Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Thom Erb to my little corner of the internet. Thom is the author of Heaven, Hell, or Houston, a new novel about a Texas Ranger, a Mexican crime lord, and a whole swarm of zombies. To celebrate, he was kind enough to talk with us a little about his book, his writing, and his inspirations:
One Texas Ranger…One Cadillac filled with blood-thirsty gang-bangers…A long Texas road. The same night terrorists release a deadly virus that causes the dead to rise.
Just one more thing for Ranger Jay McCutcheon to deal with on his way back to Houston.
For those who have yet to read Heaven, Hell, or Houston, would you give us your elevator pitch?
Justified meets Pulp Fiction, meets Night of the Living Dead. I think that’ll do it.
Let’s talk about the setting. The book includes a Texas Ranger, a Mexican mafia boss, and the seemingly endless desert highways of Texas. How on earth did a guy from New York manage to do that so well?
That’s a great question and one Joe McKinney asked me when I told him about the story synopsis. I guess I’ve always had an affinity to all things Texas and the old west. Every boy grew up playing “cowboys” and “indians” (not sure how that would go over in today’s politically correct world. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.) But I loved the iconic stature of the sheriff of a small town fighting off cattle rustlers or bank robbers. I spent hours watching all the old John Wayne and John Ford cowboy classic films and there was something that pulled me to the dusty, dangerous prairie. Maybe in a past life I was a Texas Ranger keeping the Lone Star safe from dastardly villains and cutthroats.
Heck, I’m even a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan. Go figure.
You’ve listed books by Joe R. Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, Joe McKinney, and Elmore Leonard as the four pillars of Heaven, Hell, or Houston. How did these books influence you and help shape the course of your new novel?
Wow, yeah those guys are completely inspirational and huge influences on me. I hope that shows in the pages of HHH. Lansdale IS Texas, so is Joe. Both have a very distinct voice that rolls off the page as die-hard Texans. By reading both of their works, I feel like I subconsciously took a “How to be a Texan” course. Their writing is real. No bones about it. No bullshit and no pulling any punches.
Jonathan Maberry was my sensei, in a purely literary way. He taught me how to pace a thriller. How to construct flawed characters that can kick your ass. His fight scenes flow so seamlessly, and engaging. I’ve always felt like I was watching a movie. And that’s something that I strive for in my work.
And Elmore Leonard was the master of real dialogue. The kind of street talk you expect to overhear at your local watering hole or diner. The man was a genius.
What other influences have made a significant impact on your work?
This answer could easily be a novella in and of itself. I’m just going to make a list.
Books: Tolkien, RA Salvatore, Brian Keene, Richard Matheson, Rick Hautala, F.Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, David Morrell, Poe, the list goes on.
Comics: Stan Lee/Kirby, Christ Claremont, Frank Miller, Jim Starlin…etc.
Films/TV: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, Oliver Stone, the list also goes on and on.
I also want to add the music plays an intergal role in my writing. From just setting the mood to completely influencing the soundtrack of the story I’m telling. Music is my muse. Well, at least one of them.
You’ve also written the book Tones of Home and gobs of short stories. How was completing novel-length work different from shorter work? What’s your preference, are you more of a short story, novella, or novel type of guy?
It’s a completely different animal. I love writing short stories, but the truth is, I tend to write very long. So the long form is much better for my Irish-heritage storytelling tendencies. Both forms have their merits and pitfalls.
While I will write a short story for the right anthology, I am focusing my time and efforts on novella and novel-length works from here on out. It’s as much a creative preference as it is a career move. I am a novelist and so I need to concentrate on that format. Although, writing short fiction teaches you the value of getting the most out of less words. An invaluable tool for a writer of any level.
So keep your eyes open for novellas and novels coming from me in the future.
Some folks know you’re also a musician, and you mention that it has an impact on your writing. Do you listen to music while writing, and if so does the artist influence the feel of the story?
