Thomm Quackenbush is a novelist, essayist, and teacher in the Hudson Valley. He has been previously published by Cave Drawing Ink, The Journal of Cartoon Over-Analysis, Broken City, and Paragon Press. He is the webmaster of http://xenex.org, where is posts his writing. He hardly ever touches ghosts anymore, despite what his books may insist.
What inspires you to write?
I tend to be inspired by the strangeness of history and the natural world, to say nothing of a childhood filled with seeking out ghosts and UFOs. From the moment I could read, the content of those books tended to be classed as strange. By second grade, I could tell you the best way to attract and keep a unicorn and at least three synonymous named for Bigfoot. I could not manage to learn the times tables, though, until my reading time was threatened.
Now, I tend to write at least a few hours a day, when at all possible, though I admit to having frantic bouts of inspiration where I turn out 6,000 words in one sitting.
Tell us about your writing process.
My process is still evolving, mostly because I have been too stubborn to accept good advice until I discover it on my own.
At the moment, I am writing the final scenes for Flies to Wanton Boys, the next book in the Night’s Dream series, in a spiral notebook using a carbonite pen that my girlfriend bought me for our anniversary. Despite being enamored with technology – albeit usually the most basic form of technology that will allow me to do what I need – I admit to being an absolute glutton for pens. This happens to be among the nicest I’ve ever held and can transition between black ink (main text), red ink (additions), and mechanical pencil (notes) with a twist. The benefit to paper and pen is that the writing flows more fluidly without the constant interruptions of Facebook and Tumblr. Even before I recommitted myself to the paper and pen method, I would write longhand on an old personal organizer because it seemed as though I find different levels of my story when I am not typing.
Every night, I compile all of my notes and type them up. Of course, I don’t simply fire up Microsoft Word on my shiny laptop. I use a several year old Asus Eee mini-notebook computer and WriteMonkey. (If you are a writer and you don’t have WriteMonkey, download it now. It blacks out the entire screen, except for the green text you type. It doesn’t tell me what is misspelled or if my grammar is poor. That comes later.) It is simply a matter of getting the words into the computer.
Occasionally, I revise or refine a little as I’m typing, but this is mostly an exercise in transcription. However, as I do not trust computers in the best of circumstances, I save my file at the end of every paragraph and that text file is automatically uploaded to my Dropbox and disseminated to the cloud and my main laptop.
After I have a full – but by no means good – draft finished, I convert it to a mobi file and read it on my Kindle Keyboard as though it is a book I am being asked to review. I tend to find dozens of mistakes that I somehow missed when reading it on my laptop screen.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
As of last night, I can actually say I have gone so far as to dress up as my characters to try to block out scenes with them.
My characters tend to be particularly loud when I am driving, showering, or trying to sleep. In other words, when I am least inclined to have the ability or interest to write. However, I do my best to pull over to the side and scribble on napkins, get the living room soggy, and lose an hour of sleep, respectively. Some of my best work from my characters come when they are inconveniencing me.
What advice would you give other writers?
The advice I wish I had listened to on We Shadows was to finish what I started before editing (I “perfected” a lot that got cut for the final version) and to understand that a professional editor praising my vocabulary meant that I was placing showiness over content.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I found Double Dragon on something of a bet. On Facebook, I had been arguing with a friend about electronic publishing. She came down firmly against it because she is old school and saw it as easy to pirate. I said that I would not mind minor piracy if it meant I was more easily accessible to my readers. At this point, I had been kicking around the manuscript for We Shadows for years, accruing my share of rejections. I decided to put my manuscript where my mouth was and submit to the biggest electronic publisher I could find, though I was pleased to note that Double Dragon offered both print and audiobooks as well.
A few weeks later, I was shocked to find an acceptance letter in my mailbox. At first, I couldn’t comprehend it and thought, “Well, that’s a weird way to reject someone…” They’ve since published the sequels Danse Macabre and Artificial Gods and contracted the film rights for We Shadows.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I’m optimistic that it will continue to grow. Though I love my literally thousands of print books – a home without a library is like a body without a soul – I find my Kindle to be a wonderful tool. I admit to getting a lot more read on there, especially when I am proofing and critiquing other people’s work.
I have been the subject of piracy more than a few times and that is dispiriting, but that is just the nature of the beast today. The internet has allowed smaller presses to compete and attract attention. I hold no illusions that, thirty years ago, my series might have been ignored. Instead, I have been the headliner at No Such Convention, I had encountered fans at parties. Even if a few people steal my books, the majority have been more than wonderful enough to compensate.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
paranormal fiction, contemporary fantasy, young adult
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print