By Brian Knight
Like a dark cloud of foreboding, stories of horror can cast their ghostly silhouettes across our very souls. Ghost Shadows is a collection of thirteen such stories by modern day master of the macabre, Thomas M. Malafarina. From tales of psychological terror to those involving the demonic tortures of Hell itself, Malafarina seeks to cast his own ghost shadows across the souls of his legion of devoted readers.
Thomas M. Malafarina’s new collection, GHOST SHADOWS, is available this month, and Thomas is here with us to talk about it.
Tell us a bit about your new collection, GHOST SHADOWS, and a few of the stories you think really stand out.
GHOST SHADOWS is an eclectic collection of horror and thriller short stories which I felt didn’t necessarily fit into any particular theme. I was trying to come up with a name for the collection when my wife emailed me a picture she took of her office window at work. Apparently, a bird had flown against the window at some point and the dust which collected on its body made a perfect shadow of the bird on the window. I loved the picture and not only was immediately hit with the book title GHOST SHADOWS, but based on what she told me about some of her coworkers impressions of the image, was inspired to write the short story “Ghost Shadow.” One of her coworkers said it looked like an angel, another thought it looked like a demon. If that’s not fuel for inspiration, I don’t know what is. The story “Ghost Shadow” is less a horror story and more a study in human emotion and interaction during times of stress.
Some of the stories in the book are horror, some are psychological thrillers and some are actual ghost stories. One I like in particular is “Double Yellow,” which I thought of on my commute to work. It has no elements of horror or gore but it is very suspenseful and one which is quite disturbing.
You’ve got an impressive backlist of novels and collections. Which is your favorite length to work with, and why?
Both. I have no favorite format. Usually during the time when I am writing a novel something will inspire me and I will get an idea for a short story. I will create notes for the idea and tuck them away. Then when I need a break from the novel, I’ll write a short story. Sometimes I will write two or three short stories then go back to the novel. I write a lot and write every chance I get. I am also a good multi-tasker so it’s not a big deal for me to have two or three stories going at the same time. In fact it’s often a good thing, because it causes me to review the work from which I took a break and find flaws and editing issues.
Is there a binding theme to the stories in GHOST SHADOWS?
The only themes would be emotional stimulation. As I said earlier, this is an eclectic collection of stories I enjoyed writing and wanted to share with my readers. I feel there is nothing more important in writing than stirring emotions. Maybe the emotion will be fear or maybe it will be anger or outright disgust. The important thing is that the reader should feel something. I would rather have the reader mad at me for writing something than to have him or her say “It was ok.” If I haven’t stirred an emotion of some sort, than I probably haven’t done my job.
Please tell us a bit about yourself; who you are, where you came from, the path you took to get to where you are now.
I was born July 23, 1955 in the town of Ashland, Pennsylvania where I grew up and lived until I moved to Berks County at the age of twenty-four. I currently live in South Heidelberg Township with my wife JoAnne. We have three children and three grandchildren.
Who I am is a husband, a father, a grandfather, a musician, singer/songwriter, artist, cartoonist and writer. That is who I am, which is not necessarily what I do to put food on the table. I like to say I moonlight fulltime as a Senior Manufacturing Engineer for a major corporation. That is how I pay my bills and what gives me the freedom to pursue those things that make up who I really am.
I have wanted to write a novel my entire life but I got busy with family, career and making money so I never got around to writing my first novel 99 SOULS until about 2008 when I was 53 years old. I was fortunate in meeting up with Lawrence Knoor of Sunbury Press who liked 99 SOULS and immediately gave me a contract for that novel as well as a themed short story collection 13 NASTY ENDINGS and another novel BURN PHONE. Since that time I have been publishing all of my major works through Sunbury Press.
I also sing and play bass guitar regularly with my band Blues City, and also play six string acoustic with an my acoustic blues trio “Whiskey Creek”.
Do you have a muse, either real or imaginary?
I may, but I am not really sure. Sometimes it feels that way. Since my stories seem often to write themselves while I simply type what is flowing from my brain I would have to assume I am getting help from somewhere. I have no right to take all the credit myself, but sadly I have no idea who helps me. Often when I am writing a story I don’t know how it will end or what will happen next until I put the words on paper.
Who are some of your influences, both old and new? Who inspires you?
I am a major fan of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I’ve been told I write like a combination of H. P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker which is rather ironic because up until a few months ago I am ashamed to say I never read anything by either of them. I still haven’t read Barker although I love the movies made of his work and after reading a few of Lovecraft’s short stories, I still don’t think I write anything like him.
When I write I am watching a movie in my mind and hearing the dialog as if I were watching it played out in front of me. All I do is put that down on paper. If it reminds a reader of someone else, I am flattered but it is purely coincidental. I have very little time for reading so most writers I get to experience come to me via audio books I listen to on my hour commute to work and back every day. Most of those works range from detective novels to murder mysteries to comedy.
Is there anything you’d like to talk about? Anything I missed that you would like to share?
The only other thing I would like to mention is a subject that is near and dear to me and that is creativity. I love to encourage young people to explore the right side of their brain and to use it for the purposes of creating something from nothing. That is probably man’s greatest God-given ability. We are creators. We can take a blank sheet of paper and turn it into a work of art, or an interesting story, or a design for a skyscraper, or whatever we choose. We have the unique ability to take nothing and make something from it. I don’t want to see us lose that ability.
There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a kid with more interesting electronic devices, games and music devices than I could have even imagined as a child telling me they are bored. I had very humble beginnings and was born at a time before all of the amazing technological advances we now take for granted. As such I had no choice but to use and develop my imagination. I want to encourage everyone to keep using theirs. That is what made America great. Don’t conform, think for yourself and create the future.
Thanks for talking to me, Thomas. Best of luck with GHOST SHADOWS.
Thomas M. Malafarina is an author of horror fiction from Berks County, Pennsylvania. He has published four horror novels 99 SOULS, BURN PHONE, EYE CONTACT and FALLEN STONES as well as for collections of horror short stories; 13 NASTY ENDINGS , GALLLERY OF HORROR, MALAFARINA MALEFICARUM Vol. 1, MALAFARINA MALEFICARUM Vol. 2 and most recently GHOST SHADOWS. He has also published a book of often strange single panel cartoons called YES I SMELLED IT TOO; CARTOONS FOR THE SLIGHTLY OFF CENTER. All of his books have been published through Sunbury Press.
To learn more about Thomas, please visit his website.