Mike Thomas is a southern writer. He grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina where he learned a lot about family, traditions, and the genteel lifestyle most southerners enjoy. The richly eccentric folks of his youth have become his characters in today's books and stories.
Mike began as a newswriter, editor, columnist, reporter, and speechwriter before switching to the role of Critical Care Registered Nurse. He traveled nearly every corner of the world as a vagabond contract nurse before resettling in North Carolina a few years ago.
He lives with Bobby, his desktop computer, and Rachel his laptop, in Halifax County, NC.
"That's all I need," He says, "Just my computers and a bit of focus. Then we can make up worlds we could only have dreamed of last week."
1.What inspired you to write your first book?
The simple answer is Writer’s Block. I was having difficulty with a detective novel I was writing.
I keep a writer’s block notebook in my computer’s tray to jot notes, or anything else that comes up while working on a project. During the process I wrote a line in the block notebook that said: “My whole life changed the summer that RaeNell Stephens started growing up.” It was just a line that really didn’t mean much at the time.
As the days went by, the detective novel became more difficult. I would pull up the block notebook and add a line or two to that original line about growing up.
There were a number of empty paragraphs in the block notebook just sitting there minding their own business, when suddenly one afternoon RaeNell woke up, and a storyline blossomed. In a rush of inspiration, I wrote The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton, finishing banging out the forty-thousand words in a bit over forty-eight hours.
To this day I couldn’t accurately tell you where the storyline came from. It wasn’t written, as much as it just coalesced.
2.What books have influenced your life the most?
Gee, I’ve read thousands of books, and can’t name five I DIDN’T like. Everything one reads influences them on some level.
I have always enjoyed southern writing, but more especially, I have enjoyed southern humor. Usually the odder the humor, the more I liked it.
I love the easy storytelling voice of Mark Twain, the sincerity of Eudora Welty, the joyful irreverence of Flannery O’Conner, and the narrative voice and syntax of William Faulkner. I also have been touched by the writings of such non-southern folks as James Thurber.
I certainly don’t pretend to be in this group’s august circle, but they’ve inspired me to one level or another.
3.What are your current projects?
The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton is the first of a series (maybe trilogy, maybe more). They will be all standalone stories, and the characters will all be different, but they all take place in fictitious New Caledonia County NC.
The next story is about a brother (12-years-old) and his little sister (10-years-old) that grow up in a very eccentric family of odd-balls and misfits. The sister is super intelligent, and the brother is pretty much just along for her ride. The working title for the book is Zonner Sigmon and the Knights of the Round Card Table.
4.If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The quick answer is no. I wrote The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton in the summer of 1995. I couldn’t get agents, publishers or anyone to read it. I spent hours and many dollars trying to get it read. For the next 12 years I sent it out occasionally to see if there was any interest. I had it professionally edited twice. When you work on something that long, you have a tendency to super-refine it. Twelve years worked out all the bugs for me. When it was finally accepted for publication it was for sure ready to go.
5.What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
I had an English instructor back in college that shot me down in flames over a creative writing piece. I don’t even remember the title or topic, but I for sure recall the comment scribbled on the top of the paper. It said, “I do not believe you have the innate talents or abilities to become a writer.”
Now, some forty years later I recall my reaction to that. I don’t know if I had ever even considered writing as a career up until that point, but his comment cut me to the bone. How dare he suppose my talents based on a hundred word piece of fluff? What kind of instructor would suck all hope from a nineteen-year-old’s potential?
That I even cared what he thought surprised me. It didn’t make me stare off into the future to see great things in spite of him, but I suddenly realized that I DID care about writing. I cared about it enough to begin to hone my craft.
I still thought he was a horse’s patootie, but he triggered something deep within me. Writing did matter.
6.What has been the best compliment?
At a recent non-writing conference, a little eighty-year-old lady approached me. I could see the bright red book in her hand, and I was ready for anything other than what she said.
She held the book to her chest and said, “I relived several great years of my life while reading your book. It meant so much to me to go back. Would you please autograph it for me?”
What more could an author want?
7.Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
The most common question I get about writing is, “How do I get started?” This usually comes from someone that wants to write, but has put virtually nothing on paper. My best advice to them is simple:
1 Park your tail in a chair
3 Repeat tomorrow.
Just as with any skill, one has to learn the process. The writing craft is not issued at birth, it must be honed. The only way you can improve your skill is to WRITE! It has taken me thirty some odd years to get to where I thought I could call myself a writer.
8.What is your favorite quality about yourself?
Humbleness, Humility, and being all things to all people.
9.What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
Unbidden, sudden onset of scathing sarcasm. Some folks call it being a smart-ass.
(See previous question)
10. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Just about anything you want to know about me, The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton or other esoteric miscellany is found at my website…