Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thomas Olbert in the Author Spotlight

Cate: Please help me welcome Tom Olbert. Tom, will you please share a short bio with us?
Tom:  Thank you very much, Cate for this opportunity.
Tom Olbert lives in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA, (reputedly “Liberal Central” and home of ivy league wackos.)  Tom is a self-confessed dork who’s been writing, watching and reading paranormal fiction pretty much his whole life.  He comes from a terrific family.  When not working or writing, Tom volunteers for progressive causes including climate change awareness.
You can find his latest projects and musings at:

Cate: Tell us about Unholy Alliance and where it's available.
Tom: “Unholy Alliance,” a short and very dark vampire-themed novelette is available via Eternal Press.

Cate: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Chris is a 16-year-old boy whose life is an endless war against the living dead.  Orphaned at the age of 5 when his family was slaughtered by vampires, Chris was "adopted" by the vampire hunters who rescued him, and raised as one of their own.  A child soldier driven by hatred and revenge, he has known only battle and killing.  His life changes dramatically when, one night, on a routine hunt, he chances to meet Sara, a "teenaged" vampire girl who touches his heart in a way no one ever had before.  Their love is an impossible one, and the alliance of necessity that forms between them equally so.  They find themselves pitted against dark forces that would exploit or destroy the innocent.  The odds are against them, but Chris's greatest battle is within his own soul.  He must choose between his love for Sara, and his faith in a greater good...

Cate: Very cool. What inspired you to write about the theme?
Tom: I was inspired by the stories of Andrew Vachss, a renowned crime fiction author focusing on the themes of child abuse, revenge and street justice.  I was also inspired by films like “Eastern Promises” and “Lilya4ever,” both of which dealt with the very real issue of abuse of young girls trafficked out of the former Soviet Union.  And, by the real-life stories of such victims conveyed by Amnesty International.  I wanted to do a story focusing on those themes, featuring homeless teens fighting for survival on dark city streets.  Vampirism was a good vehicle as a symbol of revenge, empowerment, alienation and of course, darkness.

Cate: How do you develop your plots and characters?
Tom: It starts with a concept.  The general direction and outcome of the story have to come first.  Then, deciding how best to make the journey determines the plot, and what kind of people to drop into the mix.  I have to sketch out the back-story of each character so I’ll know what to expect from each of them and how each turn will affect them.

Cate: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Tom: They grow as they move through the story, as they struggle, suffer and learn.  They manage to surprise me now and again.  I feel their pain and gratitude at the defining moments.  I don’t know if they haunt my dreams.
(Maybe I haunt theirs; I put them in some pretty awful situations sometimes.)

Cate: Ha, too funny. What's next for you?
Tom: My science fiction novel “Dissent” – Book I in the “Nexus” series – is due for release from Phase5 Publishing.  “Dissent” is a far-flung galactic war tale of forbidden love and political intrigue set in a future society composed entirely of women. 
The first installment of “Dissent” is now available in the December issue of Phase5 Monthly review:

Cate: Congrats! Any other published works?
Tom: Yes.  Two of my science fiction novelettes have been published by Lillibridge Press.  They are: 
“Meeting” - a wacky, off-beat science fiction mystery about a man from the 22nd century inexplicably transported 50 years back through time and pursuing a mysterious young woman across a fractured reality as he tries to unravel the truth about alien visitors and his own identity.  Buy link:

“Flags” – a gritty interstellar military science fiction about the ultimate race war in the distant future.  And, the story of two men trained to be enemies forced into an unlikely alliance which makes them confront both their external enemies and their inner demons.  Buy link: 

Cate: Describe your writing in three words.
Tom: What comes comes.  (That’s actually two words, but why drag it out?)

Cate: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Most rewarding?
Tom: The most challenging part is getting inside the character’s skin and feeling what he or she feels at the critical moment.  I’ve had a lot of help from editors who’ve steered me away from the dreaded “adjective trap.”  In trying to express an emotion, you have to be visceral, and you find yourself hoping you don’t run out of bodily functions (blushing, hair prickling, goose bumps, blood running cold, etc.)  The goal is to be honest and true to the character, and the most rewarding part is when you read the scene back and it works.

Cate: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Tom: Sadly, comments are still very few and far between.  Editors have complimented me on my writing style, and have helped me develop it.  But, I would love to receive (for better or worse) reader comments that would tell me how people view my stories in context with the themes they cover.

Cate: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Tom: I grew up reading Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Stanislaw Lem.  Bradbury was probably my favorite.  He has such a beautifully poetic style.
I’ve also read Hemingway (“For Whom the Bell Tolls”) and Dickens (“Tale of Two Cities”.)  Kafka’s “Castle” was a fun, crazy ride.  Lately, I’ve been reading science articles in Scientific American, largely to get ideas for my stories.  I’m also reading a werewolf/human romance entitled “The Dark Ones” by Megan Harmon, another Eternal Press author.  It’s a fun, romantic supernatural adventure story about a city girl turned vampire hunter and her werewolf lover.

Cate: Where can readers find you on the web?
Tom:  My blog site, complete with fiction links is:
And, if you google “Tom Olbert,” a number of fiction links should come up.

Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Tom: I’m always eager for story or post feedback, whether positive or negative. so please stop by my blog and drop me a line any time.

Cate: Thanks for being my guest Tom!


Cate Masters said...

Welcome Tom! Congrats on your release. Such a striking cover too.

Tom Olbert said...

Thank you, Cate. 'Good to be here. And, I agree with you about the cover. My compliments to Amanda Kelsey for her fine work.

Tom Olbert

P.L. Parker said...

Good Morning and congratulations on the new release. I love scifi so will have to check out your books.

Tom Olbert said...

Thank you, P.L. Parker. You have a fantastic web site. My compliments on your poetic style, and on all your fine books and favorable reviews.

Patricia J. Esposito said...

Hi, Tom. I enjoyed your interview and am interested in your book. I like what you had to say about using vampires to explore some of the hard issues in our real lives. I found myself doing some of the same in my vampire stories. Your summary of the novella made me feel its heart already and the difficult relationship you use to explore your themes.

I haven't read as much in the speculative genre, but Bradbury has always been my favorite. Atmosphere is essential for me in stories. Best wishes on your release! I'll be visiting your blog soon.

Patricia J. Esposito

Tom Olbert said...

Thank you, Patricia Esposito, for your comments and encouraging words. And, congratulations on your novel "Beside the Darker Shore." The opening scene was striking and unusual. This book looks refreshingly different.