IndieView with Thomm Quackenbush, author of Flies to Wanton Boys

How long did it take you to write it? My books always start halfway through writing the last one, so I imagine the first notes to it were set down in early 2013, though the bulk of the initial draft was done during that November’s National Novel Writing Month. What are you working on now? Odd business model. I just take dictation. If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences? After Danse Macabre, I tried to interest agents in my books, but it is hard to pitch them on a series that isn’t selling wildly enough for them to have solicited me. I just take dictation. Aside from buying a writer’s books, talking about and to them and telling your friends is one of the best things you can do for us. I have some ideas that have gestated for years. I will be months before I believe I could interest someone else. For my anthologies, it has been a combination of my photographs, my wife’s design, and Aciel Samael’s smoky, demonic art. Now, I listen to piano music – Chopin is back in the mix, along with Yann Tiersen – but only sporadically. He was already on the edges, but there was a purity and humor to having him wander around with ghost-hunting equipment and skepticism while his roommate and friends had fought off a vampire infestation and were now figuring out how to handle an angel with suspicious motives. There are too many supposed indie publishers who exist purely to rip-off unwary writers who are eager to say they are published. However, Shane wants nothing to do with him, instead trying to ferret out her own via research, a Heavenly weapon, an alternative rock band, and a trip through Gideon’s heinous past. I submitted to more established publishers with a greater portion of the yardage in bookstores, but fell through the cracks or would hear from them literally three years later that they were going to pass. Lyrics distract me, but I wrote most of it while sitting in a Panera, so they also kept out surrounding conversation. I’ve sold decently at events, but I want to do considerably more. It is a hard road to walk. Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself? Do you listen to music while you write? Valente, Tom Robbins, and – perhaps regrettably and inevitably given my genre – Anne Rice. There are a number of prestigious indie publishers that truly put themselves out there, making sure they are publishing only the best books and put some of their budget toward publicity. During my National Novel Writing Month project last year, I tried to have a more traditional outline, if just so I always had something on which I could write to get my word count up. I will likely self-publish it to give myself another thing to sell at panels and signings, since my local hardcore fans already own everything of mine they wanted to read. Also, please read your contracts carefully. It is better to try one’s hand at Createspace than to pay to give away one’s hard work. Beyond him, I have had flirtations with Kurt Vonnegut, Christopher Moore, Catherynne M. The only real feedback I ever saw was when I found a version of my first thirty pages on a pirate site, which I could tell by the vintage must have come from one of the agents. With Flies to Wanton Boys, I wanted to see if the momentum I had built up from the previous books would be enough to keep people’s attention. Thomm Quackenbush – 23 April 2018
The Back Flap
Gideon–a body thief whom Shane thought she had eliminated–escapes from his prison and seeks out the young woman who put him there. Until one reaches “The End,” I don’t think one can really know what the book is about. I am such a discovery writer that having all the beats plotted out made the work less exciting. Deron Douglas, founder of Double Dragon Publishing, designed the covers for We Shadows, Danse Macabre, Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys. Every time I would begin to write a scene where something might happen, she would slip out of it unscathed. We only steal lessons, either because someone does something better than we do or because their failings on the page remind us what not to do. If your publisher’s only contribution is to slap a cover on with light editing, putting out the print copies through Createspace, you might as well do it yourself. Beacon, New York, a city now far more in vogue with tourists from New York City than it was when I grew up there. Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors? I spent years submitting We Shadows before sending it directly to Double Dragon Publishing. It’s their world. Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished? Now that Google awards my efforts with an info box and Amazon Alexa knows who I am when you ask, I may be a real enough author that I could get away with it. I did this for Danse Macabre, listening to the music my focal characters might (Shane: Ingrid Michaelson, Frederic Chopin, and Julie London; Roselyn: Ani DiFranco and NOFX; Dryden: Nine Inch Nails and Tool). Where do you live now? Were there any parts of the book where you struggled? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping? It seems to be bad mojo. The Sandman series and, later, American Gods showed me how powerful contemporary fantasy could be. She took over as my target when she understood I wanted criticism more than compliments. Get your copy of   Flies to Wanton Boys from Amazon US or Amazon UK. Gideon realizes the Purging is back to finish the daemons, taking with it many humans as collateral damage. Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know? If so can you please describe it? After trying them out for size, I took my lessons and moved on. Was it a particular event or a gradual process? I don’t ever wish to be out-of-print. I shopped it around for a while with only tentative nibbles, and then offered it to Double Dragon. Where did you get the idea from? It’s better for all concerned that I give my characters the playground and watch how they play. Flies to Wanton Boys is the fourth book in the Night’s Dream series, beginning to more fully realize the connections between two nearly disconnected casts. Much of Artificial Gods was based on my experiences with member of the United Friends Observer Society in Pine Bush, New York, as they described their encounters with aliens and UFOs. In my prior book, Artificial Gods, one of the characters refused to become romantically interested. In total, it took a year and a half until I was satisfied with it. That said, I do sometimes borrow events and situations that happened to me, repurpose them to the story, and say they happened to one of my characters. We all know how important it is for writers to read. It’s their world. When I am doing my daily writing, I either have earplugs in or, if it is a first draft, set my version of WriteMonkey to make typewriter sounds to compensate for how quiet my keyboard is. About Publishing
Did you submit your work to Agents? I’m also working on an ambitious book focusing on four characters during a wedding that one of them crashes. I had the idea bouncing around in my head for a few years, so the outline came easily. Then an angel shows up, asking after the Purging, a plague that eradicated most supernatural beings nearly a century prior. If one doesn’t yet have a googleable name, this can be a daunting prospect. She was always asexual. Do you outline? I am also trying to write more short stories, but they keep taking a backseat to my novels. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you? I tried to make every chapter perfect before moving onto the next, which meant I would spend months overwriting something that I could write a first draft of in a few days now. It’s better for all concerned that I give my characters the playground and watch how they play. With luck, I have enough of a seed that I know the story the next time I am ready for it. What came easily? I went with Double Dragon because they were the first to offer me a contract. I offered input to all but Artificial Gods – he just sent me an email alerting me that it was now on sale – and I like that cover the best. I did not live here when I wrote two them, but was offered the teaching job here and have stuck around long enough to realize how off my geography turned out to be. How much I appreciate their attention. At this point, my style is my own. I am working now to correct this with interviews and book reviewers. It was not. I am revising stories of places I’ve traveled over the last twenty years, which is slow going based largely on the fact that the boy I was when I was in my late teens and early twenties was not a good writer. Ideas hound me and, if I am smart, I write as much as possible of it before it evaporates. I used to be my target audience, writing the books I wish existed when I was younger. A few wanted the whole manuscript. Distressed by his reemergence, Shane, reticent heir to Gideon’s stewardship, seeks to avoid him. Prolific, but I wouldn’t want to edit him if I didn’t happen to be his latest iteration. About You
Where did you grow up? Authors never really read for pleasure once they get serious. Indies must do far more self-promotion, so there is no room for shyness. A few are almost finished by the time I am tapped out. It fleshes out an antagonist/helper from the first three books and explains his part in averting a coming plague that threatens to wipe out the supernatural elements of the world, as it nearly did in 1918. I started it partly because my wife pitched the initial idea as a book she would want to read and partly because I do not want to be pinned down as only being capable of writing fantasy. If anything ever happened to Double Dragon, I would probably revise my books and throw them back up on Amazon until I could find a new publisher. If I can impress her, I know I have been successful and others will enjoy what I’ve done. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) I have tried not to borrow from people I know anymore, though that is often where my characters have started. It is on its early stages, but is just starting to get interesting to me. I self-published a few books of essays and short stories to give myself something else to sell at conventions and was overwhelmingly pleased with the experience, but it does require the author to do all the leg work of editing, design (or bribing someone to design for you), and publicity. When did you start writing the book? Red Hook, New York, which is coincidentally where several books in my series take place. Usually, the outline only comes about when I have a full draft and need to mark the sections in headings and subheadings so I can easily move them around in Word. I based a junkie character on a woman I knew, who a year later began spiraling down into addiction. (As point of fact, I am mentioned on TVTropes for a short horror story in one of my anthologies, but not for any of my novels.)
End of Interview:
For more from Thomm, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, and like him on Facebook. About Writing
Do you have a writing process? On top of that, I had stumbled upon stories of the Swine Flu of 1918, which was poised to kill off humanity before mysteriously vanishing, and knew I needed to slot that into my series to shore up the mythology and Gideon’s background. Several loved the pitch and asked for sample chapters. I can sketch out a situation and immediately watch them occupy it and banter until I better understand what has to happen. Other prospective authors have showed me contracts with clauses stating the publisher now owns the author’s copyright for eternity, that there is a $500 fee for leaving the publisher, or that the author must pony up $7000 for the first print run and promotion. My wife. Short stories tend to be a fine way to hook people into one’s longer works. I needed the clout of being a Real Author, which has opened doors in my life, including so impressing administration at an interview that I was offered the teaching job I hold to this day. I wrote and rewrote the decision and method of introducing one of my characters to the supernatural world. Editing as I go along is one reason it took so long to get We Shadows on shelves. I would have to weigh whether I would ever self-publish a novel now, but I would not have self-published We Shadows. Unfortunately, they either passed or went silent. I write toward and around the scenes I know will happen until they start to connect. I tend to know a few points with utter clarity and everything else is fuzzy. I had to cut sixty thousand words of supposed “perfection” to bring that book to a marketable length, and have thereafter sprinkled those subplots into the sequels. Do you have a target reader? What would you like readers to know about you? My series reaches a subsection of fantasy readers, but my writing deserves more eyes. My wife is also keen to point out that the second half of that book is stronger than the first, because I had given up on the idea of literary perfection and merely wanted to get the story out so I could begin editing. Shortly thereafter, a powerful flu strikes the impervious Shane. When I reached the end of the first draft, I realized that this was a crucial plot point and not one of her quirks. What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Neil Gaiman is the reason I have a career right now. I went back to revise with this in mind and I found that there were no scenes that contradicted her intransigence. About the book
What is the book about? Maybe the author in me saw her future before either of us could, but I’m sure people I know would prefer I not slaughter them on the page. Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it? However, I am presently reading Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy and dashed off a short story inspired by the sparseness of his prose, though not the content of his novels. Owing to a childhood in the paranormal section of libraries, I have an uncomfortably broad knowledge of legendary creepy-crawlies and occult rituals. I am blessed that, by this point, I know my character almost better than I know myself.