Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of terror. He grew up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, but in 2001, left home to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his third tour in Iraq, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas where he now lives with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter. Thomas attended night school, with a focus on creative writing and history. In 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from UHCL. Thomas blogs at machinemean[dot]org where he reviews movies, books, and other horror related topics.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? To answer this I think it’d be fair to say that I did not wake up one morning and say, “You know what, I’m going to be a writer!” Nothing like that, and certainly not with the notion of doing it professionally. I think being writer, for me, has been a progression of different experiences. In grade school I enjoyed the ability to express myself and my horrifying adolescent feelings through flash fiction, short stories, and poems. Maturing into adulthood and joining the Army, I used poems to, again, express my emotions in a positive way. During college, I wrote for assignment, not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, but it wasn’t professional writing, it was school writing. When school ended, I had all these different ideas for stories and I was watching the news a lot and getting concerned about familiar historic trends, the banality of evil and the continuation of “othering.” I wanted to write professionally then to take on the responsibility of being a story-teller, to give warnings through characters and prose and situational plot.
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? I keep a loose schedule between writing and promotional tasks. As a rather unknown author, it’s important to play at part in the complete life of a book. I book times for social media, cross-promotion and my own promo activities. I typically write long hand at home, late at night, and transfer those notes to MS Word during the morning at my office. Throughout the day, I set time to do the marketing tasks.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I do. I think every writer does. The best thing that works for me is to take a step back. Reevaluate the purpose of the story, and if need be, walk away from the project. Never force the story. If I did, it wouldn’t feel natural. I write character driven stories, so if the character motivations do not make sense to me, I assume they will not make sense for my readers. In my style of writing, I have to know who my characters are, but I’m not going to know everything. A lot of what happens during writing is discovery. I have a notion of the plot, but not that outcome. I know where to dig, but not necessarily what I’ll find underneath.
4.Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story? I’m assuming by “panster” you mean something similar to what I said before. I like the word, excavator, actually. I “dig up,” as Stephen King noted in his book On Writing, fossils. The story is a fossil that must be carefully unearthed. While plotting may work for some, I feel it would hinder my process. The characters tell me who they are, not the other way around.
5.Are you traditionally or self-published? I’ve done both. I started out as a self-pub and quickly realized there was a lot that I wasn’t really good at, like marketing, design, editing, proofreading, formatting, etc. etc. And besides, as those meta-philosophers like to say, no person is an island. We need a community. The same could be said about writing and publishing. I went to Booktrope with my first novel as a re-pub. They are a traditional, self-hybrid and are very much dependent on individual participation. The business model sounds interesting and progressive with little to no up front costs, but in actuality, not very fulfilling. I think they’ve allowed some of their imprints to get away from them and are not helping on the marketing side. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I did not want to continue publishing with Booktrope. When I finished Subdue, I began shopping the story around, keeping my eye on traditional publishing. As luck would have, after many many many many submissions to other publishers and tons more rejections, I stumbled upon Limitless Publishing, LLC. They loved my story. I loved their business model, as a small press, and eventually signed a contract with them. Soon after, the Subdue story turned into two books, Dwelling and Emerging, under series name, Subdue.
6.What was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? If there is one piece of advice I could give to some up and comer it would be to never give up. I know that sounds cheesy or like a standard line everyone says, but it’s true. It breaks my heart when I see someone truly excited about their story, whatever it may be, and then through the process of getting the work out there, they become bummed out and end up giving up on the whole thing altogether. Publishing is a tedious business that puts a lot of strain and stress on the author, more so if they’re going it alone. Like most things in life, or as those spiritualist meta-thinkers say, no one is an island. We need a community. The same could be said about writing. Even if you really like to self-pub, that’s okay too, but you need a base. You need to make connections. Build a circle of fellow authors and cross-promote each other. You can share advice or just talk things though. It helps, trust me.
7.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? It feels very rewarding seeing the final product. To hold a paperback with your name and your ideas inside. The feeling is…well, it’s hard to describe. Amazing, for sure. The best feeling, besides holding our own book, is when someone you don’t know personally reads your work and “gets it.” Recently, a book reviewer and blogger read my new book, Dwelling. He emailed me to let me know he not only loved the story, but that it touched him emotionally. I was floored. When I write something, of course I get it, but what about the other person? Will my audience get it? When it works, it works and it feels fantastic. But it is equally important also to remember, you didn’t do it on your own. Even if you self-pub, you’ve got moral and technical support, friends and family that’ve helped you along the way. Don’t forget to thank them too.
