Literary Mayhem is pleased to welcome one of the best new writers in dark fiction today, Mr. Lee Thompson. Lee has made quite a name for himself in the dark literature field in the past year or so. I have read a lot of his work and can truthfully say that all the accolades he has received are very well deserved. His writing is disturbing and dark. I especially loved “Iron Butterflies Rust”. Thanks so much Lee for taking the time to pay me a visit and answer a few questions.
Peter: It might seem to the general reading public that you just magically appeared on the writing scene. Can you tell me about the path that led you to where you are today?
Lee: My path to publication was paved with rejections (thousands of them). I wrote longhand for over half a decade and sometimes typed things at the library or on a friend’s computer when I was ready to submit something. A lot of my family laughed at me. I was a laborer, and a lot of the times a drunk, so who the hell was I to think I could write a story?
The first thing I wrote was my Delirium novel NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN. I rewrote it completely every year for eight years before it was accepted and in the process discovered it was only a few strands in a massive tapestry. The last few years I gained a lot of insight since I bought my own computer, joined Zoetrope (where I met a best friend—Shaun Ryan—a most valued critter, and Kevin Wallis. Last year I had another friend, Jassen Bailey, help pre-read and give me feedback.) Shaun and Kevin taught me a lot, but for the most part Zoetrope and some other places I tried to go learn were a waste of time because it was a bunch of non-professionals talking about how to become a professional but never able to take that step. Everybody was running in circles, chasing their tails. That wasn’t what I wanted. It’s a waste of energy. And one thing I’ve always believed in is efficiency of motion.
I grew weary of listening to my peers whine or think they were god so I started hand copying books by writers I admired and respected, and I think that has been one of my biggest teachers. Plus I’d ask questions of heroes like Tom Piccirilli and Lee Thomas and they were kind enough to answer. But I’m a firm believer in You Won’t Know If You Don’t Ask. And there is no shame in asking questions. There’s only shame in having so much pride that you think you don’t need anybody to help you learn.
I don’t think of myself as a Horror writer. That label means nothing to me. I just want to write about life and tell this huge story I see right in front of me.
Since I started selling professionally I’ve got to know some great editors/publishers like Shane Ryan Staley at Delirium Books/Darkfuse Publications/Darkside Digital, Paul Goblirsch at Thunderstorm Books, Ken Wood at Shock Totem, James Beach at Dark Discoveries, Peter Schwotzer at Literary Mayhem, R.J. Cavender and Boyd Harris of Cutting Block Press, Robert Dunbar of Uninvited Books, Steve Clark of Tasmaniac Publications. And I’ve been fortunate enough to gain some fans rather quickly. That’s always nice. I don’t see the point of writing unless you have something to say and somebody to hear you.
Peter: Was there any one person, revelation or epiphany that influenced you into becoming a writer?
Lee: There were several things that happened in quick succession that forced me into writing. I was writing songs and found that the stories were too big to fit into three minutes, the stories too complex to get across in that space. I started writing that first novel Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children and it exhilarated me (that was addictive, seeing the story unfold, the characters fail and grow). My best buddy from when I was a kid, Greg Stanislawski, told me that I should keep going even though everybody else thought I was fucking retarded. So I kept going and kept learning, kept searching for answers to questions I had about myself and people I knew and the world we shaped with our unique perspectives.
Peter: Why dark fiction, is there some secret buried in your past that lead you to the darker side of things?
Lee: There are a lot of dark secrets buried in my past and they’ve all fueled the fiction. I’m drawn to the dark and have been since a child when I used to sneak out in the middle of the night to lay on the roof and look at the stars, or head out to the woods and wander around beneath a thick canopy of creaking trees.
I’m also violent and intimate, intense and subtle, curious yet stubborn. In my teens I looked into voodoo to find a curse to put on my dad and kill him. Luckily he never died. He’s a good guy now but that’s a whole other story and one filled with forgiveness, truth, humbleness and effort.
My cousin hanging himself when I was a pre-teen hurt. He was like an older brother to me.
I’ve always been reckless in a lot of people’s eyes, but to me it’s not reckless at all. If I’m jumping into something I’m doing it with both feet and without hesitation. Let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes those choices made me unhappy, but I also learned something about myself and other people in the process, which is always good.
