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Interview with Dr. Thomas Davison

He has taught college coursework inside two State Prisons in Ohio for the past six years. He has been deeply moved by his personal observations and interactions with his incarcerated students. This has motivated him to create poems and short stories about their day-to-day lives and experiences. He has been fortunate to have been published over sixty times.
Thomas has recently started a not-for-profit Entrepreneur Services for Felons (ESF). He has dedicated 100% of his writing profits to providing free one-on-one support services for felons and ex-felons. Dr. Davison has created two Writing Clubs within the prisons. These incarcerated students are his beta readers to ensure he speaks in their voice and keeps it honest.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
Great question. I cannot believe that I am sharing this with the readers. My wife is half-Cherokee. While visiting the Cherokee Nations in North Carolina, I went out one night with several of her cousins. We were drinking tequila, and I am not much of a drinker. I woke up the next morning with a large, colorful, Three Eagle Feathers native American tattoo on my left arm. Sigh . . . lesson learned!

Q.2 What inspired you to write Eternal Prisoners: A Story in the Cthulhu Mythos?
My inspiration for writing this book is a fascinating story. I discuss it in the afterward section of the book. I am a lifetime fan of horror. I strongly believe that if you do not like a good scare every now and then, you are not truly alive. 
As a young boy, the first horror book I read was by H. P. Lovecraft many years ago. When I say many years ago, I am serious. It was over fifty years. I was hooked. 

My previously published work is predominantly about my prison experiences. I wanted to try my hand at my favorite genre of horror. The serial story Eternal Prisoners is that first attempt. I intended it to salute the master-that first book’s author, H.P. Lovecraft

My close circle of fellow writers, and my beta readers, state it is a scary story. We shall see if what little I have learned about the craft of writing is enough. I must share with you that while submitting this story, I felt much like that nervous 12-year-old boy reaching for that Lovecraft book.

Q. 3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Yes, you will be reading more. I did not put pen to paper for the first time until 2019. This year, 2022, is quickly becoming a great year for me personally as a writer. First, Eternal Prisoners was published by Input/Output Enterprises. 

Next, C/Wizard Productions will be publishing my novella, The Boy With Strange Eyes. Then, Writing Knights Press will publish my chapbook of poetry and short stories called Different Prisons. Finally, my winning Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet was selected by the American Jewish Historical Society to be posted in the Emma Lazarus Museum.

New stuff I am working on that will be published in 2023 include a poetry chapbook consisting of entirely ekphrastic poetry, and my personal memoirs, both currently untitled.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Really good question! I have found that the most difficult thing when writing about female characters is to avoid stereotyping. The best way to accomplish this is to ask my female writer friends to review my work as beta readers and solicit their viewpoints. Another way to do this well is to read work written by women. 

My mother was a huge fan of romance novels. Reading these books gives you great insight. In Eternal Prisoners, my favorite character is Sierra Masters. She was also the most difficult character for me to write about. I struggled to capture her essence as a beautiful, intelligent, strong woman and a powerful psychic. Ultimately, she becomes the leader and the heart of the team.

Q.5 Do you plan out your book before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
The answer is both! I always start with an outline. I break it into chapters and set up a structure. However, the funny thing is that it never works out as planned. Once I have developed the characters, they take control of the plot, the action, and the entire story. So, I end up adding or deleting entire sections and chapters based on whether it feels right. Does this plot twist feel like something this character would do?

Q.6 How long, on average, does it takes you to write a book?
When I am in full writing mode, I average about five thousand words per week. So, a forty-thousand-word novel would take about eight weeks. Then it takes another month for beta reader feedback. Finally, I begin the tedious back-and-forth process of rewrites between myself and my editor. This piece is the longest and usually takes about four to six months.

Q.7 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
To be completely honest, if left to my own devices, I would rely on word of mouth? I realize that E-Marketing and E-Promoting are the big crazes now. I love writing. On the other hand, I am not too fond of the day-to-day administrative tasks required to make a book successful. I am too lazy or too busy to ever self-publish. 

I rely on my publishers to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes down to the promotional and marketing plans. In the case of Eternal Prisoners, the obvious target markets are horror and action fans. The sub-genres are Cthulhu and Lovecraft fans. I spend a lot of my free time building relationships with websites and blogs that focus on these areas.

