Richard was the winner of the ChiZine Publications 2009 “Enter the World of Filaria” contest. His short story “Maker of Flight” was chosen by Filaria author Brent Hayward and Bram Stoker Award-Winning editor Brett Alexander Savory. It has since gone on to also win at Jotspeak, beating out over 200 entries. This short was based on the novel Filaria by Brent Hayward, published by ChiZine in 2009.
His debut novel, a neo-noir thriller entitled Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications) was released in July of 2010 and includes a signed, limited edition of 100 hardcovers with bonus items (extra chapter, extended interview from chuckpalahniuk.net, and audio CD with five short stories), as well as a paperback and ebook.
His work is published or forthcoming in the Shivers VI anthology (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, the Warmed and Bound anthology (Velvet Press), the Noir at the Bar anthology, Speedloader (Snubnose Press), ChiZine, Gargoyle, Murky Depths, PANK, Pear Noir!, 3:AM Magazine, Word Riot, Dogmatika, Opium, Vain, Crime Factory, Metazen, Dirty Noir, Stepaway, Shotgun Honey, Cherry Bleeds, Rotten Leaves, We Are Vespertine, Blink-Ink, Leodegraunce, Eternal Night: A Vampire Anthology(Living Dead Press), Outsider Writers Collective, The Oddville Press, Colored Chalk, Cause and Effect, Gold Dust, Nefarious Muse, and Troubadour 21.
In his spare time he moderates at The Cult writer’s workshop where they are putting together an anthology that Chuck Palahniuk will publish in 2012. He has been an Editor for Colored Chalk (Issue #6 – Waking Up Strange and Issue #9 – Heaven and Hell) and is Co-Editor and Designer at Sideshow Fables. He also writes book reviews and interviews for The Nervous Breakdown. Richard is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers. He was the Fiction and Poetry Curator for Around the Coyote, a Wicker Part art festival.
He lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He was born in St. Louis, MO (Webster Groves) where he attended Webster Groves High School. He did his undergraduate studies at Bradley University, where he majored in Advertising and Communications, and minored in Psychology. He was a member of the theater department, the Bradley Chorale, and Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He is currently pursuing a MFA at Murray State University in their low-residency program.
Hello, how’re you doing?
I’m great, how are you?
Awesome! This is very surreal for me as a huge fan of your work. Thank you for giving up your time to speak with Storgy. Before we begin, that’s an amazing death-mask you’ve got there [visible on the wall behind Richard].
I got that from Transylvania. I wrote a story, an essay about it. I’m gunna find you the link. It really has some good details about it.
Thank you very much.
It was pretty cool. This guy who gave me this came out of nowhere. I was teaching out of the University of Iowa two summers ago. It is one of the best writing programs in the country. I got lucky to teach there in the summer a couple of weeks and I mentioned it and this woman said “Would you ever come to Europe?” and I said “Yeah, sure, send me a ticket”. I didn’t know her at all. But she sent me an email and she was legit. She is in Spain. She’s been there for like 10 years; she’s from the US. She works with the European commission for a lot of different writing programs and charity stuff. She had these friends who ran a bed and breakfast in Romania right under Bram Stoker’s castle.
Yeah, and so she said “Would you come over and teach here?” and that she loved my writing. I was like: “Really, what have you read? Tell me about one story.” I didn’t believe it. But, she talked to me about my work and it was obvious she’d read some. They paid for me to come over. It was a really cool week. I saw this [mask] at the hotel and I offered to buy it but the guy just gave it to me. Very cool.
Is Stoker a little bit of a hero for you? Or…
I’m a little more contemporary. You know, Dracula? Sure. The classic monsters really resonate in a lot of ways. I’m more of a Stephen King fan. More Salem’s Lot than Dracula. Just because – I don’t know – I’m not a fan of authors who lived 200 years ago. I prefer my horror and my fiction to be a little more contemporary. I saw – have you seen the movie The Witch at all?
I have seen that advertised. It looks interesting but I haven’t seen it.
