Coming to the Donor Center today is a young man with a desire to make his daddy scream and then take him to a carnival. It can be said that Lee Thompson is one friendly fellow with a trend of writing disturbingly terrific stories. He may be a stalker as well. The verdict is still out on that.
However, Lee Thompson, welcome to the Donor Center. The stick figure with the needle coming toward you is Herbie. Have a seat and no that’s not rust on that needle…
AJ: Who is Lee Thompson?
LT: I’m a boy who believes in magic and purpose even in the midst of tragedy and chaos.
I am not a father or a husband, though I do look forward to taking on those roles someday. Right now I’m just a worker ant—a landscaper by day and the scrawny kid who looks into shadows as dusk creeps closer and the day’s laughter and scratches riddle my flesh. I’m a thinker, a scribbler, and an interested observer. People fascinate and disgust me. Myself included. We can be so deep at one moment and so shallow the next moment. I think we are our own saviors and our own worst enemies, which tends to be a lot of fodder for my fiction.
I believe in taking risks. In hard work. In pushing ourselves and being honest with what we’re doing. I’m not scared of much, other than drowning—both literally and metaphorically. I’m pretty positive most of the time, but still have moments when I want to give up because I don’t think people really care one way or the other. But even if they really didn’t, I couldn’t stop, because I need to do this, these stories help me understand myself.
As far as getting work out there, I stand firmly with what Tom Piccirilli said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Don’t just publish, publish well.” It’s not my goal to give away a thousand stories for free. Validation for me comes with charging hard markets, doing the absolute best job I can on every story, learning to be patient, handling everything professionally, giving thanks where its due (and there is always a lot of it owed), and being true to who I am—the good and not so good. It’s been quite a year so far and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished with the help of those in my corner (a huge thanks to Shaun, Kara, Kevin, Ben, Jassen, Linda, Steve, and some others. I wouldn’t be lost without them, but it’d be much harder to find my way. Life itself would be less colorful without their friendships.)
Every little step forward is gigantic in the long run.
AJ: So much for the one small step for man mentality. Tom Piccirilli is a cool guy and I’ve seen the ‘don’t just publish, publish well’ statement before and I think he hits it on the head. Before we go on to expand on that thought, why don’t we explore something that is part of your philosophy that is along the same lines: Don’t just write, but write well. For you, Lee Thompson, how do you determine when one of your stories is written well?
LT: I know one of my stories is well written when it takes all of my nerve endings and twists them until I’m nothing more than a puddle on the floor, screaming. But I’ve yet to write a story that does that all the way through (and don’t know that I’d want to.) I like the build up and release, all of the quiet introspection, the whirlwind Chaos, the verbal sparring, foreshadowing and hidden purpose, things beyond my characters that they are always reaching for but may never completely grasp. And I know I’ve written well when the situations change my characters, for better or worse, by the end of the story. And sometimes they’re changed in opposing ways, one can end up a little more understanding, yet his heart be more set against something else. I like the complexities of personality, our personal conflicts. A story should work on two levels—outside and inside. I think it’s about finding that balance and showing enough from both sides of the curtain.
AJ: That’s a great way to look at writing–a way I have never looked at it before. Definitely something to think about, Lee.
Now, let’s step back a second. Let’s go back to your paraphrased quote from Tom Piccirilli: Don’t just publish, publish well. Am I correct in saying that you have been getting not only published, but published well?
LT: Thanks, AJ. Last year I gave some stories away to Horror Bound, House of Horror, and Twisted Tongue, but this year I wanted to start getting paid. Simple as that. I wanted to prove to myself that what I create is actually worth currency. In my mind this has been a great year for “publishing well.” I had work in Dark Recesses, which I’d been trying to crack for almost six months. I used a pen name (because I helped read subs for them on their re-launch) too and it was fun when they sent the acceptance for “At Least the Dead,” because I had to tell them who I really was and have the name on the contract changed. LOL.
My story “Daddy Screamed With Us” (that was probably my first piece of work you’ve read and critiqued, right, AJ?) is on Horror Mall through Darkside Digital. It was the #3 bestseller in April, alongside some fantastic writers like the previously mentioned Tom Piccirilli.
My story, “When Crows Sing Sweetly Bitter Music,” is also up on a Horror Mall store, called The Bag and The Crow, who also make awesome tee-shirts. The owner, Jassen Bailey, is one helluva cool guy. They also have great stories by Wrath James White and Sheldon Higdon, plus more to come.
And my story “A Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky,” is coming out in limited-edition through Tasmaniac Publication’s Festive Fear: Global Edition. And yeah, I’m in this with my hero too. LOL. Pretty wild for me, and has been one of my goals for the past year. Steve Clark, the publisher of Tasmaniac, is awesome. And he makes wonderful novellas by Tom Piccirilli (I swear I am not stalking that guy), Gary Braunbeck, Simon Clark, Steve Gerlach, Brett McBean, and others, too. Great stuff.
