Name T.S. Woolard
Where are you from Raleigh, North Carolina
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
T.S.: I’m a southern boy, through and through. Morals and manners mean a great deal to me. I’m married to my high school sweetheart. I have the best parents a kid could ask for, and credit them both with everything I am today. I have five Jack Russell Terriers and I live on the same land my family farmed four generations ago. I have deep roots here.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
T.S.: The latest news is anthologies I’m featured in being released. Ghosts: Revenge by jwkfiction closes on an acrostic poem of mine. Undead Legacy by J. Ellington Ashton Press came out on March 29th. I will also have a poem and a flash fiction piece in Siren’s Call eZine #20 due out soon. It’s a free download with some of the best authors and poets in horror today. I suggest grabbing an issue. The poem featured in #20 is extremely personal to me, so I’m thrilled to find it a home.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
T.S.: When I was eight years old, I began rewriting song lyrics to fit my life a little better. It taught me a lot about how to structure poems and lyrics, although at the time I didn’t realize I was teaching myself that. Only when I was around twenty-four did it dawn on me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
T.S.: I really always did. I didn’t consider myself an “author” until James Ward Kirk accepted my story, Ashes to Ashes, for Indiana Horror Review 2013. Until then I was just some chubby dude scribbling away in notebook after notebook. What’s funny is I wrote poetry for over a decade and my third short story I ever wrote in my life got accepted. I always thought my strength was in poetry (it is my first love), but I have been praised for my prose far more. I probably should’ve transitioned over sooner, huh?
Fiona: What inspired you to write your collection?
T.S.: Two things did, actually. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, and Little Deaths by John F.D. Taff. Little Deaths is the best short story collections (single author) I’ve ever read. Taff is a master of short fiction. No one I’ve ever read can do what that man can with three to six thousand words. It’s incredible. You Can Hear the Locusts sing in Hill’s collection shows some top notch short fiction. I wanted to say I had done what they did. I had my own short story collection. Two men I admire their style drove me to wanting to achieve their same accomplishments. I was proud of myself for reaching that goal.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
T.S.: Yes: mine. There are way too many influences and topics I write about to have one specific style. I tend to lean toward real life topics and plot, with a twisted, transgressive slant to it. But I try to have each of my stories begin, and end, with a person and a true human emotion or lesson of some sort. I even wrote a story in Solo Circus about the demons of the seven deadly sins possessing Santa and the reindeer. I tried to humanize them as much as possible.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title, Solo Circus?
T.S.: When I was writing strictly poetry—bad poetry mostly—I wrote everything in spiral notebooks. I’d fill one up, read through it and name it using the overall theme as reasoning. I wrote one during my uncle’s divorce and my grandfather’s passing, and named it, Death, Divorce & Despair. It made the books more important and real to me. It was like naming a pet or a child. They became their own entity with their own personalities and reasons for existing.
I finished and read through one of them. A poem in it was just plain weird, talking about the things and characters going on inside my head. I hadn’t named the poem, as it wasn’t completed. When I was trying to name the notebook that poem kept nudging me, like it was saying, “Hi, I’m right here.” I named the poem and notebook Solo Circus. I fell in love with that name and told my wife and family (this was years before I even submitted stuff for publication) the first thing I published that was mine alone would be called Solo Circus. The meaning behind it is you’re all attending the circus inside my head, and it’s a place you’ll never forget.
Fiona: Is there a message in your collection that you want readers to grasp?
T.S.: Each story has its own meaning behind it. Almost each one has subtext written into it. A few do not, like Sinful Santa. That one was really just me having fun and being goofy. It ended up being an enjoyable story, even if not emotional or moving in the slightest. However, the overall thing I’d like readers to carry away from Solo Circus is my diversity as an author. It ranges from weird and creepy to downright funny. That’s what I’d like to stand out.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
T.S.: There are few parts that are real as far as my personal life. It, however, is all very real to me. Nothing I write about in Solo Circus I do not believe could actually happen. A serial killer writing letters to the police (been done—BTK), a kid with an overbearing mother, a guy who has to answer for his sins. These are the basic bones of a few of the stories, but I believe the realism of them nonetheless.
