Welcome to the third installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!
In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.
Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.
And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.
We are thrilled to continue this new author-centric series with the inspirational Thomas M. Malafarina, horror author of The Ridge of Death and many more.
This year marks my 10th year writing horror for Sunbury Press/Hellbender Books. That’s right, I’m an author of horror fiction. Yep, the dreaded genre. In the eyes of many publishers that makes me the ugly three-headed stepchild. Regardless, I’ve written in various forms all of my life from newspaper reporting at the age of 19 to having created thousands of pages of technical documentation during my 43-year career (and still going strong) as a manufacturing engineer. But one thing I always wanted to do was to write and publish horror fiction.
One might wonder why I would choose a genre that most "serious" authors and publishers tend to frown upon. Most of those publishers are often happy to remind would-be authors that Stephen King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz already do it better than anyone else, so why bother? I’ve had a life-long love of horror from my childhood days of watching the Universal Monster movies and reading Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines. My bedroom was decorated with posters of monsters and my dresser was covered with Aurora monster models, which I built and customized.
Thank goodness Sunbury Press saw past all the prejudice against horror and started me on a journey that has resulted in ten years of publishing with over thirteen books currently in print, close to two hundred short stories to my name, with much more terror on the horizon.
But let’s turn the clock back a decade or so. It was spring of 2010 and I was coming up on my fifty-fifth birthday in July. Having completed my first novel, 99 Souls as well as more than a dozen short stories, I was close to completing my second novel, Burn Phone. I had not yet found a publisher but was nonetheless having a blast writing blood-curdling prose.
After a few failed attempts to find a publisher, I had actually considered contracting with one of the vanity press companies (I was unaware of self-publishing websites, if in fact they existed at that time). The bottom line was, I wanted to know if the work I was doing was any good. Vanity press or self-publishing would not answer that question. Only acceptance by a traditional publisher would do that for me. I had works ready to publish but nowhere to publish them. I was like an atheist at his own funeral, all dressed up and no place to go.
Then one day while cruising Craigslist looking for potential gigs for my part-time blues band, I saw an ad for a publisher from Camp Hill called Sunbury Press that was in the process of growing its business and looking for new authors. I did some research and learned at that time, Sunbury was best known for non-fiction and historical types of books.
Never one to be afraid of having yet another door slammed in my face, I contacted Sunbury publisher Lawrence Knorr to see if he would have any interest in looking at my work, even though it was fiction and horror fiction to boot. To my surprise, he agreed. I prepared myself for yet another rejection letter to add to my growing stack. To my astonishment, he offered to publish three books; my novels 99 Souls and Burn Phone as well as a collection of short stories, which he decided to call 13 Nasty Endings.
I was blown away! I went from thinking I might never be published to becoming a published author with a three-book deal. Unfortunately, like all naive and uninformed writers new to publishing, I was mostly concerned about how I would spend all the money that came pouring in. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.
Now I can look back and laugh. Writing has not and likely will never make me financially rich (or even comfortable), but it has succeeded in filling my life with the sort of wealth you can only receive from the experience of creating something from nothing and seeing it in print with your name on it. For the record, the tenth or thirteenth book is no less exciting to hold in your hands than the first.
If you total all the books I've published through Sunbury and their imprint Hellbender Books, the number is actually much higher. Some of my earlier works are out of print. I reworked several of them over the years, which we retitled and re-released. 99 Souls is now available as What Waits Beneath. Burn Phone is now Burner. My large novel Fallen Stones has been re-written, streamlined and re-released as Circle Of Blood. 13 Nasty Endings is now available as 13 Deadly Endings and my dark and some say frustrating Eye Contact is now available under the title From The Dark. Three short story collections, Malafarina Malefacarum Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 as well as Gallery Of Horror have been discontinued. Their stories have been sprinkled in with new stories for my current series called Malaformed Realities.
Oh, and another thing, we published a collection of my bizarre cartoons called Yes, I Smelled It Too.
Hellbender has published my series of three zombie apocalypse novels called the Dead Kill series. Will there be a Book 4? Time will tell.
So, what does the future hold for me? What does my next decade of terror look like? Shortly, Hellbender will be releasing a short story collection I co-curated with Catherine Jordon (she did an excellent job of editing—thanks, Cathy!) called Hellbent, which consists of stories from many Hellbender authors. As I mentioned earlier, Malaformed Realities 4 and 5 are slated for 2020 release, unless COVID-19 screws that up. Also, scheduled to be released will be a new novel, which might become a series called, Death Bringer Jones, Zombie Slayer. He is a spinoff character from my Dead Kill Series.
I'm also working on a new novel (which has the potential to become yet another series), a novella or two and a ton of short stories so new, this is the first I’ve mentioned them. I'm always writing something. I love to write. I never tire of writing and never seem to run out of ideas. Professional writers take vacations to get away from writing; I look forward to writing while on vacation. Writing is actually a sort of vacation for me.
So now you know why the past ten years with Sunbury Press have been so rewarding to me. It's not about the money. Publishing my books allows me to share my crazy ideas with many readers. It permits me to proudly call myself a published author. Most importantly, it offers me a platform from which I can launch many, many more stories for as long as I can keep coming up with fresh new ideas. Be ready, folks. The next decade of terror is right around the corner.
About the Author
Thomas M. Malafarina is a horror author from Berks County, Pennsylvania. He has been featured in over 15 books, including seven novels and even one book of often-strange single panel cartoons called Yes I Smelled It Too. Learn more on his website.
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