Peter: You seem to have led a varied life in all the things that you have done up to this point; guitarist/song writer, martial arts and numerous different jobs. How does all this variety play into your writing and does it help in mining for ideas and characters?
Lee: All of those things are incredibly influential. When I write I think in musical terms: harmony, rhythm, progressions, beats, timing, layers, and improvisation. And martial arts play into how I approach writing stories: sidestepping, grappling, viciousness, restraint, leverage, intentions. And both music and martial arts require dedication, practice, and soul. So I guess writing sprung naturally from that foundation.
I’ve had my share of tough jobs and enjoyed them a lot though I always felt I should do something more (I just didn’t have the self-confidence or self-esteem to make a go of writing until I’d matured a little. Still working on that.) Some of the jobs took me into rough areas where police had to stand guard while we worked in Chicago, some jobs were dangerous and they made me very aware of what was going on around me—something essential to writing.
Peter: I have read that you didn’t start reading until you were 18 or 19, how much do you read now and who do you read? Who are your favorite authors and favorite books?
Lee: I read as much as I can, and still wish I had more time to just kick back with a book (something I intend to do a lot more this year once some things in my personal life settle down and I get in the groove of a new place).
Some favorite writers: Tom Piccirilli, Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, John Connolly, William Faulkner, Jack Cady, J.N. Williamson, Gary Braunbeck, Shaun Ryan, Clive Barker, Cate Gardner, Robert Dunbar, Greg Gifune, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Charles Beamount, Jack Ketchum, Lee Thomas, Dennis Lehane, Douglas Clegg, Donald Westlake, Sara Gruen, John R. Little, and Cormac McCarthy.
Peter: I know you are working on some stuff that we cannot discuss right now but what are you working on that you can discuss and can you give your readers any tidbits of information of what lies ahead in the immediate future?
Lee: I haven’t written anything in a while. I’m frustrated with some things and have a lot of stuff going on that’s out of my control and just have to wait for them to work themselves out and see what happens, then deal with it. I’ve just been trying to relax and enjoy myself and life. I’ve been painting and wish I would have tried it before I was in my mid-thirties, but better a late start than never. I’ve been hand copying some favorite writers to learn more. I’m working on a non-fiction book for beginner writers. I’ve started adapting some of my work to script format, which has been fun and neat to learn.
This year I have four books coming out. The second Division novel (THE DAMPNESS OF MOURNING/Dark Fuse Publications) is available now as a Kindle Exclusive, and will be available in signed/limited hardcover and other digital formats in February/March 2012. The second Frank Gunn novella (DOWN HERE IN THE DARK/Delirium Books) is coming out in April in signed/limited hardcover and digital formats. I have a standalone novella (IMMERSION/Thunderstorm Books) coming out later this year in various formats. And a standalone novella (WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL/Delirium Books) that I’m super proud of. It is a hell of a story and broke my heart to write. They’re all very personal. If you know my characters you know me because they’re different parts of me, from different times in my life. I think it’s interesting that I’m this kid, this teen, this young man, this adult, all wrapped up in one being. And I draw from all of those points in my life.
With four books coming out in 2012 I should be online trying to pimp them but I really don’t care for it. And I’m not doing it. I deleted my Facebook, Twitter and forums a while back and haven’t missed them a bit. Life is short. My work will stand on its own and create a buzz or it’ll waste away. What difference does it make?
Peter: What scares Lee Thompson?
Lee: When I was a kid I was afraid that my dad would never love me or be proud of me or believe in me. As a teen I was scared that I’d never be good at anything or contribute anything worthwhile to the world. As a young man/early adult I was afraid I’d drank too much for too long and that I’d never be able to get a handle on it. As a man now I’m not afraid of anything other than losing those I love to violence, cancer, and the like. Whatever I do it’s with all my heart and total commitment. If we do our absolute best what is there to fear?
Peter: I want to thank you Lee for sharing some of your valuable time and I wish you continued success and am very much looking forward to reading more of your work.
Lee: Thanks a lot, Peter. And thanks to anyone who reads and shares.