Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.
― Stephen King
Richard Thomas is a writer who’s been around the block andknows a thing or two about the commitment, hard work, and rejection that comes part and parcel of being afictionwriter.
“I was a big reader in grade school,” he recounts of his beginnings, “where I won an award for ‘most books read’ in the sixth grade,” he recalls, smiling. “I…
Rebecca and I go WAY back, some 17 years or so to The Cult, LitReactor, and, Write Club—three forums and workshops where we hung out and honed our craft. I’ve published her work in quite a few places—her Vile Men collection of stories at Dark House Press, “Cat Calls” in the Exigencies anthology, and then “Tourist,” and “Ghost Story” reprinted at Gamut. Love her work. She has a new story out, so I asked her to stop by and answer some questions about it, as well as her career. This is the first in an ongoing series that I’ll be doing with authors. I hope you enjoy the content.
QUESTION ONE: Tell me about your story—a brief synopsis, genre/s, and tone.
ANSWER ONE: When Mary, an isolated woman living on the outskirts of town, finds a man on her property, she is quick to make a friend. The man, Nathaniel, observes of her strange skin rash, taking it upon himself to help, and Mary finds herself accepting of his seemingly good intentions in more ways than one. But Mary’s understanding of their relationship is put to the test when Nathaniel turns out to be the the new doctor at the nearby asylum.
“Woman of the White Cottage” is a gothic horror story that focuses on how society looked at women who didn’t fit into the rigid purity-ridden “true woman” ideals of the Victorian era, and shines some light on the horrors of how they were often dealt with.
It’s now available in the Anomalies & Curiosities, an anthology of gothic medical horror from Quill and Crow Publishing House.
QUESTION TWO: Where did the idea for this come from?
ANSWER TWO: The call for the Anomalies & Curiosities anthology was for gothic fiction, which isn’t my normal affair. When I found the call, I did have a “vaguely historical” stalled story about a woman with a white cottage in my drafts folder. I often like writing about female issues and feminism and so I settled on writing a story about female hysteria and did a lot of research. This particular article was of major inspiration, both providing me themes and some incentive for my villain.
QUESTION THREE: Why this story, why now?
ANSWER THREE: I’m relatively new to writing horror, but I do feel like the genre is growing and that people have more interest in reading it, especially women. Gothic horror has always been a very female-centered sub-genre, the tropes of which parallel a lot of the subjects that I enjoy writing about often in my neo-noir fiction. Dangerous men. Female issues. Societal issues.
I started writing a lot of transgressive, gritty fiction, but then slipped into neo-noir, which allowed me the flexibility to write minimalism while borrowing influences from other genres. 2020 found me gravitating more toward various horror tropes than any other, and something about this particular anthology call really pushed me to embrace horror entirely for the first time. One thing I love about gothic fiction is its heavy reliance on atmosphere, so writing in this genre really pushed me into using a different voice than my usual minimalist one. I loved having to blend minimalism with atmosphere and it made for a very enjoyable writing experience for me.
QUESTION FOUR: What do you hope people take away from this story?
ANSWER FOUR: “Woman of the White Cottage” definitely isn’t that uplifting a story, but I do hope that it forces people to look back on some of the women who suffered a myriad of physical and mental health issues all because doctors weren’t able to “figure women out” and then just diagnosed them under the umbrella of “hysteria”.
I did write the story to a bunch of female-led sexually charged music like “WAP” and Madonna’s “Human Nature” and Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away”, and if there is any hope in the ending, it’s in that power of reclaiming words and meanings of things. Society still has a long way to go from forcing women into specific boxes, and so I do appreciate anthems and stories that are rather shameless in doing so.
QUESTION FIVE: What are your comps for this story—what authors, titles, and other projects are similar to it, and share the same vibe?
ANSWER FIVE: Probably Shirley Jackson, Mary Shelley, or Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper“, but infused with some nice Chuck Palahniuk-inspired minimalism.
QUESTION SIX: Aside from this story, give us a quick bio, and tell us about your writing career.
