Thomas S. Flowers is an Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom Army veteran who loves scary movies, BBQ, and coffee. Ever since reading Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot he has inspired to write deeply disturbing things that relate to war and horror, from the paranormal to his gory zombie infested PLANET of the DEAD series, to even his recent dabbling of vampiric flirtation in The Last Hellfighter readers can expect to find complex characters, rich historical settings, and mind-altering horror. Thomas is also the senior editor at Machine Mean, a horror movie and book review site that hosts contributors in the horror and science fiction genre.
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
I am an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who loves scary movies, Texas BBQ, and coffee. And yes, there is a difference between Texas BBQ and BBQ everywhere else. I’m the father of an amazingly smart six-year-old daughter. And I am the husband of an awesome supportive and beautiful wife. I’ve been a fan of the horror genre ever since my big sister rented Night of the Living Dead way back when on VHS and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
When not writing I like to spend time with my family and my dog, Hermione. I’m also a big fan of movies, of all kinds. I love going to see flicks at the theater, always have. I love the smell of popcorn and now that my local movie theater has those reclining seats and you can reserve them in advance, man—talk about progress! I also fancy myself as an avid reader. That “habit” spilled over into the extra room in our house which has become our own personal library/study.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
There are two that really stick out in my head. Stinker from Space by Pam Service, and the Goosebumps title Welcome to Camp Nightmare by the great R.L. Stine. Both were released in the early 90s and both are amazing books with fantastic twists and imaginative characters. Stinker from Space is about an alien who crashes to Earth and takes the form of a skunk to “blend in.” Welcome to Camp Nightmare has one of the best twist endings, I will not spoil here. I do recall reading it during a summer storm, which I’m sure aided its ambiance.
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
Damn…just one? My musical appetites range from Tool to Nirvana to The Royal Five to 1930s Harlem jazz to Mississippi Delta blues and even Appalachian bluegrass.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
You are indeed cruel, sir. My favorite movie of all time is The Thing (1982), and thus my all-time favorite director is John Carpenter. But if I could have a very close second, it would be Dawn of the Dead (1978) and George A. Romero as my second favorite director.
KR: What are you reading now?
Well, I just finished up with Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows, and now I’ve started in on Kill Hill Carnage by Tim Meyer and Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. I’m very excited to learn more about the Manson Murders and the history there, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about Tim Meyer, so I’m looking forward to starting his book too.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot are both two writers and their books that inspired me to put thought to pen to word. Remarque’s masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front should be mandatory reading. While fictionalized, the story is very real and raw and digs deep at the heart of man and his place in war and the banality of violence. And as for Stephen King, I know just about every horror writer will claim him as their inspiration, but there’s probably a reason for that. His novel Salem’s Lot is what I aspire to in my own fiction. Not only are his characters very real and human (mostly) but his places are too. The town of Salem’s Lot was just as much as a character as Ben Mears. There’s a power in being able to pull that off in storytelling, it makes the horror that much more palpable.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I do not plot or create any cumbersome universe bible that I have to follow. Most of the time what I start with is just a concept. Sometimes these concepts already have prescribed endings, but often those endings are changed through the development of the story. If my aim is to create “real” characters, then I have to let those characters “show me” what they want to do. Storytelling in this way can be frustrating and daunting, but it extremely rewarding and satisfying too. I never know where a story will take me, so in a way, I get to be the first person to read them.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
That depends on the context the story. For my novel The Last Hellfighter took me just over a year to research and prepare the material that I would need to know to write the book. The Last Hellfighter is deeply rooted in history, the main protagonist is a surviving member from the Harlem Hellfighters, a very real black regiment out of New York who fought in WWI.
As for Palace of Ghosts, my latest novel, once I had the concept I jumped in with both feet and was able to write the book in about 2 months. But only because of the context. Palace of Ghosts is about the Iraq War told through the story of a haunted house. Because I was able to base a lot of what was written on my own experiences, a heavy amount of research, like with The Last Hellfighter, was not needed.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
My usual writing day starts when the kiddo goes to bed, and I have the rest of the night to myself. I have a favorite writing spot—on my living room couch. I write from my laptop and will normally plug in my headphones to some moody non-lyrical music. I’ve tested various methods. I’ve written books in one subject notebooks and transferred those to MS Word. Nowadays, I write directly to MS Word. At the start of each writing session, I read over what I wrote the day before, make changes and/or edits, and then progress with the story.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
Not to sound cliché, but my latest novel Palace of Ghosts is my favorite. The story was raw and very painful to write. I opened and exposed my own memories from my experiences in the Iraq War to hopefully give the story a feeling of reality. The more real a story becomes, I believe, the more real the horrors become for the audience. I do hope the story is entertaining and terrifying for readers, but I also hope there is some meaning behind it too. It was certainly cathartic for me to write.
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
I do. Reviewers can be brutally honest, and if there was some glaring issue in my writing, such as editing and/or grammar errors, I’d like to know so that I can fix them. I also like to gauge how a story is doing, not just from a sales perspective but also from an audience reaction perspective.
KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?
You are not alone. Find that trusted inner circle of peers. You’ll go a long way with the right support. And by being a supporter as well. Be a mentor and find your mentor. Yes, there are a shit ton of books out there nowadays. Just keep in mind why you want to publish, what are your goals? And never forget to have fun. The moment this writing jig starts to feel like a job, it’ll lose its luster.
KR: What scares you?
