Lee Thompson back to Bookhound's Den. Lee is the author of the forthcoming Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children from Delirium Books (which is, by the way, the first limited edition I've ever purchased!). Lee is a tremendously talented author that I suggest everyone read, whether or not you're a horror/dark fiction fan; Lee's writing is sure to stir something deep within. Without any more of my blather, I present to you Lee's guest post.
“On Knowing What You Want” by Lee Thompson
I'm listening to the late and great Danny Gatton as I write this. The man knew what he wanted. He worked at it and was incredible. Sadly, like a ton of gifted, hardworking bastards, he killed himself in a small and lonely apartment even though fans adored him and his presence humbled other musicians. Like Danny, a lot of my other heroes knew what they wanted—Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bruce Lee, Thomas Edison, etc.—and they devoted their lives to their calling.
They were not dabblers.
Their work consumed them.
They used their passions and unique visions to leave their mark.
That's something I want. I'll strive for it whether it's reachable or not.
When I was a boy I wanted my dad to love me and my mom, to show it consistently. I also wanted to be a ninja.
When I was a teen I wanted my dad to teach me because I had no fucking idea how to be a man. (I also wanted to be ninja and a little bodybuilder.)
In my twenties I wanted to be a badass guitarist with unique phrasing and tone and masterful chops—like Brian Setzer, Hendrix, Vaughn, Gatton, as well as a ton of classical players. And I was pretty proficient in all of those things because I worked at them hours every day. From a young age I admired the dedication it took and I failed to understand how some people could be so fearful, bland and lazy. Now I think their perspective of life just gets them down, they give up their dreams, they realize to be still and commonplace is far easier than bearing a heavy workload and stretching their minds and bodies' imaginations.
When I knew I wanted to be a writer (I mean really dedicated to doing my absolute best) I'd already written four junk novels. So, the natural thing for me, once I'd said, “This is it. I'm giving a hundred percent to writing and learning whether my days be fun-filled dancing or suffocatingly bleak,” was to study my heroes. People like Tom Piccirilli, Greg Gifune, Douglas Clegg, Jack Cady, Peter Straub, Ray Bradbury, and Jack Ketchum. They had things to teach me. Markets they'd published in, wisdom in interviews, the beat of scenes, the craft of character.
I hand copied things to learn, just like when I'd studied various martial arts or guitar phrases to develop precision and efficiency. I'm also a firm believer in lists. LOL. And I wrote what I wanted for my writing career and luckily I'm on my way in what seems a short time span.
Here's my list. Even though I've had people tell me what I should do, this is what I've stuck by and for me it's paying off:
I want to focus on writing stories that set a tone right away, where I can mine the mysteries, joys and sorrows of childhood. I want to keep pride from tripping me, be open-minded and continually learning (though I have learned that letting it steep for a bit is always good). I want to give back with things I've learned, to publishers who've put their faith in me, to friends who have helped me. I want to be an approachable author because it means a lot to me that readers spend their time and money on my work. I want to mix my favorite genres because I love them all and each has something special about them (and I couldn't pick just one anyway.) I want my world and imagination to be an open range, not a small bedroom. I want to pay my dues. I want to sell to markets I enjoy and respect and to have my name alongside my heroes through Delirium Books, Bad Moon Books, Shock Totem, Dark Discoveries, Apex, Weird Tales, etc.. Places where the publishers care about the writer and reader. Where the products are incredible. I want a solid career, and to keep pushing myself and learning.
I don't think generalizations like “I want to be the next Stephen King,” or “I want to sell ten stories to pro mags a year,” works for me. I want specifics, concrete goals and the robust satisfaction that comes when reaching them!
In NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN my characters know what they want. John McDonnell wants to solve the mystery of four girls' brutal deaths, but he doesn't want his dad's friends to go to prison. Mike Johnston wants to see his mother die peacefully, but first he wants truth and her apology so he can forgive her. Wylie Wright wants the sheriff's wife even though she doesn't know what she wants, and it goes against the morals he's always upheld until passion flared between them. And my characters want to know who Angela Forte is and why she's intruding on their lives with black magic.