MacArthur lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She wrote the Steampunk series, The Volcano Lady, and the Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner, as well as the Noir-punk mystery Lou Tanner, P.I.: A Place of Fog and Murder. She has also written for several local and specialized publications, anthologies and was an accidental sports reporter for Reuters News.
Her storytelling changed direction recently to embrace the paranormal, her lifelong obsession, with her newest novel set in the Four Corner region of Colorado, not far from where she grew up.
Do you write in more than one genre? How did you start? I started this whole wild ride when I was complaining about the lack of quality and just plain absurdity of a Steampunk anthology I’d spent time reading. I was pretty furious that female characters, what few there were, were clearly written by fellows who rarely, if ever, spent time with women. The stories were weak excuses for swearing, ridiculous situations, and plotless meandering. My friend, inventor, and former movie prop specialist Jay Davis looked at me with that “quit your moaning” glare – up went his eyebrow – and he said the best words ever – “well, if you don’t like it, write one yourself.”
My first genre (first of many) was Steampunk. I loved the aesthetic, the fierce adventure, and the romantic notions. From there, I found Dieselpunk. If you aren’t familiar with the terms or genre, Steampunk is basically Victorian Age Science Fiction Fantasy. Dieselpunk is an early 20th Century Science Fiction Fantasy (Flash Gordon meets Philip Marlow or Sci-Fi WWI to WWII.) The “punk” is used to indicate an opposition to the establishment, such as the government or society as a whole. Thus both genres are filled to the brim with strong women (that anthology notwithstanding) doing exciting and dynamic things.
What brought you to writing? Heaven forbid I should suggest that the writing bug just hit me one day. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t either writing or drawing. My mother, MaryMargaret Seldon, worked for companies that used those old mimeograph machines – you know those – purple ink, smeared pages – yes, those. The unreadable pages were marked on only one side and tossed away. She would bring them home so I could type up my stories on the clean side. Yup! Old Crown typewriter, long messy ribbon that had to be changed, an eraser that was like sandpaper and could rub a hole in your paper … that typewriter. Sometimes I wish I still had it.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? Ah, distractions. My nemesis. Social Media can be a true time killer because, for many of us, it isn’t just our marketing source. It is our means of connecting to damn near everything and everyone. So, I’m trying out Alec Peche’s sprint writing and setting brief writing times. My “pad” could probably fit on a puppy-pee pad. It’s small. So I write at my little desk or take it on the road. The Goddesses and the Muses invented the feather-light laptop (Bill and Steve, hush!) I have discovered coffee houses and breakfast joints all over the SF Bay Area, but my favorite is Linh’s Café on College at Ashby.
What are you currently working on? I decided during the Plague – excuse me, Pandemic – to try my hand at something new. I failed. Marvelously, I failed. I tried making an Eliza-punk story. Maybe later. Some Fan Fiction? Nope. Cozy Mystery? Definitely later, but not yet. And then I flopped around like the proverbial fish out of water. That’s when Sharon E. Cathcart told me about Sisters in Crime. Every weekend it was one lecture or another workshop. I couldn’t get enough, and with everything via Zoom, I was meeting people from all over the country. Now I belong to the Horror Writers Association, the Mystery Writers of America, The Thriller Writers Association, the Southwest Writers, and the Author’s Guild. I think I have a joining problem.
These days, I’ve embraced my love of the paranormal. I’ve always loved ghost stories, ancient curses, tombs and relics, magic, and mystery. That love drove me to write The Skin Thief, set in my old home state of Colorado, in the Canyons of the Ancients. As a child, I never had the opportunity to visit Mesa Verde or any of the ancient Puebloan sites. Now I get to write about a fictitious cliff dwelling with a terrifying, murderous spirit. Romantic Suspense meets Paranormal Thriller. What a blast to write.
Meanwhile, I haven’t exactly walked away from my Steampunk roots. I published a set of novellas called The Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner. But novella sets aren’t popular with readers the way they had been. Also, I’m not the same writer I was in 2014. Thus I’ve determined that I am going to bring all the adventures together into one freshly revised and edited novel for re-release—new cover, new format, and perhaps a new title.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am a proud OutPantser. I outline and go into intimate detail about each chapter, each character, and each situation. Then I throw that out after writing the first one thousand words. I re-write the outline, a tad bit more vague this time, and mostly stick to it. But I will confess, I often get to the middle with an ending clear in my mind and no roadmap on how I’m going to get from page 175 to page 300. That’s usually when something completely off the wall hits me – no, not the clock I should have used a larger nail for – another body, bigger guns, or even a twist on the McGuffin. Then I go back, re-write so that the new idea fits, and race to the finish line. Raymond Chandler (and MM Chouinard, who offered me good advice when I got stuck on my latest) said, “when in doubt, send in a guy with a gun.”
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Well, I must say the first thing the future holds is this blog interview. Thank you, George. Offering your blog to help your fellow authors is marvelous. Next up, getting my new blog and brand going. Never stop creating yourself. And never stop sharing – there will be a great deal of that coming in 2023. Thank you again, and here’s wishing everyone the best in the coming year.
You can find her at www.TEMacArthur.com
It sounds like you’re revving up to create a whole bunch of neat stuff. Good luck and full steam ahead.
I enjoyed this interview. It’s alway nice to get a little insight into other authors.
What a great blogpost, George. Love hearing about your process, Thena, and the fun things you’ve got in store. You’re a powerhouse and I’m delighted to see you getting visibility and recognition! 🙂
I loved (beta read) The Skin Thief! Excellent interview Thena and George.
Thank you for bringing so many wonderful authors and books your way, George.
It was fun learning more about you, Thena. When I was teaching in a second-floor portable, students tromping up the stairs made the walls vibrate. The wall clock really did spring loose and hit me on the head. It hurt. I may have been mildly concussed.
P.S. I have a photo of me somewhere sitting on the four corners. 🙂
How fun to learn about author T. E. MacArthur. I looked at her many book covers and love the retro art! Thank you, George, for introducing me to yet another writer I had not known about. And, “Go Sisters In Crime”! I am also a member.
Love this. MM Chouniard’s advice to me for a boring section – Kill someone.