Nightmare Illustrated Magazine – December 2013
In December 2013 Thomas was interviewed for issue #3 of Nightmare Illustrated Magazine from Horrified Press.
Here is a link to purchase the cool issue shown below:
NI: Who were your influences and what led you to write horror?
TMM: I’ve been a fan of the horror genre for as long as I can remember; since childhood. And as such, I made it a point to surround myself with all the horror influences I could. Back in the early 60’s I collected and assembled all of the Aurora Universal Monster Models which were always present in my bedroom along with pictures cut out from horror magazines. They terrified me
as a child and I slept with the covers over my head. It was a love/hate thing; I loved to be scared but hated it at the same time. I also loved the Big Daddy Roth models of cars driven by oversized bug-eyed monsters such as Rat Fink.
I have been a life-long fan of horror movies. Growing up in the coal region town of Ashland, Pennsylvania we had a movie theater in town which although not first run, often got in great old horror movies. I also had a friend whose father owned an eight millimeter projector and who had a nice collection of silent versions of most of the classics such as Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy, Dracula and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. When we were bored over the summer vacation, we would go to his house, pull down all the blinds and watch these in the dark. We also would make a haunted house in his garage/rec room and scare all the neighborhood girls.
Our whole gang of neighborhood kids would often spend lots of time telling each other scary stories at night. I was a big fan of all the horror magazines back in the 60’s and had another friend who did and still does collect such magazines as well as comic books. His house was a treasure-trove of horror information. It was there that I read about Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, John
Carradine and Peter Cushing not to mention Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Peter Lori and others.
These early influences made me want to create stories of horror with the hopes that someday they could be translated into movies that would influence other young creative minds to keep the genre alive and interesting. Really bad, mass produced horror movies was probably the biggest influence in getting me to finally sit down and start writing seriously. My horror movie collection is extensive and to be honest, most of what I own is crap; badly written, badly acted canned horror which is not only uninteresting but easily forgotten. These lousy movies motivated me to try to write stories that would make good movies which might have a memorable impact. The goal of my writing is to entertain and to stir some kind of lasting emotion; whether those emotions be terror, disgust, discomfort or even anger. I want my work to be memorable and if that means upsetting some people, then so be it.
To me there is nothing worse than watching or reading something and afterward saying “Yeah. That was pretty good.” I would rather have someone say “What’s wrong with that guy?”, or “How could he write such a thing.” I want my readers to think about my work long after the book has been read. I want them to wake up with nightmares months later. Nothing would please me more than having someone curse me in the middle of the night for having one of my scenes haunt them in a nightmare years after reading one of my stories.
As far as horror authors go, I am a huge fan of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I love Clive Barker’s films but have not had time to read his books. Same is true for H. P. Lovecraft. This is sort of strange because my writing has often been called a cross between Lovecraft and Barker who I have not read, and is seldom compared with King or Koontz both of whom I have read extensively.
NI: When it comes to characters, which do you prefer to write about it?
TMM: I like to write about common people, normal everyday people who find themselves thrust in to horrifying and often impossible situations. I like to shatter our false sense of security. Whenever we watch an especially disturbing horror move we can always walk away with the assumed knowledge that because the circumstances surrounding the characters in the movie were so different from normal life, such a thing could never happen to us. But bad things happen to good people every day so why not have it happen in my books?
No one is immune from disaster in my books. And I do my best to paint my scenes with descriptive words that will provide enough detail so the reader can envision not only the scene exactly as I wanted it depicted, but the emotion of the situation as well. I strive for creating an atmosphere of discomfort; I want my readers to feel uneasy and tense at all times. Even when describing the contents of a room I want the reader to worry about what I am planning to do to him next.
When my sister read my last novel, “Fallen Stones” she told me she spent the entire novel worrying about if I was going to kill off one of the characters which she especially liked because of his innocence. I told her I wanted the readers to worry about that as well because I worried about it while I was writing the book. I didn’t know myself if the character was going to be killed off or not
until the end of the book. That is how I write. I write like I am watching a movie for the first time and more often than not, I have no idea how it will end until it does. That’s what make writing so entertaining for me.