ANSWER SIX: I’ve been writing since the third grade, when my awesome teacher would give the class weekly writing prompts for us to write stories with. The practice really made me fall in love with telling stories, and I gained a lot of confidence reading my stories in front of the class. Short fiction has always been my favoritism thing to write. I joined the Chuck Palahniuk writing group in the 2010s, which eventually became LitReactor, and through the online courses I really managed to up my craft and meet other writers (including you!) who have been lifelong friends that I’ve never actually met.
My work has been published in Pank, Pulp Modern, Dark Moon Digest and in various other anthologies. In 2015 I published my first collection of short fiction, Vile Men, of which you also had a very big part in making real. Since then, I painstakingly worked at writing my first novel, The View From the Basement, a psychological horror that was inspired by my experience with becoming a mother for the first time. I’m currently querying said novel while also writing new short stories, most of which are horror, of course!
QUESTION SEVEN: What are three books (and/or authors) that have influenced your writing the most, and how did they do that?
ANSWER SEVEN: Chuck Palahniuk was an early influence. I just loved how bold and punchy his prose was. His novels were always about something massive and grand but they always cut right beneath the surface with his careful use of minimalism. Another favorite of mine is Gillian Flynn. Her work is just so dark and scary and a bit sexy too.
Lastly, and kind of shamefully, I’d say that I’ve been subconsciously influenced by V.C. Andrews for years. Her work might seem trashy on the surface, but she was one of the only bestselling female horror authors of the 70s-80s horror trend, and there was a very good reason for that. It was almost like she knew exactly what kind of weird horrific stuff women loved reading about. She shamelessly wrote about all that forbidden stuff that women were often not expected to speak of. She definitely put a nice spin on the old gothic horror romance tropes, with her eerie father figures and mansion settings. I wouldn’t say she was the greatest writer, but she definitely knew how to tell twisted and messed-up stories that kept women talking.
QUESTION EIGHT: What are your top three favorite movies of all time, and why?
ANSWER EIGHT: Heathers for its razor sharp black comedy. Scream for its crafty spin on the 80s slasher film. And Hot Fuzz, because everyone needs that fun go-to movie to watch when they feel like garbage.
QUESTION NINE: What is one bit of advice you’d give a new author on how to find their voice, tell great stories, and succeed in their career?
ANSWER NINE: Get raw. Even in genre fiction, the best writers can put their own twists on things by writing about their guilty pleasures or the the strange facts and stories they find on a good Wikipedia wormhole bender. Read more. Go for walks. Listen to music that makes you feel stuff. The right blend of influences will always find you if you take the time to enjoy things.
As for succeeding in their career, I can’t say that I know. My ultimate goal is to become the next Gillian Flynn, which isn’t likely to ever happen. I know this but I still want it. Writing is a tough gig that is mostly wrought with disappointment. Only a handful of writers will ever really achieve what they originally intended to, so part of having a successful writing “career” is doing what makes you thrive while also being flexible about where the journey of establishing a career might take out. Never put too much weight on one piece.
For me, writing was always a coping mechanism for insecurities and I’m sure I’m no different from many other writers when I say that not getting enough compliments or even a reaction to a story I’ve written can be tough. Take pride in what you do. Try to take the criticism into every next project and always let the praise you receive guide you.
QUESTION TEN: What’s next? Do you have any other stories coming out, are you working on a book, is there a collection coming soon? Do tell.
ANSWER TEN: I’ve got a story in an upcoming anthology about the experience of young fathers in today’s work-centered society. It was heavily influenced by the whole online subculture of “dead malls”, and also inspired by my husband’s struggle with balancing work and home life. I personally think it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written, so look out for that.
I’m still hard at work that querying the novel but have mostly been writing short fiction just to distract myself from the painful process of agent rejection over and over. Thankfully, I’ve had a nice set of story acceptances in great markets, and will hopefully have a nice collection of short fiction query with some small presses soon.
The Horror Writers Association is proud to present the seventh installment of Skeleton Hour, which will feature a panel discussion about writing horror in a post-covid world.Panelists will include: Richard Thomas (moderator), Sarah Langan, Usman T. Malik, Josh Malerman, A.C. Wise, and Lucy A. Snyder
Skeleton Hour is a one-hour horror literature webinar series produced by the HWA in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.
Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots, Staring into the Abyss, Tribulations, Spontaneous Human Combustion, and The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, Thriller, and Audie awards. His over 160 stories in print include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), Cemetery Dance (twice), PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Shallow Creek, The Seven Deadliest, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), PRISMS, and Shivers VI. Visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com for more information.
Josh Malerman is the New York Times best selling author of Bird Box and A House at the Bottom of a Lake as well as one of two singer/songwriters for the Detroit rock band the High Strung, whose song “The Luck You Got” can be heard as the theme song to the Showtime show “Shameless.” He lives in Michigan with the artist Allison Laakko and their countless animals.
Sarah Langan is the three-time Bram Stoker Award Winning author of the novels Good Neighbors, The Keeper, The Missing, and Audrey’s Door. Her short fiction has most recently appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Best Horror of the Year, Volume 12. She has an MFA from Columbia University, an MS in Environmental Toxicology from NYU, and is a founding board member of the Shirley Jackson Award. Usman T. Malik’s award-winning fiction has been reprinted in several best of the year anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series, and translated into several languages. Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link has labeled him “a master of the uncanny and the sublime” and Pen/Faulkner Award winner Karen Joy Fowler (author of the NYT Bestselling book THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB) lauds him as “the spell-caster par excellence”.Usman’s fiction has won The Bram Stoker and the British Fantasy awards and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, the Million Writers, and twice for the Nebula awards. Usman is the co-founder of The Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction, which seeks to vet and nurture aspiring Pakistani writers of speculative fiction.”
A.C. Wise’s fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, Uncanny, and several Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. Her work has won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, as well as twice more being a finalist for the Sunburst Award, twice being a finalist for the Nebula Award, and being a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. She has two collections published with Lethe Press, and a novella published by Broken Eye Books. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling is forthcoming from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new horror-focused collection, The Ghost Sequences, is forthcoming from Undertow Books in Fall 2021. In addition to her fiction, she contributes a regular short fiction review column to Apex Magazine. Find her online at www.acwise.net.
Lucy A. Snyder is the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated and five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author of 15 books and over 100 published short stories. Her most recent books are the story collection Halloween Season, the forthcoming poetry collection Exposed Nerves, and the forthcoming novel The Girl With the Star-Stained Soul. She also wrote the novels Spellbent, Shotgun Sorceress, and Switchblade Goddess, the nonfiction book Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide, and the collections Garden of Eldritch Delights, While the Black Stars Burn, Soft Apocalypses, Orchid Carousals, Sparks and Shadows, Chimeric Machines, and Installing Linux on a Dead Badger. Her writing has been translated into French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Czech, and Japanese editions and has appeared in publications such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, Pseudopod, Strange Horizons, and Best Horror of the Year. She lives in Columbus, Ohio. You can learn more about her at www.lucysnyder.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @LucyASnyder.
ICYMI the PRISMS anthology is now on sale over at PS Publishing. There is a hardcover and a signed/limited edition. This anthology includes my story, “Saudade.” Details below. This book looks GREAT. Get yours now!
AN ANTHOLOGY edited by Darren Speegle & Michael Bailey CATEGORY SF/Fantasy PUBLICATION DATE Spring 2021 COVER ART Ben Baldwin PAGES 327
EDITIONS Unsigned Jacketed Hardcover — ISBN 978-1-786367-04-4 [£25] 100 Jacketed Hardcover signed by the author — ISBN 978-1-783367-05-1 [£35]
ABOUT THE BOOK
Prisms are instruments, mirrors, metaphors, gateways humankind must pass through in order to achieve, to overcome, to realize, to become. Contained herein are nineteen transformative tales from some of speculative fiction’s most brilliant minds. So open your eyes and let the light pass through . . .
