Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Thomas S. Gunther

Meghan: Hi, Thomas. Welcome back to Halloween Extravaganza, and welcome to the new blog. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Thomas S. Gunther: The big news is that I’ve taken a position as a columnist for Becky Narron’s brand new horror ezine, Terror Tract. Our first came out in October!

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Thomas S. Gunther: Outside of writing, I live a fairly normal life. I’m married. I have kids, grandkids, a dog, etc. I have a regular job, though it is seasonal, working on a tree farm–it’s great working outside. I pay bills, have responsibilities. Pretty boring stuff like that. Writing, much like reading, is a form of escapism.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Thomas S. Gunther: Funny you should ask. A cousin told me awhile back she was purchasing a copy of Monsters vs. Nazis, an anthology from Deadman’s Tome, which includes a werewolf story I wrote. I never heard back from her, so decided to message her and ask. Nothing. Crickets. I’m sure she’s busy with everyday life, but it’s disconcerting. They say family are the worst critics. One learns to take it all with a grain of salt.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Thomas S. Gunther: There are days when I truly hate writing, and being the proverbial writer. Regardless of how much I love the craft, it’s still a lot of work. I am rarely happy with the results. I get picky, and often waste a lot of time like that, worrying about the perfect word or some iota of prose. It can be exhausting, often more taxing than the extremely physical work I do for a living.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Thomas S. Gunther: I think it’s impossible to write anything without some faction of my personal life finding its way in. I’ve never submitted it, but I have written a story based on some of the weirder childhood tales my mother has told me. Many of my stories, expressed or not, take place in Michigan, though I often take liberties with geography.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Thomas S. Gunther: Not sure if I could give you a straight answer. Often, when I am doing research, I find myself going off on tangents. Some discoveries help to shape a story, and add color or take it in new directions. Some find me wasting time and smoking cigarettes.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Thomas S. Gunther: Oh, definitely the beginning. It’s part of getting started. In fact, my first article for Terror Tract touches on this.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Thomas S. Gunther: Sometimes I outline. I’ll actually sit down, and scratch out bubble charts and the sort of stuff one learns in school. But most of the time–quite frequently–I just sit on a story, and mull it round in my head forever before I actually start typing.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Thomas S. Gunther: (Snorts). That’s what makes writing fun!

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Thomas S. Gunther: I go through a slew of thoughts, emotions, etc. Some writers can hold full-time jobs and write full-time while doing so, and many of them are far more prolific than I. Like my job, writing can be seasonal for me. I work in the warm months, and write in the cold. Spring and fall are transitional, or have been, for the last few years. I’m weird, I know.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Thomas S. Gunther: Not as avid as I used to be. I have less time as I did when I was younger, when I devoured books. And while I read very well, I’m a slow reader. I guess, though, it’s because I want to savor every word, every paragraph. I can’t imagine life without reading, but I’ll never be able to read everything I hope to read. There are so many stories, so many books, and I just keep collecting!

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Thomas S. Gunther: Surprisingly, it wasn’t always horror. I have read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. A lot. But, most of the fiction I read now is from my writing peers, “horror” and related. There are some great writers in the market, and I think the ones I love the best are the ones who write the sort of stories I wished I had thought of.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Thomas S. Gunther: Meh. Depends on the book, the movie, etc.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Thomas S. Gunther: If by main character you mean the protagonist, then “no,” I don’t think so. I love the element of hope.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Thomas S. Gunther: Of course. There’s really no story worth reading or writing if the characters aren’t suffering from something.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Thomas S. Gunther: Some of my sillier stories involve characters with odd quirks or fetishes. I think most characters should be multi-faceted, to be more interesting and believable. One combination I tried was a werewolf who was not only a drunk, but he had a fear of heights. Not sure how well that actually worked out.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Thomas S. Gunther: I certainly love praise. Flattery will get you everywhere. But truly, the best feedback I’ve ever gotten has come from Clark Roberts. Not only because he’s, on more than one occasion, taken the time to say why he liked my work, but because I like his work. Getting feedback from another writer, particularly from one I admire, is a compliment. And, it’s encouraging. I love that I’ve come to be friends with several other writers in my field. There is a certain camaraderie. As far as the worst feedback is concerned, well, let’s just say crickets are the worst critics.

Thomas S. Gunther enjoys reading and writing fiction of all kinds, though he is partial to horror. Like the original American horror writer, Edger Allen Poe, he favors the short story over longer works, though he is currently working on a novel (or two), as well. Besides writing fiction, he is also a columnist for the new ezine, Terror Tract. During the summer months, he is employed as an aquatic transfer engineer on a tree farm, but also works as a writer/editor for occasional private clients. While his parents had hoped he would pursue his artistic talents, he chose to draw with words instead, having been inspired by various writers, including but not limited to, Jack London, Harlan Ellison, John Lindqvist, and Clive Barker. In turn, his work may be described as being a mix of brutality, dark humor, and the macabre. Several of his short stories have made it into print within the pages of various anthologies with indie publishers. When not working or writing, Thomas S. Gunther spends his days helping his beautiful wife around their home in Kalamazoo, MI, making sure the dog doesn’t eat the youngest grandson, eat the flowers, or dig up the cats buried in the backyard.

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