Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of terror. He grew up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, but in 2001, left home to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his third tour in Iraq, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas where he now lives with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter. Thomas attended night school, with a focus on creative writing and history. In 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from UHCL. Thomas blogs at machinemean[dot]org where he reviews movies, books, and other horror related topics.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
My name is Thomas S. Flowers, I’m an Aquarius and still struggling at adapting to life in my mid-thirties. I’m married with a child. I’m an operations manager at a family owned agrichemical company just south of Houston, Texas. I served in the U.S. Army for just over 7 years, deploying to Iraq on 3 separate occasions. I’m also an avid lover of all things horror. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I became a fan of horror. My favorite memory and perhaps greatest impact was when my older sister let me watch Night of the Living Dead, not the 1968 original which I later watched and loved, but the Tom Savini 90s remake. The gore and Romero-purism awoke in me a fascination for the dark genre. I spent a lot of time catching up on watching slasher pictures, like Friday the 13th. I remember working at Blockbuster when Hellraiser: Bloodline came out and I was able to rent it for free. I know some don’t care much for the film, but I liked it. Hellraiser: Inferno came out not long after, and that one was pretty good too. Let’s see…I’m a writer…right? Yes, I’ve published some books, Reinheit being the first and now Conceiving my latest release. I also have a rather active website that posts movie reviews and book reviews and random horror-related subjects at machinemean.org. I love talking with readers and especially with my peers. The subject of horror is a deep dark sea, even if you just dip your toe, you’ll be affected in some way.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m a huge movie nerd, so I would most likely be watching movies. I typically keep to older content, however, I will say that I LOVE going to the theater to see some new release, be it comic book related or horror. I have very fond memories of going to see movies on the big screen, the smell of movie theater popcorn, the vibe, the feel of the seats, the sticky floor. Everything. I’m also known to read a book or two and not shy to play a video game. I’m currently nerding my way through Skyrim.
Other than horror, what other things have been a major influence on your writing?
There are other influences??? Just joking, of course, there are! Right…let’s see. Well, as I supposed writer, I do draw from my own experiences, allowing characters to develop their own ideas and reactions from those experiences. As an example, my wartime experiences are a big source of influence in my books, Dwelling, Emerging, and Conceiving. Reading other people’s books is also a great influence to draw upon. One of the biggest novels outside of horror that has influenced me the most is All Quiet on the Western Front. The raw honesty in that book still amazes me today.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
It’s odd we have to have titles, but a lot of readers like to know what they’re walking into, I guess. Typically I go with the “dark fiction writer” title, that way it leaves a wide birth of horror sub-genres I can tackle if I so chose to.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
As for the big boys and girls, I’m fancy on Stephen King (duh), Clive Barker, Erich Maria Remarque, Shirley Jackson, Elie Wiesel, William L. Shirer, Christopher Browning, David Skal, Richard Matheson, and H. P. Lovecraft, among others. As for the up and comers, I do dig me some Duncan Ralston books and Jeffery X. Martin is known to spin a yarn or two. I’m not too much into the extreme-horror sub-genre, but Matt Shaw writes some very potent stuff.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
My all-time favorite horror novel is… Salem’s Lot. It used to be Pet Sematary, but over the years I’ve found myself returning to Salem more often than the Sematary. I keep a trade paperback in my car to read whenever I fancy.
My all-time favorite horror movie is… The Thing (1982). Talk about a movie that has so much with so little involved. The location is isolated to the research station, with only two ventures out into the cold tundra. The paranoia and extreme gore of the alien are striking. I really do love this movie, and as a bonus, it’s got, Kurt Russell. Hmm…Kurt Russell.
How would you describe your writing style?
Character and situational driven? Sure. I don’t map anything out, I don’t outline or anything as structured as that. I simply have an idea or an expression of a character or theme and go from there. I let the characters tell me what they want to do. I’m also a traditionalist, and in that I mean I write my books longhand before typing them up on the computer. I keep boxes of one-subject notebooks that my wife gets for me when school starts when they’re about 17 cents a book.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
When Reinheit first came out, I took the negatives to heart. I especially paid attention to those who found mistakes, that otherwise enjoyed the story but were distracted by horrible grammar or typos. Since then I realized I couldn’t do this “publishing” thing alone. I then sought out a publisher, a partner to help me in this journey of making books. In the end, I found Limitless Publishing and have had a good working relationship with them, publishing a total of 3 novels so far, with another one coming out spring 2017.