8.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us, including genre and targeted audience? Absolutely, the book is called Dwelling and is part of a new series called, The Subdue Series. The genre is thriller/dark fiction. The book is about five inseparable teenagers, now grownups torn apart by war, drawn back together to try to salvage their childhood friendship. But as things tend to go in horror stories, the happy reunion is short-lived, the idyllic home in Jotham, Texas holds secrets. Dark and unimaginable horrors manifest within the depths of this American Nightmare. When something alien subdues the mind, who can tell friend from foe? These friends soon realize there is something more sinister at work, something far more dangerous than any of them had ever encountered before. My book, I think, is unique because it uses strong characters and situational driven story-telling to talk about the psychological horrors of the Iraq War (OIF), the aftereffects of war on not only returning soldiers, but also spouses. Covering themes with PTSD. Anger. Guilt. Depression. And suicide. I imagine my audience to be anyone interested in reading a story about postwar without the decorum of heroism.
9.What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) Cross-promote. Do not rely entirely on Facebook to sell books. If you do, you will be greatly disappointed. Facebook is filled with family and friends who you can be guilted into buying a few copies, but what your aim ought to be is building your brand and then building an, as you said, fan-base. How do you do this? To be honest, I’m no expert. I can say what has worked for me thus far. Making connections. Attending Facebook events, and when you attend these events, please do not post after post links on how to buy your book…ugh! Boring! Try this trifecta during your next event: trivia, giveaways, and genre questions, such as: “What’s your favorite scary movie? People who attend these events love to talk about the genre, not just to read about the book you want them to desperately buy. Keeping a blog and author site is also important. The trap, however, is when all you do is promote your books on those sites. Who likes that person at the party who constantly talks about themselves? No one. So why do that on social media? Or on your blog? Or anywhere? I’m not saying, don’t promote yourself; what I’m saying is become a genre provider. For me, I work in dark fiction, so I promote other works in my genre and when I do promote myself, I try not to overdue things. If you’re into fantasy, talk about whatever it is about fantasy that you love. If you like science-fiction, talk about new things in that area. For me, I review horror books, movies, I do other author interviews, and so forth. If you talk only about yourself, you’ll more than likely become either unfriended, or worse, unfollowed.
And above all, show some humility. Be gracious to other authors. Don’t be overtly political.
10.How long on average does it take you to write a book? Depends, really. I’d say on average, I can do a first draft within 3-4 months. Second and third drafts, mostly between 2-3 months, 3 being the longest. After that it goes off to the publisher and eventual scheduling with an editor. Sometimes things happen faster.
11.Tell us about the book cover/s, how the designing came about, whether you had much input etc. With my new publisher, they have a lot of control over the design. However, they do have a form in which the author can give his/her thoughts on what the cover looks like in their head and the design team will do their best to make that happen. Both Dwelling and Emerging were designed by the fantastically talented RedBird Designs. We did have some difficulty with the cover for Emerging, book 2 in the Subdue Series. In the end, they came up with a very haunting looking cover. And I was very happy with the outcome.
12.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? Away from day-job work and writing, I spend most of my free time with my family. I have a little girl who has lots of energy. Houston is a big place with lots of fun things to do. The wife and I purchase season tickets to the Houston opera house, every other year. We bowl sometimes with friends. And we spend time with her parents. When my girls are asleep, I typically stay up late watching movies, normally horror movies from just about any era you can imagine. As I said before, I’m a genre provider as well as a writer, so I like to review movies and discuss themes going on in my industry.
LIMITLESS PUBLISHING: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/thomas-flowers/
WELLING by Thomas S. Flowers
Subdue Series, Book 1
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2015
: : : SYNOPSIS : : :
A group of inseparable childhood friends are now adults, physically and psychologically devastated by war…
A horrifying creature emerges from a sandstorm just before Ricky Smith dies in battle. Forced to leave base housing, his widow Maggie buys a home on Oak Lee Road in the town of Jotham. Maggie is isolated in the historic house…and disconcerted by strange clicking sounds inside the walls.
Jonathan Steele attempts to drink the painful past away…
Jonathan was wounded in that fateful battle and now suffers from PTSD. He wants to put the nightmare behind him, but when Ricky’s ghost appears with cryptic warnings about Maggie’s house, he begins to question his sanity.
Bobby Weeks is a homeless veteran struggling with a lycanthropic curse…
Afraid of bringing harm, Bobby stays far away from those he loves. But after a full moon, a mysterious woman approaches him and reveals a vision about a house with a sinister presence, and he realizes staying away might no longer be an option.
Minister Jake Williams lost his faith on the battlefield…
While Jake will do anything to reconnect with God, he turns to vices to fill the religious void. But a church elder urges him to take a sabbatical, and a ghost tells him to quit the ministry, and his life is more out of control than ever.
When Maggie wakes in a strange subterranean cavern, she can’t deny her home harbors dark secrets. Desperate, she sends letters to her old friends to reunite in Jotham, and events conspire to draw them all to the house…unaware of the danger awaiting them.
The friends have already been through hell, but can any of them survive the evil dwelling beneath the House on Oak Lee?