Thomas S. Flowers Author Interview
with Sharon Anderson
I had the opportunity to get to know this author a bit more today, and it is my pleasure to share with you a little of our conversation.
Here is the incomparable Thomas S. Flowers!
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Dwelling?
A: Absolutely! Dwelling is a character driven story about five childhood friends, inseparable, as most of our childhood friendships seemed to be, right. As adults, they’ve become separated. Each in some way is effected by war. Most are Army veterans. Maggie grieves for the loss of her husband, who died in Iraq. Seeking to find solace alone she purchases a country farm home in the town of Jotham, the same house she came across in 1995, but for some reason has little memory of. Johnathan is a veteran struggling with a disability and PTSD. He served with one of the friends, Maggie’s husband, Ricky and was there when he died. While he battles these inner demons, Johnathan also presents himself as a Wounded Warrior public speaker. He’s conflicted about what he talks about and what he doesn’t talk about. Jake served in the Army as a chaplain’s assistant. He witnessed a young soldier killed by a mortar attack. Since then, he’s lost his faith, fighting to find some semblance of God in his life he turns to vice and the bed strangers to fill the void. Bobby is the oldest in the circle of friends who called themselves in 1995, Suicide Squad. He served in the infantry and later the Rangers. He was attached in Kurdistan by what some called The Arabian Wolf, though it was never reported. Back home, he discovered a dark self-inside him, a werewolf with yellow eyes and sharp fangs, Bobby keeps himself hidden from those he loves. His life takes a turn upon a chance encounter with a strange woman who takes him in, offers a safe place for his monthly turns. As each of the once childhood friends confronts the demons of their own lives, their forced back together by a mysterious entity, somehow controlling things from a far. When Maggie wakes in a strange subterranean cavern, she can’t deny her home harbors dark secrets. Desperate, she sends letters to her old friends to reunite in Jotham, and events conspire to draw them all to the house…unaware of the danger awaiting them…
Q: That sounds really exciting! When did you know that writing was going to be the thing that made the universe right for you?
A: Hmm…to answer this I think it’d be fair to say that I did not wake up one morning and say, “You know what, I think I’m going to be a writer!” Nothing like that, and certainly not with the notion of doing it professionally. I think being writer, for me, has been a progression of different experiences. In grade school, I enjoyed the ability to express myself and my horrifying adolescent feelings through flash fiction, short stories, and poems. Maturing into adulthood and joining the Army, I used poems to, again, express my emotions in a positive way. During college, I wrote for assignment, not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but it wasn’t professional writing, it was school writing. When school ended, I had all these different ideas for stories and I was watching the news a lot and getting concerned about familiar historic trends, the banality of evil and the continuation of “othering.” I wanted to write professionally then to take on the responsibility of being a story-teller, to give warnings through characters and prose and situational plot.
Q: Writing is a perfect way to comment on the world in which we live. Good for you. How’s the day job? What’s your favorite part?
A: I supervise a family owned chemical plant just north of Galveston. It’s a small team and we work closely together. My favorite part of working my “day job” has been learning different organizational skills, marketing, and team building. These kinds of skills are easily translatable to my “other job.”
Q: I bet they are! R.L. Stine only needs to come up with a title in order to write the story. What’s your process for story development?
A: I’ve been called “traditional.” And maybe I am. I’ll let you be the judge. I start any story with a simple/basic notion of what I want to write. I start first with the characters, who are they. I don’t normally write anything down in great detail at this stage, it’s more of a brainstorming exercise. I typically jot a few notes down, especially if I’m doing research. Once I’ve got an idea of where or who I’m going to be talking about, I jump in. I start writing longhand. I believe longhand helps keep the creative flow moving without the tedious stop and edit of typing. Unless you’re disciplined enough, which I am not, typing can be a distraction
“I start writing longhand…”
to the stream of consciousness. My editing process starts when I begin typing. Not everything gets transferred. As part of the editing process, I considering this to be my second draft. After that, I go through the story again with a third edit. And sometimes even a forth. After this, I find it’s beneficial to have an extra pair of eyes. I have a list of trusted “beta readers” who have helped me in the past. From here, as my betas return my story (betas do not proofread or edit, they simply read and jot notes for you, corrections or thoughts on the story itself, nothing more), I take in what they thought and see if changes need to be made. After this, it’s off to the publisher…and comes the hardest part. Waiting. You have to wait. You cannot sneak your story out there. You need to be patient. And it’s bloody hard. Sitting on a story you want to share with the world is the hardest thing, I think, for a writer to do. But if you want a quality story and if you want it “out there” the right way, you have to wait. After the publisher gets back with me regarding accepting a new book, depending on your publisher, you are assigned an editor, the editor reads and makes corrections and discusses the book and said corrections with you. After a couple rounds of this, it’s off to the proof reader for final corrections and to ensure proper formatting. And I’m not even mentioning the marketing team and cover design team, etc. etc. Needless-to-say, a lot goes in to publishing a book. Consider my own upcoming releases, both Dwelling and Emerging were started last year around this time. I finished my half of the process sometime in May, I think. I shopped it around. Was eventually picked up by Limitless Publishing. And went through their publishing process, which took a couple months, which isn’t bad. I’ve heard some publishers take a year to get your books out there.
