Spotlight on Horror: An Interview with T.M. Wright

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything, so here I am. Back to revive the website I left for dead in March with a series I’ve dubbed Spotlight on Horror. What follows is an interview I conducted with an author who has become both a friend and mentor to me: T.M. Wright, the author of such horror classics as STRANGE SEED (1978), CARLISLE STREET (1983), and A MANHATTAN GHOST STORY (1984). I hope you enjoy it. Let the spotlight fall!

T.M. Wright

Photo courtesy of T.M. Wright

Dean Harrison: Your work is considered by many of your contemporaries to be one of the best examples of the subgenre known as quite horror. Do you agree with this characterization?

T.M. Wright: Yes. I’ve never enjoyed “spilling out” blood and human remains on my pages. I think it’s all about “leaving” more for the reader to think about in regards to my story line and characters. I’ve had some people call me a literary snob, since I prefer to let the reader do more thinking about what’s been written.  Edgar Allen Poe is a prime example.

DH: For readers new to your work, how would you define quite horror, and what elements distinguishes it from other subgenres, such as splatter-punk?

TMW: There are times I feel like such a fossil in comparison to today’s writing. I know that I am not a mainstream writer. I never will be. Quiet horror is writing that depends upon less blood and guts with more on an existentialist approach. The late Charles Grant is a fine example of my approach. But, I do think the other styles all have their place in horror. Again it all depends upon how well it is written.

DH: CARLISLE STREET, in my opinion, is one of your scariest novels. It’s been a while since I read a book that actually inspired chills. What would you say a horror writer must do to create that tingly sensation of goose bumps in a reader?

TMW: Put yourself in place of the reader. I know that’s not easy. Also analyze what scares you. Don’t lie to yourself or the reader about these situations. Sometimes the simplest, least stated, situation can be the creepiest because you are letting your imagination take control.

One Halloween my wife and I took Jell-O and put it in sausage casings. We took it out and put spaghetti sauce over it. In a dim light we had the kids walk through and touch casings in a stainless bowl with knives by it. They freaked. They couldn’t see it was a harmless set up. But, their imagination went wild.

DH: What are your thoughts on the supernatural?

TMW: I am not that sure about the supernatural. I try to keep an open mind on it. My wife is the one that believes in it. She refers to herself as a kitchen witch. And admittedly there are “things” that happen I cannot explain with common sense. I say, take it as it comes and enjoy it all.

DH: Much of your work tends to focus on the supernatural. What would you say makes an effective ghost story?

TMW: That depends upon how the reader judges it. Although today it may be more to do your publisher’s editor. And that can be a huge argument from a writer’s point of view. For instance, King’s The Shining works so well because King so successfully draws the reader into the situation where we find our characters, living and dead.

DH: What is the most important aspect of storytelling to you?

TMW: Let the reader become involved as if he or she is one with the story being read.

DH: Many writers stress the importance of outlining. Others have their own methods. What’s yours?

TMW: I don’t outline. For me it’s too constrictive. I make notes about characters and situations. I try to group them as a guideline. I have a sense of my characters and the situations they’re involved in. But, I always find myself changing what I started with.  Hence the looseness of my writing. I trust my story line and characters to help develop each other. For me it also takes all the enjoyment out of writing.. But, for many an outline is the only way they write and that’s fine. We’re all different. Use what’s best for your method.

DH: STRANGE SEED and A MANHATTAN GHOST STORY have been optioned for films in the past. Are those still in the works?

TMW: A Manhattan Ghost Story is an ongoing saga with someone somewhere in Hollywood.. It’s a long and absurd story, but typical of Hollywood. One movie company had it and went broke from a fiasco move they produced. Then it went to Disney and what a joke. All was going well until they had someone else write something similar that they produced. So, I have no idea who has the rights. I know Robert Lawrence had much to do with it. I could mention a long list of well-known actors that were attached to it…   Ya da…Ya..da.  And this has been the polite version.

Strange Seed is still in the works. We’re hoping for the best. If you have interest in the movie there is a website for strangeseedmovie.com. Other wise Hollywood time isn’t a reality time.

DH: Can you recommend something to new readers?

TMW: I wish I could. But everyone has their own favorite. I never have any luck at suggesting a book to someone. It always comes back to haunt me. So, I suggest people to look through my books. See if anything interests you. Enjoy…I hope.

DH: STRANGE SEED was your first horror novel, but it wasn’t your first publication. Tell me about The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Flying Saucers.

TMH: I believed that they were very possibly from this universe or another solar system. Of course now it may be just some hoax. I’d like to believe there is something out there trying to contact us.  I did try to write a sequel to it with Rick Armstrong at Animatus Studio in Rochester, New York. But it never got anywhere. We did have a lot of fun doing it. We were in our early twenties and met some characters involved with the early UFO reports.

DH: What have you read lately?

TMW: I have to be able to put most books on the computer, due to my Parkinsons. What I don’t read there, Roxane, my wife, reads me a chapter or two a day. It’s fun that way. We discuss the writing together. Roxane loves fantasy, so I manage to enjoy some of that genre.

I do enjoy your writing, Greg Gifune, Norm Prentiss and David Nial Wilson. There are so many more, but not enough space to name them all. I do read poetry by Weldon Kees, Sharon Olds, T.S.Elliot and Sylvia Plath. Again there are many more.

I would recommend that as a reader, please keep an open mind to what you are reading. Just because you may not understand the writer, doesn’t mean it’s crap.

DH: Where are you in the age of the ebook? Are you a big fan of the Kindle, Nook, or do you still prefer the feel of a printed novel in your hands?

TMW: David Nial Wilson is my main benefactor with the ebook et cetera. My books are out of print and unless someone wants to utilize them, I am no more than a footnote.

I love ebooks and Kindle et cetera. I think they can be used to an author’s advantage. I say, go forth and multiply! Use the net to get your writing out there! But, use it wisely.

If I could hold a book I would. There is nothing like holding a book in your hand(s). And I love the smell of new print or even the nicely aged ones.

DH: You’re a writer, but writing isn’t all you’ve done. You’ve also painted. You have designed book covers and done illustrations for magazines. Tell a little more about that.

TMW: Painting was just a hobby. I got into it more with time. I taught myself. I did do the cover for Blue Canoe by P.S. Publishing. I‘ve done many oil paintings, and drawings. You can see some of them on my Facebook.. In Bone Soup, published by Cemetery Dance, you can see some paintings. Unfortunately, they’re all in black and white.

DH: What is the best advice you have been given as a writer?

TMW: Never lie to the reader, about details of the story and or it’s characters.

DH: What advise would you give young, aspiring writers?

TMW: Don’t let your words get in the way of what you’re trying to say.

DH: Last question, what do you believe is the appeal of horror fiction?

TMW: Pretty much the same as a roller coaster.

~

Blurbs on the author and his work:

“T.M. Wright is more than a master of quiet horror—he is a one-man definition of the term.” –Ramsey Campbell

“I have been an unabashed fan of T.M. Wright’s since reading his first novel.” –Charles L. Grant

“T.M. Wright is a master of the subtle fright that catches you by surprise and never lets you go. He is one of the finest modern interpreters of the ghost story.” –Whitely Strieber

“T.M. Wright has a unique imagination.” –Dean Koontz

“T.M. Wright is a rare and blazing talent.” –Stephen King

For more information on T.M. Wright and his work, visit his Amazon author page:

http://www.amazon.com/T-M-Wright/e/B0055OLBXQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

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