The following article written by Nicole Patterson with photo by David Schrott, appeared in Fine Living Lancaster Magazine on 05/15/11. Reprinted with permission from Fine Living Lancaster and Virtual Media Group. All contents of this issue of Fine Living Lancaster are copyrighted by Fine Living Lancaster
Thomas M. Malafarina was born in Ashland, Pennsylvania, his influences include a hardworking family, the language of the hard coal region (which he lovingly calls “coal speak”), and the values of dedication. Today he lives in South Heidelberg Township, Pennsylvania, with his wife JoAnne. He also has three grown children and three grandchildren. He didn’t read much as a child. He was too busy playing with neighborhood kids, making forts, and using that imagination of his—which has, indeed, come in handy. With a television set that got three channels, he got pretty good at entertaining himself with everything from a stick to a walk in the woods. “As a very young boy, with an extremely active imagination, I could find terror in virtually every situation,” he says. Whether it was the old claw feet on his parents’ bathtub or the dark hallway leading to his bedroom, his love and hate for the genre has encouraged his writing. “My bedroom was full of Aurora monster models and scary pictures, but I slept with my head under the covers, just in case.”
After high school he became a voracious reader and today he almost exclusively listens to audio books, as he spends the better part of an hour driving each way to his day job in Lancaster. I think listening to audio books has enhanced his writing, as the cadences of his sentences and characters’ dialogs in his novels and short stories are well suited to be read aloud.
After being encouraged by his parents to pursue a more traditional path in school, Thomas put his art dreams on the back burner. He attended Penn State Schuylkill studying Business Administration, but dropped out a year later. In 1977 after a variety of jobs, he landed work with Rockwell International, in Wyomissing, as a CNC machine operator. About two years later, after moving to West Reading, he went back to school at nights and got an AS Degree in Business Administration (Industrial Management) from Reading Area Community College. Promoted into the engineering department, then five years later, after surviving layoff after layoff, he finally got the ax.
Now the Senior Manufacturing Engineer for ITT Industrial Process in Lancaster, he works manufacturing stainless steel valves for the pharmaceutical industry. He programs several four-axis CNC machining centers, develops technical manuals, training videos, standard work instructions, manages capital projects and develops manufacturing processes to improve existing processes. It’s quite the technical, left-brain job.
Published by Sunbury Press, Thomas is the author of Burn Phone, 99 Souls, 13 Nasty Endings, Gallery of Horrors, and Eye Contact. He has also contributed to a dozen anthologies, written more than two dozen short stories, and even published a curious cartoon compilation titled Yes, I Smelled it Too!.
“I’ve been writing my entire life, in one form or another. Writing takes creativity—whether it’s writing a story, drawing cartoons, creating a work of art, or writing a song,” he says.
When asked what reaction he wants from his readers, he says, “ I want some reaction—whether they are afraid or disturbed or disgusted. So many of us do our jobs and go about our days. The whole point is the release from that mundane work. One of the trickiest things about writing is creating a mood and image that is believable.” Of course there is a difficult balance between creating a level of reality and possibility, while still remaining in the realm of fiction.
“The biggest misconception is people assume that I’m someone other than who I am. There are a lot of people you meet at conventions and horror things who live this life where they dress dark and wear this makeup. For people who don’t know horror, they think you’re this dark, depressed, sad kind of person. For the most part I’m a very positive person. I’m a dad and a grandfather and a husband. That’s my favorite job. I’m a very normal, regular guy,” Thomas tells me.
Of the three works I read, 13 Nasty Endings was my favorite. His short stories are completely accessible to veterans and newcomers of the horror genre. There is a familiar, if not inviting, welcome extended to the reader to watch as he weaves characters in and out, builds backstory and continues leading them to their final, nasty demise. “I tend to use fantasy creatures and situations that are impossible. There are a lot of people out there who are wrongly influenced. I don’t want to give anyone ideas,” he says. “I try to keep it completely in the world of fiction, because I’d feel really terrible if someone read something that I wrote and did something bad.”
I suppose every writer fears the danger of being taken literally. “It’s just entertainment. I write strictly to be entertained. I’m not preaching morality. Sometimes the bad guy gets it. Sometimes the good guy gets it. It’s purely fictional entertainment,” he says. Thomas tells me that he’s never had an interest in slasher-type horror. “Any horror movie that involves a psycho killer cutting up sexy teenagers is not my idea of true horror. I grew up loving the universal monsters like Dracula, Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s monster.” He continues by saying, “Every day the newspaper is full of man against man violence. I do not need to write about it—that is fact, not fiction.”
So what is this horror writer contributing to the world? He’s adding a release, a glimpse into the realm of fantasy and fiction—one where characters’ endings are totally unexpected, yet welcomed. Need a chill on those hot summer nights? Want a scary story to tell on vacation? Interested in a nightmarish read around a bonfire? Get your hands on one of his books and enjoy the escape!