Next up on my list of interviews with the authors of “In the Bloodstream: An Anthology of Dark Fantasy and Horror” is Thomas Olbert.
ER: Tom, welcome. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me on the blog. Tell us a bit about yourself and your “Bloodstream” story.
TO: Thank you. I’ve been writing science fiction and dark fantasy pretty much my whole life. My “Bloodstream” story is “Blood of the Chosen.” It’s a short supernatural shocker that takes place in a hospital on a dark, rainy Halloween night in a small American town. To fit in with the anthology and the time of year, I just had to write a story that centered around blood transfusions and Halloween. I confess I go for visceral effects when writing a story like this. If you like movies like “Alien” or John Carpenter’s “The Thing” you’ll probably like this one.
ER: Why did you start writing? What drew you specifically to horror?
TO: I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer since my earliest memories of childhood. I had no choice, really. I was drawn more to sci-fi than horror, but as a kid, I liked both. I guess most kids do. I always watched those old Universal horror classics (I still do, even now being aware of how hokey they were.) I was also crazy about the TV show “Dark Shadows.” There’s just something compelling about the dark unknown and about stepping beyond established reality.
ER: Is writing horror different from other genres? What makes a great horror (or dark fantasy) tale?
TO: The really great ones are the ones that tap into your most primal fears and keep you looking into the closet for the next few nights. If that can be combined with the added element of a true human connection or heartfelt message within the story, then even better. I guess horror is unique in that its primary goal is to make the reader face his or her own mortality.
ER: What scares you?
TO: There’s plenty out there to scare everybody (or should.) There’s the everyday horror of being robbed or murdered. There’s the distant (but fast approaching) apocalyptic horror that comes every time you hear about another flood or storm or wildfire. And, there’s the irrational fear of the dark and the creaking floorboards at night that remains a part of us, however rationally our minds function in the light of day.
ER: How do you stay motivated to finish projects? How do you stay inspired to create new ideas?
TO: Once you’ve invested a lot of time and sweat into a project, you know you have to finish it. You owe that to yourself. You want to find out if the idea was valid. (And, hopefully, to learn from it if it wasn’t.) Ideas come on their own. Like germs, they can come from anywhere, infect and spread. Unlike germs, you just keep hoping you never develop an immunity.
ER: What’s your next project? Can you share with us?
TO: I’m currently working on a novella-length science fiction called “Wages of Truth.” It deals with science vs. religion in a new dark age of the very distant future. The protagonist is a soldier in a time of sectarian war. He has to complete a personal journey that takes him from blind adherence to religious dogma toward rational enlightenment and freedom. He tries to make his world a better place, but his hardest fight is with himself. It’s very action-oriented, plenty of high-octane, big-screen type sci-fi but its purpose is introspection and character development.
ER: What authors/artists inspire you?
TO: I grew up reading Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Stanislaw Lem. Three authors of science fiction, but with styles as different as you could imagine. I always loved the worlds they took me to and longed for more. Orwell’s “1984” and Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” – now, those were scary visions of the future. More recently, I’ve tried the old masters, like Dickens and Hemmingway, and Kafka. (The ones I can’t ever measure up to, but always dream of trying.)
ER: What’s the most difficult part of writing? What do you love most?
TO: The most difficult part is getting inside the character’s skin and letting the reader feel everything he or she feels, doing it convincingly, knowing the character deeply enough to make his or her growth through the course of the journey both believable and worth the trip. When I can pull that off, that’s what I love most.
ER: Do you research your topics?
TO: When necessary, absolutely.
- (ER: Succinct. I like it!)
ER: What do you do when you’re not writing?
TO: Working. Looking for work. Volunteering for candidates and/or causes I care about.
ER: And we’re glad that writing is one of those things. Check out Tom’s story, “Blood of The Chosen” one of the 31 short horrors you’ll find in MMP’s (Mocha Memoirs Press) anthology “In the Bloodstream” available on Amazon.
Tom’s blog: http://tomolbert.blogspot.com
Find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.olbert.5