Tamara dishes about her new novel, Brimstone, plus lots of other things. David Kemph asked some great questions.
A few months back, Alistair Cross and I we were interviewed by Pam Stack at Authors on the Air. We had a great time on the show and the three of us quickly double entendered ourselves into a fast friendship. A few weeks ago, Pam asked us if we would be interested in hosting some horror-themed shows in October. This sounded like a lot of fun and we agreed, though we’ve kept it under our Halloween masks until today.
Since, Pam has invited us to host our very own brand new radio show… so starting in November, we will be hosting Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live. We will be interviewing horror authors and other macabre personalities, talking about horror in general, telling ghost stories – ours and yours – and are planning some very special T&A – style features for your amusement.
Already, we have an impressive list of excellent horror authors on tap, ready to share their personal stories in the horror industry as well as the secrets of their writing processes. But don’t expect deep dark critiquing and heavy duty analysis. If you follow us on Facebook, you know we like to have fun. We’ll talk about books and movies, the publishing world and about our own writing processes, as well as our unique methods for breaking writer’s block and other catastrophes.
We have a vision. We want Haunted Nights Live to be the liveliest show about dead things in existence! It will be Halloween all year long at Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live. Boo!
A radio interviewer asked Alistair Cross and me how we write together and that was one of the most eye-opening questions we’ve ever had. She was amazed when we told her our method and said she’d never heard of anyone writing like that before. Evidently, many writers split things up with one brainstorming and the other writing. Neither of us can even imagine having any fun doing our job this way. To not be allowed to brainstorm would be horrible! And to not write would be just as bad! We can each imagine this working in non-fiction, but in fiction, if you don’t love both sides – creating and writing – where does that leave you? How can you imagine ideas for your plot and characters without being able to set them down as well, and vice versa? Can a good writer write without his or her imagination taking off and soaring to the heavens? It sounds absolutely horrible to us.
Our collaborations are a 50/50 effort. We plot together, we develop characters together, and we even transcribe together by getting on Skype, opening the Cloud, and working side by side. Sometimes Tamara takes the lead, sometimes Alistair does – but nothing is written without both of us present. We each have our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and we each are aware of the other’s. Luckily for us – as we learned early on – our weaknesses and strengths balance out; where one of us has difficulty, the other is at ease.
One very important part of our process that we stress very much when asked about it, is the personal side of our relationship. Writing is a job, a business, and although we are business partners, we are also friends. We may share the same vision, the same sensibilities, and even similar writing styles, but all of this is pointless without three very important elements: respect, honesty, and loyalty.
Respect comes first. We are aware of each other’s time. We meet every day, six days a week, and work anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. But if something comes up or one of us is running late, we are okay with that.
As for honesty… honesty is something you have to be comfortable with if you intend to write with another person. If one of us hates what the other is writing – though it hasn’t really happened – we’d say so… but kindly. If one of us isn’t feeling the same vibe as the other and thinks the story needs to go a different direction, we discuss it openly.
No drama. We are similar in that we both avoid drama – and the people who spew it – so one of us getting drawn into the chaos of the other one’s personal life issues is never a problem for us. This zero tolerance for drama, in fact, is probably the glue that holds this whole thing together. (Sure, we each tell the other what’s going on in our lives – we’re friends and that’s what friends do – but we don’t dwell. We go to work.)
So kindness, honesty, and a no drama policy is what makes up the respect facet of this deal. Then there is loyalty.
Loyalty comes into play because we are given a lot of advice by outside forces, and sometimes, the advice is not good. We’ve made a firm pact that no decisions will be made without the consent of the other one. No one is allowed to call one of us and discuss changes behind the other’s back. We are business partners, and we operate as such, no exceptions.
With loyalty comes trust, which could easily be the fourth part of the sum. We trust each other with the characters, the storyline, and on a personal level as well, but this trust is built on the foundation of the respect, honesty, and loyalty to which we adhere.
And now that the personal elements of our collaboration have been covered, we come to the creative part of the process.