NI: What advice would you give to new writers?
TMM: That’s easy. I get asked this a lot and usually get an equal amount of heat for my answer. I tell all young writers to find a job, a real job and write part-time. If you are not writing to put food on the table you’ll be less inclined to compromise your principals and to prostitute yourself for the almighty dollar. I work full time at a job that pays my bills. Do I love it? Not even a little. But it affords me the luxury of doing what I want to do with my spare time, for what I call stress relief. I play guitar and bass in two different blues bands on the weekends; I create cartoons and horror art and write horror fiction whenever possible in my spare time. Do any of these endeavors make me money? Not really, but I don’t care. My job pays the bills and my music, art and writing are something I do for me. And they are also things over which I have complete control. I live for my spare time and I work to pay the bills and support my family.
A woman wrote to me once telling me that her young son was a genius when it came to creative writing; God’s gift to literature if you will. She asked me for advice. I gave her the same advice I just mentioned. She was furious with me. She told me I didn’t understand the talent and gifts her young genius possessed. I told her she was doing her son a disservice by not pointing him in a direction that will earn him a living. I told her that every day thousands of talented artists, writers and musicians are living in squalor simply because they are undiscovered. I suggested that each year people with talent that rivals the masters die in obscurity and poverty. It may seem noble to starve for one’s art but that is only true in fiction. In reality it sucks.
NI: How has the internet affected your career, especially the social medias?
TMM: I find myself more and more using outlets like Facebook, even though I have no real interest in doing so. It is actually a great place to waste time. I tend to be an old school e-mailer. That being said, social media has not only allowed me to connect with old friends but to meet new ones as well. It has proven very successful in getting my name out there to people in places where I my books are sold, but where I am virtually unknown. It has become a necessary evil in my life. I wish I could afford to hire someone else to use it on my behalf so I could spend more time writing, but a man’s gotta do… yadda yadda.
NI: If you had the power to bring a dead celeb back to life, who would it be and what use would you have for them?
TMM: That’s easy. It would be Stevie Ray Vaughn. He was one of the most amazing guitarists I have ever heard. He was taken from us way to soon. I never saw him perform live and if I could bring him back long enough to experience that I would be thrilled.
I have only found one other guitarist/vocalist who I feel has the right to wear Stevie’s crown and that’s Joe Bonamassa. My wife and I make a point of going to see him whenever possible. He ain’t Stevie but he’s equally amazing. And if , heaven forbid any tragedy ever befalls Joe, (he tours constantly) I can say I’ve seen him perform live many times. I wish I could have said the same
NI: Name 5 horror movies that made an impact on you.
1) Night Of The Living Dead (the original) – First time I ever saw what was considered way back then to be over-the-top gore in a movie. Even in black and white it was nasty. Romero is a genius.
2) The Exorcist (actually the book more than the movie) – Revolutionary, ground breaking, disturbingly memorable. Creeped me out for weeks.
3) Poltergeist – I loved it because it destroyed the myth that haunted houses had to be old creepy places and such things could actually happen in newly built modern houses.
4) Hell Raiser (the first) – A masterpiece of disturbing gore. Now it looks dated but I still love it.
5) High Tension – I loved this if for no other reason, than that opening scene with the head in the truck. I knew that was instantly destined to become a classic.
NI: Tell everyone about your new books or projects.
TMM: In October Sunbury Press is publishing a short horror story collection I curated and edited called “Undead Living”. It is based on the theme “Contemporary Undead”. The title and cover is a spoof of all the local “Living” magazines which are prevalent in the US these days. Writers from all around the world have been chosen to be part of the anthology. I wrote the forward and have a story “Even The Great Will Fall” will be included as well.
In early 2014, Sunbury Press will be publishing my next novel “Dead Kill”. It is a thriller based in the year 2045, ten years after the zombie apocalypse almost wiped out mankind. Humanity has survived and managed to destroy most of the zombie population. There are still pockets of the creatures roaming about and although deadly, they are now more of a nuisance than a threat. The story is actually a murder mystery with lots of twists. Although there is still plenty of zombie related horror and gore the creatures are more of a backdrop for the story.
