Horror author Tom Deady’s 2016 novel, Haven, has just been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. In this interview I ask Deady about Haven, his new novel Eternal Darkness, and influences on his work. But first, here’s a quick bio from his website:
Tom was born and raised in Malden, Massachusetts, not far from the historic (and spooky) town of Salem. He has endured a career as an IT professional, but his dream has always been to be a writer. A passionate Red Sox fan, Tom and a friend created Surviving Grady at the start of the 2004 season. Ten years and three World Series championships later, he still blogs about the Sox. Tom has a Masters Degree in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University, and is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the New England Horror Writers. Tom’s first novel, Haven, was released in 2016 by Cemetery Dance Publications. His new release, Eternal Darkness, was released in 2017 by Bloodshot Books. As always, he is actively working on his next novel.
Deady: I had just finished Haven when I started my masters program. I was writing a “zombie virus” type novel along with a few short stories. I think I was the only horror writer in the program, so I’m not sure how receptive most people were to my work. I try to take whatever feedback I get and use it to become a better writer.
Deck: Your publicist mentioned that your new book, Eternal Darkness, is “reminiscent of the paperback horror days.” What are some works from that time that have been the most influential for you? Do you think the genre is making a comeback?
Deck: Your book is set in the fictional town of Bristol, Massachusetts. How has living in Massachusetts influenced the setting of this book?
Deady: New England has a rich history in horror. The Salem witch trials, Lizzie Borden, the Boston Strangler, the Bridgewater Triangle…how could it not be influential! I grew up in a small neighborhood in Malden, MA. If you visit there now, it’s almost as city-like as Boston, but when I grew up, it felt a lot like Bristol.
Deck: What do you think is the strongest selling point for readers to check out Eternal Darkness?
Deady: I know the vampire sub-genre is a well-worn trope, but I hope I’ve added something new to it. It’s a classic vampire tale with some attempts to legitimize the vampire through science. Make no mistake, they are brutal creatures, but what I’ve tried to do is make the reason they could exist more believable. That, to me, makes it scary.
Deck: What do you think you learned during the writing of your first novel, Haven, that had an effect on Eternal Darkness?
Deady: Well, Haven was written in fits and starts over a fifteen-year period. I wrote a lot of scenes out of order and with a long novel like that, it was very frustrating putting it all together. Obviously, I learned NOT to do that! I still don’t outline, but if I do write a scene out of order, I at least have an idea of how I’m going to get there.
Deck: You had different publishers for Eternal Darkness and Haven, and you self-published your novella Grando’s Traveling Sideshow. What are the advantages of taking these different approaches to release your work?
Deady: I’m not sure if there really are any advantages, it’s just the way it worked out for me. I self-published Grando’s and a short story called The Lake just to get my name out there and start building a platform. When Cemetery Dance offered me a contract for Haven, it was a dream come true. I saw the open call for Bloodshot Books just as I was finishing Eternal Darkness and decided to give it a shot. My intention was to publish a book in between the two because I think they have similarities – both coming-of-age, small town boys, set in the seventies – but the timing worked out and I wanted to work with Bloodshot.
Deck: What keeps you up at night? Do you think that confronting the weird and monstrous in fiction helps us confront the mundane terrors of the real world?
Deady: The only thing that used to keep me up at night was worrying about my kids. Since November, a lot keeps me awake at night. To answer the second part of the question, I think any fiction reading or writing is a form of escapism. That being said, I do find writing horror to be cathartic.
Deck: Do you face any challenges or misconceptions from the general reading audience when writing in the horror genre?
Deady: Absolutely! I think it’s a stigma that all horror writers face. People seem to associate the entire genre with the worst or goriest horror movie they’ve seen and just assume that all horror is like that. I’ve seen writers label their work as “thriller” to avoid the bias against horror.
Deck: What’s next for you?
Deady: I am negotiating a contract for a new novella that I’ll be announcing soon. It’s still horror but doesn’t have any supernatural elements…maybe I should call it a thriller? I also have my first attempt at YA horror with my editor, I’ll be looking for a home for that one next.
Deck: We all know the big names in horror and dark fantasy — do you have any recommendations of books by current writers in the genre who may not (yet) be well known?
Deady: Two years ago I would have said Rio Youers, Josh Malerman, and Paul Tremblay, but now everybody knows those names. Ben Eads is one to watch; his debut Cracked Sky was a Stoker finalist. John McIlveen’s Hannahwhere was just brilliant. Same for Bracken MacLeod’s Stranded. There is a lot of talent in the horror genre these days!
Deck: What do you love to do in your spare time that has nothing to do with dark fiction?
Deady: Other than spend time with my family, running is what I love. Aside from the health benefits, it really clears my head. I’ve worked out many a plot while on the treadmill.