Author Interview – Thomas Bales

His Other Work

Coming Soon

Books & Stories
Coming Soon

Story Art Sneak Peek

Amazing Artwork By Daniela Rivera

"A Nook Obscure"

Anthology: Paramnesia
Release Date: April 7th, 2023
Preorders: Kindle | Paperback
About the Author: Perhaps Thomas is a spacetime worm or perhaps he is the temporal part of such a worm. Either way, he is a being who hates writing bios and so prefers to retreat into abstraction.
Q & A

How does it feel to have this story published for the first time?

It feels great. Partly because it'll be fun to see the story in print, and partly because it means I never have to edit it again! Planning a story is a delight. Writing a story is a delight. Even the first edit or two is a delight. But at some point, it's nice to know that you can set a story aside and move on to the next one.

What inspired the idea for your story?

When I was a fellow at St. John's College, where my story is set, my favourite event of the year was a ghost stories evening. We'd gather around the fire in this old wood-panelled room, and ghost stories would be read aloud. Perhaps one from the 19th century, one from the 20th, and one from the 21st. Every time I felt inspired and thought that I should write my own ghost story, set in the college as a sort of expression of gratitude for the evenings. Eventually, I did just that.

We know that writing can be a tumultuous journey with a lot of obstacles, what is your kryptonite as a writer?

I love the beauty of language. I love crafting a story on the sentence level. Sometimes, I get so caught up in doing this that I forget that stories also require other things. Trifling things like plots and compelling characters and well-built worlds. So what's my kryptonite as a writer? The fact that beautiful words distract me from basically every other aspect of the writer's craft.

Clearly, you’ve succeeded at writing a captivating story for GrendelPress, but we all start somewhere. What advice would you give yourself as a young writer?

Seek feedback (from your target audience).
I think there are loads of great "rules" of writing out there. Things like "vary the lengths of sentences in a paragraph" or "use less adverbs". I think there's genuine wisdom in these rules, but I also think that there's nuance in how they should be applied. Sometimes adverbs are great and sometimes you'll want to use a series of sentences of the same length. So you need to learn when a rule should be applied and when it should not. Getting feedback will help you develop an instinct for this.

My sense is that the appropriate rules and nuance vary between genres and cultural contexts. There is no one true way of writing. So I suspect that feedback will be more helpful if it comes from a member of the target audience, who will be responsive to the relevant nuances.

Hence, seek feedback (from your target audience).

We’d like to argue that every good story makes both the author and the readers feel something. What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with your story?

When I was writing the story, I was thinking about the way that mental health and morality interact when it comes to wrongdoing.
In terms of mental health, the third wave of cognitive behavioural therapy enjoins us to set aside the question of whether our negative thoughts are true and focus instead on changing our relationship to these thoughts. I think there's a lot of wisdom in this suggestion. When we consider the truth of our negative thoughts, this can lead us to obsess about these thoughts and we can be dragged down by this obsession. And in any case, people who are struggling with negative thoughts often aren't in the right headspace to properly assess the truth of these thoughts. So perhaps mental health calls for setting truth aside, in some contexts at least.

But things get complicated in cases of wrongdoing. Let's say that my negative thoughts relate to treating someone else badly. Well, it would seem like an abrogation of responsibility for me to dismiss the question of truth: if I wrong someone, it's important that I accept that I truly acted wrongly as part of the process of accepting responsibility and seeking redemption.

How then to balance mental health and morality? I don't have the answer, but I do think it's important to find a balance. We should take responsibility for the ways we've acted wrongly, but at the same time it's important to seek peace from the ghosts that haunt us, both for our own sakes and for the sake of those in our lives.

My story wasn't intended to challenge any particular belief or perspective here, but it was intended to raise a question.

Tell us about your favorite author. What about their book(s) call to you and how do they inspire your own writing?

I think I have favourite books more than I have favourite authors, and the book that stands out in my mind right now is "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue" by V.E. Schwab. I read it, and the moment I finished it I sat down to write because I was so inspired by its beauty.
I'm not sure I could tell you what I loved so much about it. I have a terrible memory for books (a source of enduring irritation!), and I'm saving a second reading for the right time. So the book is something of a haze in my mind.

But I thought it was beautifully written and sad and hopeful. For me, it was a reminder that speculative fiction doesn't need to be about world-shaping events but can instead explore quiet stories about an individual living their life as best they can.

What do you love most about your story’s genre?

The aesthetic. I'm aware that ghost stories are meant to be scary, but I've never particularly found them so. However, I do appreciate the way that they're often an exploration of a certain sort of beauty. The beauty of autumn and winter. Of night. Of trees without leaves and ivy growing over a ruined wall.

What are some other genres you’d like to break into and why?

I'm more interested in writing whatever stories happen to speak to me than I am in writing within some specific genre, but I guess fantasy is my native genre. I read a lot of it as a kid, and my stories tend to gravitate in this direction.

If you had to pick another story of yours to share with your readers, what would it be?

One of my stories begins, "They say that if I stop speaking, the sun will not rise." Of the stories I've written, this is the one I'd be most excited to share. Alas, it's currently unpublished, but perhaps one day I'll share it more widely.
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