Sunday 6 December 2015

INTERVIEW: Thomas S Flowers: Part One

Welcome to Part One of Confessions of a Reviewers’ interview with a bright new star, and one I predict will be shining for a very long time, Thomas S Flowers!

If you don’t know a lot, or indeed anything, about Thomas then read on. In this interview Thomas was kind enough to take the time out to give us some detailed and, very candidly honest answers to all the questions I threw at him.

This is probably the most brutally honest and emotionally charged interview I have done to date.

In Part One, tonight, we find out some general information about Thomas and his writing and inspirations. In Part Two, tomorrow night, Thomas will give us some specifics on his new book, Dwelling (Subdue Book 1) and he also takes on the mighty Ten Confessions.

On night three as always, I will be posting my review of Dwelling.

Nothing left to say other than go grab some nibbles and a drink and sit back, but most of all……enjoy!

COAR - Welcome Thomas. Let’s start by telling everyone a bit about yourself in general?

TSF - I’m a husband and father first. I’m a writer second.

COAR - You come from a military background and have served yourself. How do you go from that to a career as a writer? Have you always had a writer in you? Is it something you could indulge in while overseas?

TSF - When I was a kid, I indulged in writing short stories, most of which were kinda dark and moody, but it was also adolescence. A part of being a well-developed teenager, I think, is being able to express your emotions and the best way, in my opinion, is through art. When I joined the service, I started writing poetry. I still have this large sketch book filled with poems I wrote while overseas, some of which are from my time in Iraq. To answer your first question, I do not think I went into the service with writing in mind, though my experiences have greatly benefited my love for writing.

COAR - When you left the military you went to university and graduated with a Bachelor in Arts in History. Why History? I would have thought you would have gone for Creative Writing or something like that?

TSF - I did take a few creative writing classes and as luck would have it, some of my history class’s border lined on the creative. History is a subject I find fascinating. It is also a subject that, I think if we are to understand human nature, should not be taken lightly. My focus in school was on Nazi Germany, but not from a battlefield perspective, but rather on the people, the victims, survivors, perpetrators, and everyone else. I had never done a study like that before. It was very eye opening.

One of my favourite books from my time at UHCL was Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning. It’s a bit tedious, especially if you’re not used to reading complied data, but nevertheless, weaved within those pages is a history and a story of regular men, blue collar types, who did the unthinkable. My classes, and this book especially, effected my perspective and outlook on the capacity of evil, but how evil is not some caricature; it is a character, it has life and meaning. Just as Hannah Arendt spoke of during her coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial, there is a banality to evil, an ordinariness.

COAR - Do you have a boring “pay the bills” job as well?

TSF - I most certainly do. I work as a supervisor at a family owned chemical plant just north of Galveston. I landed here just after leaving the military. Working here, aside from putting food on the table and keeping the lights flickering, has helped improve my organizational skills. Keeping a schedule. Marketing. Professionalism. And team building. All these have helped in some form or another on my “other job.”

COAR - Take us through your process for a story. How do you start it and follow it through to the final product?

TSF - I’ve been called “traditional.” And maybe I am. I’ll let you be the judge. I start any story with a simple/basic notion of what I want to write. I start first with the characters, who are they. I don’t normally write anything down in great detail at this stage, it’s more of a brainstorming exercise. I typically jot a few notes down, especially if I’m doing research. Once I’ve got an idea of where or who I’m going to be talking about, I jump in. I start writing longhand. I believe longhand helps keep the creative flow moving without the tedious stop and edit of typing. Unless you’re disciplined enough, which I am not, typing can be a distraction to the stream of consciousness. My editing process starts when I begin typing. Not everything gets transferred. As part of the editing process, I consider this to be my second draft. After that, I go through the story again with a third edit. And sometimes even a forth.

After this, I find it’s beneficial to have an extra pair of eyes. I have a list of trusted “beta readers” who have helped me in the past. From here, as my betas return my story (betas do not proofread or edit, they simply read and jot notes for you, corrections or thoughts on the story itself, nothing more), I take in what they thought and see if changes need to be made. After this, it’s off to the publisher…and then comes the hardest part. Waiting. You have to wait. You cannot sneak your story out there. You need to be patient. And it’s bloody hard. Sitting on a story you want to share with the world is the hardest thing, I think, for a writer to do. But if you want a quality story and if you want it “out there” the right way, you have to wait.

