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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Thomm Quackenbush

The original version of this interview on Kick Start Your Heart Romance was removed.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I've been publishing with Double Dragon since 2010, though I don't recall a time where I didn't write almost as much as I read. Fantasy tends to weave itself into my stories, no matter my initial intentions. I went through a long period in elementary school where I incorporated gray aliens into everything artistic and wrote a series of short stories featuring a man uncovering and then intermarrying with Bigfoots, who were actually just people in furry suits. I can't imagine what my teachers then thought of me, but it was apparently enough that word was sent ahead of me to my middle school that I was to be recruited for anything literary. I assume they hoped to redirect my talents toward what they saw as more legitimate sorts of writing.
Early in college, I started keeping a personal blog, describing the undoubtedly dull and angst-filled events of my life. Though it earned me more than my share of hand-slaps from people who did not feel that their lives were fodder for public discourse, it made me a far better writer by allowing me to divest myself of all those bad habits and imitations one picks up through voracious reading.

2. Tell us about your newest release. Feel free to include a short excerpt/blurb.
Artificial Gods is the story of two sisters who are plagued by UFOs that most everyone else seems to ignore, aside from the members of an abduction support group. I want to be clear that this is not a science fiction novel, but instead approaches the phenomena as something mythic, akin to hag attacks or being lost in fairyland. Aliens are the popular face of something far older, but the antecedents are easily found in mythology.
At its heart is the relationship between the two sisters, Jasmine and Chrys, as they navigate what their sisterhood really means on the cusp of being adults.
Blurb:All Jasmine wanted was a calm summer in Pine Bush. When she sees a UFO her first night home from college, she is willing to brush it off as swamp gas reflected off Venus, until two men arrive at her door to harass her into silence about a picture she did not take. Soon she realizes Men in Black may be the least of her worries and that ignoring the Grays and their plans for her will only embolden them. If she doesn't figure out why she is so interesting to aliens, Men in Black, and a mysterious man who seems to brush off harm, she may not have an autumn to look forward to.

3. How do you deal with rejection letters?
When I first submitted We Shadows to publishers, I received so many rejection letters that I started putting them on the refrigerator. The woman I lived with at the time found this morbid, but I figured each letter was one step closer to my fated acceptance letter.
That said, when I first received my acceptance from Double Dragon, I blinked at it for half a minute, thinking, "Well, that's a very odd way of rejecting someone..."

4. Where do you draw the line on erotic content/language?
I tend to refrain when I can. It is not that my characters do not have sexual sides. My second book, Danse Macabre, deals with one character deciding to have sex for the first time and another character burdened by a lover who is jealous of her sexual (but not particularly romantic) past. It is at least unwise for an author to try to ignore that sex happens and may be crucial to the story. I still prefer enter the scene just before it happens or just after and leave the particulars to my readers imagination, since plot often (but far from always) grinds to a halt when under the bed sheets. As with horror, what you imagined will almost always be better than what I can describe for you.

5. What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?
For Artificial Gods, I gently infiltrated a UFO support group in the town where the story takes place, Pine Bush, NY. Fortunately, there are a lot of transient people who attend their meetings, so my occasional appearance likely did not seem too curious to anyone there. I went on a few sky-watches with them for the sake of getting material, though I didn't spy anything more unusual than airplanes in the distance (which a couple of members insisted were badly cloaked alien crafts owing to the "lights being all wrong"). Most of the people I met were very normal while dealing with unusual circumstances, which is something I tried to convey in my novel, though my protagonist is utterly skeptical at first.

6. What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a panster?
I tend to write by the seat of my pants until a character does something too unexpected. Then, I have to reread and figure out just why they are refusing to do what I had been planning for them and revise accordingly.
This shouldn't be construed to say that I don't have an outline. I have Word files gathering digital dust for sequels I have yet to begin properly. I will occasionally happen upon some nugget of idea in my reading that will need to be woven into a sequel, so I will jot it down and forget about it. As such, when I decide to begin a new book, I tend to have thirty pages of notes to help direct my fingers.

7. Where do you find inspiration?
Increasingly, my books seem to borrow equal parts from my past - both child and adolescent traumas and strange things I felt the need to do - and historical eccentricities. With Artificial Gods, I was nearly done with a first draft before realizing that an antagonist I had created was believed to be real in some occult quarters, so I bolstered what I truly believed was my own creation with reported facts. There is also a dusting of science underpinning some of my plots. The clash of vampires in Danse Macabre owes a lot more to what happens in a food web with too many predators than anything Bram Stoker would have written.

8. What tips would you give others to overcome writer's block?
I always have a few projects I can work on, generally blog posts and book reviews. As long as my fingers are moving, I will be blessed with ideas.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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