As for positive reviews, they really do help the ego, and I don’t mean that in an egotistical way. What I mean is, knowing someone out there “gets you” is uplifting and fuels further work. It’s good to know when you’ve miffed something up, but it’s equally important to know that you’re doing something right.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Believe it or not, discipline in keeping a schedule. Since late 2014, I’ve published 4 books. One in 2014. Two in 2015. And one in 2016. Not counting the dozens of anthologies, novellas, and the delayed projects that got pushed into 2017, but still…to me, that doesn’t seem like enough.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I want to say no. I know some, even the most extreme (and I’m no extremist) authors will not touch certain topics, such as rape or molestation, and publishers certainly have their own subjects that they simply will not touch. But as a writer, my job, I feel, is not to write about things that make us comfortable. Reinheit, my first novel, dealt with very uncomfortable subjects, such as the Holocaust, spousal abuse, school shootings, rape (it's implied), racism, and xenophobia, but told (I’ve been told) in a respective way and not glorified or glamorized. I don’t write drama or romance, I write horror, dark fiction, a genre that naturally deals with uncomfortable subjects. To say there are subjects I will not touch seems disingenuous to the craft.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
I think Mark Petrie from Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot should have died. If I had to pick, I think he should have been done in by Barlow when he and Jimmy Cody went into Eva Miller’s boarding house without backup. Jimmy dies from a fall and is impaled or something like that. Maybe Mark, frozen in fear or unwilling to leave Jimmy behind is ambushed by a horde of vamps. Something like that. He’s turned and Ben is forced to kill him. Gruesome and terrible, perhaps, but I think that would have represented the loss of innocence, the final straw per say. And besides, Mark was an annoying character.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters you can relate to and grounded situational development. Period. Even in supernatural and wholly unlikely scenarios, if the motivations of the characters do not make sense, the story falls apart.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
I used to do meaning, way back, even before when I started to publish my work. I think you can still find meaning in names, however, it can also become very time-consuming. Nowadays I go off my gut reaction to a name. One of my favorite continuing characters in my series is Bobby Weeks. The name Bobby felt right given the rustic country charm he has. Some new characters that I thought had fun names are Boris and Neville Petry. Boris, because his character is a young history professor and very hipster-ish, and Neville because I felt it made a masculine name for a female character that becomes the subject of fertility and motherhood.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Not being so wordy. I confess, I’m known to be a little whimsical and lengthy in my exposition. I think I’ve evolved a little. To included more action. As it were, with more dialogue and character interaction instead of an internal monolog. Showing, not telling so much. Writers. We get so excited sometimes. We just want to burst open and tell you all about this new amazing story. Some telling is good. But showing is much more rewarding for our readership.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Peers.Writer, so a solitary act, cannot be finalized without the assistance of peers, a circle of trusted comrades in arms. Some writers use “street teams,” but objectively, can you really trust the opinion of someone who simply wants free stuff? No. You need a hardnosed opinion from those in the trenches. You don’t need a lot. I typically keep to three other writers when talking openly about stories.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Oh, this is a hard one. Difficult to pinpoint the best advice I’ve ever been given. One that has certainly stuck with me is Duncan Ralston’s advice to me whenever I get bogged with marketing woes or low book sales. He tells me to keep writing. Simple. He may just be annoyed with my whining, but he’s right, profoundly so. If you want to be a writer, you can’t hang your hat on that one book you put out. Do you want to be a writer? Tell me a story.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
The biggest marketing push to date has been with Bookbub. They cost and are selective, very selective, annoyingly selective. But when you’re in and it works, it really does work. They helped get my book Dwelling into over 800 hands. And who really knows the lasting effect that promo had? Sales are still doing better than when the book first released. Besides Bookbub, I’m also a very prolific blogger, movie reviews, book reviewer (at times), and overall horror nerd. I’m very proud of my website as it’s grown over the years. And I hope is a great source of content for readers to enjoy. Part of marketing your books, I think, is presenting yourself as more than just a writer, but as a content provider.
Also, don’t be a snob. Make friends, play nice.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
I think I’ve already said this one, but I love Bobby Weeks, romantically if it were possible. His story is so fucked up and tragic, yet the dude just keeps going, understandingly so, sure, but damn. That man takes a beating and keeps repeating. I’m also a fan of werewolves, the lore and all. His character being “cursed” makes him more appealing to me than others. John Turner is a close second. He’s still kinda new, you’ll see more of him in Book 4, and there’s plenty of him in my novella Lanmò. The appeal is that he’s my Frankenstein’s monster, retold through Haitian voodoo and that his story is solidly founded in historical relevance, created, more or less, during the Civil Rights Movement.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
The Nashirimah are not human, yet they are the central antagonist in my Subdue Series. They are insectoid-like creatures, comparable to cicadas, as described in Dwelling, Emerging, and Conceiving. And I loathe them, and perhaps that’s a good thing. To me, they represent the worst in humanity, taking advantage of our weaknesses and feeding on our sorrow. In fact, the Ritual of Nashirimah is described in the book Emerging as a ritual that allows the species to “feed” on the negative energies of human subjects. There’s perhaps more symbolism there, but I’ll leave that blank. I like readers to imagine their own meanings. Anyhow, I hate them, very much. The hive mind and cold calculation, not to mention that horrid clicking, buzzing sound, it all gives me the creeps.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
While fame and fortune certainly sound appealing, and anyone who says otherwise is either a damn liar or a fool or both. However, I know, while the first two sound very nice and tempting to focus on, the latter would be my pick. Not that I don’t think I can achieve fame and/or fortune, but respect in my craft feels more central. As a writer, I want to tell you a story. If the story is good, I would much rather build upon a reputation (respected) as said “good” writer. Maybe if I can do that, everything else will fall into place.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
The trick, I guess, is most writers like the last thing they published more than their other work. For me, it’s the same. I feel my latest is my best, as I continue to evolve I feel that progress is shown in my stories. My latest published work is Conceiving, and I am very proud of it. However, my latest book, soon to be published in 2017, is Converging.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Nope. Even if the work is horrible and the story comes across bland or neurotic or nonsensical, I do not regret anything. I hope I can learn from my mistakes, and in learning, I’ve made some bit of progress, and if I can do that, why would I want to forget? I know some did not care for the ending to Dwelling, however, I felt, and still do, that the characters and their progression were very nihilistic and I had to tell that story, not just my wanting of some sunny conclusion. Sometimes people fade away in misery. It was an honest ending, and I stand by my work.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
Conceiving. There you will find my latest and most evolved work as a writer.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
Conceiving is my latest book. And dark things are dwelling in Jotham, Texas. Malicious forces are seen emerging from the sinister house on Oak Lee Road… With little memory of the events that took the lives of his friends, Bobby Weeks tries to move on with his life and finds a job at a warehouse on Galveston Island. However, the evil in Jotham won’t leave him behind. Strangers from the cursed town find him, strangers that lead back to Baelo University…back to Jotham.
