In this month surrounded by pumpkin spice this and pumpkin spice that, I’m proud to present spicy author of the month: T. T. Thomas as a treat for readers and writers alike!
Q: In your January launch blog you note a love of pirate tales leading to creation of Nora Mandrake, captain of The Lady Amalie in your latest historical romance, Mistress of Mogador. What other fascinations have been inspirations for your own writing?
A: Oh, that’s a great question June! I’d have to say: People and their cultures. Certainly, I have a fascination with all things psychological, most particularly syndromes or conditions or ailments of the mind, spirit and soul. The fundamental ethical question of right and wrong have always intrigued me in terms of what makes people choose the actions they do and what makes them reverse those actions if they do. Independent of a formal ethics system, what is it about humans that is able to differentiate between right and wrong. Is it empathy? Is it fear of consequences? Is it love? Is it hate?
Areas of human behavior from wars to sexuality, including fidelity, asexuality, to so-called frigidity in women—these and many other subjects inspire me to create a world in which the answers to these questions, the solutions to these dilemmas and the crises that arise when people confront these issues become the central themes.
I place these themes in a variety of cultures and religions—Mogador, for example is in Morocco and it is now called Essaouira, although many maps still refer to it as Mogador. Indeed, it is the cultures into which I place my characters that most inform the conflicts. In A Delicate Refusal, a novel that takes place on the eve of World War I, the title is taken from Edmund Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac, and the characters maintain their relationship through a series of love letters, mostly, because of psycho-somatically induced ailments brought on by a combination of the fear of war and the fear of intimacy. The two fears are amazingly similar! Obviously I do tons of research because I usually write about cultures and eras in which I obviously have not lived. 1895? Yeah, I’m old, but I’m not THAT old!
In an overall sense, my love of history informs the settings. I tend to place most of my novels in the late Victorian years, 1895 onward, through World War II. I have ventured into the early and mid 1950s with Two Weeks at Gay Banana Hot Springs, a novella, “Some Enchanted NOIR,” a short story in the vein of the hardboiled and noir subgenre of detective fiction, and a post-WWII short story called “A Woman of Dark Intention,” a strange little story that combines elements of the Holocaust reminisces with aspects of the Paranormal Gothic Fantasy. LOL.
Q: Your settings and furnishings transport readers to faraway places such as the arid and gritty desert in Mistress of Mogador. How much of this have you gleaned from travel compared to googling over space and time?
A: Well, Google is definitely my BFF, but so is Virgin Air! I was actually born in England, of an Irish mother (County Kerry) and an American Air Force officer just prior to the end of World War II. I’ve travelled quite a bit in our America and Europe, with beloved sojourns to the Caribbean, but I would have to say my novels are far more informed by people I have known than places I have been. All my characters are an amalgamation of several people.
Q: Your characters engage in the most delicious dialog—all erudite in one way or another. Whence this gift for dialog to show reader so deeply into your characters?
A: Ah, dialog. First, thank you for saying so. I have to say it is my favorite part of writing, and I owe it all to my Irish mother, may she rest in peace, tons of tea and wonderful stories. She didn’t have a typical Irish brogue, as we know it—more of an Irish accent. Her speech was incredibly lyrical, her stories monumental testaments to her insights about human character, and her ability to weave a beginning, middle and end in everyday conversation was the delight of my childhood. For better or worse, I also developed my incurable love of long sentences from her!
Friends have told me I should write plays, or maybe film or TV, and certainly I would not turn Hollywood down! But it IS a different kind of writing and the medium determines the rules. My long sentences would go the way of the dodo bird. That could actually be a good thing!
Q: You are well-known for your quirky sense of humor, as even your Pug dog and Siamese Ragdoll cat’s brief remarks showcase here. Your readers love this aspect of your books and wonder if you are simply a natural comic or had to work at it?