Each day we spend an hour or two in the morning warming up. We chat, we do our PR and marketing work, whether it’s writing a blog, posting to Facebook, or answering interview questions. We spend a little time studying some aspect of our business most mornings as well, whether that’s going through a lot of covers or promotional posters and talking about what we like and dislike, discussing articles we’ve just read on traditional vs indie publishing, or anything else writing-oriented. We tell some jokes. We laugh a lot.
And then we get down to writing. If we’re having trouble getting going, we get silly, each sneaking in outrageous dialogue or descriptions for the other to laugh at. That’s actually one of the best tricks we’ve found for getting a scene moving. We’ll add on to the silliness, each of us, and suddenly the scene comes to life and, when we’re done, we remove the goofy stuff.
We each enjoy following certain characters and take the lead on our favorites, but we are also careful to switch off so that we each know every character well. To us, familiarity with our characters – all of them – is vital to the story.
While, individually, we both do a lot of world-building in order to get to know our characters and their locale, together, we probably spend twice as much time doing this. When you are collaborating, the littlest details become important and are (usually) best figured out beforehand because both of us must know whether a character has dimples or drives a beat-up old Chevy or hates seafood. Otherwise, incongruities can get past us, unnoticed.
The characters’ voices, however, evolve during writing and whoever creates the voice sets the tone the other follows for that character. For example, a character in one of our upcoming novels has a unique way of swearing that Alistair made up. We both love voicing her and work together to get the most insane profanities out of her as we write, always following Alistair’s original style.
While we occasionally write two scenes in tandem – this usually happens when we are writing one scene together and one of us is inspired by something the other writes – we still consider ourselves to be writing together; after all, via Skype, we have instant access to one another. After that, we go over both scenes together and make sure everything is in synch and do a light edit. Mostly, though, we quite literally write together. One of us may write most of a scene with the other trailing along fixing things, or simply taking in the tale as it evolves. Sometimes we take turns in the same scene. Tamara often takes over descriptions of locale because she really enjoys it. Alistair enjoys writing certain situations and takes those. We think the main reason one or the other of us takes the lead, though, is character. We each have our favorites.
We write in similar voices and have similar sensibilities, senses of humor, likes and dislikes, and this, of course, is part of our chemistry. But if you have a collaborator you constantly disagree with, our question is why? If you have nothing in common, how can you enjoy your work – or one another?
We received some great feedback the other day. After reading The New Governess, the first installment of our Gothic Erotica serialized novel, The Erotic Adventures of Belinda, a reader said to us: “Which one of you wrote this? I can’t tell.” To which we happily answered, “We both wrote it.” And we did. Just like we wrote this blog. Together, in the Cloud.
My collaborator, Alistair Cross, and I were interviewed on Tales to Terrify with Sylvia Shults, discussing the strange events and anomalies we experienced during our stay an allegedly haunted cabin. We were asked to stay three nights – which soon turned into five – and give an account of our experiences afterward to help the owner conclude whether the place was getting a bad rap… or if is officially a hangout for haunts.
Here is our assessment at Lights Out podcast on Tales to Terrify.
In a couple weeks, Alistair Cross and I will be guests at Tales To Terrify – on the Lights Out podcast, hosted by Sylvia Shults – where we will be talking about our experiences at the allegedly haunted cabin in California. Tales To Terrify was named the Podcast of the Year by This is Horror. Once we have the link, we’ll post it here and on our websites at http://alistaircross.com/ and http://tamarathorne.com/
Gingernuts of Horror has just published a wonderful and scandalously fact-filled interview with Alistair Cross and me. You’ll find out how we met, how we work, news about our horror novel, Grandma’s Rack, and our erotic serial novel, Belinda. You’ll see news of my Candle Bay sequel, and Alistair’s solo novel, The White Room.
We also give the skinny on how we met, what scares us, what influences us, our favorite brands of breakfast cereal, our preferences in shoelaces, and what makes us fight like cats and… cats.
