Author Stuart Thaman began writing at a young age, with tales of backyard bugs written in crayon. It was then that he developed a love of prose and, after graduating from Hillsdale College with a double major in politics and German, Stuart turned his attention to fiction. He began writing in earnest for the National Novel Writing Month competition and is currently the author of a pair of novels, Vatican Massacre — which hit #1 on Amazon’s religious fiction best-seller list — and The Goblin Wars Part One: Siege of Talonrend, the beginning of a series of fantasy novels that approach the classic conflict of man versus beast from a new perspective.
A resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, Thaman also teaches German for the Diocese of Covington in northern Kentucky.
As far as authors go, I first fell in love with books after reading Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game when I was in middle school. I devoured every bit of sci-fi I could through high school, reading the greats like Larry Niven and Frank Herbert every chance that I could. At my brother’s request, I started reading Joe Abercrombie’s fantasy series in college and developed a passion for fantasy.
My greatest inspiration as a writer has come from David Dalglish, one of the most creative fantasy writers around. I read somewhere that Dalglish started out self publishing his Half Orc series while working in fast food and that lit my own creative spark. Today, Dalglish and R. A. Salvatore serve as my inspiration and each new book they write ignites a new world of ideas in my own mind.
How did the story for Vatican Massacre come about?
Vatican Massacre is a strange story. It started out as an off-shoot of my senior thesis in college, which focused on the reformation debate of free will vs. predestination. I started writing for National Novel Writing Month and I wanted to create a story that explored some of the darker themes present in Christianity. The Ark of the Covenant, the box used to carry the two tablets of the law throughout the Old Testament, was used by the Israelites as a weapon. That begs the question, if God is only good, how can a weapon of war be made by His hands? I love the darker and lesser known elements of theology.
Though Vatican Massacre is categorized as religious fiction, it seems to deal in darker themes than typical religious fiction. Did you get any negative feedback from readers who didn’t get the story they expected?
If I sell a copy of Vatican Massacre in person, I make sure to tell them that it won’t be inspirational. I have had several people complain about the graphic nature of the plot and I even had one person tell me that they expected a children’s book. As one of my reviewers put it, Vatican Massacre is not for the faint of heart.
Your second book, The Goblin Wars, is a bit of a departure from your first, genre-wise. What do you enjoy most about fantasy writing?
Fantasy is a much longer format and more entertaining to write. I love to create an entire universe and fill it with my own thoughts. Fight scenes and magic use are the most fun to write for fantasy in general, but for my series, I love writing from the perspective of a clumsy goblin.
When it comes to marketing your books, what methods have you had the most success with?
The best marketing has been to go out and meet readers. I have done several book signings, I was a panelist at this year’s Author’s Fair in Madison, IN, and I have a few more scheduled for the summer. Signing books for fans is a real treat for me as an author and helps me communicate with other authors. Meeting fellow writers helps everyone network and plan for future events.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of teaching?
Teaching has been a real adventure. The most rewarding thing might be a bit selfish, but I enjoy keeping my German fresh. Living in Cincinnati affords me a few locations to speak German but without teaching, that skill would slowly deteriorate. Being able to speak German every day has been a great boon to teaching.
In your opinion, what’s the best horror movie ever made?
Without a doubt, Sinister is the greatest horror movie ever made. It isn’t just gore and torture, there are hardly any “jumpy” moments, and for the most part, the music is subtle and never what makes it scary. Sinister is great because it doesn’t follow the stereotypical horror rules.
What would you like to do that you simply haven’t found the time for yet?
So many things…. I’m currently learning Dutch and looking forward to skydiving later this summer. As for writing, I’ve been told by fans to write a romance novel but I have yet to find the time or the desire to do it.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Look forward to your first bad review. Not your first 3-star review from someone who just didn’t understand your work, but look forward to your first 1-star where you really get thrashed. Bad reviews add legitimacy, especially for small press and indie authors. Take your first 1-star rating on the chin with your head held high — no one loves every book they read and not a single popular book doesn’t have a few 1-stars. Learn from your mistakes and listen to your critics. Readers have to make the decision to buy your works which makes them, in essence, your boss. Lastly, keep writing!
What are you working on next?
My next project is another religious fiction novel entitled For We Are Many. It is actually nearing completion with the cover artist and editor and should be released through Hydra Publications in the next few weeks. As with Vatican Massacre, For We Are Many is very dark and bears many elements of horror. It tells the story of Fletcher Lee, a 13 year old boy plagued by the memories of his mother’s alleged suicide. Of course, I’m currently writing The Goblin Wars Part Two: Death of a King, and I expect that to be ready by late fall or early winter 2014. After that, I have a few more horror novels in mind, but nothing solid just yet.