Indie novelist Thomas Pryce is deep into the plot of his latest short story–a brain-teasing thriller set inside a psych ward and somewhat ironically titled "Bad Trip"—when he pauses to reflect on a stellar year that finally saw the publication of his decades-in-the-making sci-fi saga Unnatural Selection and with it, critical acclaim and, now, Hollywood overtures.
"Unnatural Selection is still selling," Pryce says of his debut book. "And it's more than I expected. I just wanted to get the name out there and establish a beachhead in the industry."
By any measure, Pryce, the former science teacher from Yonkers, New York, who decided against the traditional publishing route and instead produced his dystopian action adventure on his own with the help of CreateSpace, has done exactly that.
After receiving boffo reviews from Kirkus last spring ("Planet Earth is fried and fricasseed in this wildly suspenseful post-apocalyptic action yarn…"), the author snagged runner-up honors in a contest called the 2012 Green Book Festival, which judges books “that contribute to greater understanding, respect for and positive action on the changing worldwide environment.” In the category of General Fiction, Pryce landed right behind William J. Cobb, who’s written for The New Yorker.
Then Hollywood producers began calling.
"It never crossed my mind when I wrote it—it just flowed through me—but now that I look back on it, objectively, it would play well on the big screen," Pryce says.
Such laurels might have proven to be an awfully tempting place to rest—especially for a writer who has cultivated a desire to become a successful author for as long as Pryce has. But Pryce hasn't done that. Instead, he immediately shifted gears and opened up the throttle on a spate of bold, new projects designed to test his literary mettle.
"Bad Trip" is part of an ambitious anthology Pryce will debut early this year called Cosmosis.
"Really, the first big thing that happened was the Kirkus review," says Pryce. “I remember the moment I got it; I was blown away. It was huge for me. It also gave me a boost of confidence and enforced my decision to go the route that I did."
Pryce, who relentlessly workshops all of his creations with a fraternity of fellow Indie authors, has no doubts about going the Indie route once again and says that he's not even going to try and shop Cosmosis around to the traditional publishing houses.
"I don't mind doing it the hard way," he says. "I've gotten a lot of good feedback, so I'm going to stick with it. Frankly, I enjoyed the process of building the first book with CreateSpace, and I like taking full responsibility. If it's a bomb, then it's on me. I have nobody else to blame. And if it's good, then the credit is mine."
Pryce, who has a background in creating and managing high-end custom aquariums, is also the kind of guy who enjoys a challenge. For Cosmosis, he says he wanted to bring in a contributing writer—in this case, fellow Indie scribe Rytis Grybauskas—who is "way better than me."
"He's super," says Pryce. "Rytis might even be contributing two stories to Cosmosis."
Another Cosmosis short called "Bright Light" also serves as the premise to Pryce's next novel.
"I've never had a problem with motivation," the author says. "I just move on."
Pryce's work ethic is even more inspiring when you stop and consider that in the last year, he has also had to fight back from a debilitating illness that just about completely sapped his strength.
"I lost 35 pounds,” Pryce says. “And it's going to sound corny and trite, but the most important thing I learned over the last year was not about writing—it was about how important family is."
From the outset, Pryce says his mom, dad and sister have been his biggest supporters, but the biggest single influence on his writing has been his brother's ever-scrutinizing eye.
"He's very critical," Pryce says. "Growing up, we were two nerds together. We went to every sci-fi film that came out."
Not one to look back on a completed project, Pryce still can't help imagining one of his own stories potentially making it onto the big screen sometime soon.
"There's so much that you can do with Unnatural Selection,” says Pryce. "I think if done correctly, it could have a huge impact on audiences."
With that cinematic indulgence over, the author is eager to dive back into his latest mind-bending plot.
"I think it's going to turn a few heads—and perhaps even turn a few inside of psych wards," says Pryce. "It's a little bit crazy. But it's also fun and built for speed."
Joe Maniscalco is a journalist and writer living in Brooklyn, New York.