And at least some of the above is true, we swear it.
The date and time for our upcoming interview is official. Alistair Cross and I will be live at Authors on the Air with Pam Stack on Thursday, April 17th, 2014 at 8:00 pm EST. We’ll be discussing our upcoming projects Grandma’s Rack and Belinda as well as anything else that happens to come up.
Grandma’s Rack is in the last stages of creation and – after we do an extensive edit of our own – the manuscript will head over to the editor. After that, it will go to the publisher who will provide the final finishing touches and get it on its way. We have no idea how long these processes will take so an exact date for release is still unknown.
(Grandma’s Rack – coming in 2014 by Avalerion Books)
Belinda, our paranormally-inclined serialized erotica, is coming along nicely as well. Belinda’s story will be released in a series of installments beginning later this summer, also by Avalerion, and will showcase a few of our favorite personal topics – provocative characters, spooky vibes, and unrelenting sexual exploits.
(A promotional poster for Belinda – coming this summer from Avalerion Books)
It’s an eventful year and we’re looking forward to the release of these projects. As soon as we have release dates, we will post them here on our blogs – along with any interview links and other promotional events – as well as on our websites, which you can visit if you want to learn more about us.
Tamara Thorne: http://www.tamarathorne.com
Alistair Cross: http://www.alistaircross.com
That’s where you’ll find my Halloween feature if you’re in today. It’s running in these papers: , Pasadena Star-Bulletin, , , , , and .
The feature is all about hauntings you can visit in the southland. I’ve been to all of them and they’re great any time of year, but especially during Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos!
Speaking of the Day(s) of the Dead, two of the places mentioned, Rose Hills Cemetery, andForever Memorial Park, both hold big celebrations this weekend. See the article for links.
You can also catch the article online at any of the newspapers’ sites. Here’s a link to the story via the LA Daily News.
ALSO: if you listen to KNX today, you may catch a short interview with me about haunted hotspots around the LA Metro area.
See the next blog down for a recounting of the first two paranormal events I was involved in! I have incorporated many of my experiences over the years into my novels. Check ’em out at http://tamarathorne.com And if you feel like it, share your stories with me here!
I’ve been collecting ghost stories since first grade, but it never occurred to me I might encounter something spooky until it actually happened. Years ago, when I was in my early twenties, we moved with our infant son into a nice rental house in the north end of San Bernardino.
One of the first mornings after moving in, I saw my toothbrush pop up out of its holder then clatter into the sink. I was surprised — and delighted. I promptly put it back in its holder and waited for a repeat performance, but nothing more happened. . . that day.
I didn’t tell my husband because I figured he’d think I was either imagining things or pulling his leg. And it didn’t cross my mind that these almost daily incidents might signify a haunting since, in the following weeks and months, I never felt anything even approaching fear as I watched Kleenex boxes slide across nightstands, newspapers and magazines flop out of their basket, more toothbrush dances, and other light weight inanimate objects skitter around by themselves. I honestly chalked it up to some sort of glitch in the gravity.
And then, six months in, something bigger happened. Damien and I were sitting side by side at the kitchen table having a ham sandwich lunch. In the center of the room, a full, three-foot-high trash can waited to be taken outside. As we were chatting and eating, the heavy bin simply rose into the air two to three inches, hovered a second, then dropped back to the floor. Time had slowed down in that way it does when something shocking happens, and we turned to each other, jaws dropped like bad clichés, and said, simultaneously, “Did you see that?” We nodded at each other, dumbfounded.
We slowly finished our sandwiches, never taking our eyes off the trash can, but nothing more happened. Knowing he’d believe me now, I told Damien about all the other little incidents and my theory about the gravity glitch. We talked of poltergeists at that point but because of the lack of fear, neither of us bought it. Funny gravity seemed more likely because we both thought that ghosts would be scary. How young and naïve we were!