Yeah that was set like in, I don’t know , the pilgrim times the 1800s or 1400s. That was a period piece. But it was really done well. It was very creepy and different. That’s kind of an example of something that’s older and more classical – more classic horror – that resonated with me. A lot of what I do is more contemporary because I’m looking for the intersection between genre and lit, between contemporary and classical, anything that’s innovative or new whether its structure or voice or the characters or the monsters or whatever. I’m always looking for something a little more contemporary, a little different, I like to be surprised.
Absolutely. It’s interesting how Dracula came from a period of immense innovation, like when Stoker wrote that, no one had ever heard of a vampire. But now as you say we’ve had 200 years of vampires. There’s a sense in which looking for a new monster a new threat is desirable.
Yeah, I’m gunna give you another website. A24 films. They’re a good example of films I’ve been writing from: The Witch, Ex Machina, Under the Skin.
Ah yes! A really disturbing film.
You’ve seen that one?
Yeah, it really is haunting in many ways.
Beautiful movie. Gamut is trying to do these film screenings. That’s one of the movies I’ve been trying to get a hold of but I don’t think they could take the format. They didn’t have a digital high end format. I’m still learning about the process. But that’s the kind of movie that I’d so love to see on the big screen. But sorry, I don’t want to take you from your questions! You want to roll it out or whatever?
No worries. I was loving those side anecdotes. We don’t like to be too formulaic. We have the guide but we can abandon the path as well and go down ‘the road not taken’. But we can crack on.
So, some of these were written by Ross and some by myself and some by the other team members , so it’s been a real collaborative effort.
To start at the beginning, could you tell us a little bit about your background? You mentioned about really being a contemporary author. What was your first engagement with literature that really inspired you to become a writer?
It’s kind of an interesting story, I guess. I came to writing a little bit later in life. I didn’t really start writing seriously until I was about 40. But I always loved to read and I always loved to write. I grew up reading popular writers, you know Stephen King and John Grisham. You know when I was a kid I’d read Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys, I’d read anything I could get my hands on. Brad Bright and anybody who was popular or mainstream. Had broad appeal. But I went into advertising, I work in advertising, have done for 24 years now . Started out as a copywriter but went on to become a graph designer/director. Somewhere along the way I gave up on my writing. When I was young I had more fun chasing girls and going out and having a good time. I wasn’t going to sit in an apartment and write. I do remember sitting in one of my first adult apartments, 22 years old, typing an old Remington quiet-writer, type-writer, and sending out my stories to Wired magazine – was it that one? – no I was Omni. Do you remember Omni? It was kind of a heavy metal magazine but less dark. I remember sending out these stories. I look back at it now and I’m like: “What was I thinking?” They were so bad. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I took creative writing classes in college because I had electives. I didn’t really put in the time that I should have.
Fast forward twenty years and I remember going to see the movie Fight Club, oddly enough. And it kind of woke me up. I saw that movie and came out of it and it was one of those movies you come out of it that you’re talking to your friends about it and you’re asking questions about it. And you’re just really kind of amped up. What was that? That was crazy. Such a cool movie. Then I discovered it was based on Chuck’s book. So I went back and read everything he had written at that time. It might have been 6 books. So I’d already seen Fight Club but I read Choke and Survivor and Diary and Lullaby. Everything he had. And it was so good. It was so different to me. I didn’t know a lot about what transgressive fiction was. That kind of got me to Chuck’s website which was called The Cult, chuckpalahnuik.net. So I started hanging out there for a couple of years. And that was more about really being a fanboy and just hanging out with people and doing cool stuff. It was a place to talk about writing and Chuck and reading and movies and whatever. So I said: well maybe I’ll take class. And a writer I’m a big fan of is Craig Clevenger. You ever heard of Craig Clevenger?
No, I haven’t actually.
Okay, I’m going to type that one for you too.
Thank you very much!
