Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I always wanted to be in show business. I used to always consider myself an actor, because I was in the theatre by age 14. I grew up working in an old vaudeville theatre as a stage manager, actor, singer and dancer. To give myself steady income I ended up for a number of years working with the coroner’s office. I wasn’t anything like my family. I wasn’t interested in all the “normal” things in life, get married, get a job, work, eat, have kids, vacation, work, die. I mean I did do all of those things (except the die part I haven’t done that yet, except on stage, does that count?). But being creative always called to me. I’ve had a few jobs from working crime scenes, to owning my own theatre, video store clerk, to being an extra on movies and meeting celebrities. Meeting Exorcist actress Linda Blair was a big deal- because I had, had a crush on her since 1975. Corresponding with Benny Hill tops my list of, Yeah Baby Yeahs!
What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job as well? This is it. I resigned a job as a managing director of a company to pursue this full time. I work at it more than 40 hours a week.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
First started writing around the age of 9 after a trip to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. I thought since there were so many people visiting the haunted mansion they would probably buy my ghost story if I wrote one. I did write it but I think it was only like two pages. No one bought it. I wrote from that point on. I usually was inspired by the most recent movie I saw at the cinema. My first novel took 2 years to write but I didn’t publish for another 10 years. That was 11 years ago.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
My first novel was an adventure romance set in the 1920’s of old Hollywood and England. It was an exercise in catharsis. I wrote it to help me get over a relationship. My current novel is in the paranormal/horror genre. One I always loved most. It goes back to The Disney Haunted Mansion, I always believed in ghosts, the supernatural, and of course after The Exorcist came out in 1973, I learned there were such things as demons. I had always been told there was a devil. But now here was something really scary…you mean demons can take me over!
Anyway, I always knew I wanted to write the kind of books that would scare me.
Where do you get your ideas?Everywhere. Sometimes it’s just something someone says. Or I will be watching a program on television and think, oh that would make an interesting story. In fact last month on Twitter, a book blogger friend of mine tweeted something she was scared of and that struck me just right. Oh that’s interesting, so I have a book in the wings now thanks to her paranoia.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?Oh my god I certainly do. It used to get to me so much that it could force me to abandon a project. However, since I took writing on now as a full time job, I’ve learned to deal with my writer’s block, by recognizing it and saying to myself, “okay, you’re stuck, take notes or do some research.” That has been a big help. Sometimes it helps me too much, because I end up plotting another book.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?I don’t outline. I read just today Stephen King doesn’t either. He likes to discover. I’m like that as well. There are times I haven’t a clue what is going to happen next. I have an idea of where I want things to go, but the road I travel to get there, may have a lot of detours. Sometimes my characters surprise me and become something else. I began writing a character in An Apple For Zoe, who I thought was simply going to be this transitional character basically to get us past a scene, but in the second paragraph she is met by a military guard and addressed as Commander. I stopped and thought. Why did I just do that? I had no clue why, but I went with it and followed the path and she became a very powerful character in book one.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?I read a lot of Stephen King as a teenager. Jay Anson’s “The Amityville Horror” really surprised me and scared me. I read it in 1978 when it was released and thought wow an actual real ghost story. Also Robert Graysmith’s Zodiac. That book scared me a great deal. Because I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, which was just outside of the Bay Area, where Zodiac killed. Scared me because he’s never been caught. I remember our schoolteachers telling us as kids to go straight home after school. I remember our teacher being afraid, because he said he would kill a school bus full of children. I love to read true crime.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Learning to understand rejection letters. I didn’t care about anything except getting it published. Leaping directly into POD, which then was just another version of vanity publishing. This is a double-edged sword for people who tackle this. Because there is the stigma, you’re not a good writer, you’re impatient, not proven, and you make all the other self-published people look bad. I personally knew a well-known romance author. In her 40’s she just decided one day, she was going to become a writer, and inside of a year she had an agent, a contract with a romance line and was winning awards. She liked, took pity on me and read some of my early plays. She was honest and showed me just some of my many typos and errors. I was insulted, became indignant and blew her off. That was RUDE of me.
Our pride can be worse than a bad guest at a dinner party. She told me the story of her editor and it infuriated me. Her editor said this:
“If I knew I was holding the next Gone With The Wind, I would lay down on the floor and beg it to not be true. I would read the book again and if I still knew it to be a bestseller, I would tell myself it absolutely is not and cannot be. Because it doesn’t deserve to be published.”
I was so so so mad!!! I thought this is the exact elitist attitude about NY Houses I despise. That only they decide who is good enough to be in their club. Only they can tell us what should be read and what shouldn’t.
But I missed her point. It was her, own way of filtering out the junk and finding the best. I see it now, and I agree to a point and then I cannot agree at all because that’s what I love about publishing today, we are all held accountable to ourselves. We can’t blame NY anymore. We don’t even need agents if we are savvy enough. My point is I did a lot of growing up between books. I like the writer I am today. I do not like the writer who I used to know.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
This one I can’t say enough Jen, get an editor! Editors are your lifeboats when you’re out there floundering. Don’t think you don’t need one or you can do it yourself…you are hurting your book more than you know.
For my current novel, I think I would have done more beta reads, before handing it over to my editor.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
This one is key when you talk about genre. You really need to know whom you are submitting to. I use Facebook as a base platform. Goodreads is a favorite, I love Goodreads. The one I’m ashamed to admit that made a difference for me is Twitter! I have been on the old Hate Train for Twitter since it’s inception, partly because I’m not keen on texting. My wife had to drag me, kicking and screaming into the world of texting. I grew so weary of people texting simply because they could. I thought why do I want to join Twitter. It’s just a bazillion people telling each other, about their nose picking, bathroom activities and Charlie Sheen. But I was wrong. Well I mean there are those who do that, but I keep myself connected to writers, readers, and book bloggers. And I’ve learned how valuable networking on Twitter is. I search out bloggers that are reading my genre and read their review policy! If I decide to submit to them, I ask for permission first. I don’t blindly send them something. Some people are not okay with cold submissions with attachments. Once they say they are open to my submission I follow up with book summary, cover pic and then we take it further from there as to what format we will deal in.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published? Not yet.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book? It is book two of the trilogy. I’m excited about writing it so I can find out what the hell is going on! Even I don’t know yet.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination? It’s a lot of both. This story is interwoven with actual fact and some events wrapped around my twisted imagination. I always wanted to write a book that involved the occult, things that just cannot be explained.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? I can’t reveal too much because the book is loaded with spoilers. I’ve sort of booby-trapped it every step of the way. To tell one thing kind of spoils something else. However, my favorite scene deals with a sub character that goes through an event that takes her a year to recover from the incident. For some reason I really felt for her, because she’s so strong a woman that to reveal a weakness is very difficult for her to face. I also very much enjoyed leaving a small surprise for anyone who has read my book “Silence”. You find out what became of a character from that book.
How did you come up with the title?
It has some symbolic meaning to the main character. Little did I know that Zoe was going to become one of the most popular names of this decade.
What project are you working on now? Will you have a new book coming out soon? I have a screenplay I’m obligated to finish that I’m half way through. Then I’m on to finish this trilogy. My goal is to finish this year. I am hopeful for a Late Summer release of Book Two, “An Apple For Zoe, The Wicked” and End of fall for book three, “An Apple For Zoe, The Damned”.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment? Grammar and punctuation are my arch enemies. It is my kryptonite. Being called on that is embarrassing, even after an editor has gone through it. Ultimately though that is all on me, I cannot pass that buck on to anyone else. My best compliments seem to revolve around my narrative and dialogue. I love to write dialogue. Comes from my days of writing plays for the stage.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?Write – write – write. Don’t be afraid to get criticized. Don’t let anyone tell you, that you can’t write. If you have a passion for it, a true passion, you go for it. Even if people tell you, you won’t ever make any money at it. What if Beethoven had stopped making music because he was deaf? Don’t fear failure, it comes to EVERYONE! Even Steven Speilberg has flopped.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans? I promise if you take this ride with me in regards to “An Apple For Zoe” by the end of the trilogy, I will answer every question and I won’t give you a crap ending. Outside of that, I read everything everyone writes to me. I like to interact with readers, I’m their biggest fan.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate always and forever.
The light side or the dark side? Dark side, but I have to turn the light on sometimes to find it.
If you were a superhero (or villain!) what would your power be? Would you wear a cape? Villain, they have all the fun, yes I’d have the power to make all women beautiful and all men shorter than me. My cape is very important. It covers the flap on the back of my pajamas.
Do you have deep dark secret? How about a shallow grey one? I once told Batman (Adam West) “To Shove a Bun Dude”. That’s a true story. I’m saving the full version for David Letterman though.
What does your main character think about you? Are you best buds or have you tortured them so much you’d run if you actually ever met?I can’t answer that as I’m currently in a Witness Protection Program.
What sort of Starbuck’s coffee would you order? Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare? Well I don’t do the Bucks anymore because Coffee Snobs irritate me with their stupid elitist orders. (California accent) Excuse me Peasant, you need to make me a double up my ass latte, because I’m so progressive, don’t you see my Birkenstocks and thousand dollar sunglasses, Look everyone I’m drinking Starbucks, I must be amazing in bed. Anyway you get it.
I make my own coffee at home, grind my own beans. I don’t go out much, can you tell?
Is there any food you refuse to eat? Bugs. I would have said dog food, but I’ve actually as a kid had some damn good Alpo.
Drink of choice?
Cinnamon hazelnut coffee and then later in the day Coke
If you could live off of chocolate would you? What kind? Flicks
What pets have graced your life? Only dogs, last one was the one who can never be replaced.
What do you think the coolest pet to have would be? I always wanted a bear after I saw Disney’s The Jungle Book when I was a kid.
If you could visit any world ever written about, where would you go? Hogwarts.
Don’t forget to follow on twitter! http://twitter.com/#!/AuthorThomasAmo
Check out Toms book here!:
Paperback Version on Amazon