Ginger Nuts of Horror
Tom Deady is the author of several short stories, as well as a non-fiction book on the Red Sox historic 2004 season. Tom has two novels in publication: Haven (Cemetery Dance, 2016) and Eternal Darkness (Bloodshot Books, 2017).
Tom has a Masters Degree in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University, and is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the New England Horror Writers.
Tom is a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, where he is actively working on his next novel.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
There's not a lot to tell. I've spent my professional career in Information Technology, but in my heart of always wanted to be a writer. I'm kind of a home-body and spend as much time as I can with family. I have two yellow labs, Oscar and Willow. My dream is to be a full time writer and live in Arizona. New England winters are killing me.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Unfortunately, I’ve got one of those “real job” things that takes up a lot of my time. Work aside, I love to run. I've completed 8 marathons so far (I include Boston 2013 even though I was a half mile from the finish when the bombs went off). Running clears my head and really sparks my creativity. I've figured out a lot of plot problems while running. I've been doing a fair amount of traveling lately between writing events and vacations. It's another great source of inspiration for me.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Probably non-fiction. Though, I guess a lot of the non-fiction I'm talking about could still be considered horror! Things like the Salem Witch Trials, Roanoke, the Boston Strangler, Jack the Ripper...this stuff all happened and it's scarier than most novels. I'm also fascinated by the unknown: UFOs, Bigfoot, Loch Ness, ghosts, exorcisms...those are the great mysteries that have endured time without really being solved. Plenty of inspiration all around us for horror stories. I also draw a lot of inspiration from music. Parts of Haven were influenced by Springsteen's “Spirit in the Night.”
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?
Well, if Stephen King wasn't able to erase the stigma of horror, I don't know if it can be done. It's really a shame, people are missing out on a lot of great writing because they stay away from “horror.” All we can do is keep writing good stories.
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?
I'm very optimistic about the future of the genre. The last couple of years have resulted in some exceptional novels from the likes of Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman, John McIlveen and Ronald Malfi. I think the genre is as strong as it's been since the King/Koontz blitz in the eighties. I hope there isn't a trend to start injecting a lot of politics into writing. It should be an escape from reality, not a reminder of the world we live in.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
I grew up reading The Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. While they were more mystery than horror or supernatural, they often hinted at such things. 'Salem's Lot and IT were very influential for me. Boy's Life, Summer of Night, A Winter Haunting, The Girl Next Door...so many books that had an impact on me. Oh, and it's not horror, but I consider To Kill A Mockingbird to be the greatest book ever written. As far as films: all of the old Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolf Man movies got me started. Halloween is probably my favorite straight horror movie, although I think Jaws remains the perfect film.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
I mentioned a few earlier, although I think those guys have arrived! Ben Eads wrote a novella called Cracked Sky, I would definitely watch for more from him. Peter Dudar wrote A Requiem for Dead Flies a couple of years ago that was one of the best ghost stories I've ever read. Bracken MacLeod's Stranded from last year was brilliant. So many good ones!
How would you describe your writing style?
I try to make my stories character driven with some sort of underlying theme that spans the subplots. For example, in Haven, redemption is the major theme and most of the characters are looking for it in one way or another. For me, you can have the greatest story, plotted perfectly, but of I don't care about the characters, I won't care about what happens. To be clear, “care” can be positive or negative, love or hate. I would read a story if I hated a character enough to find out if he gets what he deserves! But if I'm ambivalent towards them, it I will probably put the book down. Case in point: Tommyknockers.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I'm pretty new to the game so I haven't had a lot of negative reviews. I know they will come and I'm sure they'll all stay with me. I've been fortunate to receive a lot of praise and encouragement from some great writers. Rio Youers, author of Westlake Soul and Point Hollow said "Haven is about scars, both literal and figurative; it's about second chances and broken memories. This is a great small-town horror novel—a bullet-read with deep characters and perfect pacing. Best of all, it's creepy as hell." That's one of my favorites. Richard Chizmar wrote the introduction for Eternal Darkness and said: “Tom understands this traditional school of writing very well, and if his first two novels are any indication of his focus and growth as an author, all of us readers are in for many more treats in the future. Tom Deady is a true storyteller, and I can offer no higher words of praise.” It doesn't get any better than that for me.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
I guess that depends on where you draw the line for what “writing” includes. If you're considering the marketing side of writing, self-promotion is the hardest for me. I love writing and I don't really mind editing. If you want a real “writing” answer, it's the dreaded synopsis! How can I tell people what my 500-page story is about in three paragraphs!