Q: I used to write longhand, maybe I’ll go back to that. Tell us about your characters, how do you meet them? Where do they come from?
A: I talked a bit of about them above. They’re childhood friends, but as adults most of them get caught up in joining the service. Johnathan and Ricky are always together and even serve together in the same unit. Bobby and Jake are a little older and signed up before them, each going their own separate way. All the characters are from Houston, Texas, Clear Lake area. In the 90s, they had a club called Suicide Squad, named after a comic book they found in a collection of Johnathan’s. After the war, each is trying to come to terms with their own experiences. Maggie is angry, blaming Ricky for joining the Army and getting killed. Johnathon blames himself for everything. Bobby is terrified he’ll hurt someone. Jake feels lost. And Ricky, of course, is KIA.
Q: Do you have a favorite character? Who? And Why? (or why not?)
A: Favorites? Hmm…I tend to lean towards Johnathan, because I can relate a lot with his character and I put a lot of myself into him. But I think I like Bobby the most, simply because he’s such a metaphoric character, the monster within becoming a real. Dangerous.
Q: I love stories that address the monster within! Okay here’s a little set up for you…You’re working on a story and the power goes out. You hear some awful sounds emanating from the basement… you, A) Light a candle, ignore the sounds, and continue writing long-hand, because that’s how you roll, B) Light a candle, pour a Scotch, and listen to the sounds getting louder, as you hide under a blanket, C) Grab your gun and go investigate – you don’t need a candle because you’re a badass, and you’ll pour that Scotch once whatever-it-is-that’s-making-all-the-racket’s head is on your wall, or D) (fill in the blank)____________________________
A: I’d have to go investigate. No way could I just sit there being terrified. I’d have to know, and because of that I’d probably have a low survival rate in a horror movie.
Q: Too funny! I’d call you! What’s next? Tell us a little bit about what we can expect from you in the future.
A: Well, book 2 of the Subdue Series, Emerging, and releases on Dec 15. Back to back, almost. It is the continuation of Dwelling. I’m currently working on book 3, which will continue the story of some of the characters, facing a new evil. Also, I’ve got a collection of short stories and novellas that I’ll be submitting to my publisher soon. I’m actually really excited about the collection. It’ll be my first. I’ve focused my attention of resurrecting certain Universal mythologies and experimenting on brining those old monsters into a new generation.
Q: Love that. Some authors think of their books as children. Which of your ‘children’ are naughty, which are ‘nice’? Why?
A: Reinheit was my first novel, and it’s so dark and brooding I think it’d have to be the “naughty” one. Dwelling is move in-depth and character focused. It’s not “nice,” but it’s not “naughty” either.
Q: I know you admire Steven King. If you had the opportunity to ask him anything, what would you ask? And why?
A: I read a lot of old King books, so if my question sounds strange, just ignore me. I would ask King if he ever would write a sequel to Salem’s Lot. I think some of his characters from that book have continued in other stories, but I’d like to read a continuation of that one or Needful Things, those two could be explored more.
Q: Needful Things could certainly spread to the next town… What are your top 5 tips for effective book promotions:
1. Team building, collaborate with other authors, help promote them.
2. Make a plan, write it out, calendar everything.
3. Ask questions. This is the Information Age, don’t go solo, ask.
4. Be a genre provider, don’t just flood social media with “buy my book.”
Q: Those are terrific answers. What keeps you writing when writing doesn’t come easy?
A: Take breaks. Be willing to take a step back and look at things from a fresh perspective. Don’t force the story, let it come naturally. And speaking of naturally. If you type your first draft, try to write the story in longhand first. I know it sounds very tedious, but studies have found it helps keep the stream of consciousness. When typing, we’re tempted to stop and edit while we type, in longhand, the temptation is less. I think this will help anyone struggling on keeping the juice of the story more natural.
Great advice! Anything else you would like to share with us?
A: I don’t just write books, I also have a blog where I do movie and book reviews and interviews and all kinds of fun stuff. Stop on by at machinemean.org, thanks for having me!
Perfect! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Thomas S Flowers III! Now go buy his book Dwelling!