There are a couple of instances that are ripped straight from my everyday life. For example, in Torn Apart the main character is reminiscing over something her father said. “You can’t trust a doctor who can’t even do C.P.R.” That is something my grandmother actually said about a therapist, word for word. Certain things like that are as real as it gets for me.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
T.S.: Most things are based on a story that I wish someone else would tell so I could enjoy it, rather than write it. That’s where the majority of my stories originate. I’ve had some stories bloom from song lyrics or a sentence someone says. Those are always cool and fun to allow my imagination run wild with.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
T.S.: I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I think it is the most perfect blend of modern and old style of writing. There is something…romantic(?) about a traditionally styled story, like Frankenstein or Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, writing has evolved over time, therefore styles such as Joe Hill and John F.D. Taff are the literary peak of today. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle captured both of those styles.
A mentor, before all the days of published authors, is my uncle, James. He wrote for years. Never got published, and never tried. He did it because it helped him calm his demons. He helped cultivate the writer in me, molded me into someone unafraid to pursue this dream. He has been invaluable to me.
Also, Mrs. Dona Fox, John F. D. Taff, and James Ward Kirk have all taken me under their wings and helped me grow as an author. They could never get enough credit for what they have done.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
T.S.: Right now I’m reading two books, as per usual with me. I’m reading The Doors by Alice J. Black, which made the Bram Stoker reading list. It’s a creepy young adult book, and a very good one. I’m also reading the newly released Dark Tales from the Den by Dona Fox. It’s a fine collection of short stories by one of the best authors today. If you are a fan of horror, gothic, Lovecraftian, and even some Splattergore, get her collection.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
T.S.: Dona Fox, Alice J. Black, John F.D. Taff, Toneye Eyenot, Deb Hoag, Alex S. Johnson, Catt Dahman, Michael Noe, Lisa Dabrowski, K.Z. Morano, Essel Pratt, Roger Cowin, to name a few.
An author really, really coming into his own right now is John Ledger. Ledger has only been around a year or so, and he has improved probably more than anyone I have followed in that year’s time. He will be someone you’ll hear more from.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
T.S.: I just did edits for Urban Legends, an upcoming J. Ellington Ashton anthology. I also just finished a story for Jurassic Attack!, which is another J. Ellington Ashton anthology coming out soon.
I have been writing—between anthology submissions—a novella collection I hope to find a home for by the end of the year. I absolutely love the two stories I have written for it already, so I’m looking forward to completing it.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
T.S.: Dona Fox. No question, the biggest support I have outside of family. She’s there to make me stronger, she’s there to tell me to stop crying and buck up. She’s there. She’s always there for me.
I would be wrong not to mention James Ward Kirk here. He is the publisher and editor of Solo Circus, and the reason I am able to do this interview. He saw something in me and supported me from the start.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
T.S.: Yes, ma’am, for sure. It’s not my primary career, but it definitely is more than a hobby. I take it every bit as serious as my primary career. It’s very important to me.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
T.S.: I would add poetry to it. That is probably my biggest regret. I really wish I had done that at least once a week. Thank you for being the reason this week, haha!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
T.S.: I searched for a way to ground my imagination for years. Music, sports, anything really. Then one day, a day that changed my life, I found one of my aforementioned uncle’s notebooks. He wrote poetry. Dark stuff, but amazing. I found it and it seemed to change everything for me. I still loved music and sports—and still do now—but writing, creating something from nothing, was what I loved. Learning someone I knew, hugged, loved, spent Christmases with was a writer showed me I could do it, made it attainable. Over time the style of writing I did evolved, but the feeling I had that day of finding that notebook—intrigue, desire, complete fulfillment—stayed with me.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
T.S.: This is the beginning of Ashley, a story from my collection, Solo Circus.
