth and his hat, it came naturally as I was writing it. I had no plan for it, but when I was writing the scene where Tooth’s ghost—or supposed ghost—was helping Roger, it felt right to bring back that character in a hopeful way. I liked him too much to never touch on him again.
At what point did the idea of a sequel start to appeal? Was it an easier or more difficult book to write?
It was tough to write. I didn’t want to rehash the first book but I didn’t want to alienate readers with something totally new. Most people are divided on it, so I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But I didn’t plan on a sequel at first, and there were two reasons I did it. One: people liked the characters and so did I so I wanted to spend more time with them. Two: the running theme of the first book and saga as a whole—which I think many people overlooked, or I didn’t illustrate clearly enough–was that Roger was dealing with his own sense of what a superhero is. I wanted to get back to that and see how it affected him later in life. I think, perhaps, I was too heavy handed with it in the sequel, which turned some people off, but I plan to expand on it more in book three and we’ll see that my ending in book two is not so clear cut. And yeah, there will be more gore.
So tell us about the movie version of TSID? Did someone come knocking at your door wanting to make it? Or did you try to get it off the ground yourself?
Yes, three companies came knocking, all around the same time. It was crazy. The first company solicited me based on the buzz of the book. Once they read it, they decided it was too gory for their image. The second one took so long getting back to me after I responded (they were in mid production of another film) that I moved on to the third, who got me on the phone and discussed why they liked the book. I liked that they’d read it and understood it and were eager to get it on film without making it a torture porn film. So I met with the director and casting director over drinks and we talked about it and I decided to go with them. Incidentally, that second company is now in talks with me for a different project. Nothing concrete yet but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
What’s the latest re the movie? Can you break any news for us?
I’m not supposed to reveal anything until the company puts out their press release. I’ll reveal this much: we have great actors from The Devils Rejects, The Howling, Cujo, The Fog, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and even Seventh Heaven.
What’s next for Ryan C Thomas? Anything new up and coming?
I’ll be co-writing the screenplay for the film. Doing the first draft anyway. They may do punch up after I’m done so things may change after the fact but I’m just psyched to be doing it. I’ve got a brand new novel coming out from Thunderstorm Books this month called Bugboy. It’s a murder mystery/monster story with both horror and sci fi elements. Hissers II is done and ready to go. I’m negotiating with Permuted Press right now over it (they released part I). I’m also editing some old novellas that didn’t see many sales back in the the day and I plan to put those up through Grand Mal Press. I’m currently finishing writing Hissers III, which will conclude the trilogy, and then starting work on the next Roger Huntington novel.
Thanks very much for your time, Ryan.
Find more of Ryan and his writing or reach out to touch him (just not literally) at: