WS: What genre do you write in? Why?
THM: Fiction and Memoir. I can't stop writing about myself, and I can't seem to tell the truth.
WS: What is your favorite book or writing craft book? Why?
THM: Two recent favorites: The Answers, by Catherine Lacy; and Milkman, by Anna Burns. All-time favorites: Dubliners, by James Joyce; and The Beggar Maid, by Alice Munro. Not a craft book, but a book about the cult of "craft" in the workshop: Craft in the Real World, by Matthew Salesses; The Art of Intimacy, by Stacey D'Erasmo, a mind-blowing book about how authors create relationships with readers through point of view; and that old standby, The Art of Fiction, John Gardner - despite his crankiness and elitism.
WS: What fears do you have about your writing?
THM: That it will be regarded as trite, sentimental, and worst of all, dumb; that it won't be read at all.
WS: If you could have dinner with any famous author (dead or alive) who would it be?
THM: Writers are famously difficult, evasive, uncommunicative, and terrible judges of their own work, so this is a hard question to answer; there are many writers whose work I admire greatly, but who I would not want to have dinner with. So I will say Louise Erdrich, whose work I admire, and who also seems to be a nice person; and Edgar Allan Poe, who might be a difficult companion, but who I think would have very interesting things to say about our current moment.
WS: What are your tips for submitting writing?
THM: Wait at least a month after you've "finished" a piece before you send it out, to make sure it's really as good as you can make it; research your targets - it's insulting to the press / magazine and a waste of time for you to submit indiscriminately; never give up submitting; keep a spreadsheet.
WS: What's the best (or worst) writing advice you've ever received?
THM: The best "advice" was a class by Elizabeth Harris at U.T. Austin in which we read different genres, from dirty realism to magical realism to metafiction - it opened my eyes to using genre to structure fiction; the worst advice was to write to "express myself" - no one is interested in reading this.
WS: What inspires your writing?
THM: For the most part, my own life; but as I have gotten older, I have become more curious about the lives of other people.
WS: Where are you from and does that place ever enter into your writing?
THM: All of my work is shaped by growing up in Houston. I haven't lived here for a while, but in my imagination, I have never left. I grew up in the East End of Houston, near the intersection of Telephone and Lawndale; it completely shaped my first novel, Ghost Horse, and the stories in my collection, Pictures of the Shark.
WS: Do you do research for your writing? If so, what are some unexpected resources you've found?
THM: I have started using research in my stories. For one, I learned more than I ever thought I would know about the history of Old Braeswood, and for another, the history of eugenicists in the science departments of Texas universities. I have found amazing things online, but it also pays to go into libraries and talk to research librarians and historians.
WS: Drop any links or promos for your recent work, include your social media links
THM: My website is https://thomashmcneelywriter.com/.
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