After long hours of reading and re-reading the five finalist manuscripts, the judges of the ‘So You Want to be Published 2015’ contest made a decision. Congratulations to Thomas Brittendahl! The decision was very difficult as all five manuscripts were excellent and have the potential to be the next bestsellers. Thomas Brittendahl is a brilliant writer and two of his manuscripts were finalists of the contest. The winning entry is entitled, An Evil.
Title: An Evil
Author: Thomas Brittendahl
Why do bad things happen to good people?
It’s all too easy to preach the goodness of God, when all is well.
How does one continue to praise God when all is taken away?
Everything he owned…gone…
Everyone he loved…dead…
His health…fading away…
There is something after him…an evil…
Excerpt (from the beginning of Chapter 3)
“Alright,” James said approaching the gate, “let’s get you closed.”
He gripped the lower metal beam and pushed hard, forcing the gate closed and manually latching it so it did not reopen.
James stood for a moment looking down the dark road, lit only by the bright moon. Street lights could be seen about five-hundred yards down the way, but on their little stretch of pavement, no street lights were ever installed. He was about to turn around and head back when he glanced a strange figure standing in the distance. “What the . . .?” He shielded the wind with his hands, squinted to get a better look at the figure. “Is that . . . a person?”
The figure was about one-hundred yards away. It looked like the outline of a man, but with the body of a shadow, one with depth. It seemed to move subtly as it stood in front of a large pile of salt and pepper granite boulders. A soft moan came from the distance, from the same direction as the dark, shadowy figure. The longer James stood still, the moan got louder, closer. It was as if the shadow stared straight at him.
A rush of adrenalin forced James to turn and run for his car. As he ran, he felt like he was being followed. After about fifty feet he turned and looked, saw the shadow standing just outside the gate. His heart sunk–the figure just seemed to stare. Turning again to run, the moans grew louder, like they surrounded him. Screeches could be heard inside the moans, like either cries for help or calls to flee.
When James got to his car the gate slammed open and the wind again knocked him to the ground. The moans and screeches overtook him, and it was again like a thunder drumming in his ear. When James looked back, the shadow had not progressed–it remained standing just off the property. Scrambling to his feet, James hopped in the car, started it, and peeled out down the driveway, finally stopping only to run to the front door…
Interview with the Author
Michael Pang: Thomas, congratulations once again on winning the So You Want To Be Published 2015 contest! I’m sure that our readers would like to get to know more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Thomas Brittendahl: I am 33 years old, was born in Olympia, Washington, but grew up in San Jose, California. I come from a working class family, with two amazing parents and a brother and sister I love very much. I worked since I was a sophomore in high school until I was laid off in 2009 as part of the recession. That’s when I returned to college, where I studied history and philosophy. Now, I teach U.S. History at a bay area high school.
MP: Where and when did your writing journey begin?
TB: When I was in my mid twenties I felt a deep desire to write something in the realm of academia, especially philosophy. When I went back to school to graduate from college, though, I eventually realized that everything I wanted to say had already been said, and in a way that I would never be able to articulate. However, one of my professors taught her course using fiction novels as a substitute for the traditional monograph or biography. I had never been much of a fiction reader, but saw that fiction could indeed be a vessel through which my ideas could be transmitted. I made peace with the certainty that I would never write anything truly original, but also that I wasn’t really after originality: I simply wanted a way to express thoughts so they would get out of my head. The vessel became fiction, and over time the desire evolved from simply expressing thoughts, to wanting to write something that other people could enjoy. The specific thoughts became secondary; the story became everything.
MP: Wow, and that passion has definitely blossomed as two of your entries were finalists in the contest. Actually, you had submitted four entries to the contest. What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
TB: Right now I’m mostly busy revising lesson plans and correcting my students’ work. I’m only teaching three classes, but for a first year teacher, it’s still a handful. Thankfully, my personal writing now consists mostly of revision and polishing completed stories. Several times a week I will tear into a chapter or two from one of my novels and look for places that need revision. The writer’s group I belong to aids in this process greatly. Wherever I am on the talent scale of writing, if not for the writer’s group I belong to, I would be much lower.
MP: Your manuscript, An Evil, has a very interesting take on a somewhat controversial subject. How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
TB: I had watched a debate about religion and morality either late in college or right after I graduated, and someone had brought up the Book of Job as a source people could look to for an answer to the question: why do good people suffer? I read it. When I finished, I scratched my head. I could only think one thing: this would make a great horror novel! I initially intended An Evil to be a novel, but after I started writing I realized the story would be better told as a short story or novella.
MP: One of the things that the judges mentioned about the manuscripts, were how well the characters was depicted and that “Everything was perfectly on point.” So, I’d have to ask, Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
TB: I really don’t have a favorite character. I like them all. The one that’s probably most reflective of me, though, would have to be James. I grew up in a Christian household, but became more secular as I neared my twenties. We both love our family greatly, but butt heads from time to time on issues of religion.
MP: This is going to be your first published work. What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading it?
TB: I would love if they took away nothing more than a desire to read another one of my stories!
MP: So, I’m sure our readers are dying to find out. What do you have in store next for your readers?
TB: An Evil is actually the third story I’ve written. Because of its length, it was the easiest to complete and polish. I am currently polishing two full length novels.
Repository for the Unwanted takes place in a 17th century European monastery, blending horror and historical fiction. The main most inspiration for it came after I read the article, Lesbian Sexuality in Renaissance Italy: The Case of Sister Benedetta Carlini, by Judith Brown.
Of Gods & Men is the first book in a trilogy that blends science and political fiction. Both are multiplot stories told through multiple points of view.
About the Author
I am currently polishing two of my five completed novels as well as a short story of about 25,000 words. My writing has thus far focused on science fiction and horror, but include elements of other genres. I never stop writing, and have the framework established for several other novels. I graduated magna cum laude from San Jose State University, majoring in History and minoring in Philosophy, receiving both university and department honors, and currently teach high school in San Jose, Ca.