An Interview with TC Armstrong, author of Notes from a Necrophobe

To begin, please introduce yourself. What is your name? Who are you? What books have you written? Etc.

I’ve always enjoyed writing and won awards in high school for my short stories. Unfortunately life got in the way and my prose trickled down to a daily journal. My dream of being a writer faded even further when my husband died. I suddenly found myself with multiple companies to sort out, a precedent-setting court case and three traumatized children under the age of six. I remarried, lost those companies and all the trappings that went with them, moved from London to Washington D.C. and finally decided to do something for myself.

Writing provides a much-needed diversion from the difficulties of life. And I’ve discovered that no matter what horrors I write, they cannot compare to reality!

I am known by the lackluster name of Tina Clark but when I write I use my husband’s last name and go by TC Armstrong. There’s an author who writes cheesy romance novels under the name Tina Clark. The first book in my Necrophobe Series is called Notes From A Necrophobe and couldn’t be farther from a romance.  A necrophobe is someone with a fear of dead bodies. This is a particularly inconvenient thing to suffer from when half the population is wiped out from a water supply poisoned by parasites. The book brings up questions like “How long can a family survive on bottled water? How much freedom are they willing to give up in exchange for protection from a government ruled by Martial Law? Can they make it on their own with small children? What does a crisis look like through a child’s eyes?” This is not a tale about a desolate landscape filled with teenagers fighting each other for dominance but rather the story of a world doing its best to keep the apocalypse at bay.
What first inspired you to become a writer? And what compels you to continue your career as an author?  

My daughter inspired me. She was in middle school and had self-esteem issues. None of my motherly assurances made her change her mind about herself, so I decided to write a story with her as the kickass heroine. It worked. She started taking three copies of the first forty pages to lunch and shared it with others. She was impressed that her friends forgot to eat and never looked up while reading. More and more friends came to read her story until it reached the point where one copy would sit in the middle of three people while another person read over their shoulder.  When they started fighting over the copies she decided to take them home and make them pay for the rest of the book.

I finished Notes From A Necrophobe and knew there was more to the story.  It’s like the characters were seeds I had planted and I wanted to see if they would grow or wither on the vine. I’ve caught the writing bug and find it therapeutic to put my warped imagination to use.

And here’s the shallow reason why I can’t stop writing: I get a thrill whenever someone tells me how much enjoy my work. I know that sounds really sad and pathetic, like an aging soap opera starlet out looking for attention, but it’s true. One of my favorite moments was when a teenage boy ran up to my car in a parking lot and started banging on my window with both his hands. I’ll admit I was terrified at first but terror turned to sheer joy when he started yelling, “I love your book! I love your book!” over and over again. I had asked for his sister’s help to edit Notes From A Necrophobe and she passed it on to her younger brother. Whenever I start to feel inadequate I think of his outburst of appreciation.
What is the first book you read that made you fall in love with literature?

I was nine or ten when I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. I was amazed that someone could take a subject that banal yet write it so well I could not put it down. If its theme of the rejection of materialism and conformity was summarized in a book report it would come off as tediously dull, but it’s not. Some writers can take a mesmerizing subject and turn it into a chore to read while others can take something simple and straightforward and write in such a way that you fling yourself headfirst into the story and are broken when it’s finished.

Of course, the supernatural origin story of the book was also a big draw. Richard Bach claimed that he did not write the book, instead a disembodied voice told him word for word what to write.  I’m still waiting for the voices in my head to dictate a New York Times bestseller.

What do you think is the most difficult part of being a writer? What is the most rewarding part?

The most difficult part of being a writer is not having the time to write. I need a diversion-free environment, which means I’m either writing in the local library’s glass-enclosed quiet zone or between the hours of midnight and two am. Unfortunately I have reached the age where it’s easier to recover from minor surgery than a late night of writing.

The most rewarding thing about writing is when ideas start to flow and connect with one another, resulting in some great “Aha!” moments on paper.
What is your most recent work? What can audiences expect from this book or series?

