I had the great opportunity to interview Tamara Jones, writer of spine-chilling horror/mystery novel “Spore” and she sheds light on the otherwise dark and shadowy world of life and death in her newest story, which will be coming out June 2015.
- How did you come up with the concept for Spore? What inspired you to start this creepy, thrilling journey?
I realized I had a story idea about a tortured comic artist and dead people walking into his yard in 2005 or so, about the time I finished Valley of the Soul. SPORE was just a concept for a long time, Sean and a few rough opening scenes but not much else, which is normal for me. I’m a concept kinda gal – if it doesn’t grab me and make me want to write it, the idea just keeps festering in my head until it’s ready to be ripped out and slapped onto the page – and I’m also a trivia and odd fact buff with a brain crammed full of utterly useless information. It comes in handy for conceptualizing stories and playing Trivial Pursuit, but it’s not much use otherwise.
Since I straddle genres and smash totally unrelated things together to get concepts, I’m pretty sure Spore started when I’d recalled articles about strange fungi and how some can spread for miles mere inches below the surface of the ground, how others can infect host organisms – especially insects – and make those insects do their bidding until they’re nothing but fungus with a crunchy outer shell (So. Freaking. Terrifyingly. Cool.), and how many fungi and other organisms use asexual reproduction to essentially clone themselves via spores. Add in my already established fascination with serial killers, tortured characters, and violence, the concept in my head started to take shape and I wrote the opening, plus a few notes, then life got in the way.
Anyway, until the summer of 2011, I had mostly forgotten SPORE was sitting on a simmer in the back of my head and in an idea folder on my hard drive. I’d recently completed a quirky, violent women’s fiction which my agent hadn’t had any luck selling, so he’d asked me if I had any other projects in mind. We both wanted to get to work after me taking so much time off from writing.
I sent him several ideas, just a quick paragraph or so for each concept. He picked Spore out of the list and said I should work on it. So I did. I was about one third done, and he called to tell me he was retiring, which left me with an unsold novel, a partially completed novel and no agent! I then spent the next few months agent hunting and working on Spore. I got an amazing agent right after finishing the novel, and she sold it!
So, I guess it was the chosen story for my return to writing. Ah, if only I would have completed it around 2008 or so instead. 😉
- “Spore” has some dark and terrifying elements. Are these events based on personal experience or on someone you know?
All of my novels are autobiographical in some way. Like Sean, I have a degree in art – although I was a graphic designer/illustrator, not a comic artist – my childhood was rather dysfunctional, and I have extensive experience with poverty. Whee! I also suffered crippling, wake up screaming nightmares for most of my life and rarely slept, and, much like Sean, I managed to find someone who loves me despite all of that mess.
Near the end, when Mare has her incident – I don’t want to give any spoilers! – quite a lot of it was based upon a similar, terrifying thing that happened to me. Many of the details match mine – and my husband’s – experiences, even though the reason it happened was entirely different.
Overall, I’ve seen how a very bad thing, or series of very bad things, can leave ripples through a family. I really tried to show that. I also tried to show how people adapt, heal, and move on from trauma, sometimes smoothly, sometimes not.
- Most of your novels have a dark and fantastical theme. What drew you towards this genre or style?
I’ve always been a fan of horror. Horror films, horror novels, even some horror comics, as well as all forms of speculative fiction. The pathology of truly evil people, especially serial killers, fascinates me. It’s so easy to be ‘good’, how can someone be so utterly bad? Putting that kind of evil into a speculative story instead of a reality based story leaves more avenues for their evil-ness, as well as other avenues for the protagonists to counteract them. While cause and effect always applies, being able to use magic, dreams, hallucinations, ghosts, curses, and no-longer-dead people makes the story fun to write and, hopefully, unpredictable. It’s one of the best parts of my job.
- How do friends and fans react when they learn about a quilt-making cat-lover who writes about ghosts, murders, the undead, and gore? (Your bio was so interesting I’m just really curious :))
You forgot wife, mom, and grandma. 😉
I’m a hyper creative, carrying around this bonky, often uncontrollable need to Make Stuff!! Art Explosion! OMG!! Our friends and family all know and it’s normal for me, as far as they’re concerned, and are usually very supportive (and I hope they overlook at least some of the fabric bits and odd notes I leave everywhere).
Occasionally someone in our ‘real life’ – like a work colleague or acquaintance – finds out I not only give away a lot of quilts, I also slaughter people on paper. Sometimes they’re shocked, mostly because I’m nice, like goody-two-shoes nice, and they have trouble reconciling the dichotomy. They’ll usually come around. Less often, they’ll find out what I write and will never speak to us again because I must be a terrible, untrustworthy person if I write and imagine such awful things. My husband, especially, has had work friends who’ve done that.
Family is a mixed bag. Very few members of my family have read any of my books for a variety of reasons, but most of my husband’s family has read them. Most people close to us really don’t care about the books, but some love the books because they sound just like I’m telling them the story or OMG!! It’s so exciting to know an author!!, others have pulled me aside to ask what happened to make me so messed up, and a few believe we’re rich and famous and want us to give them money and/or favors. Generally speaking, I don’t talk about what I do beyond the quilt making. It’s usually easier that way. I don’t like drama, or undue attention.
By the way, our cats do not care one bit, as long as their food dish is full.
- “Spore” has such memorable characters that I can’t help wondering, will there be a sequel?
Honestly, I can’t say. I left the possibility open, but I’m not interested in writing one at this time.
- Finally, any message to the fans?
Spore is about people who used to be dead and the comic artist who tries to save them. It’s vicious and tender and frightening and hopeful and is definitely a ‘tambobook’. I hope it’s worth the wait.
Thanks so much, Tammy! Can’t wait for June!