I also have things I can’t talk about yet because I’m waiting to make sure the contracts are signed, the production is started, and that nothing falls through. On top of writing though, I am planning to do an exclusive invite anthology called “We All Fall Down,” with one of my partners in crime, Kara McElhinny (Yes, we have an actual organization–Shaun Ryan is our get-a-way driver–and you have to have a special ‘badge’ to get in. Hehe.) Kara is amazing, always coming up with terrific ideas, and her enthusiasm is contagious. I’m proud to be working on this with her. We have an interesting concept, and a great approach, and will start tidying it up to sell in spring 2011.
AJ: “Daddy Screamed with Us’ is a great story (and yeah, I believe it was the first one of yours that I critiqued). I also remember the Dark Recesses story very well, you sneaky bastard.
If Tom Piccirilli is reading this, don’t believe Lee–he is stalking you. I have proof…
You mention Shaun Ryan, who a lot of folks don’t know about, but he’s a terrific guy and one of the best ‘unknown’ writers that I know. I am definitely a fan of his. Has Shaun taught you as much about writing as he has me?
LT: LOL. Thanks. You, Shaun, Kevin, and a couple others really gave me confidence and helped me out with “Daddy Screamed With Us,” as I kept lurching forward, trying to get my legs under me. And yes, Shaun is a terrific guy and one helluva writer. You hear about people “exploding on the scene” from time to time, and Shaun will probably seem like one of those people in the next few years, but he didn’t just explode, he’s putting his time in, growing, honing his craft, refining his stories and the messages they carry. And it’s awesome to see. I’ve told him before, and this isn’t a dig on any of my other writer friends, but Shaun has the ability to go far, very far, because he’s not limited by genre and he’s comfortable with that. It’s all about the characters for him, probably because most of the people in his life are characters too. And he’s a character himself. LOL.
To answer your question, I don’t know what he’s taught you so there is no comparison in what we’ve learned from him, but it has been an enormous amount of knowledge he’s sent my way, and I’m still grasping at some of it. He’s been my cornerstone and mentor since a short time after I started writing short stories. He’s a true friend. Like a kickass older brother.
AJ: Yes, Shaun is like a kick ass older brother. He’s also someone you’d want to take into a fight with you (as long as he’s on your side).
When you speak of Shaun putting his time in and honing his skills, you’ve put your time in as well. Your name is beginning to shape up as a person to watch for in the next few years. With that said, seeing your name with the likes of Piccirilli has to be a huge high for you. How does it make you feel being alongside some of these fine writers?
LT: It is ungodly awesome. Like sleeping with the girl of your dreams, and then finding out she’s in love with you to boot. Having my work appear aside Tom Piccirilli, Tim Curran, and some of the others I’m bunched in with has been a goal of mine for the past year, and to be honest I thought it’d take much, much longer. I still find it hard to believe sometimes. But it tells me that I’m making progress, getting better.
AJ: Making progress is part of the game, isn’t it? So, tell me about this anthology you are working on.
LT: Me and Kara were tossing around ideas for an anthology and things just fell into place naturally because of our shared love for imagery and words, and our insistence on seeing the people we think rock super hard sharing the same pages. It will be called “We All Fall Down” and features some of Kara’s artwork and photography as well as stories from certain people (we’re each picking six writers to invite into this project and will pay them 25 bucks and a contributor copy upon acceptance.) The theme is in the title and there is room for interpretation as each person has a different piece of art to work from; the common thread that runs through all of them that will linger once the last page is turned. I have some ideas, she has some ideas, and I know in my heart that it is something all involved can be proud of. We plan to release “We All Fall Down” in the spring of 2011.
AJ: I really like that title. It has a nice ring to it. I’m certain this will be a great anthology. I look forward to seeing this come to fruition. Whose idea was this?
LT: Thanks. Kara came up with it and the moment it left her mouth I said, “Yeah, that’s it.” Because there is a lot of truth in those four little words. Kara is a wonderful and talented woman. People can read her blog at:
AJ: Speaking of blogs, you have one of those, right?
LT: Yes, sir. It’s the best way to keep abreast of my current chaos. I do interviews with writers and editors as well, give links to stuff I’ve read and enjoyed, will have a contest every now and then, and sometimes I just ramble and hope no one listens because I have a habit of embarrassing myself. Here’s the address:
AJ: Just one more question and we’ll be done. Are you sure you’re not stalking Tom Piccirilli?
LT: I do collect everything Pic has written. I am definitely a stalker of his thoughts and stories! Of the man himself, I merely wish he were my father and that he’d take me to a carnival. Haha.
AJ: Well, Lee Thompson, looks like we’ve taken all the blood that we legally can out of your veins. I thank you for your time and if you sit still, Herbie will pull the needle out and give you a band aid for the boo boo…
LT: Thanks for interviewing me, A.J.! I hope that you and everyone else who is serious about fiction sees all their dreams solidify. Between the knowledge in our brains and the magic in our hearts anything is possible.
(Herbe’s note: Though there is no actual proof that Lee Thompson is a stalker, we are not betting our money against it.)