Lots. Let’s see…giant bugs freak me out. Deep water unnerves me. Heights terrify me. And the unknown—the shadows in the basement, the unseen—well, it gives me the chills. I’m also easily disgusted by snot and apparently loose teeth—both of which have been recently discovered thanks to my six-year-old…
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
Paperback. I’m a traditionalist. I love the smell of the paper, the smell of libraries and book stores. You can’t get that with an eBook. The only inconvenience is that I like to read on the go. I like to take books with me everywhere and read when most people would be on their phones playing around on social media. The only books that I can take with me on the go on either mass market paperbacks or eBooks.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
Palace of Ghosts focuses on five main characters, six if you count the house. Samantha Green is a friendless former Army K-9 handler looking for a way to put the loss of her dog Hercules behind her. She’s somewhat of a recluse in her personal life now that she’s out of the military. Her parents are struggling to understand why she will not let the past go.
Brad Myers is a lighthearted former Military Police Officer who was severally wounded in war wanting nothing more than a good night’s sleep. He has troubling dreams of his time in Iraq. Of not just his own personal wounds but wounds he caused others.
Andy Lovejoy is an overweight light spoken drone operator who once watched the war from above now questions who he has become. His parents are what you’d call “modern hippies” and raised Andy to be a pacifist. He joined the service because he wanted to serve his country. He never thought he’d participate in hurting people, especially innocent people.
Marcus Pangborn is a headstrong Marine who desperately wants a dead friend’s forgiveness. He’s what I’d call a “man’s man,” super “tough guy” who drives Harley’s and listens to some badass music. His father and grandfather were both Marines and when 9/11 happened, he felt it was his duty to enlist. After the Second Battle of Fallujah, he was never the same.
The group joins Doctor Frederick Peters, he is an experimental psychologist looking to prove his exposure theory hypothesis. He doesn’t necessarily believe in the supernatural, but he hopes his patients will. To him, Amon Palace is the perfect testing grounds for his theory that long-term exposure and aggressive paranoia cultured in a stressful environment will force his patients to face their own repressed traumas. Unbeknownst to him, Amon Palace is very real and the ghosts it conjures are not necessarily psychosomatic.
“For those looking for something in the vein of Jacob’s Ladder meets The Haunting of Hill House (with touches of Lovecraft), I think Palace of Ghosts may be a story up your alley. Palace of Ghosts is a story that addresses my own ghosts. I wanted to explore the question of what would happen if traumatic memory could take physical form and terrorize and haunt the host.”
KR: What are you working on now?
Now that Palace of Ghosts is out in the wild, I’ve started work on my next book titled Detective Carter And the Cult of the Feared Ones. While readers may recognize the character Detective Carter from Palace of Ghosts, it is not a direct sequel, simply a continuation of the character himself. This book will have a Lovecraft meets Sherlock vibe, but told in modern story. Carter should be a very familiar name for fans of H.P. Lovecraft. The story follows the main protagonist and his partner Warren as they investigate a series of brutal murders in Galveston, Texas.
After the Detective Carter story, I’ll be working on the 3rd book in my Planet of the Dead series, titled Escape from the Planet of the Dead. I’m looking forward to this one as the story takes place 1 full year following the conclusion to War for the Planet of the Dead.
I’ve also got a few more projects in mind, but they need more fleshing out before I can announce what they are.
KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
- One fictional character from your writing.
I’d have to pick Hercules from Palace of Ghosts. Sure, he may or may not be a manifestation of Samantha Green’s dead K-9 partner, and his decomposing corpse may stink to high heaven, but he’s a freaking talking dog and is usually very insightful and could help me locate food and water.
- One fictional character from any other book.
Harry Keogh from Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series. He could open the Mobius Continuum and take me wherever I wanted to go. Assuming I could stomach the trip that is.
- One real life person that is not a family member or friend.
Vincent Price. I may need Harry’s help conjuring Mr. Price from the dead, but could you imagine how entertaining those nights on the island would be? I’m sure Vincent wouldn’t find reenacting some of his most famous bits from The Last Man on Earth, or House on Haunted Hill or maybe even some of his Edgar Allan Poe inspired movies, like The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, or House of Usher.
KR: Thank you very much Thomas.
Thomas S. Flowers
You can find out more about Thomas by visiting his official website www.thomassflowers.com
Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasSFlowers
Thomas is also available to talk or write about the effects of PTSD and trauma as a veteran of war, how writing has helped him cope, and how he balances the subject of war and mental health in his book(s).
Palace Of Ghosts
Evil resides in Amon Palace. Something worse came to visit.
Four veterans of the Iraq War seeking a cure for Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder arrive at a notoriously haunted house in the bogs of Galveston Island called Amon Palace.
Samantha Green, a friendless former Army K-9 handler looking for a way to put her loss behind her.
Brad Myers, a lighthearted former Military Police Officer severally wounded in war wanting nothing more than a good nights sleep.
Andy Lovejoy, an overweight light spoken drone operator who once watched the war from above now questions who he has become.
Marcus Pangborn, a headstrong Marine who desperately wants a dead friend’s forgiveness.
The group joins Doctor Frederick Peters, an experimental psychologist looking to prove his exposure theory hypothesis, and his two assistants, Tiffany Burgess and Dexter Reid.
At first, their stay seems to conjure nothing more than spooky encounters with inexplicable phenomena. But Amon Palace is gathering its powers—and soon it will reveal that these veterans are not who they seem.