Interview with Thomm Quackenbush

Posted on September 18, 2013


Tonight I have an amazing interview to share with all of you! Thomm Quackenbush is wonderful! 🙂

Thomm Quackenbush


What are you currently working on?  I am currently endeavoring to finish the fourth book of my Night’s Dream series, this one is about an angel, a supernatural plague, and a bit of the history of Gideon, my discorporate manipulator.  I have well over a hundred thousand words and some excellent scenes, but I am not yet satisfied with how they all flow together.


How many (if any) books do you have published and what are their titles? The prior three books in the Night’s Dream series are We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, all of which are available where books are sold.  I’d been previously featured in Cave Drawing Ink’s comic books Rise of the Outlanders! and Beside the Still Water, but these were limited release and Cave Drawing is no longer active.


What inspired you to write your first book? Partly, it was that I knew I was a novelist in my heart and it seemed necessary to do more than blog and wait for a story to find me.  I had a sketch of the world I would like to write, our world as far as most people could tell, but only because humans are conditioned against acknowledging the magical or supernatural.  However, it wouldn’t gel into a story.  My sophomore year of college, one of my friends killed himself after a party.  I wrote a fictionalized version of this, half as a coping mechanism and half to enter a local paper’s short story competition.  I did not place, which was no real surprise in retrospect.  They were looking for drawling cowboys learning life lessons or condensed chicken soup for the teen’s soul, not a story about suicide and recovery that doesn’t name-drop Jesus.  I just couldn’t let go to the protagonist, Shane, and (to a lesser

extent) her departed boyfriend.  I slotted them into this universe I had been creating and it suddenly sprang to life.


Do you have a specific writing style or one that you prefer?  For a while before I got published, I did the typical thing of trying on different writer’s styles to see if any would fit.  I’d be Anne Rice one day, Tom Robbins the next, David Sedaris the third, then onto Hunter S. Thompson.  None were me and I think the majority of their influence has been purged.  I now write like myself and I have been told more than once that it is obvious when one is reading something I wrote.  I assume this is not an insult.


How did you come up with the title of your book(s)? The first and third are references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare.  I wish the second, Danse Macabre, were as well.  Instead, it is a French song that my music teacher would play each year around Halloween, accompanied to a horrifying black-and-white animation.  It is an unfortunately popular title.  Perhaps I’ll retitle it upon reissue.


Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp? The world is much weirder than anyone realizes and we overlook so much trying to be normal.


How much of the book is realistic/true? Given that they are fantasy novels, a surprising amount. I tend to steal from my own life baldly when it comes to fleshing out my characters’ back stories.  Additionally, I attended several meeting and sky-watches of the Pine Bush United Friends Observer Society, a support group for contactees, when planning the novel that became Artificial Gods.  The majority of the things taken for fiction in that book are based on first or secondhand accounts, as well as much of the history of modern UFO mythology.


What books have most influenced your life most?  Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and his collaboration with Terry Pratchett Good Omens showed me the sort of fantasy I wanted to write.  They seemed like worlds I would have written, had I gotten there first.  Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything helped show me how strange the natural world already was.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a “mentor”?  Neil Gaiman has occasionally offered me bits of personal advice on the life of a writer, like how much to ask from a venue that wishes to make an appearance and do panels.  I try not to pester him too often.


What book are you reading now?  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by (shock!) Neil Gaiman.  Prior to this, I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which is to say that I bawled my eyes out during a convention at which I was appearing.


Do you see writing as a career or a hobby? I see it as a lifestyle.  Writing is so often the filter through which I see the world.  For a while in my life, prior to being published, I would do daring things largely for the pleasure of later writing about them.


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? I toned down many of the more outlandish stories I had heard during UFOS meetings and sky-watches because I didn’t want to be too unbelievable.  In retrospect, I think I could have gotten away with it.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I was a born storyteller.  I shudder to recall how many VHS tapes my parents have of me claiming my younger brother was a werewolf or that I had seen a UFO land in the backyard.  From the moment I could write, it was twists on how I saw the world around me.


Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? In general, it has been trusting my characters enough to let them shape the story as they want it.  Artificial Gods starred a protagonist who put her foot down when it came to doing what I wished, no matter how I tried to force it.  Much of the book was shaped around her reluctance, which turned out to be a crucial plot point.  In fact, when I went back to revise after having the epiphany of why she acted as she did, almost all of it was perfectly foreshadows.


Who designed the covers of you books? My publisher does the covers for all of my books.  I’ve seen some minimalist fan covers of my books that I’ve liked, though.  There are a lot of talented people in the fan community.


What was the hardest part of writing your any of your works?  Deciding I am finished, which I think plagues most writers.  I never want to let go, but I want the book in my readers’ hands.


Do you have any advice for other writers?  The piece I wish I had accepted sooner is to finish writing before you start editing.  We Shadows took me years partly because I had to learn how to write a book, but mostly because I would spend months polishing scenes to a prolix glow before moving on to the next one.  And, of course, I axed most of those “perfect” scenes in edits.


Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? That I am constantly thankful for them and cowed by their acknowledgement.  Even now, I tend to react with panic when people start referencing my books around me and it comes off as being ungracious, but I genuinely am appreciative to everyone who reads one of my books and comments on it.

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