Another character, Luna Blanche, has always been gifted, but now she must use those gifts to save Bobby… She goes to the Mississippi Delta to take care of her ailing grandmother. But she misses Bobby, and when she attempts to see him through her mind, what she finds is a deadly future. Fearing his life is in danger, she leaves the Delta and searches for him in Jotham.
Two new characters are, Neville and Boris Petry, who both want nothing more than the picturesque American Dream… After Boris accepts a new job teaching at Baelo University, the Petry’s move to Jotham to finally live out their dream.
But are things really so perfect in Jotham? Following a faculty party, Neville discovers she is pregnant. She should be ecstatic, but dreadful dreams lead her to feel as if something is wrong with the baby, her husband…and the school.
Four destinies bound on a collision course, a plot conceived in the shadows of Jotham…and an evil biding its time…waiting for them all.
With Conceiving now available, the next book in the series is Converging, which will release sometime in the spring of 2017. My next major project is going to be a non-series book.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
Zoloft characters…that is, characters that are totally banal through the entire story and then all of a sudden, because they are faced with some sort of crisis, they become overnight heroes or heroines. I call bullshit. Sure, people can attempt to change, but for honesty sake, people are who they are, you can’t turn a coward brave. You can give them aspects that make them seem brave, like insanity for instance, but they will never be Hercules or He-Man or She-Ra or whatever.
And…writers who are too scared to let their characters die. Kill your darlings, baby, kill them in horrible ways.
Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
I think MacReady would be a fun neighbor. We could drink scotch and play chess together, and in a pinch, he would make a fine leader during a disaster.
Leatherface, on the other hand, would make a horrible neighbor. Facing off my friends and visitors with a chainsaw would become very annoying, not to mention the questionable of where exactly he got his meats whenever there’s a neighborhood block party.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I think horror is on the verge of flourishing. I’ve read some damn good books within the indie circles to turn my head more than once, and as far as movies, while sure there are the Hollywood repeats, there are also some really good ones being made. Given the state of our currently political situation here in the States, it’s not hard to imagine, especially when considering that strife and depressions have always fueled the genre in the past.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The most recent “great” book I read was a history book called “The Worse Hard Time.” It was basically about the Dust Bowl here in American during the 1930s.
The most recent “disappointment” was “Hitler, God, and the Bible.” A friend of mine purchased this book for me because they knew I had an interest in studying the Third Reich, and also because I often confess to being Christian. So this book made sense, right? I'm a history major, a read the bible (perhaps not often enough sometimes) and I believe in God. This was a "perfect" buy for me and because someone took the time out to find me a book that follows similar interests of mine I wanted to get "into" it. However, in just a few pages I realized a horrible truth...this book cares little about actual history; rather, there is an agenda here. STOP....yes, I know, real shocker, right? A "Christian" book that has an agenda... Which is why I tend to never read them. History, on the other hand, does not, or shouldn’t have subjective agendas. Now, some may use history toward agenda, and while this is true, it doesn't make it right. Good history, as they say, presents the evidence and allows the reader to form their own opinion. In this horrible shameful book, the author makes one of the grossest comparisons I’ve ever read, the Holocaust as compared to modern day abortion.
I was horrified. And left a nasty review, of which I do not often make.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
What’s my favorite horror monster, not movie, but a monster? And I would say, the mummy, and not just any mummy, but The Mummy, 1932 one with Karloff. There’s just something alluring about this signature role for Boris. Most find it boring, but not me. I love this flick. The dialogue and motivations feel sophisticated and the cinematography is breathtaking.