“Got an express package for you,” The mailman smiled, sounded official, and kept rubbing his mustache in a nervous way.
“You’re new,” said Ashley.
“That’s right.” The mailman turned defiant.
“I see you’ve heard about me, too. Think I’m some kind of freak?”
“I gotta be honest, you don’t look much like a freak. I don’t know what the guy I filled in for was talking about, really.” The mailman looked down and up as if searching for something to prove him wrong.
“Who, Willie?” Ashley asked.
“Yeah.” The mailman nodded. “He said you call yourself The Doll Doctor or something, and are a serious weirdo. But you look normal to me.”
“That’s nice.” Ashley handed the digital board to the mailman with a signature rubbed on the screen, and took the package from him. “But I killed Willie. See you tomorrow.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
T.S.: Keeping, what I call, “country grammar” out of my stories. I try to keep the plot of everything I write in the south, North Carolina if possible. I do it because I’ve lived here all my life. I know the way folks around here talk and their gestures and the kind of people they are. I use here as a setting because, to me, it makes my characters more authentic, more real. So when doing that, I tend to use southern slang in the dialogue. Not everyone gets it, and I have to go back and tone it down in the editing process
I also have to make myself stop trying to build atmosphere. I agonize and torture myself over and over when writing a story, trying to create the right atmosphere and tone. It’s hard to get it right, and could be as small as “a better word”. When your story is comprised of five-thousand or more of them, it makes finding the right one to change tough work.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
T.S.: One author is really unfair. I think all of us who read will agree than one author is never enough, but I will give this a shot.
Edgar Allan Poe. He kind of invented horror as we know it. There were variations of it, obviously, but to me modern day’s horror is an extenuation of what Poe did. But, if that wasn’t enough, he probably did better than anyone. He was amazing.
But still, just one?
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book?
T.S.: Yes. I travel all over. Different countries, states, towns, homes, people’s minds, some people’s whole lives. I travel more than many, and never leave my writing desk.
Fiona: Who designed the cover?
T.S.: Niall Parkinson did the art work, the illustration. The cover design (the circus tent theme and font) was added by Mike Janson. They did a great job. I don’t think I give these guys enough credit. They really made me happy. It’s one of my favorite covers of any book I’ve ever seen, and that’s not because it’s mine. I really love that cover. Thank you guys, if you’re reading this.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
T.S.: Trying to figure out the order I wanted the stories in. I know that seems simple, but I wanted the variety of tones, topics, settings, and themes to be as vastly different as I could. Trying to navigate the reader through the journey was hard to get right. I’m still not sure I did it right, to be honest. But it reads well, to me.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
T.S.: Yes, ma’am, several things really. I’ll hit on the two major points, both good and bad. The bad, I didn’t realize how much work went into one. It is years—literally years—worth of work involved in comprising, executing, and learning, then going back and rewriting stories to showcase the best “you” you can present to your readers. It’s never done, until it’s released. Even then it’s still not, but there’s nothing you could do about it.
The good is: I had no idea I could be so proud of something. I don’t have children, but I believe it’s a lot like what a parent sees when they look at their kid. They are responsible for everything the public sees in that child, the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the hideous. However, no parent finds anything in their child hideous or bad enough not to love them. I understand that now.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
T.S.: Yes, ma’am: listen, learn, shut your mouth, and open your mind. I have answered this question several times and something I’ll say over and over is one of my greatest strengths as a writer. Some people claim it’s their vocabulary, their imagination, their dialogue, several things. Mine is the ability to listen to where I fail, or need to improve. I used not to take criticism so well, but a friend of mine jumped my ass over arguing. Since, I have taken in everything told to me. To improve as a writer, you must accept that you’re not perfect. Learn why.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
T.S.: I know several people say this, but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. The fact that you guys take the time to be apart of something I absolutely love doing, and then tell me about, thank you, and I want to hear more from you. Please, please get in touch with me.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
T.S.: The Silence of the Lambs. It had a huge impact on the types of stories I write. Until HORNS and The End In All Beginnings, I thought it was the “perfect” story. There wasn’t a better one. Every part, every word was could’ve been written in gold—or red, if you’re religious.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
T.S.: I, like many of my fellow dark fiction authors, have a very dark sense of humor. I also can go to the complete opposite to goofy, corny humor. I love to laugh, and make people laugh. My favorite comedians are Richard Pryor and George Carlin…both a little off the beaten path and darker in nature.