Q.8 Why did you choose to publish your book on Kindle Vella?
It was not a conscious choice. My publisher, Input/Output Enterprises, was accepting manuscripts for Vella. I submitted, and my manuscript was accepted, and they paid me per episode. At that time, I knew very little about Kindle Vella. 
Now, I find the whole concept truly unique. I am learning more daily about what it takes to write a successful serial book. 

For example, I wrote Eternal Prisoners in five episodes of approximately five thousand words each. I have since learned that five-thousand-word episodes do not work very well on Vella. The average Vella reader wants episodes to be short and sweet. The episode length or sweet spot for Vella is about two thousand words.

If I do decide to write a sequel to Eternal Prisoners (which I am considering), I have learned that and other lessons. Vella is relatively new and is still going through some growing pains. Personally, I hope it gains readers and popularity.

Q.9 Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
I have tons of unusual writing habits. First, I keep daily journals about events inside and outside the prisons. I use these journals as my source documents when I want to write a prison-themed story or poem.

Next, I am totally into ekphrastic writing and poetry. Writing is a craft and an art form. Paintings, sculptures, and even landscapes (nature’s art) often motivate me to write. All forms of art are interconnected. Some of my best work (in my opinion) comes from viewing other art. I see a piece that interests me and create an entire story around that piece. It happens in art all the time, ekphrastic creation. Also, vice-versa, for example, an artist reads a book or poem. They are moved by it and create a painting or sculpture depicting what the writing made them feel and see.

Another example is the art form of music. I like to listen to music when I write. It helps me to set a mood. I select what music I listen to and match it to the perspective of the poem or story I want to write. I believe writing is different for everyone. What one person might view as unusual might make perfect sense to someone else.

Q.10 What draws people to horror novels? Why do we as readers like to be scared?
I have been a fan of all things horror for my entire life! I can not speak for others, but for me, a good scare makes me feel truly alive. I realize that I will never become a New York Times bestselling author of horror. I am simply not that talented. However, I can hope to become a well-polished mediocre writer of horror. That would be enough for me. The great thing about the horror genre is I can always remain a fan!

Q.11 What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
A. My initial thought was to answer this question with some scary stories about my time in the US Army. However, I wrote a short story about another incident. It is very popular with my incarcerated students. I was out on a Lake in an old pontoon boat with my wife and two young grandsons when we were caught in a violent summer thunderstorm. Here is an excerpt from that story that will answer this question . . .

. . . With the vicious storm comes unpredictable, powerful wind gusts that turn the blue lake waters a gloomy dark. The waves are becoming rough and choppy. The old vessel starts to rock precariously left-to-right. I observe the anxious, fearful faces of my two young grandsons. Their youthful eyes are made large, wide-opened in fright. A quick glance toward my wife reveals she clutches two life jackets, one in each white-knuckled hand. “You boys come over to me, slowly, and put these on.” I curse myself under my breath for not packing more safety gear. I pray softly, “Please, Lord, don’t let anything bad happen to my wife and grandsons because I am such a forgetful idiot!” 

Last year during a similar storm, a larger, more powerful boat than ours was swept over the dam spillway and crashed eighty feet below unto the concrete basin. I remember the crushed remains of that vessel. My stomach is churning, and I feel nauseous at the thought that my family might be next! The storm drives us swiftly towards the dark, deadly, looming spillway. Can I reach the small lagoon safe from the storm’s fury before it pushes us over the dam? Mist from the boat’s spray is in my mouth and eyes. The rain from the unexpected summer storm is finally arriving. Delivered in huge sheets of water. After what feels like a lifetime, but in reality, is ten of the longest minutes of my life, I spot our little cove. It is close. Only twenty to thirty yards directly in front of me. We are going to make it! My heart begins to pound harder. The old boat motor starts to pop and sputter. I can hear one final hacking, coughing sound, and then the motor is dead. Our vessel ceases moving forward. Unbelievable! We are being pushed backward by the strong storm winds. The squalls are shoving us away from the safety of the cove and towards the dangerous dam spillway! . . .

