Thomas Muller Interview
The Indie Book Butler Interview.
Indie Book Butler: Let’s start things off with an introduction. Tell us a little about yourself for those not already aware of you and your work.
Thomas Muller: My name is Thomas Muller, author of six books and more than 20 screenplays – solo and with my writing partner at Pindrop Entertainment, Eugene Mont. I have been writing for nearly four decades, so my file cabinet is quite full. I wrote my first story, affectionately called Highway to Hell, on an old manual Brother typewriter when I was a young teen. Classmates and teachers (seemingly) enjoyed it and others that I wrote, and so that pointed me on the path I have been on my whole life.
I wrote on and off for years, dabbling in short stories while also working on an independent horror film, which held my initial interest of all of the genres. As age crept upon me, my tastes began to vary, and I would write amongst a variety of genres.
A die-hard Eagles fan (NFL), Celtics fan (NBA) and Flyers fan (NHL), I have learned a lot about heartache over the years. I am a rabid fan of good TV; Breaking Bad may be the best written show I’ve seen, and my wife, Chris, and I have watched Psych from beginning to end more than 50 times (not figuratively – literally; it may as well be on a loop in our house).
We currently live in upstate New York with our menagerie of animals. When we are not tending to them, we enjoying hiking and hiking and more hiking.
IBB: You’ve got twenty words to entice us to read your book(s). What would you say?
TM: Conventional. Unconventional. Horror, thriller, drama – I cover many genres. I’ll give you characters you can understand – right or wrong.
IBB: Where do you like to write?
TM: While I have a desk, I use it mostly for storage – old pictures, knick-knacks, papers – I spend most of my time writing from the dining room table. To my left is a large window that overlooks a wonderful maple tree and, beyond it, nature. It’s a very relaxing place to create.
IBB: Is there anything you must have in order to write?
TM: Music. I have to have music whenever I write, it helps to set the mood for whatever story I’m working on. I have a general playlist that I go to, and if the story sparks in one particular direction, I’ll seek out music that fits it perfectly.
IBB: What books have influenced you most, both as a person and as an author?
TM: Different Season by Stephen King is always at the top of my list. I was young and at the local A&P (grocery store). I drifted over to the books and it was a new release on paperback. I had yet to read King; that book meant so much to me creatively once I began reading it. His passion for characters was evident to me, and made me appreciate the characters even more.
Two classics also shaped me – Crime and Punishment and The Picture of Dorian Grey. Both are fantastic examples of watching a character devolve, which is something that I enjoy. The mental aspect of the character is so fascinating, especially when they implode.
IBB: What is the one thing that has helped you develop most as an author?
With time, I developed patience and worked over a number of years to better myself as a storyteller. My second book, No More Tales, was originally an unfinished script from 1988. Reading it years later, I realized that the genesis of a unique idea was there but the work that was already on paper was not good enough. I literally spent fifteen days, from morning to night, rewriting it as a book and fixing what I had missed thirty years earlier.
Age gives you a certain wisdom that a younger you would never understand.
IBB: What do you want to achieve most from your writing?
TM: Moderate success? In the end, I’m sure we’d all like to be on the NY Times bestseller list or sell a story for Pindrop that is made into a film but I’m a realist; I would like to be able to write freely whenever I wish without the fear that my creative side isn’t impacting my personal life on emotional, spiritual, or monetary scale.
IBB: Have you received a favorite review of your work?
TM: I’ve had a few nice reviews left on Amazon – always nice to see. However, the one review that stands out for me was for a script that Eugene and I wrote based on a story of mine, Behavioral Sink. This one particular reviewer actually understood the complexity with the tipping point of a society and the impact on the two main protagonists – each within their own storyline. It’s pure joy when you know that someone out there actually gets what you are trying to communicate on a deeper level. A story is nice; connections are impactful.
IBB: Were there any particular parts of the writing/publishing process that you struggled with?
TM: Definitely the publishing up until a few years ago.
The book, Catherine, was to be my first. I finished it back in 2004 and wanted to see if I could get it in front of someone…lit agent, publisher…anyone. Frustrated after queries and phone calls, I started looking into self-publishing houses. However, the upfront costs rattled me a bit and I never pulled the trigger on it. From what I’ve heard from authors who did go that route, it was a big mistake.
