Tuesday, September 13, 2022

INTERVIEW with HM Thomas

I want to thank HM Thomas for taking the time for this interview!


HM Thomas grew up in South Carolina creating worlds bigger and more dramatic than her own. She credits her dad’s nightly story times for her love of the written word and her mom’s devotion to Days of Our Lives for her love of dramatic fiction.

HM was writing fan-fiction long before it was a thing, taking the characters from her mom’s soaps or her own books and creating even more twists and turns for them. As she got older, she wrote her own friends into the plots. Some of them are still there.

After graduating from Clemson University, HM got her own Happily Ever After and decided to start writing them for her characters as well. She began focusing on romance, oftentimes mixed with suspense.

When not writing, HM enjoys traveling and hiking with her husband, three children and rescue dog. On a good day, she can be found with a book in her hand. On a really good day, there will be a campfire.

When and how did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved reading, but in 4th grade I had a wonderful teacher who really cultivated that love. She also had us write creatively, and we created a book of our stories. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since.

Did you have any influencing writers growing up?

Growing up I was a huge R.L. Stine fan, so I wrote a lot of stories involving ghosts and murderers. In college, my aunt gave me my first Nora Roberts book. I was hooked on romance after that.

Are any of your characters based on people in real life?

Ha ha! Yes! There are bits and pieces of people in my life mixed into all my characters. 

But, in my book What We Deserve, the antagonist, Chess Morgan, is based on someone I knew. I did take some liberties to make Chess more villainous than the real-life version though. 

Miranda in that same book is also the most autobiographical character I’ve ever written.  

Where do you draw your book inspirations from?

My ideas for books come from all over the place. I get a lot of my ideas from dreams. I’ll have a dream that doesn’t quite play all the way out and wake up needing answers. 

I’m also a people watcher. I love watching strangers and trying to figure out their story. Writing helps me fill in the blanks. 

I love to pepper in little bits of people and events from real-life also to make my characters more real. I’m a wonderer, whenever I visit a new place I’m always asking myself what could’ve happened here before. I like to try to imagine and write about the possibilities.

For my latest book though, I was given some parameters for a series and kind of left to figure out what to do with them. 


Do you use have a basic outline when starting a new story or do you let the characters lead the way?

Before I was seriously publishing, I used to let the characters completely lead the way. I would just write the more exciting scenes, totally out of order whenever my muse felt moved. 

When I started publishing and having deadlines, I realized I was going to have to take some control. Although I do typically start with a scene in the middle of the book, I usually backtrack and outline before really diving in to writing.

When you are picturing the characters in your book, do you have a cheater photo for inspiration?

Yes and no. Sometimes I will have a celebrity in mind for a character and kind of base the character’s looks off that. Sometimes I stick with it pretty closely, sometimes I blend multiple people together, and sometimes I start with a picture and then veer off course. Weirdly, I only ever have photos for my male characters. My female characters tend to be totally from my mind.

Some examples from my books – Finn in The Right to Surrender is inspired by a mix of Josh Holloway and Charlie Hunnam. 

Logan from What We Deserve is inspired by Chase Rice and my husband. 

Ryan from Her Forever Christmas Gift is inspired by Ryan Phillippe. 

Ian from Island of Secrets and Scars is inspired by Eoin Macken. 

And Seth from That Ship Has Sailed started off being inspired by Henry Cavill but kind of morphed into someone else. I’m sure Henry will still get a book though 😊 

Many people read as a form of escape and relaxation.  What is your favorite way to sit back and relax?

I love to be outside in a hammock. My family camps often, and there is nowhere I would rather be than lying in a hammock by a campfire. I am most often reading while doing this.

Who are your favorite current authors to read?

I’m such a fan-girl when it comes to Kate Stacy and was lucky to have the opportunity to work on the Love at Sea series with her. She wrote book one in the series. But I seriously love everything she writes and hate when it ends.

I’ll also devour anything by Christina Lauren, Janie Crouch, Cynthia Eden or Lori Foster. I’m a sucker for a series, especially a Romantic Suspense one.

Currently, Elaine Reed is quickly becoming a new favorite author.

What are your favorite books by others?

This is such a hard question. I love reading and have enjoyed so many books.

A few that I’ve really enjoyed are:

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

The Hours by Karen White

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Dirty Rowdy Thing and The UnHoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Do the locations in the stories have any meaning to you?

So far, I haven’t published a book where the setting had any significant meaning. 

Since I was born and raised in SC and love the area I live in, most of my books do technically take place in the southeast. One of my works in progress takes place on Edisto Island, SC and the setting does play a significant role in the story. 

I love so many parts of the US, but there is something about the Lowcountry of SC that brings me peace.

Do you write in single or multiple POV?

I typically write in 3rd person POV and alternate between the female MC and the male MC.

What do you find to be your best research tool?

Experience and questioning. Not that I have experienced all the things I write about, but I can usually find something to pull from. 

I also don’t mind finding people who have had these experiences and questioning them to death about them.

Do you write under a pen name?  Also, do you write under more than one name? 

I do write under a pen name. 

I’m a teacher in my “real life”, so I use a pen name to offer a little separation.

What genre do you write and why is this your preference?

I write Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance. 

I prefer romance because I honestly believe almost every book has romance in it anyway. I also love love, so why not write about it? Love is such a driving force in our lives, whether it’s romantic love, familial love, love of country . . . whatever. Our love for others causes us to do so many things (good and bad). I like writing about love and giving people that HEA they might not find in the real world.

My favorite is Romantic Suspense. I like seeing my characters fall in love while also being totally badass in their own ways.

Tell me something about yourself outside of writing.  Jobs, accomplishments, family, quirky trait...what led to you being you?

I’m a mom. It’s easily my greatest accomplishment. I have 13-year-old boy/girl twins and a nine-year-old son. They are hands-down the coolest people ever (next to their dad). 

Even though I’m an introvert who really enjoys my alone time, I love hanging out with the four of them. During the summers, we take off in our travel trailer and explore the country. I’m sure one day the kids will decide my husband and I aren’t cool enough for them, but we’re soaking it up until then.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Write. The more you write, the better you will get. 

Also, read. See what is out there. Find writers whom you admire and study how they write. 

Then do whatever feels best for you. 

And don’t be afraid of criticism. It’s so hard to let someone else read your writing, but if you ever want to be a published author you HAVE to let someone read it. As much as it will drive you crazy to hear someone tell you you’re writing isn’t perfect, it will be the truth. We can always learn more. 

Look at edits and critiques with an open mind—then do what’s best for you and your story.

How do you deal and process negative book reviews?

I just tell myself they don’t know what they’re talking about 😊 JK. 

Every book isn’t for every person. I’ve picked up books that I didn’t like. I usually don’t write a review saying such, but every reader is entitled to that opinion. 

The only time I’ve been really bothered by a poor review was when it was clear the reviewer missed something. She claimed to not like the book because the MC was a cheater. Had the MC cheated (or even been suspected of cheating) I would’ve had to agree with her, but he hadn’t. That was a bit frustrating because I knew that review could be a turn off for romance readers, but at the end of the day it is what it is.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Finding the time to write. I don’t have to have a perfect setting to write in, but I do have to have a clear mind. 

When I have a lot going on or am worried about things, I have a hard time clearing all that out and letting creativity flow.

What do you need in your writer’s space to keep you focused?

I wish I knew so I could put more of whatever it is in there 😊 

I’ve actually been really lucky that my husband added an office onto our house that is (mostly) devoted to my writing. It is helpful to be able to go into a space dedicated to writing. Sitting down at my desk sends a little signal to my brain that it’s time to get to work. 

Typically, my kids will heed the closed door and give me some uninterrupted time.

What is your naughty indulgence as you are writing?

I’m not sure if this is actually naughty, I just call it research, but I do sometimes have to study a lot of pictures of my inspiration character. 

Such a hardship 😉

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?  And why?

This is a hard one. I think maybe I’d choose Lori Foster. 

On social media she appears so down-to-earth and family oriented. I would love to talk with her and ask her how she manages to do all the writing things and also be an involved wife/mom/grandmother.

What is your schedule like when you are writing?  Do you have a favorite writing snack or drink?

I work full-time as a teacher, so when I’m in the middle of a story my writing schedule becomes lots of late nights and weekends locked in my office. 

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I do overindulge in Code Red Mountain Dews and hot chocolate when I’m writing.

Do you listen to music when you write – what kind of music is your favorite?

Yes. Sometimes I create a soundtrack for my books. When I do that, I’ll either play the playlist or, if a particular song fits a scene I’m writing, I’ll just play that on repeat. 

In my book What We Deserve, Lewis Capaldi’s “Before You Go” fit the angst so well that I probably replayed that song a thousand times. 

Usually though, I just pick a Pandora station that fits the mood I need and let it play.

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?

I have a 90-pound lab/pit rescue that stays by my side the entire time I write. Sometimes he doesn’t care that I need both hands to type and will headbutt my right hand until I pet him. 

Since I’m right-handed this usually means I just give up and give him belly rubs until he gets tired of me.

What is your kryptonite as a writer?  What totally puts you off your game?

Stress. If I have too much stuff swirling around in my brain, it totally zaps my creativity. Same for if I’m really tired. 

I’ve never been someone who sits down at a certain time and writes whether I feel like it or not, so when I’m out of that creative zone it can be difficult for me to get back into a writing routine.

Have you ever killed off a character that your readers loved?

Yes and no. 

There is a point in one of my books where readers believe a character has died. I get so many angry messages when readers get to that part.

How do you celebrate after typing THE END?

Usually by just posting it to social media. Sometimes, I’ll allow myself to veg out and take a few days to read something for fun. But in the writing world there’s always something to be done, so it’s never quite the end.


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