It is our pleasure to welcome author Lee Thompson to Horror After Dark!
Lee has some helpful advice for new authors just starting out and he talks about his new books ” A Beautiful Madness“, (available now) and “It’s Only Death”,(coming from Darkfuse in January 2015). Let’s get started!
HAD: In several interviews I’ve seen you recommend that aspiring authors hand copy texts written by authors they admire. What is the benefit of that? What other advice do you have for new authors?
A: Yeah, I will always swear by hand copying your favorite novels. You learn from the masters. Writing is more challenging than it appears, and you can learn faster by transcribing. I did the same thing when I played guitar. I’d learn Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn, or whoever, note for note, so that I could find out why they did what they did when they did it. It sharpens your instincts and makes the whole process of writing your own novels easier. You’re speeding your progress and filling your tool box with new techniques both large and small. Plus it’s just fun to me. I enjoy the hell out of it.
As to advice, I have lots of advice for writers, but it’s merely what has worked for me. Lots of it can be found on my website: http://www.leethompsonfiction.com/
HAD: Talk to us about “A Beautiful Madness” and “It’s Only Death”. How are they different from what you’ve written in the past?
A: With my first Crime novel (A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS) my biggest goals were to challenge perception and to make readers really come to understand and care for the killer. It’s an after-the-fact story, where the narrator Sammy shares what he’s pieced together from his memory, what his sister, and a detective, and the killer’s journal have revealed. But it’s largely fabrication; memory is faulty, each character sees things differently, like Sammy’s father swore the Wolverine chased Shaun Garrett onto his lawn before killing him, but the Wolverine’s journal revealed that Shaun died on the beach and was dropped on the lawn. The reader has to find the truth for themselves, if there is a whole truth, and I like that.
And IT’S ONLY DEATH stemmed from a dream I had where I robbed a bank, and my dad came in, and I killed him, and then fled town.
Just kidding. I don’t remember where the idea for that novel came from. I remember the goal I had for it when starting it. I wanted to write a “coming home” story, which I hadn’t prior to this one. I wanted to mess with perception again, too. I love when my characters see things one way because of conditioning, or a bias, and then nearly lose everything (or do lose everything) because they couldn’t stand for five minutes in someone else’s shoes. I think that’s essential, to discover who we are by looking at the reflection cast by those giving us love or causing us grief.
HAD: What challenges to your writing did these two books present?
A: I had to overcome insurmountable odds. I fought and bled and wept. It was heartbreaking. All of it will probably be in my next novel.
HAD: How do you think up such dark stuff, living in the mellow land of Bay City? (This question is from Mark Matthews.)
A: Ha! I’ve lived a dark, crazy, violent life until I was about thirty. I’ve moved more times than I count. I was a sad, angry, lonely kid inside a grown man’s body. The last eight years I’ve mellowed, especially the last two years. I just dreg up all that I’ve been and all I haven’t been, and all the thousands of people I’ve known on various levels, and use the most engaging material in my fiction.
HAD: Will you be returning to the Division Mythos anytime soon?
A: Probably not anytime soon. I’m too interested in writing crime fiction right now. But I will return to it eventually, packing the books into omnibus collections and writing the final novel where Frank Gunn, Boaz, and Jassen come into Division, and hopefully join forces with John, Mike, and Red, led by the three sisters (Dream, Wisdom, and Death) to face Gravesend, Prosperine, One of Three of Seven, and the oldest and most terrifying brother. It’ll be a massive feat to pull off that novel the way I want and I’m nowhere near ready to write it yet.
HAD: Do you prefer writing dark crime novels over dark fiction?
A: Yes. I love crime fiction, but I just want that label for the marketing aspect. I want to genre-blend really. They’ll have mystery, and horror, and more mainstream, touching moments, and romance, and dragons, no, wait, no dragons. But all of that other stuff and more. I want to write coming-of-age crime, supernatural crime, noir crime, all kinds of crime so I have more ways to express myself. I’d kill myself if I became one of those writers who wrote the same story for twenty novels. Yeah, I’d rather be dead. There’s no creativity in that, and that’s my main reason for writing, to explore my place in the world in relation to other people’s place in the world, and how we take our choices and the things forced upon us and try to make something lasting and honest and beautiful out of that mess.
HAD: What did you do with the money from the first book or story you sold? Is that book or story available anywhere now?
A: I don’t remember what I did with that first chunk of money. I think I bought a bunch of books I’d wanted that I hadn’t been able to afford at the time. The first book (Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children) is out of print right now and I’m not sure when I’ll sell it again, or if I’ll self-pub it. I’m too busy to worry about it right now.
HAD: What do you do for fun?
A: Write. Read. Play guitar. Travel when I can. Hike. Teach skydiving. Drive race cars. Sleep.
HAD: Which of your books is your favorite and why?
A: I don’t have a favorite. I love different novels for different reasons. They represent me and people I’ve loved or hated, or sometimes both, from different points in my life. They’re all about broken people not wanting to heal, or trying to heal, or in the midst of learning to heal with the help of someone else.
HAD: That’s about it, Lee! Thanks so much for your time and HAD wishes you the best of luck in this and in any future endeavors!
We’ll leave this off with one more question:
HAD: What book has influenced your life the most?
A: I couldn’t pick just one. I’ll give you a list of ten. Like with my own work, I love all of these for different reasons.
1-Grendel by John Gardner
2- A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli
3- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
4- Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke
5- Galilee by Clive Barker
6- Mordred: Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg
7- The Street by Jack Cady
8- The Damned by John D. MacDonald
9- Peter Straub’s Blue Rose Trilogy (I count them as one book)
10-Mystic River by Dennis Lehane