Q.12 Do you remember the first horror book you read?
Yes. I refer to it in the book. It was a collection of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft. That was 53 years ago. I was twelve years old. It left a deep impression on me. Afterword, from the author…… ­­This story is a salute to H. P. Lovecraft, the master. Reading H. P. Lovecraft as a young boy was the major influence that made me a lifelong fan of all things that are a horror. 

I would be remiss if I did not recognize the current fact that Lovecraft is a figure that stirs much dispute and anger in today’s hotly politicized environment. My intent is not to intentionally or unintentionally espouse any of the theories accredited to him. I am simply a mediocre writer who likes to read scary stuff. Lovecraft wrote some very scary stuff.

Q.13 What three things a reader can expect from your book?
The three things that I hopefully have given to my readers are 1) a few scary moments, 2) realistic and exciting action, and 3) interesting and empathetic characters. If my little story can accomplish those three things, then I will be content.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your book, who is dear to you and why?
My favorite character from Eternal Prisoners is Sierra Masters. I have been married forty-three years to a woman who is my model for Sierra. There is nothing in this world sexier than a proud, strong woman. My wife is my muse and my best friend. Hopefully, the readers will see Sierra the way I view her in my mind. 

I struggled to find the correct words to describe her leadership, self-confidence, and her unfailing goodness. Sierra’s psychic abilities allow her to see all the evil and badness in people. Yet, she remains optimistic and gives to all who surround her in her life. Truly, a special woman and a special human being!

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
As a part of the contract with my publisher, the final decision on this book cover was theirs. I was able to receive one concession on this cover. For any fans of the Cthulhu Mythos, if you look closely at the Gorgon’s (Medusa’s) forehead. You might recognize the glyph? 

The book cover is critical to the success of any book. The cover is the first impression for a reader. I would have preferred something a little bit scarier and more colorful. It is what it is.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
A. Many of the names in this book were taken from characters familiar with Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. This was to directly appeal to members of this sub-genre. Names include Silberhutte, Herbert West, Arkham, Necronomicon, Night Gaunts, Y’golonac, Nyarlarthotep, etc. The remaining names, such as Kahinat Lil Wahsh, Barldgura, Alnaas Najma, etc. were all taken from ancient Persian.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
A writer or author has a vision of something. He or she then must try to describe that vision and share it with their readers. Sometimes they are successful and connect with others. Sometimes they fail to adequately describe their vision, and they fail. 

All authors would love to receive five stars for all their efforts. That is not realistic. If a writer fails, they must accept that fact and try to better describe their internal vision. I try to use any criticism to help create a better product.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
I am going to cheat on this question and give two names. Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi. Lincoln because despite all the failures he suffered in his life, when his time came for him, he shined. Gandhi because he was indeed a great soul, and he proved that the philosophy of non-violence could work.

Q.19 What are you reading right now?
Currently, I am reading nothing. When I am writing, I do not read. The only time I read is when I step back and take a hiatus from writing. I am currently in writing mode, so I am not reading anything now. When I do read, I read from all genres. Anything that speaks to me. Westerns, Mysteries, Non-fiction, Poetry, Romance, anything. My favorite is usually Fantasy. I am always a huge stack of books behind.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
Until 2019, the only thing I had ever published was my doctoral dissertation. I have been really blessed so far on my writing journey so far. I have been fortunate to be published over sixty times. I believe I am a mediocre writer at best. I write predominately about my experiences in Prisons. I think the subject matter is appreciated by my readers who want to know more about this lifestyle.

If you believe you have something important to say in your heart, do not give up on that dream. Stay with it! Teach yourself, takes classes, and seminars, find a mentor or learn from those who have already mastered the craft. For every piece I have had accepted for publication, I would guess I have had ten pieces rejected. But… you will get better if you learn from each rejection.

I have been able to find many mentors on my journey. I hear many writers complain about publishers and editors. I have found many of them to be assets.

My favorite quote on writing is by Jodi Picoult. “You might not write well daily, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” It sounds so simple, but it is profound. So many authors want to write only perfect stuff. If they cannot get it perfect, they get stuck. The key is to get it all down on paper. Then you can go back through revisions until you polish up all the rough stuff. Great quote and great advice.

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