An Interview With Thomas A. Erb

Thomas A. Erb

Thomas A. Erb

Hey Thom,

So, tell us a little about yourself. Where were you born and where do you now call home?

Wow, well, that could easily take a few days. But alas, I will keep it short (as if any Irishman could actually do such a ridiculous thing.) I was born in a small town in upstate New York, (no, NOT Poughkeepsie or Schenectady. Believe it or not, there are lands beyond the Big Apple) during the Summer of Love and I am pretty sure that affected me in many ways (more on that later). Oddly enough, I live in the house I grew up in, with my beautiful wife, Shelly, and our old curmudgeon yellow lab, Rask. I’ve spent my life pursuing all things creative. I started out as a visual artist. I began drawing at the age of two and never stopped.  My first dream (other than being a real cowboy and then a Dallas Cowboy) was to draw comics for Marvel. I almost had my chance when I was accepted into the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning & Animation back in the early 90’s. But sadly, that fell through. I’ve also been playing drums and writing songs since I was sixteen. I’ve been in many bands and have played some groovy gigs and made many great friends. Now, I write dark and hopefully entertaining stories, and I am working my way back into illustration again.

When did you first start writing and how long was it before you were published?

I’ve always been a writer in some form or another. I started with creating comic book characters and comic book plots. I then moved into writing up character and world histories for roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragon, Gurps, Twilight 2000, Traveller, etc. I’ve also written tons of lyrics for songs. I didn’t really take writing fiction seriously until 2007. A series of serendipitous events occurred and set me on the path that I am on now. I read two novels that moved me to the core: Brian Keene’s Ghoul and Bryan Smith’s Deathbringer, and I went to the theatre to see one of the Resident Evil films and I fell asleep. I had a terrifying dream and once I woke up, I thought to myself, “Hey Self, you should try this! Go home and start writing a zombie novel.”  And so I did. It took me about a year to finish my first novel (it sits on the shelf and it will see the light of day sometime). I then started writing short stories and submitted them. I believe it took me a year to get published. It was my first short story, “Cutting Class” that made it into the now defunct Pill Hill Press anthology, Dark Things II. All that seems like a lifetime ago.

It’s Friday evening, about 8pm, what are you doing?

What?  Wait…. It’s Friday already?  Damn, I’ve been working on this interview for two days!  Huh? What?  Ooooooooooh… I get it. (Ahem….) Sorry. Usually I hang out with my amazing wife, Shelly, have a few ice-cold “sodas” and watch DVRed episodes of The Big Bang Theory. Sometimes I’ll go into the office and work on some projects that I’ve slacked off too long on. But most of the time, weekends are days off.

Why horror?

I’ve often asked myself the same question. I’ve always dug horror flicks, especially zombies and demonic possession stuff, but for most of my life, I’ve been more into fantasy, old west and superhero types of things. As I’ve delved into my writing career, it seems that horror comes naturally to me and I really love finding new ways to scare the bejesus out of folks. Although, I will say that I prefer more subtle horror than the blood and guts (I have had a helluva jolly good time writing those too!). Horror, or dark fiction as I prefer it, lets me explore my own demented and troubled mind. Cheap therapy my friends.  Cheap!

Who is your biggest inspiration, professionally?

Without a doubt, Jonathan Maberry. The man is a writing machine. He does everything the right way. His work ethic is that of a titan status. Not only that, but his writing is enthralling, intelligent and gripping. I’ve been very lucky to become friends with him and I have him as my Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) mentor. He’s the consummate professional who talks the talk and certainly walks the walk. He’s also one bad ass mofo. I have kind of modelled my career on what he’s done. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and guidepost, and how can you argue with his success?

You are in bed, a bump in the night wakes you, you have to go investigate. Using only implements from your bedroom, what is your weapon of choice?

Shelly, my wife. I usually kick her out of bed and shove her out the bedroom door and make her go chase the scaries away. No, no, no. That’s not true (or is it?). Late Night Security Duty is all mine.  I used to have a katana by the bedroom door, but I’ve mellowed in my old age and now I just stick to a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. It does the same job, with less blood and loose body parts.

Tell us a little bit about Tones Of Home.

TOH is one of my most brutal works to date. It started out as part of three novella collection that I created with Dean Harrison and Ty Schwamberger. The book had a theme of some friends walk into a bar…that’s it. We all went our own twisted direction. TOH started out in my mind as just a brutally violent tale about an interracial college couple going out to a redneck bar and dealing with some backwater killers. But the most amazing thing happened on the way to the Torchlight Inn. Maybe it was the cold ale or maybe it was just me being a tad bored with the direction of the story, but the image of the Beatles popped into my head. I felt myself smile, took another sip of beer and said, “What the hell!” and from that point on, TONES took the most bizarre twist that blew my own mind.

