That’s not really something I think about very much. It’s not something I am conscious of when I write. I do, however, when I go back and edit a fictional piece, see places where circumstances that motivate a character or put a character in a certain situation are eerily familiar! But again, it is not something I ever set out to do.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
You mean other than promoting myself on the Internet? Probably the quirkiest thing has to do with my love of rain and mud puddles. I love walking the rain and I have a hard time walking around puddles. I love to walk through them. Or run through them, splashing for all I’m worth. I don’t care who is around, if there is a puddle there and you’re walking with me, you are going to get wet.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
When I was in the third grade, Mrs. Cox (our teacher) gave us a special assignment the week before Christmas. Everyone had to write a story about Christmas and illustrate it. She said she would put the best ones up on the board (the elementary school equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize). There were Santa Clause stories, baby Jesus stories, elf stories, wise men stories and a story about a junkie dying in the gutter.
These days that little story would have earned me a trip straight to Juvenile Services and would have sent the Welfare worker to our house faster than Lindsay Lohan draws lawyers. But to her credit, Mrs. Cox took me aside and asked why I would write about a drug addict in the gutter on Christmas Eve.
I said, “Because not everybody has a very nice Christmas.”
My story went up on the board. And I knew from that moment that I wanted to see more stories “up on the board.”
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read across a pretty wide spectrum. For example, when Stephen King’s book, The Stand, came out, I was reading that and
I like suspense, humor, biographies, theology, anything related to Christmas, old 1940s-1950s science fiction (ray guns and space ships), cowboy poetry and horror that doesn’t rely on gore or go for the gross out when the plot starts to fail.
I particularly like Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Mike Dellosso, Charles L. Grant, Robert McCammon, Dave Barry, Michelle Sutton, H. G. Wells, H. P. Lovecraft, Jack London and John D. MacDonald.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I refuse to run. I know it sounds simplistic, but the truth is we are all allowed to make the decision as to what is important in our lives. My wife and I don’t have kids so we don’t have the pressure of soccer practice, the orthodontist, piano lessons and all those things. But believe me, there are enough other people and things willing to fill those gaps.
I tell people I am one of the most fortunate people I know because God loves me, my wife tolerates me pretty well and my dog is housebroken. Those are the important things. I start every day by asking God, “What do you want from me today?” Then I ask my wife the same question (the infamous Honey Do list). Plus, she understands this is what I do. In fact, she is my biggest supporter. So I don’t have the pressure of a spouse who doesn’t understand my need to write.
I also pray a lot. I pray at odd times. I talk to God while I’m driving. I talk to Him while I’m blowing leaves, though that conversation usually starts with, “Couldn’t you drop these all at the same time and let’s just get it over with?”
Two years ago I had what should have been a fatal heart attack. December 23, 2008. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed right after my wife (a nurse practitioner) called 911 and praying these words: God, I will not live through the night if you don’t intervene. I can’t take this by myself.” Thirty minutes later I was on the table looking into the face of the cardiologist who saved my life. An hour under the national average. That kind of thing makes you reevaluate what is important and I have taken that lesson to heart … no pun intended.
OK, it was intended.
That is the toughest part for me. Sometimes a name just comes out as I’m writing (thank you Jesus!). Sometimes I have to sit and run different combinations through my mind until one feels right. Sometimes I read the names of the authors on the spines of the books I can see in the office and play the mix and match game.
For example: James Patterson and Robert McCammon can become James McCammon and Robert Patterson. Or Robert James.
Sometimes I use the telephone book trick. I look up names in the phone book and do a little mixing and matching. And if I’m really stuck I’ll use some of the naming references that have saved more than one writer’s hide. That includes the references that explain the origin of a name. If I want a name to carry that kind of information, I’ll start there and find a name that means “strong” or “stormy” etc.
I also have a collection of names I pulled from the obituaries when I was a newspaper reporter. My favorite is Dr. Hyram Fishbag. I really want to use that one someday.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Whatever it was I did to persuade my wife to marry me.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’d be my dog because I would like to know what it is like to be that loving for just one day.
What is your favorite food?
A bowl of fresh field peas and some good cornbread.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Early in my career I sold everything I wrote. The first seven pieces sold one right after the other (back in the dark ages when you had to put stamps on envelopes). Then, for the next six months, I didn’t sell a thing. I couldn’t sell a hundred dollar bill for fifteen dollars. Then I did what any self-respecting writer would do. I went into a funk (OK, I pouted) and quit writing.
Then I called my mentor and said, “I haven’t written a word I didn’t have to in months,” to which he replied, “OK.”
Tell us about the featured book.
Ben Chalmers is a successful novelist. His wife, Rachel, is a fledgling artist with a promising career, and their daughter Stacy is the joy of their life. His novels have made enough money for him to provide a dream home for his family. But there is a force at work in their lives. A dark, chilling, ruthless force that has become part of the very fabric of their new home.
A malevolent entity becomes trapped in the wood and stone of the house and it will do whatever it takes, to find a way to complete its bloody transference to our world. Local Sheriff, Elizabeth Cantrell, and former pastor-turned-cabinetmaker, Jim Perry are drawn into the family’s life as the entity manipulates the house with devastating results. And it won’t stop until it gets what it wants. Even if it costs them their faith, their sanity, and their lives.
That’s the “commercial.” Now for the truth. The book is Christian horror and in the course of haunting this house, there are some very real truths that come through. First, sometimes a “Sunday School” faith is not enough. Faith must be tested and refined in the fires of trial. And we all go through those. So our response to circumstances (haunted house or problems at work) and God’s movement in our lives helps refine and strengthen our faith.
The next main point is, no matter how far we feel we have strayed or how great our loss may be, God always stands ready to take us in His arms and restore us to him. And in so doing, restore us to those who love us.
Please give us the first page of the book.
The house looked down on Pike’s Crossing like a headmaster observing a group of unruly schoolchildren. It stood silent, watching the town from the top of Grant’s Ridge through glittering lead glass eyes.
Errant patches of moonlight played along the roofline, then disappeared. A weather vane, more for decoration than any real purpose, pointed west, then east. In the woods beyond the back yard, nocturnal creatures stirred, scavenging for food and scouting new scents carried on the night air.
A field mouse scurried across the clearing between the woods and the relative safety of the space beneath the deck, its dash for freedom cut short by a sharp-eyed owl. Talons lifted the dying rodent as lightning arced across the flannel sky.
The night groaned in the wake of the coming storm. Rumbles of thunder echoed and died away, replaced by more of the same. The house stood in dark relief against the darker sky, illuminated by sporadic celestial fire.
Hours earlier workmen had collected their tools, climbed into their vehicles, and sped away toward the coming weekend. Soon electricians would come to run the wiring, then the crew would be well on the way to wrapping up the project and handing the keys to the developer.
But for now the house was content to hold its silent vigil over the town below.And inside, something stirred.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My web site: www.thomassmithonline.com
Thank you, Thomas, for this interesting peek into your life and book.
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