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I've never really thought about that. I think the answer for me, at least today, is no. There are certainly things I have trouble writing about, but no, I don't think anything is off limits.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Great question! Names are very important to me. I used to stress out while I was writing and stop to do the research on name origination and ethnicity, etc looking for just the perfect name. Same for the names of streets and towns. Now, I put a placeholder in so I don't interrupt the writing process, then go back and do the research later.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
That's a hard question to answer. I think I've developed a better writing process over the years, and I FEEL like my writing is improving, but I guess it's really up to the readers to decide. I still don't outline and I tend to write out of order as scenes occur to me. I hope my writing has evolved, I certainly feel like it comes easier to me, but I guess everything does with practice.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
I'm on the fence about how to answer this. When I was starting out, I always thought I would be a more productive writer if I had a better computer, a better writing space, etc. Looking back, those were just bad excuses to avoid sitting my ass down and writing. That being said, I reluctantly tried Scrivener last year and I love it. I was using a “system” I created that included Word docs, a spreadsheet, and index cards. Scrivener does all that and more. The only must-have is the NEED to write, everything else will get out of the way.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
I've received a ton of advice over the years, good and bad. It's hard to say what the best was, but I'll tell you what I think the most overrated piece of advice is “write every day.” To someone starting out, juggling a job, kids, school, trying to write every day is absolutely daunting. I think it can even push people away from trying. I would modify it to “write as often as you possibly can.”
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
I've tried a lot of things over the years. Trying to get your work noticed is a very humbling experience. What really helped me is attending retreats, conventions or even local readings by other authors. The people I've met and become friends with from those events have been an incredible help to me. They are the ones that are out there doing it, not writing “how to” books that lead people to believe there's some magic formula or template for success.
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?
Denny, the twelve year old protagonist in Haven is my favorite. I wrote Haven on and off over a period of fifteen years, while raising two daughters. I put so much of myself into him, and that story, that I don't know if I'll ever feel so strongly about another character. He's the kid I wish I was at twelve. I think a lot of people would say writing about “the bad guy” is their least favorite, but I enjoy that part too. I don't want to give any spoilers, but writing about the characters that I know are going to die is probably my least favorite part. Unless they really deserve it!
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Haven will always be my baby. I'm very proud of the story, the characters, and the themes that run through it all. That being said, I am working on a couple of projects now that I'm very excited about.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Actually, no. I'm sure there are a lot of things I've written that were terrible, but they were still my words and even they sucked, I can learn from them. For example, I wrote a short story in high school that my teacher loved and wanted to put in the school magazine. Being a total introvert, I declined, terrified to have anyone else read my work. It was a vampire story, because I had just finished reading 'Salem's Lot. Looking back, it was probably awful, BUT, I took something from it and included it in Eternal Darkness.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
Since Haven just came out and Eternal Darkness is due out January 23rd, it's not a large body of work to select from. In fact, the two books have a lot of similarities that made me hesitant to publish them back-to-back, but it just worked out that way.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
I wrote a short story called The Lake a long, long time ago. In a way, it was kind of a precursor to Haven. The story opens with: “A wise person once said 'time heals all wounds' but that person never mentioned the scars those wounds leave behind. Or how easily memories can pick at those scars until the wound feels fresh again.” I've always thought those words to be powerful. And true.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
Eternal Darkness is, in a lot of ways, my homage to 'Salem's Lot. It takes place in the seventies where a band of small town boys team up to battle a vampire. An old trope, to be sure, but I did a lot of research and hope I've added a slightly new take to the vampire lore. I'm currently working on a novella that is a sort of home invasion/psychological thriller. I also have a YA horror novel I'll be trying to find a home for later this year.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
I think it would be the classic “bad decision” that characters seem to make. You know...the twenty-somethings are in a house with a serial killer, the front door is wide open and their car is out front running...but they decide to hide in the basement. I sincerely hope I've managed to stay away from that!
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The Night Parade by Ronald Malfi was incredible. I've been a fan of his since The Floating Staircase, but he really knocked it out of the park with The Night Parade. I don't like to speak negatively about any author's work so I'll just say this: The Night Parade is what Cormac McCarthy's The Road could have been.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Great, I get to the final question and I'm stumped! I don't know, I love to talk about the horror genre and the books that had subjective endings like Tremblay's Head Full of Ghosts. Was she possessed or mentally ill? I could talk about that stuff all day.
TOM HAS ALSO WRITTEN A GUEST POST "PENNYWISE: THEN AND NOW"
SOMEONE HAS MOVED INTO THE OLD BREWSTER PLACE
Ben Harris and his best friends Richie and Jack knew the stories about Old Man Brewster, what happened to his wife . . . and the flies. They had no idea why anybody would want to live there, but then they met Greg Lupescu, the new kid who had moved in. He looked strange, his father was never around, and he had this creepy butler named Karl. Soon, however, he became their close friend.
SOMETHING IS KILLING PEOPLE
First, a young boy goes missing . . .
Soon after, the boy’s abusive deadbeat father is slaughtered . . .
And his grieving mother burns to death in an unnatural fire . . .
People are dying all over Bristol, Massachusetts and the boys are beginning to realize that it all started when the Lupescus moved to town.
SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T FIGHT YOUR DESTINY
Ben and little sister Eve can sense that a dark storm looms on the horizon threatening to engulf Bristol, and at its center stands his new friend. Can they all help Greg resist the sinister forces against him, or in the end will he choose to succumb and embrace an Eternal Darkness?