After the publisher gets back with me regarding accepting a new book, depending on your publisher, you are assigned an editor, the editor reads and makes corrections and discusses the book and said corrections with you. After a couple rounds of this, it’s off to the proof reader for final corrections and to ensure proper formatting. And I’m not even mentioning the marketing team and cover design team, etc. etc. Needless-to-say, a lot goes in to publishing a book. Consider my own upcoming releases, both Dwelling and Emerging were started last year around this time. I finished my half of the process sometime in May, I think. I shopped it around. Was eventually picked up by Limitless Publishing. And went through their publishing process, which took a couple months, which isn’t bad. I’ve heard some publishers take a year to get your books out there.

COAR - How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you carry a notebook with you everywhere or write stuff on the back of your hand?

TSF - Notebooks. I have to jot notes or I’ll totally forget whatever it is I thought was such a grand idea. As mentioned before, my first drafts are always longhand anyway. For everything else, I keep a calendar for deadlines and marketing related items. And all my notebooks and calendar for whatever project I’m currently working on is kept in my briefcase which I lung between work and home.

COAR - Giving the fact some of your characters have been caught up in war, can you tell us if any of the characters in your books are based on people you have come across in your life or maybe even yourself?

TSF - What are stories if not a mirror in which we can observe ourselves and the world around us? Dwelling is very much a story with a mirror trained on my own experiences, my almost seven years in the U.S. Army and three combat tours to Iraq. A lot of the emotion comes from the dark places in myself I hide from everyone, except for maybe my wife, who has been exceptionally patient. And I also pulled from perspectives of people I know, men and women I’ve served with, talked with, had to “talk down.”

I also put myself in a perspective I had never experienced, the one who waits at home, the wife or husband who never really knows if their partner is safe or alive. It’s a dreadful feeling to imagine, having a part of yourself, someone you love greatly and are connected with out there in some dangerous place, constantly at threat.

In Dwelling, I wanted to explore the post war mythos. What America expects isn’t always the reality. The American Dream isn’t always what we get. The dream is infested. Maggie is based on the “one at home.” She is devastated and angry at the loss of her husband. She retreats back to a “simpler time,” so to speak. Johnathan, Bobby, and Jake are the central veterans in the story, each “dealing” with post war life in their own way, facing their own demons, and making their own choices. Bobby is probably the most symbolic of all the characters. The “uncontrollable beast” within. Homelessness, but out of choice and not circumstance. He believes he needs to stay away from civilization because of the threat he poses. Bobby is probably my favourite from the series, mostly because he is a walking talking howling metaphor.

COAR - I can’t imagine it would be “fun” having to work in a war zone but what would you say you enjoyed most about it? Would you ever do it again?

TSF - The comradery is the one thing I loved most about it. We all experienced the same “suck,” living in close counters, risking our necks together. Sharing terror, I guess, is a rather intimate thing. As for doing it all again…well, I think under the right circumstances, I would…things would have to be rather dire. In my current state, I’m not sure how much good I could do, unless I could somehow “turn off the switch,” so to speak. I can imagine doing it again, I’d have to start smoking again, I’m sure. Though, I’d be terrified to see what comes back, to find what’s missing, what was left behind.

COAR - Having a look at your website (link), you seem to like your films and reviewing them. How would you feel about getting one of your books adapted for the big screen? Would you be strict on how it was done?

TSF - I think I’d be flattered to see one or all of my books adapted for the big screen. Though I wouldn’t be strict about it, I would like, however, to be included in some way in the creative process. I understand the mediums of prose and screen are two different beasts. The adaption has to become its own story, in a way.

COAR - I have now read one of your novels and also one of your short stories. Both fantastically well written. Which do you prefer writing and why?

TSF - I like both for different reasons. Shorts allow you to experiment without having to commit to anything prolonged. While novels allow you to explore in greater detail, places and people. Shorts only allow for a certain amount of characterization.

If I had to choose, I’d lean toward short stories.

COAR - What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?

TSF - The “other” side, the marketing/promoting aspect. I love writing, but thinking and often over-thinking on the notion people will read and judge my work still in some way terrifies me. I’m learning as I go on the whole marketing half of writing. The best method for me, thus far, is to create a circle of fellow authors and bloggers and reviewers, helping promote one another and collaborating. As for the writing aspect, the middle edits can get a bit tedious, and sitting on the story, waiting on the publisher, can also be nerve raking.

That’s it for Part One of the interview. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow night for Part Two when Thomas gives us more on his writing, talks about the new book Dwelling and answers The Ten Confessions.

This is one part of an interview you do not want to miss!

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