Thomas M. Malafarina is an author of horror fiction from Berks County, Pennsylvania. To date he has published six horror novels “What Waits Beneath”, "Burner", “Eye Contact” , “Fallen Stones”, “Dead Kill Book 1: The Ridge of Death” and “Dead Kill Book 2: The Ridge Of Change”. He has also published four collections of horror short stories; “Thirteen Deadly Endings”, “Ghost Shadows”, “Undead Living” and most recently “Malaformed Realities Vol. 1”. He has also published a book of often-strange single panel cartoons called "Yes I Smelled It Too; Cartoons For The Slightly Off Center". All of his books are published through Sunbury Press.
In addition, many of the more than one hundred short stories Thomas has written have appeared in dozens of short story anthologies and e-magazines. Some have been produced and presented for internet podcasts as well. Thomas is best known for the twists and surprises in his stories and his descriptive often gory passages have given him the reputation of being one who paints with words. Thomas is also an artist, musician, singer and songwriter.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I was born in 1955 and raised to adulthood in the small coal region town of Ashland in Schuylkill County, PA. Many of my stories take place in fictitious towns in and around that area of the country.
I’ve written in one capacity or another all of my life on a part-time basis; but earn a living as a senior manufacturing engineer, specializing in CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technologies.
I’m married with three grown children and three grandchildren. I’ve been publishing my works of horror since 2010 when I was signed by Sunbury Press.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I do lots of home improvement projects and yard work. I hang out with the family and take vacations with my wife. I’m also a musician and perform in two different area blues bands, “The Blues City Blues Band” and “Whiskey Kreek Acoustic”, where I play guitar, bass and do vocals.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
In addition to 61 years of life experience in general, I was greatly affected by the place where I was raised. Ashland, Pennsylvania is only a few miles from the town of Centralia (we often walked there as kids); a town which was destroyed by a mine fire burning since the 1960’s and which was an inspiration for the movie “Silent Hill”. All around our area were abandoned strip mines and banks of coal silt. Winters in the area were often harsh and within a day of snowing, a thin film of black coal dust coated everything, turning the world a dull gray. It was a perfect atmosphere to foster a dark attitude, which has trickled over into my writing.
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
I love and respect the term “horror” and the horror genre in general. I’ve been a life-long fan of horror, and I make no apologies to anyone for my being a horror author. I find it offensive when anyone looks down on the genre. I think it’s disgusting how many national US book chains have eliminated horror sections from their stores. I refuse to shop at these places in favor of either internet purchases or patronizing small independent bookstores for this reason.
I have no problem with individuals attaching “heavy” or “negative” connotations to the horror genre, in fact, I welcome it. Horror is meant to be heavy. It’s also meant to be brutal, terrifying, gut wrenching and offensive. It’s meant to stir emotions. Sometimes that emotion might be fear, others times it might be disgust, anger, revulsion or just plain creepiness. Good horror is in your face and non-apologetic, while still telling an interesting story. Either love it or leave it. It is what it is.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
To be honest, I really don’t know. I’ve never been one to follow trends. I write what I feel like writing when I feel like it. If it happens to fall in line with whatever the current trend is, (i.e. zombies) then it was just a fortunate coincidence.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
All of the Universal monster movies I saw as a young child inspired me. Edgar Allen Poe’s stories terrified me. Horror magazines as well as Aurora models of famous monsters also helped fuel my love of horror.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
I don’t really have anyone to recommend at this time. Since I work full-time and write part-time, I have very little spare time to do anything but write and edit my own work. I do listen to audio books during my daily commute but they are generally given over to established authors.
How would you describe your writing style?