Over the next couple of weeks, things became a little unnerving. Nothing happened – not even a twitch of a toothbrush – and that made it worse. I also came to understand there was another reason I hadn’t told my mate about the minor stuff: as long as he didn’t see it, it wasn’t real. But he had – and spectacularly. My imagination had engaged and I began hurrying past shadowed rooms, turning lights on everywhere, and listening for strange noises. Still, nothing happened, but I was nervous because I knew it could: Seeing a heavy object levitate with a co-witness was not at all the same thing as a cute little toothbrush hopping around.
I don’t know what would have happened if the owners hadn’t asked if we’d break the lease. They wanted to move back into the good-sized house because they had a teenaged daughter who’d been in a sanitarium for a while for emotional problems, and she was coming home. They needed the space again, they explained, and the girl was looking forward to moving back into an odd little room that was built inside the garage. Though we never used it at all, this room was nice and we’d guessed it had belonged to a music-playing teenaged boy because the walls were carpeted, probably to muffle sound. . .
After moving to a little house that looked like it should be haunted but was completely normal, I dug into poltergeist phenomena and realized that the disturbed daughter who lived in the room with carpeted walls probably was the poltergeist agent and that there was enough of her leftover energy in the house to cause the random events we experienced there. I would have loved to ask the parents if things flew regularly in the house when they lived there, but that would have been crass.
Once in a while, thirty years later, if I’m out that way, I’ll cruise past the house. It’s still a nice house in a nice neighborhood. There are flowerbeds, the lawn is neatly mown, and the sidewalk swept. I wonder what, if anything, happens in there.
A few years later we moved to Tujunga, a little city snug up against the mountains above the Burbank-Glendale area. We were both working and we looked forward to picking up our son and coming home at night to our four cats, who waited in a gem of a four-bedroom ranch house.
The oak-floored residence was comprised of a long hall containing four bedrooms and two bathrooms, with the master suite at the far end of the hall. Our son’s room was at the end nearest the foyer. On the other side of the foyer was the communal living area of the house. That was circular, opening to the living room to the right of the foyer and the kitchen straight ahead. There was a formal dining room between them. It was a nice setup.
We lived there for six months, growing increasingly uncomfortable with the place, though we never quite knew why. The house was great, the neighborhood so-so. A couple of things stood out: our cats would not allow us to leave them out of the bedroom at night, and I suddenly developed what I thought to be a muscle twitch in my shoulder that felt like someone was tapping on it. It happened virtually every night and only in the bathroom when I went to brush my teeth. It became a joke.
We were never quite comfortable there and after six months found a new place to live. The last day there, we dropped our son at his grandmother’s, left the cats at the new place and spent the night alone in the Tujunga house. Most everything was packed and ready to go and we slept on our mattress on the floor in our bedroom at the far end of the house.
The next morning, Damien left to pick up the rental truck while I lazed on the bed for a few more precious moments. Not three minutes after he left, I heard the front door open and slam shut, then angry footsteps stomping around the living area. This wasn’t like Damien, but who else could it be? I called out his name and asked if he’d forgotten something. The stomping paused briefly then started up again, without any answer.
I fought back panic as I realized there must be a prowler in the house. There was no phone in the bedroom, nothing but a broom. The window was over a ten-foot drop to a cement stairwell leading to a basement. I rapidly pulled on my clothes, grabbed the broom, cracked the bedroom door and yelled, “The police are on their way and I’ve got a gun. Get out!”
The footsteps ceased abruptly and I waited a minute, listening. No floorboards creaked out there or in the hallway. No footfalls sounded. Knowing I had to make it to the foyer, I pointed the broom handle like a spear and crept down the hall. Nothing. Silence.
I arrived at the mouth of the hall and saw no one in the living room, though I couldn’t see into the dining room or kitchen. The foyer was clear, and it was just ten steps to the to the front door. Then, suddenly, right in front of me, the footsteps started up. I couldn’t see anything and they stomped right past, into the corridor. Right behind me, I heard our son’s bedroom door slam closed and the stomping continue up the hall.
I was out of there like a shot.