My most recent work is the sequel to Notes From A Necrophobe. It’s called Delusions of the Dead and follows the fate of the characters left standing at the end of the first book. Their tale of survival makes them celebrities but they carry a terrible secret with them-the parasites they thought they had left behind live in their brains and try to control their thoughts. They’re not always successful at overcoming the homicidal tendencies brought on by the parasites and soon their condition is found out, forcing them on the run. They may be able to hide from the authorities but they cannot escape the microorganisms in their minds that grow stronger with each passing day. It gets harder and harder for them to resist the commands they issue: Bite Scratch. Kill. Repeat.

I’m currently working on the third book tentatively called Death Down Deep. It starts with a well-adjusted world ten years ten years down the line from the first two books in the series. The characters are living life as normally as they can, grateful to be out of the spotlight and eager to put their past behind them. Unfortunately natural disasters intervene and they are forced to hide out in an underground limestone cavern twenty stories down. The book tackles the thorny issues of living in close quarters without natural light and hope.  The group is comprised of difficult individuals who do not understand and barely tolerate the arrival of a five-year-old autistic girl and an elderly man who had recently been given a lobotomy. It’s like a darkly claustrophobic Island of Misfit Toys minus the fresh air and sunlight. They soon discover that the parasites they thought were eradicated nearly ten years earlier are nicely preserved and waiting for them in the depths of the earth.

What do you think are the most common misconceptions about writers? 

I’ve often come across the belief that authors get instantly rich and famous off their works. I cannot tell you how many people honestly imagine that you can write a book within a few weekends, find a publisher right off the bat and promptly receive a five-figure advance. They do not see the ridiculous hours put into writing, editing and promoting one’s work. Those who earn enough to live off their book are in the minority. I once knew a legitimately successful writer of Chick-Lit in the UK who told me that she is lucky if she can buy a new couch with the money she makes from a novel that took a year to write and six months to edit.

I’ve also heard the opinion expressed that writers are little bundles of inspiration that walk around with whole series in their heads. There are many moments of writers’ block and times when you have no idea what’s going to happen to your own characters.
Why did you decide to join Permuted Press?

I searched for a publisher that specialized in showcasing both the fun and frightening side of an apocalypse. I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek humor on the website and got the sense that this could be an unconventional group of professionals to work with.
What are your dreams for the future as a writer?

I am counting on the voices in my head to provide further inspiration for more novels so that I can feed my book habit. I’d love to be paid for my passion, even if it resembles more of an allowance than revenue!
Is there anything else that you would like for people to know about yourself and your work?

I’m a docent at the Library of Congress and I’ve discovered something new to write about every time I go there. I either pick up on a piece of history unknown to the general population or find new ideas through my wonderfully quirky and eccentric co-workers. Just being in that library compels me to write. Every inch of that place is covered in stunning artwork, yet my favorite paintings remain the ones of naked football and baseball players. Who knew a government building would contain images of naked American sportsmen?

I’m also known as the “Skeleton Lady.” My reputation goes back to Halloween of 2013 when I bought two life-size skeletons and named them Bob (Built Of Bones) and Hal (short for Halloween). I started posing them in various scenes on the front lawn, such as one running over the other with the lawn mower or driving over each other with the car. We started hanging signs around their necks with phrases like “Weight Watcher Slimmer Of The Year” and “She Said She’d Only Be 5 Minutes.” I should have stopped after Halloween but I kept finding new ways to pose them and the neighbors kept asking for more. My skeletons have been featured on several local websites and have been used as the cover photo from time to time for local news networks’ Facebook page. We often bring them in the car, leaving them in the driver’s seat so we can tally up how many people are taking pictures of them when we return. We actually get complaints from the neighbors if we take them inside the house! We have a third skeleton now, which we’ve put a long blonde wig on and named Jane Doe. We set her up in a kissing booth outside the house with “Kisses for 5c” and came home to find a pile of nickels on the plate in front of her!

Do you have any events coming up such as conventions or book signings?

I have not figured out how to market an e-book at a convention and its digital form takes me out of the running for any book signings. As soon as I can find a way to make an impression with an e-book, I will post the events on my website.

Where can people find more information about you?

Twitter: @Tc_necrophobe