BF: Hi Richard! To start off, I just want to say a huge thank you for joining us on Kendall Reviews! I was looking through your CV, and your resume is extremely impressive. What would you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your career so far?
RT: Thanks so much for having me. I think it’s really two things. The first is the fulfillment of writing a great story—something that stays with people, that they talk about, that has a strong emotional impact, and not only lives up their expectation of the genre they’re reading, but exceeds it—surprising them along the way. The other is to see my students flourish. Many of my friends, peers, and students have taken a series of my classes—from Short Story Mechanics to Contemporary Dark Fiction to my Advanced Creative Writing Workshop, and some, on to my Novel in a Year class. Watching their growth, seeing the “aha” moments where they have an epiphany, and then witnessing them break out, get nominations, land agents, break into the top markets, and win awards—that’s so satisfying.
BF: Our main reason of discussion today is to talk about one of your latest teaching endeavors, Storyville Studio. Would you like to give the readers a quick lowdown on what Storyville Studio is?
RT: Sure. It’s basically me taking the classes I had up on my blog and creating a dedicated, professional website to house them all. It allows me to create a platform, a place where everything is contained. All of the classes I just mentioned above, are there, as well as my editing services, and a reboot of the Day of Reckoning one-day class (with some amazing guest authors) and even a few “at your own pace” classes.
BF: What inspired you to create Storyville Studio?
RT: I love to teach—to share the knowledge I gained in my undergraduate studies, my MFA, other classes along the way, and everything I learned as a writer, editor, teacher, Editor-in-Chief, and publisher. This allows me to slowly expand, and to present these classes in a way that authors can get excited about taking, sharing, talking about, and coming back for more (hopefully).
BF: I see that before having the platform, Storyville Studio, you were (and still are) teaching courses on LitReactor. How long have you been teaching the craft altogether?
RT: I got my MFA in 2012 and started teaching not long after that. Short Story Mechanics, at LitReactor, was my first class, and I’ve been teaching that since 2014. I had been writing my Storyville column over at LitReactor since 2011 and that seemed like the next logical step. Just dipping my toes in the water, starting small, with the classes I felt I could teach, and then growing as an author and teacher.
BF: Do you believe that anyone can be taught how to write?
RT: To a certain degree, yes. And then again, no. I think that an average writer can work hard, study, apply themselves, and grow, and in the end create some really good stories. I also think that some people are born with gifts—vision, language, storytelling, emotion, psychology, etc. Those same people, doing the same work, will probably do better than the average joe who works hard but isn’t naturally talented. Though, of course, there are exceptions to the rule on both sides. Bottom line, in my opinion, yes—people can be taught to write, and to write better, but some people probably have limitations. I didn’t start writing until I was 40, so anything is possible, right?
BF: What are some words of advice that you can give to those who are just starting off in writing?
RT: Read a lot, study a lot, and write a lot. Just ingest every medium you can—film especially, but also television, music, art, food, travel, etc. The first column I ever wrote for Storyville was about finding your voice, and I think that’s a great place to start. Study the masters in your genre, as well as your contemporaries in that same genre, read the “best of the year” anthologies in that genre, study the award winners, finalists, and nominees, and pay attention—take notes, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and why. Stephen Graham Jones and I were talking about stories, and both thought that somewhere about our 75th story we felt like, “Oh, I think I know how to write a story know.” I use Freytag’s Triangle/Pyramid as a guide, but there are lots of ways to organize your stories. What’s that number about becoming an artist, or artisan? You have to put in 10,000 hours of work, or something like that? It’s true. You have to hone your craft. For me, I think the first three years of my career, including my MFA, were the most important. But once you start to have success, to get published, to get nominations, and recognition, that’s when the real work begins. To write a brilliant story, something that gets into the elite publications—that last 1-5% is just so hard. Everything has to work—the idea, the voice, the plot, the characters, the setting, the emotion. I’m swinging for the fences now, so fingers crossed that I strike out less than I make contact.
BF: I also wanted to take a minute to discuss you as a writer. Can you give us a little peek into your life? Do you have a daily writing schedule and/or ritual?
RT: I don’t have a regular writing schedule. I had eight stories out this year, some sold up to three years ago. I have six more out next year, and some of those had been submitted for 500+ days, and have also taken 1-3 years to come out. I write when I’m on deadline for an anthology or magazine, whether I was invited in or it’s an open call. And right NOW—I need to write that next novel. LOL. I mean, for me, I could take six months to write a novelette, like “Ring of Fire” (The Seven Deadliest) which is currently recommended for a Bram Stoker Award, or I could write a 6,600-word story in one day. My first novel, Transubstantiate, I wrote on my lunch hour, each day a different POV, 700-1,000 words at a time(which took a few months to draft, then I workshopped it for a year). With Disintegration, my second novel, I wrote the first half in my MFA over six months, then put it aside for two years to work on literary short stories, taking a week to finish it—40,000 words in five days. Breaker, which was nominated for a Thriller Award, took 25 days to write—65,000 words total. My last day was 12,000 words—I was really coming unglued. I’m a feast or famine kind of author—when it’s working, it’s usually working pretty well; but when it’s not, I get nothing.
BF: When writing, do you keep the area completely silent or is there a certain genre of music that gets your writing juices flowing?
RT: Typically quiet, though I have been known to put instrumental music, or albums I know really well, on in the background. Everything from The Cure’s Disintegration (guess which book that was) to Radiohead’s In Rainbows. But usually silence.
BF: What are some books, films or any other media that help kick start your creativity?
RT: There are five craft books that I recommend to people:
All are great, each one is different. Outside of that, I really love the work that A24 Films is doing – Ex Machina, The Witch, Hereditary, Under the Skin, Midsommar, Enemy, etc. I have an essay up about it on my blog where I talk about my favorites.
BF: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a young Richard Thomas?
RT: If you want to be a writer, don’t listen to any of the naysayers–follow your dreams. I’d been in advertising for 20 years before I decided to try writing again. The MINUTE I started pushing in that direction I felt like it was the right choice – I felt so much less resistance, and pretty early on I started to have success (one of the first stories I sent out landing in Shivers VI over at Cemetery Dance, alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub). That was the nudge, the light, the hope I needed in order to start writing again. I wrote all my life—grade school, high school, college. When I got serious about it, and quit running around, when I quit trying to LOOK like a writer, and just put my ass in the chair and wrote – good things started to happen.
Thank you very much for this interview Richard. Kendall Reviews wishes you every success for Storyville Studios.
KR: You can find out why Richard Thomas writes horror HERE
We believe in the power of story. We believe in the capacity of dark storytelling to bring light to the world. Narratives grip us, thrill us, and lift us to new heights. A good story can transform us, giving us a roadmap to navigate the world, and the courage to face the challenges that greet us.
The road to publication can be a hard one. The Storyville Studio grew out of a desire to share and give back to authors making their journey. We want to encourage strong voices, to lift them up so they can lift others. We focus on a balance of real-world, contemporary examples and authors, as well as classic methods of writing and expression, a mix of genre and literary fiction, craft books and academia, personal struggles and successes.
Our goal is to help you grow, evolve, and find your voice—the one that is unique to only you. We want to help you write the stories you want to tell, in the ways that you find exciting and fulfilling.
We have a wide variety of classes and programs to choose from, so whether you’re just beginning, or you’ve been writing for a while, we have a place for you. Come, find a community of writers to support you through your journey, and learn the skills to take you where you want to go.
This is a great time to be a writer.
You can find out more about Storyville Studio at www.storyville.studio
Follow Storyville Studio on Twitter @storyvilleclass
Richard spent twenty years in advertising before coming back to writing. Since then he’s been an author, editor, teacher, and publisher. He’s the award-winning author of three novels, three short story collections, two novellas, and over 150 short stories.
In addition to teaching at the Storyville Studio, he’s also taught at the University of Iowa, LitReactor.com, and Story Studio Chicago.
He’s been a panelist, teacher and/or guest speaker at Stokercon (Los Angeles), Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. (Oklahoma City), The Horror Writers’ Workshop (Transylvania), Columbia College (Chicago), University of Wisconsin (Baraboo), Mystery Writers of America (Chicago), Off Campus Writers’ Workshop (Winnetka), University of California-Riverside (Palm Desert), Writers Retreat Workshop (San Antonio), Lakefly Writer’s Conference (Oshkosh), Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp (West Bend), and FOCUS on the Arts (Highland Park High School).
He was the Editor-in-Chief and Gamut magazine and Dark House Press, and has been a member of the Horror Writers Association since 2012.
His story “Golden Sun” co-authored with Kristi DeMeester, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt will be included in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Eleven. He’s been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Thriller awards, won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, and has received five Pushcart nominations to date.
To find out more, visit his website at www.whatdoesnotkillme.com.
You can follow Richard on Twitter @richardgthomas3
Writer, Reader & most importantly, Mother of Cats. Thanks to her horror-obsessed father, Becca found her childhood nights dedicated to watching movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. As she continued to get older, her love for the genre only got stronger. Now, her goal is to share this love with like-minded people & possibly convert others along the way. When she’s not reading or writing, Becca can be found playing video games or begging her cats to take a nap with her.