By the middle of 2014 I am planning to publish another short story collection yet to be named, also through Sunbury Press.
NI: What for you would you consider a career and a personal high?
TMM: I would say from a career standpoint was signing a three book deal with Sunbury Press in 2010 which resulted in the publication of my novels “99 Souls” and “Burn Phone” as well as a short story collection “13 Nasty Endings”. Every book published since then is a new high for me.
On a personal level, meeting and eventually marrying my incredible wife JoAnne was by far the best thing that ever happened to me. And of course the births of our children and grandchildren only added to the amazing life we have had together.
NI: How do you feel about writers publishing their work on their own, with no agent or publisher backing them?
TMM: I have mixed emotions about this topic. I don’t have an agent, but I do have a publisher, Sunbury Press (www.sunburypress.com). On one hand I’m glad that it has now become much easier for formerly ignored authors to get their chance to come to print. However that also opens the flood gates for a lot of potential garbage to be out there. Case in point; bad independent films and music. There is some really great music and some really amazing independent films out there but there is also a lot of really bad stuff. When you self-publish you are taking out what I consider a very important literary filter.
I personally chose to go with a publisher for a number of reasons. I was seriously considering self-publishing at one point a few years ago. But I remembered something my Mom told me when I was a kid. She said “To thine own self be true.” I knew I liked my writing; what author doesn’t. And a few people I showed my work to seemed to like it as well. Being truthful with myself I
realized that I could not objectively judge my own work and friends and relatives might like it simply because they are friends and relatives. I didn’t want to get caught up in that ego massaging thing where I refused to look at my work objectively and ended up putting out trash. So I decided I needed to find a publisher, someone who didn’t know me and would look at my writing
with a clear eye. I figured, if a total stranger who was looking to potentially make money off of my work felt it was good enough to sell, then I could feel confident enough to start to call myself a writer; a real author. The publisher would be the filter, preventing me from making a lot of mistakes and potentially embarrassing myself.
So I started the quest for a publisher on my own, submitting my first book and collecting rejection slips. Some of the rejection came with good constructive criticism. I made up my mind early on to listen to the editors and use what they said whenever possible to improve my writing style. So after numerous edits and rewrites I stumbled upon a new publisher, Sunbury Press. They were primarily a non-fiction and history based publisher but were looking to expand into other areas and grow. I figured it seemed like a good match. They were growing as a publisher and I too wanted to grow as an author. And maybe in some small way my writing might help the company grow which could only benefit me more.
So I contacted the publisher, Lawrence Knorr and asked him if he would ever consider adding horror fiction to his family of books. He offered to read a manuscript so I sent him the latest rendition of “99 Souls”. I was pleasantly surprised when he said he loved my writing style and not only accepted the book but asked me if I had anything else he could read. The result was the
three book deal for “99 Souls”, “13 Nasty Endings” and “Burn Phone” I mentioned earlier. Since then I have published seven more books with Sunbury, not counting the three I mentioned in my upcoming works.
Regarding self-publishing, Lawrence often says that it is now the easiest time in history to publish a book but the hardest time to sell one. This is because there is so much stuff out there now and so many authors clambering to be noticed that many authors simply get lost in the fray. As an author I like the idea of it being easier to get books published but as a reader, I wish there was
some better way to filter out the bad stuff. Note to budding authors: Rejection is not necessarily bad; you can use it to make you a better writer.
NI: Okay Tom, I was awaken in the middle of the night by this shadowy presence and he wanted me to ask you this: what is your favorite Jerry Lewis film?
TMM: I have to admit, that’s the first time I was ever asked that one. That shadowy presence must have been very evil indeed. I’m not a big Jerry Lewis fan. Maybe if I were French that apparently might be different. That being said, I did like “The King Of Comedy” but that might have been because it was so dark and also because of Robert De Nero and the fact that Martin Scorsese directed it. (I really should watch that again sometime and see if it stands the test of time). I never went for the Jerry Lewis’s goofy stuff anymore than I care for Jim Carrey when he is acting like Jerry Lewis. Carrey did a serious roll way back in his youth where he played an alcoholic. I can’t recall the name of the film but he was amazing in it.
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