The novella heavily references and pays homage to The Beatles. Are you a fan of The Fab Four?

Without a doubt. The Beatles were/are the best band ever. It was them and Elvis that created rock and roll (yes I know there were tons of others, but these guys were the trailblazers!). Music is a very important part of my life.  Everything I do is influenced by music of all genres and decades.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a wintery monster novel, SNOW BLACK. I consider this my “Koontz/King” book (yeah, I am shooting high folks, but it’s go big or go home, ain’t that right, folks?) I’m also outlining a supernatural thriller novel series called Excellence of Execution – Book One: One Last Job – A Miles Mazurski Novel.  One of my goals this year is to obtain a literary agent and I’m hoping this series pitch will make some kind agent to fall in the love with the Erbman. I have a couple short stories I am trying to get out the door.  One is a retro-zombie tale, “After School Special – 1985,” and another subtle, zombie vignette, “The Twilight Tontine”.  I truly love both stories and hope I can find a deserving home for them, once finished.

You are stranded on a desert island. Before the ship went down which 3 books did you rescue?

What the hell was I doing on a ship? I hate open water. Jaws, Cthulhu and all. Talk about horror.   Ewwwwwwwwww. Books.  Hmmm.  The Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac, Patient Zero – Jonathan Maberry, any Joe R. Lansdale collection.  And, I am going to be a rebel and add a fourth (besides, I am a pretty big dude and I am sure I could carry four books). Pronto – Elmore Leonard.  Dang, that was tough, because there are so many that have touched me and inspire me.

Do you see dead people?

I do.  They’re out there and they freak me the hell out.  I need to find my Katana.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

I’m slowly developing a process. I keep my mind open to new and more effective ways to get my stories down.  I usually start with a title. As I mentioned before, music is such a huge inspiration for me. I tend to draw ideas, characters, and titles from that magical source. When I started out, I didn’t like to use an outline. I felt that it cramped my creativity. I preferred to use a more laissez-faire approach. But as experience will often do, I realized what a goof I was being. I realized that just because I worked out a complete outline, it didn’t mean I couldn’t change anything. Damn silly. I live by the outline now. A very loose, flexible one, but it takes away the fear of not knowing where the hell I was going next. As far as characters go, I tend to write (and love) my protagonists as reluctant heroes. People that you wouldn’t expect to see as the hero of the story.  Most of them have some kind of mental, physical obstacles that makes them different than the barrel-chested, broad chin, tough guy hero. I truly love letting the characters develop as I write the story. I let them talk to me. It’s one of the best parts of writing.

Have you ever suffered writers’ block?

I used to.  That’s where the magic outline saved my arse. I think when writers speak of that dreaded term, it stems from not knowing where to go next. If you work with an outline, you at least have some guidepost along that way that holds your creative hand as you’re writing. I do love what Joe Lansdale thinks of Writer’s Block. He thinks it’s crap.He thinks you’re just being lazy. That’s why I love Joe!

If you could leave your readers with one legacy, what would you want it to be?

I know this is going to sound all hippie, tree-hugger like, but man, I truly believe that everyone has some kind of hero inside of them. Looks, body shape, whatever, doesn’t matter.  Heroism starts from within.

Chocolate cake or fruity cheesecake?

Believe it or not, this fat guy isn’t really into sweets that much. But I will take a yummy fruit cake.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world on a novel, who would it be and why? What’s the story about?

I’d be honoured to collaborate with Jonathan Maberry on a Joe Ledger novel where my middle-aged, drunk assassin, Miles Mazurski joins Echo team who have to explore a deep dungeon beneath an ancient castle in Ireland. There will be nasty, vile monsters and bad guys and tons of arse kicking.

Finish this newspaper headline: “Thomas Erb is….”

  “Thom Erb is living proof that…”

Thanks Thom

For a chance to win one of three copies, enter the Goodreads giveaway now. Closing date is 24th June, and books will be shipped no later than 27th June.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tones of Home by Thomas A. Erb

Tones of Home

by Thomas A. Erb

Giveaway ends June 24, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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~ by crowdedquarantine on May 24, 2013.

2 Responses to “An Interview With Thomas A. Erb”

  1. well done Mr. Erb!!

  2. Good interview, thanks Thomas. 🙂

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