Interview with Thomas Brown, author of LYNNWOOD
Thomas Brown is the winner of this year’s short story competition. With the pending release of the anthology, which is themed around Dystopian Worlds, it seemed like a great idea to ask Thomas some questions about his writing career.
Thomas is the author of a book called ‘Lynnwood’ and has some extremely interesting insights into the world of horror and the themes that draw him to the genre. His answers to the questions are a truly inspiring read for any aspiring writer. Be sure to check out his work!
“A quintessentially British folk horror chiller [LYNNWOOD], with an escalating power of dread that is rendered deftly. A new voice in British horror, that you’ll want to read, has entered the field.” – ADAM NEVILL, author of THE RITUAL
“Although [LYNNWOOD] is described as a horror, I would say that it is not entirely typical of this genre. […] The story is strange, dark and unsettling, but very beautifully crafted.” – READER, The People’s Book Prize
“The author’s writing was very poetic and gave nothing away. [LYNNWOOD] is the type of book to read curled up in front of a fire, just don’t be alone…” – KATHLEEN KELLY, CelticLady’s Reviews
Christina Crook: When and why did you start writing?
Thomas Brown: I’m sure I started writing off the back of my love for books. From an early age I was passionate about reading, so it seems natural that this passion might have led to me writing stories of my own. I still have the original copy of my first ever short story in a drawer under my bed. I must have been twelve or thirteen, and it was dark fantasy fiction about a vampire. I read a lot of fantasy then, so I suppose that purports the link between reading and the resulting urge to emulate what we have read in writing of our own.
What inspires you to write?
At the risk of sounding sentimentalist, I will admit to writing from the heart. Sometimes it is a theme that grabs me, sometimes a feeling; whatever the source of the inspiration, I take it and run with it. A recurring trope in my writing seems to be characters who feel out of sorts with the world around them. Sometime a character might be distant emotionally, or they might be physically different from those around them. Sometimes it is a social separation, other times they might literally be isolated from the rest of the world. Their situations vary, of course, depending on character and circumstance, but it is this feeling and those like them that inspire me to write and, for a few thousand words, bare a little of my soul on paper. I’ve come a long way from fantasy undead, and I have not. I seem to remember that first vampire was lonely, too.
What inspired you to write LYNNWOOD?
I remember sitting in a café one afternoon and watching an old lady as she sat down at a table, buttered and jammed her scone, before proceeding to cram it whole into her mouth. There was no sense of shame or dignity, or care that anyone could see her (and why should there have been?). She painted her fingers and her face with crumby preserve and I remember thinking this is what we are. Underneath our mild manners, our sense of right and wrong, the propriety that is drilled into us as we grow up, we are hungry; flesh and blood and natural urges.
LYNNWOOD takes a typically civilised place, filled with perfectly proper people, and explores what happens when these two aspects come into conflict. It is about living and hunger and the Gothic notion of forests as wild, revealing places.
Who/what are your influences as a writer?
Stoker’s vampires sang to me long before I first wrote anything. Carter’s fairy-tales awoke something inside, which was their desired intention, I am sure. Adam Nevill inspired me, Ligotti frightened me, Poppy Z. showed me the beautiful melancholy to be found in horror. A person need only pick up a book or go for a walk outside to find inspiration, whether they are reading the world through someone else’s eyes, or watching them as they pass in the street.
Would you ever explore other genres, or do you prefer to stick to the darker side of the writing world?
It will always be about horror. I find it difficult to conceive of how people write about anything else, sometimes. For me, writing is deeply expressive; my way of trying to make sense of the world. ‘The Sad Man’ can be labelled dystopian, if we must label it, but the horror is still present, implied in the state of the country and the Sad Man’s soul. If nothing else, horror is about emotion; a genre brought to life by fear, terror, repression and the constant struggle for characters (and their writers) to overcome these things, or at least negotiate with them.
For me, this idea of horror as emotion is the soul of a story. Plot and pace fall behind atmosphere, setting and personal expression. I pour so much of myself into my writing; not necessarily in terms of characterisation, although that is certainly true to a degree, but in terms of feeling and personal philosophy. Writing is therapy and art and a friend in the dark, and I can’t imagine where I would be without it.
You have a degree in Creative Writing. What did you think of the course itself? Was it worth studying?
The decision to study Creative Writing was something that I considered for a long time before finally committing. The course was expensive, time-consuming and I worried that I was investing in something that wouldn’t pay off, so to speak. On the other hand, I would be doing something I loved. More than that, I would be developing myself in that area. If you don’t at least try to live your life doing something that you love, then what’s the point? So I threw myself into the course, and I can honestly say I had the best time. My course was a taught postgraduate degree at the University of Southampton, and it proved incredibly influential. You read books that you might not otherwise have read. You workshop pieces of writing. Flash fiction. Novel excerpts. You critique your classmates’ fiction, and develop editorial skills. I knew that I loved writing when I began the course, but on finishing it, I knew that I loved learning about writing, too.
What advice do you have for fellow writers looking to be published?
Read widely. Technically, you encounter language, themes and inspiration that might never have occurred to you otherwise. More personally, we all benefit from seeing the world through other people’s perspectives. Reading is one of the few ways we can achieve this. Empathy enables us to connect with our characters and with our readers. What more could a writer ask for?
How do you plan on building on the success of LYNNWOOD?
It is incredibly difficult to be heard over the clamour of other writers online. Self-promotion is not something I am comfortable with, but it seems a requirement; to help build a readership and raise awareness. I maintain an online presence through my various channels (Facebook, Twitter etc.), sharing other authors’ success stories, writings and art, in the hope that they share mine. This feels like the best way, for me. Meanwhile, I will continue reading and writing. This is what it is all about, after all, and where the real pleasure lies.