I paced around the front yard, fairly freaked out. It was impossible, what had happened. It was nuts. Finally I sat down on the front steps to wait for Damien’s return because there certainly wasn’t a prowler in there.
When he pulled up, I was already trying to convince myself it was a trick of the house, maybe the plumbing. It was too crazy to believe. But I told him about it, and he smiled. He didn’t think it was anything supernatural, and honestly, I’d have smiled too.
We went inside, searched the place, including the detached garage, the little basement and the yard, and, finding nothing, (even our son’s bedroom door was open despite the sound of it shutting) we got back to work. Mid-afternoon, we took a break, carrying warm bottles of Coke into our son’s former room, where we sprawled on the floor. My back was against the wall, legs flat out before me, and Damien lay on his back and crossed one leg over the other. We were joking and talking about what I’d heard, wondering what it had really been, when he yelped as his lower leg jerked upward.
“What?” I cried.
“Something yanked my ankle!” He was freaked and suggested we get out of there before dark. I thought that was a splendid idea and we put the last box on the truck just as dusk settled in.
We spent a lovely night at our new place and by morning both of us were sure all of it could be rationally explained away. He went back to give the landlord the key that afternoon and, fear gone, he went inside to make sure we’d left nothing behind. About fifteen minutes later, he heard the front door open and slam, and heavy footsteps. Thinking it was the landlord, Damien walked out of the bedroom – and the exact same thing happened to him as it had to me – the footsteps paused, then started up directly in front of him, passing him as they moved up the hall toward the bedrooms. The only difference was that he didn’t hear the slam of our son’s door.
It was bat out of hell time. He left the key in the mailbox and never went back.
Two things stood out to us afterward about that early experience. First, the twitch that felt like a finger tapping my shoulder never happened again after we left the Tujunga house.
What’s most interesting is that we both felt immense dread in this haunting. That’s not something that happens very often. Almost always, anomalies are interesting and can even be delightful. This one was dark and nasty.
A while later, I did some research on the prior owners of the house. Our landlord bought it a family had lived there: husband, wife, and a couple of kids. The man began behaving erratically (post mortem, a brain tumor was found). He was abusing his family and, eventually they left him. He died not long after.
For us, this is all we needed to understand. This residual haunting was emotionally full of rage and our moving out set off the “tape” – the emotions and memories embedded in the house. Further research revealed that this is a fairly common type of haunting.
Those were our first two encounters, and I’m grateful for them. We both are. It would be eight years before I came across anything else that was not easily explainable. Fortunately, those were the only ones that happened in places we lived in; as much as I love a good haunting, I’d much rather visit one then live with it.
I’ve experienced many strange things since then and go out of my way to find them, but those first two were the best. Years from now, we’ll be sitting in rocking chairs on our front porch, shaking our gray heads and saying, “Remember when the trash can levitated? Wasn’t that grand?” And we will smile.
Halloween is fast approaching and we have been having a terrible time deciding what to be. We want our costumes to go together to celebrate our upcoming collaborations, but since we’re several states apart, we have to be really creative or people won’t get it. What follows are some conversations we’ve had on the topic as we try to come to the most appropriate (and we use that term very subjectively) decision on our costumes.
Tamara: Phone trick-or-treating is a must. That way, we can both ask for candy simultaneously. I’m going to glue some frizzy red hair and a tiny clown nose to my phone so you have a built-in costume. What are you going to do?
Alistair: I’m going dress up my iPhone with some scars and fake blood to make him into a zombie. He can say, “Argghhhh give me brains!” and scare people. I shall call my phone Tamara, and I shall demand extra candy for your sake. Then, I will eat your candy when no one is looking.
Tamara: Or we could be each other’s imaginary friends. Or ghosts. When we say trick or treat through the phone we’d be all OOOOooooooh Tricccckk orrrrrr Treeaaaat! That might be scary, huh?
Alistair: Yes! The sky is the limit, really. There are lots of things we could go as. A razor and pubic hair for example.
