Interview with T. Damon, author of “The Falling”

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

I’ve been writing stories since I was very young, but I didn’t really consider writing as a profession until I was in my mid-20s. Prior to becoming an author, I worked almost exclusively with animals, earning my Bachelor’s degree in Zoology after many years of working at the San Francisco Zoo, Safari West, and various veterinary hospitals around the Bay Area. I started writing again after I came up with The Forest Spirit Series, and have been ever since.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My mother has been my biggest fan since I first started to write, and hasn’t wavered in her opinion of my work. She is still the first person to see all of my completed manuscripts, because it’s always nice to hear positive and constructive feedback as a first review.

Whose work do you enjoy reading the most?

I’ve always been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, ever since I can remember. I even dressed up as a raven to do a book report on a collection of his stories when I was in the third grade. I suppose I could have dressed up as Poe himself, but perhaps I was compelled to dress up as a raven given my obsession with animals as a kid. My favorite story by Poe is The Cask of the Amontillado, the thought of it still sends shivers up my spine.

Now when you look back at your past, do you feel accomplished?

I am not the person today that I was last year, three years ago, or ten years ago. If you told me ten years ago that I would have a career as an author I may not have believed you (though would probably have been amused by the thought of it). I am very happy with where I am and how far I have come. I definitely have thicker skin now, given the setbacks, obstacles, and rejections I’d experienced leading up to this point. I believe they are necessary for growth, and ultimately have made me a better writer and self-promoter (though I definitely could use more help in the promotion arena, I think most authors would agree).

How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?

I had just had my daughter only two months earlier, so I celebrated by taking a long nap.

Do you prefer writing over reviewing the work of others?

Absolutely. Each writer is coming from a completely different perspective than the next. For some reason, I feel like I’m not at liberty to be too overly critical of others’ work because I can’t fully understand where they were coming from when they wrote their book. If I don’t like a book, I’ll try to find something I did like about it, and go from there. Your book isn’t going to be for everybody, and though it’s a hard pill to swallow, it’s true.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

Strangely enough, the majority of what I read is horror, particularly ghost stories. I also enjoy reading biographies of Jerry Lewis (whom I love), metaphysical books, and general fiction. I’ll read anything, really, but that’s just a general rundown of what I like.

Have you ever written a character based on the real you in some part?

I think most authors have, even despite what they might say. I put a little bit of myself into every character, some attributes just happen to be more prominent in some characters than others.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

To me, the most important thing about a book is whether or not it makes me feel something, deep down inside of my psyche. I want the book to haunt me for days, weeks, heck even months after I complete it. I want to think about the book at random times, be reminded of it by the most idiosyncratic of triggers, and I want to dream about it when I’m sleeping. And there is a book like that for everyone, I truly believe. You just need to get out there and find it!

Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to be more confident and self-assured. When I was little, I suppose I was a bit of a know-it-all (especially about animal facts). Back then, since I was so tiny, people would find it cute. As I got older, I found my eagerness to impart knowledge was not as well-received as it was when I was a kid, so I started to shy away more. I stopped revealing a lot of my true personality, since it was so much easier to put on a smile and pretend to be who I thought everyone wanted me to be. Now that I’m thirty, I realize that concealing who you really are is more damaging than protective. There is no one else like you! And that is what makes you cute.

Are you friends with other writers?

Yes! There are two in particular who have really impacted my writing career in a positive way, and I am so grateful to them for that. Lyssa Chiavari, author of the Iamos Trilogy (the first book, Fourth World is incredible), has been not only a friend, but a mentor, editor, formatter– you name it, she’s helped me with it. My other friend, Lia Wayward, was my main source of emotional support through a difficult time with a former publisher. She’s proven herself as not only a brilliant cover designer and all-around artist, but a trusted ally as well. I would not be where I am today without these two amazing women. I love them!

Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?

I’ve thought about it, actually. I have a plethora of hilarious, random events that have happened to me or I’ve witnessed throughout my lifetime, and I definitely know a lot of “characters”. So, maybe someday. If you’re interested in reading some exaggerated versions of funny occurrences I’ve experienced, read my other books. Under the pen name K.L. Teal, the novels A Girl Named Dracula and Anthropoidea (due out this spring) delve into some of my weird life stories that I’ve altered to fit the plot-lines for the books.

Which book would you want adapted for the silver screen?

I would love to see The Forest Spirit Series come to life on the silver screen. I’ve even thought about who I’d want to play the characters, though there is only one character I am one-hundred-percent sure I’d want to cast, and that’s Rowan. I think the actor Bill Skarsgaard (from Hemlock Grove) would be perfect as Rowan. I haven’t figured out any other ideal actor matches for my characters.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

I can’t write in a public place. I can’t even write if my husband is sitting on the couch on the other side of the room. I need solitude, silence, and to be in the right mood in order to write. Well, I suppose I could write at a cafe but the end result wouldn’t be good, and I’d probably end up rewriting all that work, anyway.

Have any of your past loves inspired characters in your books?

Kellen is somewhat inspired by my husband. The nonchalant, yet fiercely protective attitude comes from him. There has never been a time where I have been around my husband and not felt safe. I love watching horror movies and ghost shows, but I end up scaring myself half to death (which I find exhilarating, but not so much at midnight when my husband went to bed before me). My heart will be racing until I’m in the room with him, then suddenly, I’m at ease. Kellen also has my husband’s forest-green eyes (which now my daughter has, as well). I suppose he is not a “past love” but more of a “current and ongoing, ever-evolving love”.

If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?

Edgar Allan Poe. Ernest Hemingway. J.D. Salinger. Franz Kafka. Albert Camus. Susan Hill. Lyssa Chiavari. Yangsze Choo. Akira Yoshimura. Mary Shelley. Bram Stoker.

Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?

Actually, yes– starting at around second grade, I would say. My eighth grade teacher was a strong advocate for me to pursue a writing career, but the teacher who really made her opinions known was my sophomore English teacher, Carole Nickolai. She encouraged me to turn a short story of mine (which happened to be horror, of course) into a full-length novel. I have yet to write that particular novel, but I have never forgotten Carole’s support and enthusiasm for my work. I am so grateful to her, and all the aforementioned teachers, for all their encouragement.

Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?

The Falling is mostly based on a dream I had back in 2011. I remember filling pages and pages of one of my notebooks with as many sequences and random details of the dream as I could recall. I used those notes when I began to write The Falling and outline the other books of The Forest Spirit Series. It was almost as if I was seeing the entire story of The Falling play out in my subconscious, and my mind can still provide me near-perfect photographic images from that dream. It’s bizarre and yet so hauntingly beautiful. I truly hope that shines through in the books, many aspects of The Haunting (Book 2) came from dreams and nightmares as well, though more bits and pieces rather than entire scenes.

What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. I am quite partial to Daniel Radcliffe, and I love when he does horror. The book terrified me for months, and just when I was starting to recover from the book I saw the movie, so I stayed frightened for another couple of months.

Do you often project your own habits onto your characters?

People who know me personally and also read my books say that the way I write is a lot like the way I speak. I’ve also been told some characters are reminiscent of me, but I don’t think there is any character is who is exactly me. I put in bits and pieces here and there, but ultimately I try to think about.

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