Name – Michael Thomas-Knight
Age – 53
Where are you from?
I was raised in Queens, NY…in Astoria and Queens Village. When I was 10 our family moved to Nassau County, Long Island (the suburbs) into a rumoured haunted house. Nobody had lived in the home for 25 years after the previous owner reportedly hung himself in the house. We had some strange experiences there, but that’s a long story. When I was 13, my childhood babysitter was shot by Son of Sam. It was a frightening thing to have happened so close to home. I imagine that some of these strange events in my upbringing would lead me to write horror someday.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My first novelette is being released by Pleasant Storm Entertainment. It’s called Skin Job. It is part of a themed series in Terry M. West’s Car Nex mythos. Skin Job is gritty and nasty, and it’s very close to reality in Queens NY. A tattoo artist conjures the Car-Nex demon to destroy a rival tattoo artist, unaware of the destruction he is about to unleash upon his neighborhood.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Escapism had started me writing. My parents got divorced when I was young and it was a bad scene. It was always pictures and words when I was a child. Then later on I was in the music biz and I was always writing songs, so it was music and words. Now it’s just words so I feel kind of exposed. I also started writing out of necessity. When I was in high school I hated doing book reports so I took music and made up books. I got a B+ for “Rock is My Life” which is a ‘BTO’ song. I made up a whole story from the lyrics. I got an A+ for “2112” by Neil Peart, which is a ‘Rush’ concept album. The teacher kept asking me to bring in the book and I kept avoiding it.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always considered myself a writer, maybe not an author, but always a writer. If you write, you’re a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Skin Job is a horror story, but it’s also a realistic story about failure, overcoming bad decisions in life and moving on. It is very close to me as it mirrors my life in the music scene. I had been in music for 25 years. One day I knew it was over, I wasn’t making money anymore, and I had to get out. The thing that got me out for good was a life struggle. The same kind of thing happens to my character, Alex in this story.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m a pulp writer in the horror and weird fiction genres. It’s all meat and potatoes, right out there in the open. I’ve had many short stories published in horror anthologies over the past few years. I have to say that with Skin Job I hit my stride. It gets intense, but it’s balanced with some good old fashioned word choices that I think are pleasing to the ear when you read them. My earlier stories were Poe derivative with a lot of fancy words and poetic phonics. I had to drop all that and find my own voice. In this story I’ve let just a little of that seep back in and in some spots, it makes the story sing.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I think very hard about what I want to title something. I look at all the books and stories out there and so many of the titles have a sameness. When I’m coming up with a title, if it sounds remotely like something else, I’ll throw it out. Everyone talks about the first line of your book/story having to be great, but the title is even more important. It is the first impression and often the deciding factor if someone will read your work. It also sets the tone for the story ahead. If the title doesn’t match that tone, people feel cheated. Terry helped me with the title for ‘Skin Job’ because I didn’t have anything striking at first.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, I guess it’s that everyone fails at some things in life. Failing isn’t the bad part; it’s what you do in the aftermath of that failure. You can succumb to it, or you can strike out against others. You can become bitter. You can also grow from it, but you have to decide to move on and change your life. Do you wonder what choice my character makes?
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Well, I’ve already spilled my guts about it. Some parts of the story were painful to write, some parts made me angry, and some parts were like razor blades slashing my skin. The spilling blood became my story.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
In my early teens, all I would read was horror comics and Famous Monsters Magazine. Then I discovered Stephen King and I enjoyed reading again. Soon after that I read Clive Barker and I was like, WOW, this is some serious horror fantasy stuff. Two other books that stand out for me when I was young were F. Paul Wilson’s, The Keep, about the Nazi’s being slaughtered by an ancient demon, and a haunted house story by Jay Anson called ‘666.’
