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An Interview with N. Thomas Padilla


N. Thomas Padilla has been under the sway of literature since reading Indian Two Feet and His Horse when he was six. When asked by his mother’s friends what he wanted to be when he grew up, little six-year-old Tommy said, “An author!” to the delight and giggles of the ladies present. His passion found a path to an English degree from several institutions. He has taught writing and literature at the high school and college level since 1995. He is happily married to his wife Joan, and they have four beautiful children and four grandchildren, so far. Travel and live music keep Tom buys when he does not have his nose in a book or a laptop, working on his latest writing. He has self-published a book of short stories, Ite, Missa Est: Stories from the Edge of Faith, and he has two novels completed and seeking publishers.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

Reading and stories made me want to write. My siblings and cousins and neighborhood friends and I would always share ghost stories whenever we got together and the day turned toward dusk. A book I purchased at the school book fair, Nine Witch Tales, lit me on fire and I wanted to make others feel how that book made me feel. The same can be said for a hundred novels from that time to this, most notably The Hobbit by Tolkien and Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. As I grew older, my tastes widened and I wanted desperately to join the group of writers from the dawn of time to today who cast their bread out on the waters, so to speak.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Many years ago I thought of the title—Murder Among the Dead—and concept, but I did not have enough knowledge of the world and the community involved, so I out it on the back burner for a few decades. Eventually, I began to follow Dead and Company around on tour, and they were the survivors of the Grateful Dead, who are the background subjects of the novel.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

It leaped from my head fully armored like Athena the moment I thought of the concept. Some friends told me to call it “Please Don’t Murder Me” as those are lyrics from an important Grateful Dead song that would work, but I liked my original idea, which plays off murder novels from Christie to Truman and beyond.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

My wife and I have often joked that if a film of the novel were made, it would have best soundtrack in history, Dead tunes from various live shows. The novel is set on the Dead tour scene from 1965 to 1995, and the events happen before, during and after any given show. The soundtrack will be the BEST EVER!

Describe your dream book cover.

Lincoln Rust, a famous tattoo artist in the Dead World, would draw up an image of a Kesey bus with the Grim Reaper leaning out the driver’s side and waving. Probably a Stealie face on the Grim Reaper.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I am a teacher, but have been a transient, a cook, a handy man, a pill dispenser, a father, and a musician. They might not know that I got dosed by Santa Claus at a Dead and Company show in Boulder, CO, in 2022.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

First off, the Dennis McNally books were essential: Long Strange Trip and Jerry on Jerry. So Many Roads by David Browne, Hell’s Angels by Hunter Thompson, Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh, Deal by Bill Kreutzmann, Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson, Dark Star by Robert Greenfield, Deadheads by Linda Kelly, Skeleton Key by Shenk and Silberman. Amazing help along the way! I also owe a great debt to the guys at the Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast, Rich Mahan and Jesse Jarnow, for the depth of material they present each show over what is now nine seasons.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I hope readers find the beauty of the world that revolves around the Grateful Dead (and their offshoots) and the fans that make up their family, the Deadheads. What an amazing universe filled with love, happiness and music!

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