I let my stories collect dust for years before I discovered CreateSpace, which was a new lifeline for me.
I did have one story that I struggled with for years. In my first book, I have a short story entitled Invasion. I saw the opening scene for that story in my head and immediately had to write it. However, once that scene was over…I was lost. I would try to continue on over an eight-year span, to no avail. Finally, I forced myself to sit and write something out without throwing it away as I had done the years before. Out of the five stories in the book Four Corners, the feedback from readers is that story is their favorite.
IBB: Is there something specific you do to improve your writing?
TM: Learn to take criticism well. I have learned that my first draft is just that – the first of what may be many. Listen to whoever is editing, providing notes, taking their time to read the material. Be patient, accept notes, and be willing to change.
IBB: What is the ideal relationship between editor and author?
TM: Ideally, the editor would be someone that the writer trusted with their soul. That seems a little farfetched but when I write, I put everything into my characters. If the person delivering notes on my project didn’t have the same passion for characters and development that I did, then whatever I write would mean nothing. So, I truly believe there has to be a level of trust between the two that is paramount.
I once wrote what I thought was the most clever short story. I was brimming with pride, as if I had found a new variation on the old adage that there are only so many types of stories that can be told. When I received the notes back, it was crushing. While the concept was good, the execution was very poor (and after reading, I agree…not my best work). I needed to tear down the entire story and start anew.
That person saved me from myself, and I was grateful.
IBB: If you had a direct line to someone who loves or hates your writing, what would you say?
TM: I’m surrounded by love (cliché, right?) but fascinated by hate. Such a strong word. So I would want to know what about my writing affected them in this manner? Is it the genre itself? Or is it specifically my writing – is there something that they expected in terms of style, grammar, story, characters?
There are so many differing styles out there in the universe – King and Barker both write horror, for example, but their styles are completely different. What would you say to each one to differentiate them?
IBB: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
TM: Never, ever give up. Keep writing, keep pushing forward. I read an interview years ago with a lit agent, and she said it only takes one…one person to read your material to propel you forward. Now, with the advent of self-publishing, it’s easier for you to reach your audience.
Just over a year ago, I helped a young vet get his first book of poetry published. He had read one of my books and wanted to talk about his writings – which were a touch dark but had a nice uplifting message buried within. After three months of edits and meetings, Dylan Smith published his book. It was amazing to see the look on his face when he received his books, held them in his hands.
Never give up.
IBB: What does your writing future hold for you?
TM: Hopefully, a growing audience. I will continue to write, as it helps free my mind. Creatively, I have years of material on hand that needs work, and I always have new ideas, both in prose form and screenplays as part of Pindrop Entertainment.
IBB: How have you set about the task of creating enticing cover art?
TM: I used CreateSpace at first to create my covers – I had a generic vision and just wanted something clean. The last few books, I have gotten more specific in what I was looking for – the feeling that I was trying to evoke.
Then I share cover ideas with people I trust and get opinions.
I had a idea for the book, The Prophecy of Nightmares, that I loved but was told may be too graphic, and I relented on that cover and went for something tamer. (I may still have that old cover buried on my computer somewhere)…
IBB: How often do you read? What genre?
TM: I spend more of my time writing now rather than reading. However, when I do read, I’ll read anything – from fiction to non-fiction (science, economics, political).
IBB: Before we let you escape, it’s your chance to name-drop. Is there anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
TM: I’m going to touch on two before this ends…
I mentioned Dylan Smith earlier. His book of poetry, Our Gardens, shows great promise, tremendous imagery, and thoughtful musings from a brilliant and kind young man. If you are interested in poetry, please give him a look. It is available on Amazon.
A great book that I don’t know that needs the attention but I think is worthwhile is Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. It is the story of the World’s Fair coming to Chicago while serial killer H.H. Holmes preyed within the city. I know it’s an older book but if you haven’t read it, it’s definitely worth the read.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck in the future.
For more on Thomas and his work, please visit: