Today I am interviewing Tom Leins, author of the new short fiction collection, Meat Bubbles & Other Stories.
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DJ: Hi Tom! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Tom Leins: Hi DJ! Thanks for having me! I’m a writer based in Paignton, UK, probably best known for my short stories, which have been widely printed in anthologies, and published online by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, the Flash Fiction Offensive, Spelk, Horror Sleaze Trash and Near To The Knuckle. My first short story collection, Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, was released by Near to the Knuckle earlier this summer.
DJ: What is Meat Bubbles & Other Stories about?
Tom: Subtitled ‘The Paignton Noir Case Files’, the book follows the exploits of Joe Rey, a cut-price private investigator who finds himself on the trail of a deranged plastic surgeon with a queasy line in body modification procedures. Over the course of a long, bloody summer, Rey tangles with rogue ex-cops, suburban hitmen, neo-Nazi scumbags and even Paignton’s richest man – a notorious hoarder of unknown horrors.
DJ: What were some of the inspirations behind Meat Bubbles & Other Stories?
Tom: In no particular order: B-movies; pub crawls; US crime fiction from the 1980s and 1990s; Englishness; Psychogeography; abandoned spaces and places; and, of course, my home town, Paignton!
DJ: What kinds of stories can readers expect in the anthology?
Tom: It would be stretching the truth to say that Meat Bubbles exists at the crossroads of crime fiction and horror, as it is far more crime-orientated. That said, I hope horror fans will appreciate the more visceral elements of this collection.
DJ: Being an author, what do you believe makes a good short-story How does it differ from wiring novel-length stories?
Tom: I think that the same rules apply to both – up to a point. I like to make sure my stories have an arresting first line, and instant narrative hook and a strong consistent voice. I strive for the same qualities in my longer work, but none of my novellas have seen the light of day yet, so it isn’t really my place to comment!
Personally, I like to fill my short stories with the kind of things that a lot of writers pass over and save for longer work: strong supporting characters, compelling back stories and immersive geographical detail. Taken together, I hope these qualities give my short stories added impact.
DJ: This may… this will be a difficult question to answer, but what are some of your favorite stories in Meat Bubbles & Other Stories? I don’t mean what you believe is the best, but perhaps some stories has a particular setting, theme, message, or character that you stood out to you?
Tom: I love all of these stories, but my favourite is definitely the closing story, ‘Snuff Racket’, which – at 13,000 words – is the longest in the collection. It’s probably the darkest, freakiest story I’ve published to date, and drags the reader from 1970s Italy to modern-day Paignton, as a bunch of undesirables arrive in town searching for a notorious long-lost Giallo video. It was actually written piecemeal, and serialised over the course of five months in The Blood Red Experiment, but the finished version is far more cohesive – and far more intense.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Meat Bubbles & Other Stories?
Tom: My favourite part of the process was assembling the running order for the book, and reworking some of the older, tamer stories to suit the mood I was aiming to create. The stories were written over a number of years – the oldest being a decade old – and the mix was initially quite jarring, so I had a lot of fun rewriting the content that didn’t quite work.
The highlight of this process was reconfiguring the stories to include a supporting character called Wet-Look – the deranged ex-cop who previously appeared in my 2017 novelette Skull Meat. He leaves a queasy trail of devastation wherever he goes, and he’s a lot of fun to write!
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it this one?
Tom: I would like to hope that people will be talking about the compelling narrative voice, the horror-show of a location and the pitch-black storytelling, but most people who have read it seem to be struck by the relentlessly disturbing tone!
Personally, I don’t think that Meat Bubbles is overly transgressive – compared to books I have read in other genres – but I realise that I do go beyond the pale for crime fiction, and traditionalists may find that offputting.
DJ: Now that Meat Bubbles and Other Stories is released, what is next for you?
Tom: Next up is: Repetition Kills You, which will be published by All Due Respect (an imprint of Down & Out Books) on 21 September. This one isn’t a direct follow-up to Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, but it follows the same protagonist, in the same location, in a completely different set of cases.
Whereas Meat Bubbles was a linear collection that ended with a bang, I’m describing this one as a ‘literary jigsaw puzzle’! The 26 stories are presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’, but together they tell a tell a larger, more complex story.
The next book in the series will be a novella called Boneyard Dogs, which I am editing at the moment. This one is a savage whodunnit featuring people traffickers, light entertainment personalities and Cantonese mobsters!
After that, I will be finishing off The British Meat Scene, a labyrinthine mystery that takes place in a post-Brexit hellscape. I think that Joe Rey will be the perfect tour guide in this corrupt, venal version of future Britain. Think Chinatown-meets-JFK-meets Paignton Noir!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/tomleins1
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Tom: My pleasure! Thanks for having me!
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*** Meat Bubbles and Other Stories is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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Still licking his wounds after the brutal events of SKULL MEAT, Paignton private investigator Joe Rey is reluctant to take on another case that could have violent repercussions. However, a lucrative pay-day from a soon-to-retire cop tests his resolve, and Rey quickly finds himself on the trail of a deranged plastic surgeon with a queasy line in body modification procedures. Over the course of a long, bloody summer, Rey tangles with rogue ex-cops, suburban hitmen, neo-Nazi scumbags and even Paignton’s richest man – a notorious hoarder of unknown horrors. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it…
About the Author:
Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction.
A novelette, SKULL MEAT, is available via Amazon and a new book, REPETITION KILLS YOU, will be published by All Due Respect (an imprint of Down & Out Books) in September 2018.