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I read everything from Terry M. West; he’s my favorite new author. That is what led up to him checking out my work and asking me to be in his anthology, Journals of Horror, then writing Skin Job. Others that are not so new, Thomas Ligotti and Donald Ray Pollock. I love short stories. The first time I read Ligotti’s story ‘Purity’ I was astounded. I turned back to the beginning and read it again, 3 times in a row. It’s the first story in his Teatro Grottesco collection. I recently read Pollock’s, Knockemstiff. It’s not horror, but it’s pretty horrifying because it mirrors real life on the fringes.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
One is hard. It would be the editors that gave me some advice and worked with my stories early on when I got back into writing. Also, I had joined a writers group, Writing.com. You post your stories there for others to critique. I met some great people there that helped me tighten up my writing. Hi to Angus, Glenda, Lovina, Bill, Nicola, Lucretius, Arakun, LexiCain and everyone over there!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No, not really. I know this might sound pretentious, but writing for me is a catharsis. I don’t write for a market; I write because I have to. If some people read it when I’m done, I’m happy, but I never start out saying I’m going to write a story that people are going to love, or a story to fit an anthology. I write what I write. If it winds up fitting into the theme of an anthology later on, then I submit it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Oh, uh, it’s too new for me to tell. Ask me again in a year from now.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I used to make little comic books, a few sheets of paper folded over, for my friends. I wrote funny comics where my buddies were the characters and we all had nicknames. The Stain, Tres Nostrils, The Bagel…I wrote my first few horror stories not long after that. I’ve rewritten some of them several times. One called ‘Bloodsuckers’ was published in Wycked Mystic Zine in the early 90’s, then revamped and republished in Infernal Ink, 3 years ago. I took a 25 year break in the middle of them to pursue a career in music, lol.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Excerpt from Skin Job:
…He dreamed violent nightmares of blood and guts, where he had slain numerous screaming goats with a razor sharp buck knife. The blood splashed and squirted with abandoned and with his last slice of the blade the goats ceased to protest. When he looked down at his handy work they were no longer goats. He stood upon a pile of human bodies, the very top one being the pale body of Johnny Needles…
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Coming up with horror that has original aspects to it. I throw away a lot of stories. I get halfway through a story and say to myself. This reminds me too much of some other story by, let’s say…Richard Matheson, and I’ll take it and rip it to shreds so I never have to see it again. I’m hard on myself. If I was a little more accepting of my own work I would be much more prolific, but I can’t waste people’s time if there’s not some intrinsic value to the story. Something worth reading for a person’s life.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No. Most of my short stories are in places I’ve lived or visited in my life. I have many stories that take place in Queens and Long Island, NY. They have the flavor of the area and include local landmarks in the stories.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
So far I’ve only been in anthologies and this first novelette, Skin Job, from Pleasant Storm Ent. The editors and companies did the work themselves. When I do my first indie release, I’ll be excited to work on a cover because I love horror art and I have a lot of connections to horror artists because of my blog. I do features on Horror Art often. The only book cover I had some real input with was my Chapbook from a few years back, “The Clock Tower Black.” It was released by Goblin Press. The editor actually asked me, what do you want on the cover?
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Keeping my main character separate from me. Even though I was basing the story off of my own true life experience, the character had to be a separate person and make decisions that I would not have made.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead.
I have a story, Curse of the Crimson Queen, about a killer in late 1890’s London, five years after Jack the Ripper. When I wrote it, I pictured Peter Cushing, Veronica Carlson, Ian Ogilvy and Ingrid Pitt as the main characters. They were all Hammer Films stars; I modeled the story on the Hammer film style. The story isn’t published yet. It’s 14k words (and growing). I’m thinking about releasing it as another novelette.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yeah. Don’t be in such a rush to self-publish your book. It’s important to work with editors and mentors to take a story that’s good and elevate it into something approaching great. Be humble and listen to criticism with an open mind. Submit some short stories to anthologies, websites, and magazines. Hire a damn proofreader! I’ve seen too many simple grammar and spelling mistakes in indie books from Amazon. It really turns me off. A few I can overlook, but when there’s 3 or 4 on every page I get disgusted.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” by Stephen King. Did I mention I like short stories? King really knows how to tell a short story and I read all of his collections.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I was in 4th or 5th grade and I purchased a horror book from the Scholastic Book Fair. It was called, Arrow Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Nora Kramer. The next year I bought, Arrow Book of Spooky Stories. I loved reading them and remembered a couple of stories to this day. Last year I found them both on eBay and re-purchased them.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The TV show Impractical Jokers makes me laugh. It’s goofy but fun. Did you ever see the film, ‘Marley and Me’ with Owen Wilson? It made me very sad. Alright, it made me cry and I don’t want to talk about it. What about the movie Up? That beginning killed me. Mostly though, my family makes me laugh and cry. Seeing my two daughters grow into strong young women, brings tears to my eyes. I guess I’m getting sentimental in my old age.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I build and paint model kits. I restarted a few years ago for the first time since I was a kid. I build monster and dinosaur model kits; Godzilla, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Aurora Prehistoric Scenes kits, horror movie kits. My room at home looks like a museum of sorts. There’s some photos of my ‘model builds’ on my blog.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love watching old horror films, Hammer films, Amicus films, the AIP Roger Corman/Vincent Price films, especially the Poe adaptations. Also the 1950s sci-fi and horror flicks, I watch them often. Giant monsters, creature features, Godzilla, Ray Harryhausen films, I love all of that. I like new films too. I just watched Crimson Peak (2015) and I loved it. It’s like a Gothic Fairytale with ghosts. For TV, I still watch my dvds of The Honeymooners, The Odd Couple, The Twilight Zone, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Pizza/Blue/Rock… I like some classical music and own CDs with Vivaldi, Bach, Paganini, and some soundtrack music. I also have Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennet in my collection. As far as Rock music, my favorites are from the 1970’s, but I also like some guitar stuff like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. I like some Blues rock too, especially Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’ve done so much already. Art, writing, playing and recording music, gigging with a band, motorcycle riding, running an indie music magazine… a jack of all trades, master of none… I would perhaps get back into art.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog is http://parlorofhorror.wordpress.com All things horror…and some sci-fi too!
Skin Job – Kindle version only 99 cents
My Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/michaelthomasknight
Thanks so much Fiona, for this opportunity to answer some fun questions and reach some readers of your fantastic site. You are providing a wonderful service for us indie writers and I really appreciate what you are doing. Keep up the great work.