WE COME IN THREES – B.E. Scully
ENCORE FOR AN EMPTY SKY – Lynda Rucker
THE GIRL WITH BLACK FINGERS – Roberta Lannes
THE SHIMMERING WALL – Brian Evenson
IN THIS, THERE IS NO STING – Kristi DeMeester
THE BIRTH OF VENUS – Ian Watson
FIFTY SUPER-SAD MAD DOG SUI-HOMICIDAL SELF-SIBS, ALL IN A LEAKY TIN CAN HEAD – Paul Di Filippo
RIVERGRACE – E. Catherine Tobler
SAUDADE – Richard Thomas
THERE IS NOTHING LOST – Erinn L Kemper
THIS HEIGHT AND FIERY SPEED – A.C. Wise
THE MOTEL BUSINESS – Michael Marshall Smith
EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS ALSO A LIE – Damien Angelica Walters
THE GEARBOX – Paul Meloy
DISTRICT TO CERVIX: THE TIME BEFORE WE WERE BORN – Tlotlo Tsamaase
If you are a book reviewer / blogger and would like an ARC of my next short story collection, Spontaneous Human Combustion, email me your mailing address to email@example.com. I’m starting to build a list for my publisher. Thanks!
BIG NEWS! I’m thrilled to announce that my fourth short story collection, SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION, will be out with Turner Publishing in early 2022. They did a great job with the Burnt Tongues re-release, so I decided to partner with them again. More details to come. It’ll cover the best of my work from the last five years or so. Stoked.
“It’s not hard. I just need you to listen. And keep listening. That part is essential. I need you to recite a few strange words the morning sun, or the afternoon doldrums, or the long, ever-expanding night. Wherever you are, whenever you are, whoever you are. In his house, he waits dreaming.”
—Richard Thomas, “In His House”
Is there a better way to round out the year of reviews than with the big “C” himself? I didn’t think so, either. This review also introduces us to a new anthology, and an author I’ve not reviewed before, but one with whose work I am familiar. Richard Thomas is well known in the horror fiction community not only for his fiction, but probably more as a teacher of fiction. He is the host and professor of Storyville, an online writing workshop with multiple class offerings for any experience level. In addition…
From now until the end of the year, Storyville’s At your Own Pace Short Story Mechanics class is buy one get one free! Purchase a full class for yourself or someone you love, and get an extra one to gift to someone else. These include the lesson packets with the reading material and exercises including feedback from Richard Thomas (that’s me) and a full critique of a short story! And, it’s at your own pace so you work on your schedule with no classes to attend.
“Richard is a tireless and dedicated teacher. Regardless of class size, every lesson feels like a one-on-one meeting with an expert on craft. Every time I’ve worked with him, I’ve moved my writing up a level.” —Sarah Read, author of The Bone Weaver’s Orchard (Winner of the Bram Stoker Award)
“The most positive thing, for me, was how participating in the class, and Richard’s comments encouraged me to write even when I perhaps was not feeling like writing. Thank you!” —R. Schiaffino
“My experience in Richard’s workshop was one hundred percent worth it. Before taking this class, I felt ill-equipped to write those sweet 1,500-5,000 word stories, but that has all changed. Richard teaches a concise method for crafting and developing stories in this word range, and his insight is well worth the tuition price.” —Chris S.
“This class was a shotgun blast to the face of ultimate fiction crafting. He walks you through a story idea, from a bare-bones concept to polished, submittable story. This class elevated my chops to a new level. You can’t beat this combination of low-cost and superior instruction.” —Doug B.
“Richard has a keen eye for the little details that make a story work as well as for the bigger picture that brings together the plot. His professional demeanor and kind manner make working with him a real pleasure. He catches the things that most writers miss, and that’s a real gift.” —Bryan H.
“I have contracted Richard to edit several short stories, and have found that his ability as an editor is a direct reflection of his resume as a writer—impressive to say the very least. I have found his editing to be of tremendous value, and would recommend his services to any emerging writer.” —Nicholas M.
“Go ahead and write the best damn story you can. Edit tirelessly for weeks on end. Have your writer friends critique it and their writer friends, too. Then go back and write that perfect final draft. But I bet that even after all that, give it to Richard Thomas and he’ll still find redundancies, misplaced modifiers, dangling participles, plot holes—you name it. What I’m saying is if you want to sharpen that latest draft, Richard is your man.” —Ryan S.