02 Dec 2012
by Jeffrey Thomas
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My brother Scott Thomas has previously proven his abilities as an author with short story collections such as URN AND WILLOW (his most recent), QUILL AND CANDLE, MIDNIGHT IN NEW ENGLAND, COBWEBS AND WHISPERS, SHADOWS OF FLESH, and WESTERMEAD. He’s appeared in numerous anthologies, such as DAW Books’ THE YEAR’S BEST HORROR STORIES XXII, St. Martin’s Press’ THE YEAR’S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR # 15 (two stories in that volume!), LEVIATHAN THREE, and THE SOLARIS BOOK OF NEW FANTASY. Plus, he’s collaborated with me on such books as PUNKTOWN: SHADES OF GREY and THE SEA OF FLESH AND ASH (more on that below!). But now, Scott has seen his first novel, FELLENGREY, released by Raw Dog Screaming Press. As part of a blog tour RDSP has organized to promote Scott’s novel, they conducted an interview with me, focusing on the Brothers Thomas as a writing team. That interview follows…
Raw Dog Screaming Press: What was your first collaboration with Scott? How did it come about?
Jeffrey Thomas: It depends on whether you mean in published form. I guess we can discount anything before that, because our childhood collaborations of various types are too numerous to even approach. (You should see the elaborate movies we used to make on videocassette, some of which were set in my world of Punktown, involving lots of crazy makeup and bloody violent effects.) Actually, Scott and I have only ever written one story together, Apples and Oranges, which originally appeared in the 2005 anthology In Delirium. We were asked to contribute to the book because we had both had collections of our own published through Delirium Books previously. I can’t recall now, though, whose idea it was for us to join forces on the story — whether it was me, Scott, or the publisher. Later I expanded this story a bit, and in this form it appeared in my 2007 collection Doomsdays. Because Scott and I have our own very personal visions, our other published collaborations found us writing separate stories, though linked by a common theme under the same book covers.
RDSP: Which is your favorite collaboration?
JET: I’d have to say it’s the book The Sea of Flesh and Ash (2011, Terradan Works). It was originally to have been published by Prime years earlier but due to publishing delays we ultimately moved the project. Prime’s Sean Wallace sparked the idea for the book, though, asking Scott and me if we could both write a short novel inspired by a beautiful piece of artwork by Travis Anthony Soumis (which of course became the cover), depicting a woman lying in the surf in front of a mysterious misty temple. So Scott wrote a story called The Sea of Ash and mine was The Sea of Flesh (he came up with his title first so I took my cue from him). During the writing we didn’t tell the other what our respective stories were about, beyond that one image, but as it turns out we both wrote about New England and alternate universes. Of course, we’re New Englanders, but that isn’t to say we only write about this region. What I love most about this book is that both stories are rather poetic and very mysterious in tone. I think the book has a lot of artistic and literary merit, and it’s been sadly overlooked in comparison to other of our books.
(Writers Scott Thomas and Jeffrey Thomas)
RDSP: Can you describe the collaboration process? Is it different than the way you normally write?
JET: The method of collaboration has varied depending on the project. Previously I described the origin of The Sea of Flesh and Ash, and how we approached writing it in our separate corners, as it were. For our book Punktown: Shades of Grey the project demanded another kind of approach. When I first conceived of my dark future world of Punktown in 1980, from the start I wanted Scott and a writer friend, Tom Hughes, to set short novels of their own there so we could put the three together as one book. This we did, though to date only Tom’s story has seen print (in my shared world anthology, Punktown: Third Eye, though Scott did write a new Punktown story for that book). Anyway, so Scott was well familiar with Punktown already when many years later I approached him with the idea of a similar book, which became Punktown: Shades of Grey, but this time it would be a book of short stories — half by me, half by Scott. Now, Scott would rather be writing stories set in New England or Britain in the 18th or 19th centuries, or an alternate past as in Fellengrey, but he can get into that Punktown frame of mind admirably. I think the two best stories in that book are his: Pulse and The Merciful Universe. The former is chilling and disturbing, the second heartbreaking yet uplifting.
RDSP: What do you like best about Scott’s work?
JET: When I think of Scott’s writing, the word “beautiful” comes to mind. Whether he’s writing the ghastliest ghost story, or the most heart-wrenching tragedy, there’s still a great deal of beauty in the proceedings. Beauty in his poetic (but accessible) prose voice, and much beauty in his depiction of long-ago times — which he always renders with great assuredness, being a scholar of history in its minutest detail. His love of nature, and how nature figures into much of his work, reminds me greatly of Thomas Hardy. (His use of tragedy also makes me think of Hardy.) Readers and reviewers have often made this same observation, that his fiction is uncommonly beautiful in execution and content. But as I noted, that isn’t to say the chills aren’t there. For sheer eeriness, his work recalls that of classic horror writers like M. R. James and E. F. Benson. I think the horrors in Scott’s stories are made even more horrible for being framed in a beautiful context.
RDSP: Do you ever consult with each other on your personal projects?
JET: We don’t so much these days, because we live in different states and find ourselves more busy with all the aspects of our lives, but there was a time when we would read each other’s work while it was still in progress, to encourage the other along. Later on we still managed to keep up with reading each other’s work when it was finished/published, but we’re both so productive that we now have work that the other has never read. In fact, I haven’t yet read Fellengrey myself (though Scott has discussed it with me) and I’m looking forward to it with great excitement. All nepotism aside, Scott is truly one of my favorite writers.
RDSP: Most of the members of your family are creative. Why do you think that is?
JET: That brings up the classic debate of genes versus environment in human development. The obvious answer would be a combination of the two. We were brought up in a family that loved books, films, art, music. I mean, who doesn’t, but we were all obsessive in our interests. For instance, for a time my mother was fascinated with Korea and Japan — particularly Japanese films and the author Yukio Mishima — and even tried teaching herself Japanese. Her obsession helped instill in me an appreciation for those countries that ultimately led me to travel repeatedly to Asia. In her youth my mom wrote a newspaper column, and my father was a published poet and an artist. Consequently, my brother Scott and I became writers and artists, my brother Craig studied music, my sister Wendy wrote her own newspaper column as a teen and today is heavily into crafts. And now Wendy’s son Russ Thomas is a gifted graphic designer, and my own son Colin has filled countless reams with his drawings of monsters (and countless computer bytes with his stories). Recently my three-year-old Jade has begun drawing human faces. So the Thomas genes march boldly on!
Scott Thomas’ novel FELLENGREY can be ordered here in trade paperback or hardcover edition:
And here’s a brief description of the novel:
“As a boy, Hale Privet dreamed of sailing the grey waters of the northern Gantic Ocean aboard a mighty ship of war. But when farm life kept him from the sea, the sea came to him — in the form of Rye Blackbird, the infamous mutineer whose wondrous tales help set Hale on his own path to adventure. And such adventures they are! Villains, mysteries, sea battles and even a cursed island await. Privet’s story is part folklore and part fantasy, set in a long-ago time where you might just as easily witness something mystical, as feel the salty spray of the sea on your face. FELLENGREY is a bedtime story for grown-ups, complete with pirates, ghosts, magic spells and, of course, a beautiful maiden to capture the dashing hero’s heart. Author Scott Thomas lyrically creates a world that is visceral and treacherous, but also lovely and familiar.”
That last line could sum up all of Scott’s work very nicely!