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Thomas F. Monteleone: Literary Lion
An interview with Thomas Myer
July 1999

Thomas F. Monteleone

Thomas F. Monteleone
Thomas F. Monteleone was born in 1946. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Olivia. He's been a professional writer since 1972, publishing more than 90 short stories, editing at least 6 anthologies and some 20 novels. His column of opinion, "The Mothers And Fathers Italian Association," appears in Cemetery Dance magazine. In 1993, his novel, The Blood of the Lamb, won a Bram Stoker Award. His TV credits include Tales From the Darkside and PBS television.

ISFDB Bibliography

The Ressurectionist
Night of Broken Souls
Blood of the Lamb

Other SF Site Interviews
F. Paul Wilson
Tim Powers
Michael Marshall Smith
Thomas F. Monteleone
P.D. Cacek
David Morrell
Chet Williamson
Ed Bryant

999 Review
999 Table of Contents

Nothing at all can prepare you for a conversation with Thomas Monteleone.

His writing is dramatic, visceral, controversial, and hard to put down. He has won various prestigious awards and is constantly being nominated for others. His ground-breaking work (along with wife Elizabeth) on the Borderlands anthology series is comparable to what Harlan Ellison did with Dangerous Visions.

On the phone, he is easy-going, wry, and enjoys intellectually stimulating conversation. Although it is pretty late at night and he's just returned from a grueling conference, he gives the impression that nothing matters in the world except his conversation with you.

The effect, to say the least, is completely disarming.

Everything is fair game for Monteleone, whose wide-ranging intellect and voracious curiosity is a product of four years of Jesuit high school.

"My dad figured out a way to send me to a private high school, on a machinist's salary," he says. "It was the best thing that happened to me. The Jesuits taught me how to think."

I had read Monteleone's Blood of the Lamb in preparation for the interview. For those of you who haven't discovered it, Monteleone spins one helluva thriller about a group of priests that successfully clone a human from the DNA collected from the Shroud of Turin. Although the product of this experiment, Father Peter Carenza, initially tries to turn his miraculous powers for the good of the people, he finds himself walking down a different path.

The book is a Chaucerian romp through fin-de-millennium contemporary Christianity, with just about every priest or reverend shown pimple-side up. Monteleone's negative portrayals of various Christian sects (including the Jesuits) and the vivid sexuality of the Christ-like protagonist got Monteleone a lot of negative feedback. However, the book won the coveted Bram Stoker award in 1993 (against a field populated by such notables as Dean R. Koontz, Dan Simmons, and Brian Hodge). And it doesn't suck that the book is still in print seven years later.

Blood of the Lamb read a lot like Tom Clancy meets The Prophecy meets Umberto Eco. And more good news: the sequel, The Reckoning, is due out in November.

"I wrote that book before the X-Files and before Jurassic Park," he says, pointing out the 90s resurgence of interest in both the paranormal and biotechnologies.

Monteleone's contribution to the forthcoming 999 horror anthology is a haunting Twilight Zone send-up called "Rehearsals," in which a born loser goes back to his home town to visit his estranged parent's house and finds that a theatre has been built on the site. He takes a job as a janitor there, and one night, after everyone has left the building, he witnesses a strange scene being played out on stage: he sees himself, much younger, and his mother and father interacting. His father is domineering and brusque, not wanting his son to participate in theatre ("that's for fairies!"). Now the protagonist has a chance to intervene, to change the past, and therefore his present reality.

Monteleone's deft hand turns what otherwise would have been just a weird story into an introspective and heart-wrenching story of glorious apotheosis and familial forgiveness.

The best part is, his own father was never like that. "My dad read all the pulp magazines, saved the lurid covers," he recalls. "He twisted me."

If Monteleone is twisted, he's insanely happy to be so: at 53, he has spent the past 18 years as a full-time freelance writer. With wife Elizabeth (a freelance editor) they live in a five-bedroom house on two acres of New Hampshire paradise, sandwiched between a lake ("it's across the street!") and the mountains.

"No crime," Monteleone laughs. "No traffic. It's beautiful. I don't even know where my house keys are right now. No need to lock the doors."

Not too bad for the guy who, at age ten, knew that he wanted to be a writer. "After college, I just started writing stories. I wrote 30 of them in two years. Collected over 200 rejection slips," he laughs. "My first sale was to Amazing. They paid me a penny a word for a 3000 word story. I got a $30.00 check."

From then on, it was a lot of hard work. But he has built an amazing career with 25 books and over 100 short stories published.

"I'm Italian and I deliver," Monteleone cracks, talking about writing stories for anthologies. "If somebody asks you to do a story for an anthology, you have to know that you can write the story. I only accept anthology work that I know I can deliver."

In which directions is fantastic literature going? "I see a lot of potential in the melding of suspense/crime with dark urban fantasy settings," he says.

"The question of reality seems to be another big issue," he adds. "The Matrix for instance, although it has minor flaws, pops the big question: what is real? It's ambitious."

When I mention that some of the better recent fantasy reminds me of Sartre, Camus, and Kafka -- with their dark introspections and alienation -- I can almost hear him jumping up and down on the other end of the phone connection.

"Yes, yes. They were setting down the foundations. And Melville. His 'Bartleby the Scrivener' is superb. And Ted Klein, Fritz Leiber, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, all those guys. These are my biggest influences."

Copyright © 1999 Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer is a technical writer with Cisco Systems, Inc. He is a Contributing Editor with the SF Site and has been writing reviews and articles here since early 1997.

He claims he divides his time between reading, writing, and doing research.

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