Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Author Interview - Thomm Quackenbush and free Valentine's Day book

Today I'm interviewing Thomm Quackenbush, author of the Night's Dream trilogy and a collection of short stories titled Find What You Love and Let it Kill You (available free on Valentine's Day). These books, along with a couple other shorter works are available on Amazon.

Artificial Gods is the last in the Night's Dream trilogy, following We Shadows (4.5 stars) and Danse Macabre (5 stars).

All Jasmine wanted was a calm summer in Pine Bush. When she sees a UFO her first night home from college, she is willing to brush it off as swamp gas reflected off Venus, until two men arrive at her door to harass her into silence about a picture she did not take. Soon she realizes Men in Black may be the least of her worries and that ignoring the Grays and their plans for her will only embolden them. If she doesn't figure out why she is so interesting to aliens, Men in Black, and a mysterious man who seems to brush off harm, she may not have an autumn to look forward to.

Here are Thomm's answers to my author interview questions:

1.  Where/how did you come up with the idea for your story? Did it suddenly pop into your head or were you brainstorming?
My last published novel was Artificial Gods, about the relationship of two sisters overshadowed by UFOs and apparent agents one summer.  The town where the story takes place, Pine Bush, New York, is only an hour's drive from where I grew up and really has played host to near nightly sightings of UFOs and associated strangeness.  In my late teens and early twenties, some of my friends had a small obsession with the town, based in part on the late Dr. Ellen Crystall's book Silent Invasion, all about her research and experiences in the town.  Though I visited a few times and, in the course of researching this novel, attended meetings of their United Friends Observer Society, I didn't feel as though I was the right person to write another nonfiction book about the phenomena.  Aliens and the like fit very well in my established fantasy universe, begun by We Shadows and continued in Danse Macabre.  I build up two very minor characters in those novels to be the stars of Artificial Gods.

In a lot of ways, this was one of the stories I was always meant to tell.  I was a voracious reader of the paranormal from the time I learned to read—I have no idea why—and becoming a fantasy author seemed one of the better uses of this knowledge.  When I was five or six, I remember having seen of the one Great Hudson Valley UFOs (frequent sightings of massive, triangular ships in the sky in the 1980s that aroused international attention).  I was terrified, but also gratified.  Now people would understand how weird the world truly was. 

My parents insist they have no recollection of this object and it does seem like the sort of thing that would stick out in one's mind.  That experience, especially how baffled people are when I mention this sighting, was seed enough to inspire this book.

My upcoming book, Flies to Wanton Boys, marries the aftershocks of Artificial Gods and Danse Macabre.  The daemons—the catch-all term for those children of mythology that quietly roam the earth—are growing more brazen in their interference with humanity and they attract the worst kind of attention.

2.   Did you start with the main character, the world or the overarching concept?
The Night's Dream universe had its origins in my idly wondering if the world might not be much stranger than we are led to assume.  Most people are unaware because it is safer to ignore it.  Those who are aware of the actual composition of the world often go insane, if they are not first bled dry by a vampire or spirited away to a fairy realm that no longer has residents.  (It is named in honor of Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” where fairies torment and confuse human beings who are never any the wiser.)

I sketched out the rough idea, but it was nothing more than world-building.  I needed a protagonist who could realistically inhabit and surmount this world, but everyone I tried to insert felt wrong and the story wouldn't coalesce around them.  Around this time, a friend of mine killed himself.  I coped by writing a story about it (“So It Passed,” which was featured in my anthology Find What YouLove and Let It Kill You), which I submitted to my local newspaper's short story competition.  It was rejected outright, lacking both cheeriness and horse-riding, but I couldn't get the main character out of my mind.  I slipped her into the world and suddenly it bloomed.  This shy, damaged young woman who retreats into fantasy trying to cope with a death was exactly the sort who could succeed in the universe I created. 

 3.   Panster or Plotter? Or in between?
I keep my plots loose to give my characters room to grow and tell the stories they need.  I tried to be more rigid with Artificial Gods, but found that my protagonist Jasmine refused to submit to certain plot points.  This ended up being a crucial aspect of her character and made her story much deeper than I initially intended.  When I went to revise for my revelation, I found that it was well foreshadows already.      

4.   Are you a fan of writing contests?
I would be if I had been more successful.  Honestly, I see a lot of people either pander relentlessly to the flavor-of-the-week or treat them as a popularity contest, neither of which is assuring that the winner is a particularly good or marketable story.  But, again, I might say this because I have never won first place. 

5.   How did you find your agent? How many query letters did you send?
I am currently unagented.  I have had professional flirtations with a few literary agencies, but they tend to involve three months of them emailing me and wanting more and more information, then either going completely silent or closing up shop.  Double Dragon Publishing did not require the intercession of an agency and have been unfailingly above the board, though I would not be averse to an agent now that I am soon to have a fourth book out.

In total, I think I have probably sent out a hundred query letters over the years and have gotten back perhaps thirty form rejections.    

6.   What's the best marketing tool you've found so far?
I have become increasingly active on Tumblr (  It allows me a more personal connection with my fans and it's great when I'm reblogged by strangers.

7. What do you like best about your mc?
Jasmine was a new experience for me.  Shane in WeShadows and Danse Macabre is a dreamer and thinker.  Presented with the uncanny, Shane wanted to understand it and her place in reference to it.  Jasmine wanted to avoid.  She was a popular girl in high school entirely because she was pretty and active in clubs.  Though she is in college, the paranormal has no place in her conception of the universe.  Like most people in my universe, the urge to ignore is powerful.  It was tricky to work with someone who would just as soon have not been involved with the events of the book.  She wasn’t curious or adventurous about the supernatural, so I had to frame her avoidance as her motivation.  Thankfully, she had a more inquisitive younger sister to goad her along

8. What do you like best about your main antagonist?
Possibly that there isn’t one, at least not a fixed one.  It is much more man-against-himself and man-against-nature.  There are a few characters who act antagonistic from the viewpoint of the main characters, but their motivations tend toward internal nobility; aside from the vampires in Danse Macabre, no one has been explicitly evil.  Even with the vampires, it was more characters acting without a superego, the part that makes us want to function as social creatures and not sociopaths.  One of the main villains there still had enlightened self-interest that could masquerade almost as a conscience.  I am a fan of nuance.  

9. Please share any upcoming news and links so readers can follow you, find your books, etc.
I have just posted an anthology of my shorter works to Amazon, called “Find What You Love and Let It Kill You.”  Given the subject matter, I am making the ebook free on the Kindle on Valentine’s Day (as well as during No Such Convention, from February 21-23).

About Thomm:
Thomm Quackenbush (1980-present) was born in Beacon, New York. He is a novelist and teacher in the Hudson Valley, where much of his Night's Dreams series takes place. He has been published by Double Dragon Publishing, Cave Drawing Ink, The Journal of Cartoon Over-Analysis, Broken City Magazine, The Toucan, and Paragon Press. 
Amazon Author's Page |
Double Dragon Publishing Author's Page |
Facebook Fan Page | Goodreads |
Shelfari Author Page

Tumblr | Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment