As a follow up to my review of The Sea of Flesh and Ash, I'm proud to present readers with an interview conducted with both of the Thomas Brothers.
First things first, I'd like to thank both of you for the interview.
Jeffrey: As well you should...we’re the freakin’ Thomas Brothers.
Scott: Thanks so much for the honor of doing this, Justin!
The Sea of Flesh and Ash was an interesting project, having two writers pen tales based on what they took away from the artwork that was used as the cover. What did you take away from the cover art when it was time to write your story?
Jeffrey: The image is called Dreams are Dark, and the artist is Travis Anthony Soumis, who has done numerous covers and interior illustrations for my books. Back in 2004, Sean Wallace at Prime Books asked me and Scott to each write a short novel inspired by this image, which Sean very much admired. (Publishing delays ultimately caused the book to be moved to Terradan Press in 2011.) What I got most from the image was a sense of the dream-like, as the artwork’s title suggests...the woman lying prone with her head pillowed in the surf, her arms open wide, and a gateway to a mysterious realm manifesting before her. Very evocative and poetic, so that was the tone I sought for my novel.
Scott: I thought that the image, which I found to be quite beautiful, was dreamy and sensual, and mysterious and begged a story that evoked those same qualities. I liked how the sea was a part of it, the sea being the closest thing we have to an unexplored dimension here in our tangible world.
What were your own personal inspirations behind the stories?
Jeffrey: My story was very much inspired by my intense love for two things: the city of Salem, Massachusetts, and for a woman who was the proverbial love of my life, with whom I shared a four-year affair that ended very sadly. She changed the course of my life radically, and sparked my obsession with Vietnam and its people, which has informed a lot of my writing since.
Scott: The house I was living in at the time inspired me in ways. I was living in a lovely Georgian Colonial built by a wealthy tanner named Benjamin Read in 1774. Sitting in my writing room with a paneled fireplace wall across from me certainly stirred my love of New England and old houses. So, it makes sense that antique architecture and New England locations figure notably in the novella. The Benjamin Read house was, in ways, a model for the spooky inn that each of the three major characters in my story ventured to.
As brothers, do you frequently send each other your work to critique, or seek advice from each other?
Jeffrey: Years ago we absolutely did that -- it was part of the whole process -- but as time went on and our personal lives diverged more widely, I guess we stopped soliciting the other’s feedback during the writing stage, instead reading each other’s books after they’d been published. But we remain each other’s strongest supporter and biggest fan.
Scott: In our younger days we shared our creative passions and inspired each other a great deal, but we became more individualistic over time when it comes to projects. Jeffrey used to proof my stories and share his reactions to them, but now we only see each other’s work once it comes out in print, and even then I am shamefully behind on keeping up with his numerous books!
Have you talked about doing any other collaborations?
Jeffrey: We haven’t discussed another collaborative project, but I should think it could happen. I think it’s safe to say the only obstacle is the other projects we’ve committed to -- I’ve said yes to more story requests than I can realistically fulfill! I’m at work on two novels right now that are collaborations in themselves, but with author friends.
Scott: Jeffrey and I each wrote individual stories for the book Punktown: Shades of Grey and The Sea of Flesh and Ash, obviously, but in terms of an actual collaboration, such as both of us working on a single story, there’s only been one published. The piece originally appeared in the Delirium Books tome Nether: Improper Bedtime Stories, which contained the content of my book The Shadows of Flesh and Jeffrey’s Honey Is Sweeter Than Blood. That story, called "Oranges and Apples", later appeared in an anthology from the same publisher, a book called In Delirium. Jeffrey modified our story somewhat for that, adding some material to it, and the work was renamed "Apples and Oranges". It would actually be very cool to bring the Thomas brothers together again at some point!
What authors/books have made the most impact on your own writing over the years?
Jeffrey: Often the writers who have had the strongest effect on me are not normally associated with horror -- writers as diverse as Thomas Hardy, Yukio Mishima, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, Martin Cruz Smith. Though they have all written what could easily be termed horror stories. Undoubtedly the two horror novels that had the most impact on me in my teen years, and which remain my two favorites to this day, are Blatty’s The Exorcist and Matheson’s I am Legend. But discovering Lovecraft in the mid 80s was a revelation all its own. And then there’s my inspiring younger brother, Scott Thomas.
Scott: Jeffrey’s work has inspired, awed, and influenced me from our earliest writing days, of course. The other two authors that I feel have had a great deal of influence on me are M.R. James and Dylan Thomas. I would heartily recommend the collected short stories of each of those brilliant fellows!
Are there any weird/horror authors or books that you would recommend as being essential reading?
Jeffrey: The obvious answers are, well, too obvious: Lovecraft, M. R. James, Ramsey Campbell, etc., so I’d prefer to say it’s essential to explore the work of up-and-coming or more obscure authors who deserve more attention, and have a lot to offer the reader who hungers for something different. I often crow about W. H. Pugmire, Ian Rogers, Livia Llewellyn, Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas. I’m belatedly discovering the brilliant Laird Barron, and I was floored by the collection Zoo by Japanese author Otsuichi. I think an essential recent anthology, to give readers a fantastic cross-section of the contemporary weird fiction scene, is The Grimscribe’s Puppets, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, from Miskatonic River Press. The book’s Thomas Ligotti tribute theme is almost incidental. Standouts for me were the stories by Paul Tremblay, Mike Griffin, and Cody Goodfellow, but overall it’s a consistently strong anthology -- better than most horror anthologies I’ve read, which tend to have a greater percentage of misses. I’m in it, too, but truly that’s beside the point.
Scott: For living authors I’d say Jeffrey Thomas and Wilum Pugmire. Jeffrey’s original collection Punktown, and his darkly brilliant Beyond The Door, spring to mind. I think Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw is an important work in the realm of ghostly fiction, and everyone ought to experience Lovecraft’s works, and certainly those of Poe.
Again, I thank both of you! It was a pleasure!
Jeffrey: How could it not be? We’re the Thomas Brothers, for Chrissakes!
Scott: Thank you so much, Justin!