Please welcome Keith Thomas to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Clarity is published on February 20th by Atria/Leopoldo & Co.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
Keith: Thanks for having me. The first piece of fiction I remember writing was a story I’d attempted in middle school, maybe 7th grade. I found an old typewriter and thought it would be really “authentic” to type it up old school. It was the opening chapter of a novel. I was really into obscure words at the time so I filled it with every bizarre and unnecessary adjective I could find. It was almost unreadable.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Keith: I think most people would say I’m a plotter but I’d consider myself more a hybrid. For commercial and genre writing, I stand by my guns that plotting is crucial. I usually do some heavy plotting and research up front – the Clarity outline was about 50 pages – and then “pants” it when I’m writing the connective tissue and letting the characters determine, in a sense, their reactions and insights.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Keith: Time. I never have enough of it. I write seven days a week, typically six to ten hours a day. And I’m usually working on 3-4 projects at once. There are the occasional days where I’ll have writer’s block but a good swim usually exorcises that.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing? How does writing for film and television affect (or not) your novel writing?
Keith: Music is crucial to my process. I listen to music when I write – the more immersive, the better. I’m a sucker for subwoofer bass and having synesthesia helps.
I also read constantly. Voraciously. And what I read influences my work – sometimes directly, most of the time indirectly. A single sentence can trigger an avalanche of ideas but finding that sentence can be difficult.
Writing for film and TV directly affects my writing. Though both creative, they’re very different disciplines. People often tell me The Clarity reads like (or should be) a movie. We’ll see…
TQ: Describe The Clarity in 140 characters or less.
Keith: In The Clarity, a young girl, a psychologist, and a detective will risk their lives and dive into a dark conspiracy to discover the truth of past life memories.
TQ: Tell us something about The Clarity that is not found in the book description.
Keith: A lot of it is real. Like a lot. Character-wise, they’re mostly based on real people. Science and plot-wise, I did a ton of research. But I’ll talk more about that below.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Clarity?
Keith: I’d wanted to write a book about memory and experimentation for a while. When my frequent collaborator Leopoldo Gout pitched me a concept about past lives, I saw a way to combine those ideas into a thriller.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Clarity?
Keith: A lot of what went into The Clarity came from my previous career as a clinical researcher. I spent a number of years running clinical trials in nursing homes. There, I saw firsthand how memory defines us. I also read widely, and deeply, into the history of mind control experimentation and the chemical formation of memory. It got a bit technical but I’m a nerd for that.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The Clarity.
While it doesn’t depict anything directly in the book, it’s more of an illustration of what’s going on thematically. The young woman on the cover is one of the protagonists, Ashanique, and the hands emerging from her head are the many past-life memories now flooding her brain. The experience, as you can see, can be overwhelming.
TQ: In The Clarity who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Keith: The easiest character was Matilda, the psychologist. She’s an amalgam of people I know colored with my own academic work and experience. The most difficult was Rade, one of the novel’s antagonists. Getting into his head required going to some pretty dark, pretty frightening places.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Clarity.
Keith: This quote comes from the middle of the book. For those who haven’t read it, the following passage might not mean much but it has a key connection to the story (no spoilers) and I was really happy with the chapter it is derived from:
The patriarch looks beyond the horizon. He imagines he sees many things in that gamboling haze—animals, people, faces of loved ones, faces of those who have died. A breeze rustles the leaves above his head. The branches sway. It brings a cool sensation that sweeps over the patriarch’s face and shoulders. He closes his eyes, one with the moment.
TQ: What's next?
Keith: I’m hard at work on a new novel titled DISCLOSURE. Mum’s the word but it should hit shelves in the next year. I’ve also got two films in development. I wrote the scripts for both and plan to direct them. We’ll see which shakes out first.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Keith: My pleasure. Thank you.
Atria/Leopoldo & Co., February 20, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
For fans of Black Mirror and True Detective, a visceral high‑concept thriller about a psychologist who must protect the life of an eleven-year-old girl whose ability to remember past lives makes them both targets of a merciless killer.
Dr. Matilda Deacon is a psychologist researching how memories are made and stored when she meets a strange eleven-year-old girl named Ashanique. Ashanique claims to harbor the memories of the last soldier killed in World War I and Matilda is at first very interested but skeptical. However, when Ashanique starts talking about being chased by the Night Doctors—a term also used by an unstable patient who was later found dead—Matilda can’t deny that the girl might be telling the truth.
Matilda learns that Ashanique and her mother have been on the run their whole lives from a monstrous assassin named Rade. Rade is after a secret contained solely in memories and has left a bloody trail throughout the world in search of it. Matilda soon realizes Ashanique is in unimaginable danger and that her unique ability comes with a deadly price.
Fast-paced, suspenseful, and a chilling blend of science and danger, The Clarity is a compelling take on the possibilities of reincarnation and life after death.
Keith Thomas worked as a lead clinical researcher at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and National Jewish Health before writing for film and television. He has developed projects for studios and production companies and collaborated with writers like James Patterson and filmmakers like Paul Haggis. He lives in Denver and works in Los Angeles.