Tamara: Or Little Bo Peep and her missing lamb, which also leads us to the priest and his missing choir boy. Alistair if we do that, you MUST wear underwear.
Alistair: You know I can’t make any promises.
Tamara: In that case, how about the Liberty Bell – you be the crack and I’ll be the bell – our costume will be heard throughout the land.
Alistair: Let freedom ring.
Tamara: Twig and berries? You could be the twig, and I could be the berries?
Alistair: That might work. Except I’m not quite twiggy enough this year to pull it off, I don’t think.
Tamara: Holmes and Watson hunting for each other.
Alistair: Yes! Or Cher and Dead Sonny – I will be Cher because I’m taller and I want to wear the head dress and the see-through gown. (And I won’t be wearing underwear for that!)
Tamara: Just gonna tuck it?
Tamara: Okay. I’ll be Sonny because I really enjoy being a mustache jockey. And we’ll go to each door and sing “I got you, babe,” then panic and yell, respectively, “Cher? Cher? Sonny, you little puissant, where are you? You missed your cue!”
Tamara Thorne: Jimmy Hoffa and a bag of cement!
Alistair: Lizzie Borden and her stepfather. I’ll have an axe coming out of my head, and you wear a bloody dress.
Tamara: Sperm and a tonsil. Or, better yet, sperm and a box of Kleenex. We could make a headdress out of Kleenex.
Alistair: We could always go as Thorne and Cross. You would have to have something pointy atop your glorious head. I would just have to walk around with my arms out and feet close together… which is pretty creepy.
Tamara: I know! We could be two serial killers on the prowl. We could dress as our favorite serial killers from our books. You be Sterling Bronson, I’ll be Jack the Ripper. And we could each show a picture of the other to the houses we visit and say, “Have you seen this killer?” As long as neither of us has to be the helpless victim… Helpless victims are boring.
Alistair: I agree. No victims.
Tamara: Wednesday and Pugsley Addams. Because sometimes being sexy like Morticia and Gomez just gets old, you know?
Alistair: Yes. Let’s not be “sexy” anyone. Yawn.
Tamara: Separated Siamese twins.
Alistair: Annie Wilkes and Paul Sheldon. We will have to do that one when we go trick-or-treating together though, so you could push me around in a wheelchair.
Tamara: Agreed! Danny Torrance and his talking finger.
Alistair: Okay, but I want to be the finger. I hate that little boy’s haircut.
Tamara: George C. Scott and the haunted wheelchair.
Alistair: The Changeling?
Tamara Thorne: Yes! You have to be the wheelchair.
Alistair: I don’t want to be a wheelchair. How does one even “be” a wheelchair for Halloween… let alone a haunted one?!
Tamara: Well, I’m not going as the wheelchair.
Alistair: Fine. Then we’ll go as Damien and his jackal mama.
Tamara: Or Rosemary and her baby – this would work especially well with the phone. We can wrap it in a blanket.
Alistair: And push it around in one of those bassinet-on-wheel things for babies!
Tamara: Yes! Or we could go as Dog Man and Tuxedo Man in The Shining. Or Carrie and Mother.
Alistair: Yes! Or, Carrie before and after!
Tamara: Alistair, you get to be the before because you’re prettier!
Alistair: Well, that’s no fun. I can wear a pink prom dress any time.
Tamara: Children of the Corn. One of us can wear a straw hat and overalls with a checked farm boy shirt and the other one can be a stalk with corn on it.
Alistair: What about Baby Jane and sister Blanche?
Tamara: We will need a silver tray, a dead bird, and a wheelchair.
Alistair: Ugh. Yet again, we’re faced with the wheelchair dilemma.
Tamara: How about we just put on our long black robes and cowls and be Candy Reapers and extort all the candy from the children?
Alistair: I get dibs on anything gummy.
Tamara: Skittles and Starburst for me.
Alistair: Well, now that we’ve settled this dilemma, what should we do for Thanksgiving?
Tamara: Be The Shining twins!