Interview: Five Minutes With Lee Thomas

I am extremely honoured and privileged to have one of the finest writers of supernatural fiction over for a chat today. Lee Thomas is the award-winning author of STAINED, PARISH DAMNED (Telos), DAMAGE (Sarob), and THE DUST OF WONDERLAND (Alyson). In addition to numerous magazines, his short fiction has appeared in the anthologies A Walk on the Darkside (Roc), Unspeakable Horror (Dark Scribe), Wilde Stories 2008: The Best of the Year’s Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press), and Inferno (Tor), among others.

He has won both the Bram Stoker Award and the Lambda Literary Award.

Writing as Thomas Pendleton and Dallas Reed, he is the author of the novels, MASON, SHIMMER, and THE CALLING, from HarperTeen.

Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Other than playing with my dog, going to the gym, and playing video games, I mostly just read and write. Though I’ve written stories since I was a kid, I didn’t start trying to sell my work until about 11 years ago. Since 2001, I’ve seen 22 of my books (some co-written) published, along with dozens of short stories. I’ve worked with major presses such as HarperCollins and smaller presses like Telos, Lethe, and Cemetery Dance. There have been a lot of sacrifices, but basically, I’ve been having a pretty good time the past decade or so.

Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
No preference really. I’ve always considered myself a Horror writer, but Dark Fiction clearly encompasses a broader range of storytelling, and since my work, though always dark, is all over the map, Dark Fiction might be a better label.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Stephen King, William Peter Blatty, Armistead Maupin, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Cormac McCarthy: they were my early reading influences and form the tip of an enormous iceberg.
What are you reading now?
I’ve just finished Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL, which was excellent, and I’m starting in on a reread of Toni Morrison’s BELOVED. For Halloween I returned to selected stories from Barker’s THE BOOKS OF BLOOD, because they always inspire.
Which book do you wish you had written?
TWILIGHT… for the money. Ha! Actually, I don’t usually think in those terms. I’d like to write a great novel myself one day, one that other folks wish they had written. We write stories, firstly, for ourselves so I would only want to claim authorship of a work no one else could have produced.
How would you describe your writing style?
Based on your second question, I’d call it Contemporary Dark Fiction. Sometimes I get into issues, particularly those related to the LGBT community. So it’s socially conscious work but never at the expense of story (I hope).
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I get to work first thing in the morning and will often return to it in the evenings. I’ve found afternoons are fine for editing, but it’s a serious low tide for creativity. That noted, I’ve been up to my eyes finishing my masters degree, so I haven’t been working on fiction as much as I would have liked these past several months. I’ve just started gnawing over a new novel idea and a couple of commissioned short pieces, so I’ll be back in the fiction biz soon.
No unusual habits, I’m afraid. I grab some coffee, sit down, and put my fingers on the keyboard like any other writer. Usually I have something loud on the iTunes mix–metal and industrial stuff mostly. I find it drowns out the distractions and keeps the energy high.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
My novel, THE GERMAN, stands out. It was a thrilling book to create, mostly because I broke a few writing “rules” and wasn’t even slightly concerned with commercial appeal while I was writing it. As a result, it’s unique. I’m extremely proud of the finished product and gratified by the reception it has received from critics and readers.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My latest novel is ASH STREET, which is available now. It concerns a series of hauntings that are being perpetrated by the victims of a pair of thrill killers… or are they? It’s a straight-ahead horror novel that was a lot of fun to write. My next project is the short story collection LIKE LIGHT FOR FLIES. Unlike my last collection IN THE CLOSET, UNDER THE BED, LL4F will include both gay and straight themed stories. The publisher, Lethe Press, is planning a unique presentation for the book, so I’m excited to see how it is received when it releases in May of 2013.

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