Yes. I’ve been playing drums since I was sixteen. I’ve been in many bands and music plays a huge part of my life. I listen to music when I write and in fact, I tend to create a playlist or soundtrack to each story that keeps the mojo working while I create. Music without a doubt influences the stories. Tones of Home is all about the Beatles, while Heaven, Hell, or Houston has ZZ Top written all over it. If you read even just a bit of my work, you’ll be able to feel my love for music in my words. A life without music is a pretty sad one, let me tell you.
For my next WIP, King Diamond and Alice Cooper are the two main artists on my playlist, so my musical range is quite expansive.
What else does 2015 have in store for you?
Ah, yes. While 2014 wasn’t too shabby, 2015 (and beyond) is looking pretty groovy.
It started with the release of my debut novel, Heaven, Hell, or Houston and my first short story of the year was just released in Anthology: Year Three by Four Horsemen Press/Anthocon, called “Fund-Raiser”. A dark and quirky tale about some bumbling wannabe-wise guy’s brilliant plan to make a big career move that goes so incredibly wrong.
Then, either very late this year, or early in 2016, my short story, “Doors” will appear in Jonathan Maberry’s fifth installment of the V-Wars anthology. I’m very excited to be a part of such a rich and prominent series.
As for my works in progress, I am currently working on my first YA novel, called The Night Eaters. It’s about a group of small town teens solving the mystery of disappearing pets, livestock and other school students. Together they form the After School Monster Hunter club and hope to get to the bottom of the dark and evil activity.
My first short story anthology, DARK GARDENS, will be published through Great Old Ones Publishing in or around June and will have every short story I’ve ever written in it. Plus a couple of bonus pieces to entice the reader.
I’ll also be looking to explore the world of hybrid publishing and will be writing a noir-ish/thriller and publishing it under my press, Drunken Skald Press. It’s a new age for authors and we need to explore as many options that are out there for us.
There you have it, straight from The Erb himself. Heaven, Hell, or Houston is an incredibly fun book, and if you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll find the synopsis and links below, and next week I’ll post my review of the book as well. Until then, stay scared and keep reading!
HEAVEN, HELL, or HOUSTON- An Eternal Flame Tale
It’s early summer 1985, and after a less than successful “easy” stint as the Governor’s security detail, the volatile, alcoholic Texas Ranger Jay McCutcheon wants nothing more than to get home to his wife and baby and save his marriage. He thinks the only thing standing between him and his family is five hundred rain-soaked miles of dark pavement. But he’s dead wrong.
Isandro Dianira has just broken out of prison. He’s been possessed by an evil voice that has spoken to him since childhood. With his gang-banger thugs, he leaves a bloody trail on his way to Mexico. But before leaving the country, he needs to kill McCutcheon, the pig that put him in the pen.
As the two men unknowingly race toward each other, a powerful rainstorm is heading westward, and along with it, a zombie virus that’s causing the dead to rise.
Stacy-Jo, a street-tough teenage girl from New York is about to get in some serious trouble, when she meets McCutcheon, who winds up saving her hide from a nasty situation.
Together, they hit the road and wind up at a roadside diner, where brutal violence will unfold and the undead will feed.
Order today and share the zombie love!!!!
Thom Erb is a writer/editor, exploring all shades of darkness and light. He crafts tales that blur the lines of horror, noir, dark fantasy, thriller, weird western, noir and science fiction. Thom’s works span the gap from middle-grades, Young Adult to Adult readers and taps into the theme of the reluctant hero in its many forms.
Thom has written several stories in short and long form and is now focused on novella/novel-length work.
Thom also holds a Master’s degree in art education and is an artist/illustrator of murals and comic book/graphic novels. When not writing, Thom enjoys reading, quality films, television shows, role-playing games, playing drums, comic books and rooting for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. He lives in upstate New York with his wife Michelle.
Proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association.
Official Website and Blog: www.thomerb.com