Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tom English (Interview by Charles Tan)

Tom English – Bound for Evil

Bound for Evil is a thick and large tome. What made you decide to go with this particular format, in addition to settling for the "book" theme?

Both the format and theme of the anthology grew out of a consuming passion for books. Although I’d like to believe I’m not a bibliomaniac---that it’s I who am in control, and not the thousands of books smugly regarding me from the overstuffed shelves of my library---Bound for Evil could serve as pretty damning evidence in my insanity case. Originally, the book was to be a thin paperback, perhaps seven supernatural tales exploring the power of books. After producing an 800-page hardcover with 67 stories, one might say I got a little carried away. I wrote a psychological ghost story in 2005, about a tormented bibliomaniac who carries his lifelong obsession to the grave (and perhaps beyond the grave). A few months later Barbara Roden accepted the tale for All Hallows, and that was almost the end of the matter. But while flipping through the notebook in which I jot down ideas for future stories, I realized about half of my ideas involved books and writers. Why was that? Writers tend to write about things they know, things that interest them: among those things are books and the creative process. I also realized I love reading stories about strange and forbidden books, ancient texts and lost knowledge. I thought of Lovecraft’s “Necronomicon” and Chambers’ The King in Yellow and several other classics of weird fiction, and numerous bookish stories by Ramsey Campbell and other contemporary writers. Putting together an anthology consisting entirely of such tales seemed like a fabulous idea and I couldn’t understand why no one had done it before. But I put the whole idea on a back burner until early 2007. During this gestation period, I decided two very important things about the direction the anthology would take. First, all the stories needed to flow naturally from some aspect of books, writing, reading and collecting. The book in each tale had to be integral to the story’s plot, and not simply a prop. And the book featured in each story had to be dangerous or somehow involved in a bit of devilry, because I wanted to lure back people who’ve thrown off books for movies and video games. I’m not sure why, but we’re often drawn to things that are exciting, forbidden, even dangerous. Put a warning label on a pack of cigarettes and you’ve just given it the best advertisement imaginable. Print a blazing skull on the package and change the brand name to “Instant Death” and you won’t be able to stock enough packs. Well, the idea behind Bound for Evil is that books can be hazardous to your health (and your bank account). What, are you reading again? Do you want to lose your mind? Don’t go near that book, you’ll put out your eye! So, in this way, I hoped to remind us all of the glamour and mystique of books. And what’s sobering about my little scheme is that books really do have incredible power, not only to effect good in our society but, as history bears witness, sometimes evil.

What was the research and solicitation process like? What was the most challenging experience?

By the time I started working on Bound for Evil I had researched, edited, and written introductions for close to two dozen chapbooks. At least half of these little books contain 3 to 5 stories united by a common theme. So I felt reasonably comfortable tackling BfE. For the most part, I enjoyed reading the slush pile. The majority of the material I received was well written, much of it by accomplished writers who were excited by the theme of the anthology. I think the most challenging aspect of editing BfE was completing the task while not neglecting a very demanding day job as a chemist. By the time the book was finished I was exhausted both mentally and physically. What got me through the last few weeks of editing was the support and encouragement of my wife, Wilma, whose patience should have been worn quite thin during the whole process but instead proved extremely durable. Thank God she’s a book person!

There's a couple of easter eggs in the anthology. How did you come up with them and what made you decide to include them?

Jeff Ryan submitted a piece of flash fiction that worked splendidly as a … well, that would be telling. I asked him if I could use the piece in an unusual way and without his byline. Being just as mischievous as I am, if not more so, he gleefully assented. Since many of the stories in the anthology deal with ancient books harboring dark and terrible mysteries, it seemed only fitting that, veiled within its pages, Bound for Evil should hold a few secrets of its own.

1 comment:

Carol said...

You are really a great author you have written such a wonderful novels!!!!
Carol
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