Real life makes me cry. I can’t watch the end of Tombstone, when Doc Holiday dies. I read the last one-fifty pages of HORNS in tears. For One More Day by Mitch Albom had the same impact on me. Real makes me cry, but I need something strange to pull me in.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
T.S.: Jesus Christ, just to see, you know? Religious or not, who wouldn’t want to meet him. To be able to have that knowledge so many of us fight over today would be incredible.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
T.S.: “Dead, Funny.”
No, I really have no idea. Probably something about the kind of guy I was. I asked my loved ones to have a special kind of service at my funeral. I don’t want anyone preaching to my friends when they are looking at a dead me. I want people, whomever feels like they want to, to get up and share a story of when I made them laugh, or helped them, or the thing that warms their heart when they think about my. They can cry before, or after, but not during. I want everyone smiling thinking about me.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
T.S.: Sports and music. I love both way more than I should. I am always doing one of the three, writing, sports, or listening to music. I play golf on average of once a week. I play on a pool league. I watch pretty much any sport on TV when I’m watching TV. I’m also a huge wrestling fan (not a sport, but athletic).
I also can play any kind brass instrument, trombone, trumpet, tuba. I can play a flute, clarinet, and tenor sax. I’m teaching myself how to play guitar, and want o re-learn how to play piano soon. I love music.
I love video games too, but not nearly as much as the other two. It is worth mentioning, though.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
T.S.: My favorite movie of all time is Tombstone. I love westerns. I grew up obsessed with Maverick. I’m even named after a cowboy. I love other movies, like Primary Colors, Secret Window, Sinister, Strangeland, Pitch Perfect, but none touch Tombstone.
TV shows are my love. I’m bad for latching on to a show and never letting go until the end. They hold special places in my heart and I claim I’ll never watch another series when I’m through. It never lasts, but that’s what I say. A few I love/loved are The Following, American Horror Story, Monk, Burn Notice, Dexter, NCIS, House. The greatest show of all time was The X-Files. I’m actually watching the whole series over again on Netflix. You can imagine how thrilled I was when the recent news broke of a new season. I almost cried.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
T.S.: Food is my mothers fried chicken, Barbequed Country Ham an Mexican food (I love food). My favorite color is purple. I really like purple with smoky grey or black. I think that’s a beautiful combination. Music, I have a very varied taste. I go from Hank Williams Jr. and David Allan Coe, to HURT and Rob Zombie. I love classical music and recently went back into 90’s alternative/rock. Hootie and the Blowfish, Nirvana, Creed. That sort of stuff. I love Tom Petty and Taj Mahal, too. Very varied, like I said.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
This changes constantly, but right now I would have liked to have been a wrestler or a professional pool player. This tends to change with whatever interests I’m following outside of writing and my main career. At one time I would’ve loved to have been an extreme snowmobile rider, or snowboarder, or a football player, or even a bourbon distiller. So where ever my interests are at the time, depends on my answer to this question.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
T.S.: My blog is https://tswoolard.wordpress.com/ I will be reblogging this interview, and a little feature on Dona Fox and Dark Tales from the Den soon.
You can follow me on Twitter @TSWoolard. Remember, I love to talk with anyone regarding their work or mine. So by all means, do not hesitate to get in touch with me!
I wanna thank you, Mrs. Fiona, for having me, and anyone who took the time to read this. It was a pleasure.