A: My work here is done! Teddy the Pug and ZsaZsa the Diva thank you. Thanks for saying so, June. Well speaking of film and TV, my favorite ones are romantic comedies and sitcoms. I also love thrillers and good detective films. Go figure! I think I get my sense of humor from my father. Yes, it is quirky, and I seem incapable of writing anything without at least some humor. I think it’s because our collective sense of humor is what saves us from mass suicide, and what’s not to like about that! I tend to see how many situations have some measure of humor—not everything, but most things. What happens is, and this is surely from my Irish DNA, I instigate “skits” on my own or often with friends. We do a take off on reality, but the absurd parts.
But I think what really “started” me down the comedic path was a realization, very early in life, about my parents. My mother had gone to England from Ireland to do what was called “war work.” Her older sister lived in London, and at that time, the goal of every Irish girl was to get out of Ireland. But of course, Ireland never really leaves the girl. The British put my mother to work in a munitions factory somewhere in a forest outside London, and she almost single-handedly blew up the British Empire. My mom was a klutz—she opened cereal boxes upside-down, milk cartons backwards, and she constantly went left when she meant to go right.
Fortunately, the English moved her to Uniforms, where she wielded her fashion power with aplomb! Crisp uniforms were a luxury back then, especially for date night, so if you knew my mom, you got the best uniforms. She understood the politics of leverage power at a young age!
Now, my dad was an officer who flew glider planes. He was involved in D-Day and the Market garden campaign and finally downed his plane when he dove it into a 10-story hedgerow in France. He blamed his co-pilot, naturally.
So, early on I thought, wow: My dad flew airplanes without engines, and THEN married my mom! The implications for future family dynamics were enormous!!! My dad could make my mom laugh when he banged his head on a cupboard, and my mom could make him laugh by fixing dinner. For eight years of Catholic school I brought my lunch to school in an over-sized grocery bag, with the excess rolled up. Lunch consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the main course and “delicious” (mom’s words) jelly sandwiches for dessert! Why???? Nobody knows. It’s what she knew she could fix without error I think. So I learned early on to see the absurd in the ordinary. I still adore peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And? I have a terrible sense of direction! HA—DNA, I tell ya!
Q: How long have you been writing and what are you working on now?
A: I wrote my first real story at 7, a play. Actually I won a flashlight on a local Kids TV show, so I had my stage lights, the cute blonde down the street was my Star, and so writing the play was a natural result.
I am nearing the final 5-6 chapters of my first mystery novel! I love to read them, but never wrote one. It’s not your Auntie Clara’s cozy, I can tell you that! (I do love a good Cozy, though, btw).
The name of the novel is House of Bliss, and I hope to have it out in time for, what else, Valentine’s Day! It’s an Historical Romance Mystery, so I hope readers enjoy it. The year is 1905. London. Sabrina Blissdon, a bohemian artiste of much talent, some money and an unorthodox dalliance with a prostitute (or two) owns a corsetry business catering to society’s most up-market women. Convenient, no? Things take a bizarre turn (Okay, an even more bizarre turn!) when local prostitutes begin showing up dead, wearing House of Bliss corsets. Jack the Ripper hasn’t been heard from in years, and these are quite different murders, anyway. Who’s killing the ladies and why only women wearing HOB corsetry? Sure, Sabrina sometimes wears re-tailored versions of her father’s old suits, but that’s no reason for suspicion to fall on her, is it? All she has to do is prove it!
Q: Advice for other writers?
Do it for the money! Hahaha. Ahem. Do it for love of writing, love of storytelling, love of powerful, hot pain that drips through your system like coffee in an old-time percolator. Do it because your friends kind of like knowing “a writer,” even though they may or may not have read your books and rarely buy them. They do value an autographed gift or, better yet, a dedication, though. Do it because the more you do it, the better you get at it. I write something every day. Buy other writer’s books. Write reviews. Invite them to your blog…hey! Thanks so much, June!
Please Reply with a comment or question for T. T. or moi.