Thomas M. Malafarina is an author of horror fiction, a cartoonist, and a regular contributor to the Screaming Eye Press. Thomas is best known for the twists and surprises in his stories as well as his descriptive, often gory passages. Thomas is also an artist, musician, singer, and songwriter. A native of Ashland, PA he now lives in Western Berks County, Pennsylvania along with his wife JoAnne.
What was the first thing you remember reading?
That would be World Book Encyclopedia for Kids. Those volumes were filled with lots of great children’s stories, fairy tales, and poems. We had a complete set of both adult and children’s encyclopedias.
When I was about eight my parents bought me a set of classics in paperback and I recall Call Of The Wild by Jack London from that collection.
The first horror I ever read was The Tell-Tale Heart by Poe. It scared the crap out of me. I have re-read it several times since then and even wrote a modern-day homage to the story, but I have yet to figure out why it scared me so much as a young boy.
What writer or book has been the most influential to you?
There have been so many. Poe as I mentioned above. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty was an amazing and revolutionary book.
I like Stephen King, especially Pet Cemetery. Dean Koontz’s book Intensity was very inspirational. I still enjoy reading anything by Koontz as his imagery and use of colorful expressions are almost like a language all their own.
What book or movie did you enjoy that not many people would think you’d like?
As far as books go, I have a guilty pleasure most people would be surprised to learn about. I am a rabid Janet Evanovich fan, specifically the Stephany Plumb series. They are a great way to lighten things up after reading or writing something emotionally disturbing.
I like goofy movies like Kung Pow, Big Trouble In Little China, Bachelor Party, and light stuff like that. I was always a major horror movie fan but about 15 years ago they started getting boring for me. I’m probably the only guy I know who fast-forwards through the sex scenes to get to the horror.
In fact, it was that boredom of horror movies that got me to publish my first horror novel in 2010 at the ripe old age of 55. I wanted to create stories and scenes that would play out great in either feature-length movies or short films. When I write a story, I am watching a horror movie play out in my mind. Most of the time I have no idea how it will end until it does.
What type of writing do you enjoy more, Fiction or Non-Fiction?
I prefer fiction when I write for myself. In my day job as an Advanced CNC Machining Engineering Manager, I often am required to write technical documentation and have written thousands of such documents over my long career. So, when I sit down to write something for sheer pleasure and enjoyment it will always be fiction.
Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on the type of art you create?
Not so much where I live now in Berks County, Pennsylvania as where I grew up. (Some might argue I never grew up.) I was born and raised in Ashland Pennsylvania in Schuylkill County, right in the heart of the hard coal mining region. The notorious and quite famous town of Centralia, the town abandoned due to a mine fire burning underneath since the late ’60s was only a few miles from my hometown. That town was the inspiration for the horror film Silent Hill.
As kids, we used to walk through the strip mines in the hills behind my home and often would end up in Centralia. As a young adult, I bought my first set of furniture for my apartment in Centralia. As a reporter for the local paper, the Evening Herald, I had to cover council meetings in Centralia.
My childhood was surrounded by coal dust, which blackened everything it touched. Our streams were orange with sulfur. Our mountains were black with coal dirt and within a few hours after a snow, the winter beauty was gone, and the snow was filthy with black dust. It was that somewhat depressing environment along with my friends who all loved scary stuff that I believe was responsible for getting me to where I am today.
Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?
I find writing for an assignment to be a major detriment to my creativity. I prefer to let my muses send me ideas. I can and have written for specific assignments, but I really don’t like it. I don’t mind writing for a specific topic as long as I am not given too much direction. For example, someone can tell me they are creating an anthology about Zombies and are looking for submissions. That’s a broad enough topic and I can run with that. But if someone gives me a rough outline of how a story should go, with a beginning, middle, and ending, that’s a real turn-off for me.
As I said earlier, most of the time I have no ideas where my stories are going or how they will end until they do. I am usually as surprised as the reader and I like it that way. My novel, Circle of Blood (Formerly called Fallen Stones) was written based on a rough outline provided by my publisher Lawrence Knorr. Although I made the story my own and it turned out pretty darn good, it was a bit of a chore at times for me, because I was following an outline and I was not as free as I like to be.
What are your methods of creating a story or novel?
Random chaos. I never sit down with the intention of writing a short story, a novella, or a novel. Here’s how things work for me. A rough idea pops into my head. (thank you muses) Maybe it’s only a scene like a short clip from a movie. It might be the opening scene or a scene from somewhere in the middle. It’s usually not an ending. Whatever it is, I know I’m supposed to write it down, so I do. Then I read it again and modify it until I like it and feel inspired.
Next, I start asking questions. How did this happen? Why did this happen? What events led up to this happening? What will happen next? These and hundreds of other questions once answered, usually create the story for me. I never count words, I just write. If the story can be told in less than say 10,000 words, it’s a short story. If it heads closer to 20,000 it becomes a novella. If I can’t stop writing and the story continues to grow to or past the 70,000-word mark it becomes a novel. I usually don’t sit down to write a novel. If they happen, they happen. That’s probably why I only have about seven novels (not sure of the exact amount) but have written almost 200 short stories. I could take any one of my short stories and expand on them to turn them into novellas or even novels, but I don’t have the time. My ideas come so fast and furiously that I have to keep spitting them out and getting them down on paper. Hence the reason for so many short stories.
What have you written that you are most proud of?
I am proud of What Waits Beneath as it was my first novel. It was originally called 99 Souls, but when I rewrote it several years ago, we changed the title upon re-release. I like it because it was my first foray into fiction writing and it opened the flood gates for all that followed.
I am quite proud of Burner (originally called Burn Phone) as it was one of those times when I wrote the opening paragraph with no plan, no title, and not having any idea whatsoever would come next. Before I realized what was happening, I had written a complete novel.
I like my Dead Kill series because I swore, I would never write a zombie book unless I had something unique to add to the genre. That is what I feel the Dead Kill trilogy does.
What was the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your writing career?
Other than writing obituaries for the newspaper when I was nineteen years old, (I actually wrote one for a guy named Teatsworth who owned a dairy), I would say the strangest thing happened just a few weeks ago. Friend and author, Mark Slade, with whom I illustrated the Charles Cartoon books, (Charles is America’s Most Beloved Serial Killer) told me he was putting together a unique anthology. He was looking for authors to take one of his stories and plagiarize it. His anthology is going to consist of nothing but various plagiarized versions of his story. I thought what a cool and challenging idea. So, he sent me the story and I wrote my own version of it. I did so with the mindset of supposing I really was ripping someone off, how could I do it and still make it stand up in a court of law if someone tried to sue me? I think the rip-off was so blatant that I would most definitely lose. It was a fun challenge and I look forward to the release of the anthology.
What projects are you working on now?
More than I can handle with a full-time job. Let’s see. I am working on completing a short story collection, Malaformed Realities Volume 7. My publisher Hellbender Books just released Volume 4, so I’m a bit ahead of them. They also have a novel I completed a year ago Death Bringer Jones, Zombie Slayer Book 1, which is a pre-quill to my Dead Kill series, featuring one of the characters. I’m almost finished illustrating the second Charles Cartoon Book with Mark Slade, tentatively called Charles: Remember To Dismember. Mark and I will also likely release another cartoon book before the end of the year based on his Janitor Joe character. We already have one episode complete.