Behind Closed Doors With T.J. Lea
T.J. is the disturbed and brilliant mind behind the original CreepyPasta "The Expressionless". Over the years he has had multiple NoSleep hits, is the man behind the blackout, and he is releasing his debut novel "The Spaces In Between" right here with Eerie River Publishing.
T.J. Lea is a British horror writer best known for penning the Creepypasta sensation “The Expressionless” back in 2012. A well known name in the online horror space, he has since then released several viral short stories through the NoSleep platform and gained a cult following. He is also heavily involved in the British Wrestling scene as a commentator and manager, he can be found on his facebook page /tjayleawriter or on twitter @tjaylea. He has been featured in The Independent, VICE and Mashable. More of his work will be featured on the No Sleep Podcast later this year.
Have you always written, or was there a catalyst that prompted you to begin this journey?
I’ve always been a writer, really. My earliest memory of writing comes from when I was about 6 years old, my Dad gave me my Mums old typewriter as a way of helping me to contain the energy I had. To the surprise of nobody who knows me; I’ve always been a talker and I used to just word vomit all my imagination or story ideas.
Not long after he gave me the typewriter, I tried my hand at writing some short stories…though I’ll admit they usually ended up being fan fiction of Dragonball Z and any video games I was playing at the time…I still got a lot of joy out of putting my concepts down on paper.
In terms of what made me begin the journey to being an author, that’s on the same path, I suppose. I would always say in school when the subject of “dream job” came up that I’d either be a singer or a writer. In Year 6 (5th grade) I wrote a story for a hot air balloon contest and newspaper feature, it was a weird sci-fi adventure piece that nearly 20 years on I’m utterly convinced only won because it had the word “tumultuous” in it.
Still, from the day I saw my work in the local newspaper, I knew that was my future set in stone.
What is your favourite genre to read?
Honestly, I’ve always been a big manga reader. I absolutely adore the shonen form of storytelling, wherein there’s the traditional heroes journey, but an endless thrall of enemies in their way, each stronger than the last before it reaches a critical point of unimaginable intensity. Earlier stuff like Baki The Grappler by Keisuke Itagaki or Yu Yu Hakusho by Yoshihiro Togashi helped form my way of building strong antagonists and fight scenes, with modern work like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki and Mob Psycho 100 by ONE inspiring me further.
In terms of western literature, I’m a big fan of Fantasy and Horror. Growing up and to this day, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series has had an indelible effect on me like nothing else. I truly believe he is the greatest modern Fantasy writer our world has ever seen. He had this way of world building that felt so lived in, characters that felt real and a narrative both witty and natural.
For horror, of course Stephen King rules the roost with The Mist being the most standout for me personally. But no horror writer in history has ever inspired me quite as much as H. P. Lovecraft. It warms my eldritch heart to see his cosmic horror now becoming a staple of modern horror, I aim to do my part as well!
Do you remember the first piece of writing shared publicly? What were people’s reactions, but more importantly how did you react getting it out there?
If we were to side-step my hot air balloon story and some umm…embarrassing early fiction stories posted to the internet that have since been deleted, my first piece of writing shared publicly was in fact my CreepyPasta: The Expressionless.
People took to it immediately and I was so fortunate it was during the golden age of CreepyPastas, they found it unnerving and terrifying. Naturally, a fair few thought it to be sub-part storytelling and I don’t blame them for that. But, in my defence, it was just a bit of University creative writing!
My reaction in a word: overwhelmed. To see it spread like wildfire was on one hand gratifying as all artists wish to see their work consumed and entertaining, but also extremely terrifying when I truly realised the scale of it. Before I knew it, the work was being treated as real and had been translated into over 30 different languages, summoning rituals included! To this day, it’s still making the rounds as a relic of that bygone age, featured in god knows how many “top 10 spookiest horror entities” that I am of course eternally grateful for.
What is your workspace like? What kind of atmosphere do you need to write?
Oh god…haha, I don’t have a bonafide workspace at present as I’m prepping to move into a bigger home. I usually just sit in my reclining armchair, blanket wrapped around me and MacBook on my lap as I put some noise cancelling headphones in and type away.
I like to make sure I have nothing else in my schedule before sitting down to write. I have the kind of mind that cannot focus wholeheartedly if I know in an hour or two I have to sleep, go to a meeting or do chores.
Plus, I usually have the entire thing mapped out in my head before hands touch the keyboard, so I’m wanton to miss any and all things I have planned in a day if I start writing beforehand! You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had to apologise for lateness…
Without giving too much away, tell us about the novel you are releasing in August. What do we have to look forward too?
Imagine a bar that appears when you have a critical decision to make in your life, a crossroads in your life or maybe simply uncertainty on where to go next. You pop in, sit down and look at the stack of unusual shaped bottles on the wall, paying not with money for a taste of their alluring taste, but with stories of how you came to be there.
Well, this is The Spaces In Between. It’s ran by proprietor Sully and his erm…”unusual” Bernese mountain dog called Cheddar. Together, they’re assisted by his mentor Madame Eleanor “Nelle” Lockwood -keeper of the Creature Compendium- and someone who is the literal personification of degeneracy. Fire starter and drinks brewer; Harry Krauss.
Together, we see them serve drinks, tell stories, stop an inter dimensional cult and answer a very important question all of us hold in our hearts: What happens when the bar closes?
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Pick up the "Forgotten Ones" to read four of T.J.'s own drabbles
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