Free-flowing, easy to read and descriptive. When I write I see my book developing as a movie in my mind. I want to reader to see what I see.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I try to avoid thinking too much about reviews, either positive or negative. (And, like every author I’ve gotten both). If I focus too much on the positive ones, I might start to think I’m a better writer than I really am. Then I might let my guard down and my writing might suffer. If I focus on the bad ones, I could become frustrated and be concerned that my writing is poor. I focus on trying to please my #1critic, which is me. If I can come back a year after writing something, re-read it and honestly feel I’ve done a good job and accomplished what I intended to accomplish, then what others think really doesn’t matter all that much. That being said, constructive criticism can come out of a well-written review. In that case, I do my best to take those ideas to heart.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
That’s easy; grammar, spelling, punctuation, editing. The stories come easily the rest is painful. I often joke that English is my second language and “Coal Speak” is my first. I grew up in an ethnically diverse area where English took a beating on a regular basis.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I try to never say never, but I try to stay away from things that I personally find too offensive. These are generally the sorts of things, you’ll find in guidelines provided by publishers. (rape, incest, child abuse and so on) I try to keep the language in my books at a PG rating (think John Wayne movie level of swearing). But often as soon as I say I’ll never do something I surprise myself by doing it anyway.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Generally, I choose them by how they sound to me and if I feel they fit the character. I don’t lose sleep over them however.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
I’ve discovered and corrected many bad habits and will continue to do so. As a manufacturing engineer, I’m involved in continuous improvement on a daily basis. That philosophy is one I bring to my writing. In fact, I recently rewrote and re-released my first three books for that reason.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Personality tools would be creativity, imagination, patience, self-esteem, confidence, thick skin and the desire to succeed. Physical tools would be a good computer, MS word, Spelling and grammar checker, a thesaurus and internet access. I also use paper notebooks and a Kindle for remote writing.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
Write what you know, write what you like to read and never stop striving to improve.
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
By any and all means available. It has always been tough, but now in the age of self-publishing where anyone can write a book regardless of its quality, it has become one of the hardest times to get people to notice your works as an unknown author among the flood of “authors” out there. Interviews such as this help, but obviously, if I had all the answers I wouldn’t be doing this part-time.
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?
I actually have none. Usually, when I finish writing a work I put the character out of my mind and begin the next project with a whole slew of new characters. Even in the case of my “Dead Kill” series where I have repeating characters, I only deal with them when I am writing the books. After that I put them aside.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
My novel “Burner”. This is probably because it was one of those things that practically wrote itself. I was sitting down one day to write with no plan or purpose in mind. I wrote this first line of the book, “The tarnished brass bell dangling above the weathered front door of the establishment clanged with a tinny clank.” That was it. Then I started typing, watching the “movie” play out in my mind and the novel resulted.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
There is one novel I’ve written which I’m currently in the process of rewriting. It was a great concept devised by my publisher, which he allowed me to take over. However, the engineer side of my brain unfortunately took over and I found myself getting way to descriptive. It was a monster of 155k words and so far, I’ve managed to trim it down to 110k. When I’m finished, I want it to be something I’ll be proud of.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
I think my short stories give a good sample of my work. There is a short story collection from Sunbury Press called Malaformed Realities Volume 1, which is currently available. They’ll be releasing Vol. 2 and 3 in 2017 and Vol. 4 in 2018. Also my collections “13 Deadly Endings” and “Ghost Shadows” are good choices.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
I can’t seem to think of one I’d consider my favorite. I have lots.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
January, 2017 Sunbury re-released my first two books rewritten, re-edited and retitled with my third available for pre-order to be released in early March. My short story collection “13 Deadly Endings” and my novel “Burner” were the first two and “What Waits Beneath” is next on the agenda. In the cue are “Malaformed Realities Volumes 2 and 3”, my next novel in the “Dead Kill” series, “Dead Kill Book 3: The Ridge of War” and a bunch of other stuff after that.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
The teen group formula used in so many bad horror movies. You know, the jock, the virgin, the slut, the stoner, the bad boy. Before the story even starts, you know who will die and who will survive. Even after the success of the satirical Scary Movie series, the formula still continues. I have no idea why.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I love all the books in the Harry Potter series. I know, it’s not cool to like something so commercially successful, but they’re excellent in my opinion. I read several bad books whose titles I can’t recall, but James Patterson slapped his name on them even though I doubt he wrote more than two paragraphs in any of them. He’s actually an excellent writer but why he sells out for the almighty buck and ties his name to so much garbage is beyond me.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
The question: What do you expect from your writing?
The answer: I want people to read and enjoy my work. I want them to be entertained and to leave their troubles behind for a while and get lost in my strange world of horror. I’d like to see my books transferred to audio book formats so busy people can enjoy them. I’d like to see them translated into other languages. I’d love to see my writing turned into GOOD horror movies, not the typical garbage that’s out there.