He’s only written two books: The Contortionist Handbook and Dermaphoria. He was part of a website that was kind of peripheral to Chuck’s website called The Velvet. So it was Craig Clevenger, Will Christopher Bear and Stephen Graham Jones, those were the three guys who edit that website. And I came to them through Chuck. I think I read Will Chris’s stuff first. ‘Cos he was really the voice of neo-noir. Which, if you know anything about neo-noir, it means New Black. It’s contemporary dark fiction. But it’s kind of the intersection between Hard-Boiled Crime and Horror, in a lot of ways. The New Black, an anthology I edited, has a really great introduction by Laird Barron that really kind of gets into what neo-noir is all about, and how it came to be, much more eloquently than I can here. But reading Chris’s stuff, ‘cos Chris was the first one, was brilliant, because it’s lyrical, it’s like Cormac McCarthy for a contemporary noir-ish atmosphere and voice. I read that trilogy and it really blew me away and then I read Craig’s stuff, both of his books, and that got me to Stephen Graham Jones who has gone on to really becoming an informal mentor to me. And a good friend. I published his collection at Dark House Press called After The People Lights Have Gone Off. It got listed for the Shirley Jackson award. And he got a story published in The New Black and we’ve been publishing him at Gamut. He’s just another one of those voices who straddles the fence between genre and lit. I read his book All the Beautiful Sinners and it’s still one of my favourite books to this day. It’s a book I’m actually going to be teaching in one of my classes coming up soon. It’s like Silence of the Lambs meets the New Weird movement. I think he’s Blackfoot Indian, so it had this weird Indian mythology in it too. And as neo-noir that kind of new wave, that kind of unreliable narrator, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher kind of vibe. That was a really hard book for me to read because it was really smart. It took me a couple of times to get it. But by the third time I tried to read it, it blew me away and now it’s a book I try to read every year. So those three guys kind of woke me up as well because that’s what I wanted to write: somewhere between what appeals to people: action, things happening, excitement, drama and then pairing that with the best of literary fiction, which is thoughtful, insightful, lyrical, layers of metaphor and imagery and depth and philosophy and kind of bringing it all together. I hadn’t found a lot of people who did that well. Now, I was a bit under-read because at that point because I didn’t study literature.
Craig Clevenger was teaching a class at The Cult. And I was like: “Oh my God, I have to take a class with him because I love his writing.” And he was a person I really look up to and a voice that was very original to me. So I took his class and said “I may suck and if so I’m going to give up on this idea but if he tells me I have any kind of ability maybe I’ll start writing again”. So I started the class. It was so cool, so inspiring , he’s a great teacher and a great writer. And I came out of that class, and when the class was over, he sent me a private message and said: “Hey, Richard, you got this one story.” A story I wrote in class called ‘Stillness’. And he said “I really like that story. I think you should send that out.” And I was like: “What?” I’ve never sent out a story in my life, not in 20 years, not since sending stories in the mail to Omni Magazine. But he said: “You know what, send it out. You’ll do well with it.” And I was like: “Okay.” So I sent it to all the wrong places: The Paris Review and the New Yorker. And not only was I not going to get in there, those weren’t even the right markets for it. So I did some research and discovered all of the genre magazines I should have been reading. I sent it to Cemetery Dance and waited and waited and then they told me they wanted to accept it, but not for the magazine but for an anthology called Shivers. I’d never heard of the anthology and it’s actually a series. They’ve done a couple. The one I ended up getting into was Shivers 6. I was a little disappointed, I wanted to be in the big magazine, that’s where all the big names had been and I’d never even heard of this anthology series. But you know, it paid the same, it was a great company, so I was like “Of course, yes. I want to be in there.”
Three months go by. Six months go by. And I’m waiting and waiting and waiting for them to announce it. If I remember correctly it was January 2009 and they announced it. And who’s in there with me but Stephen King, Peter Straub, really cool authors and it just kind of blew me away. I remember practically being in tears because I was so shocked. My whole life I’d read maybe 50 books by Stephen King and now I was going to be published alongside him. That was my first professional sale. And that kind of got me on the path to writing and taking it seriously. When I decided to get my MFA, my masters in Creative Writing, a couple of years later, that kind of kicked it up a notch too, because once you’re spending all that time and money to do that you better be serious about it. That pushed me and the last 9 years I’ve been writing. I’ve published 3 novels, 3 short story collections, over 100 short stories in print including the ones alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub I mentioned as well as publishing alongside Jack Ketchum and then this year alongside Neil Gaiman, in various anthologies. Been nominated, won some contests, won some awards, and that kind of propelled me into editing anthologies which got me started at Dark House Press where I’m now Editor in Chief.
I’ve edited 4 anthologies, The New Black, Exigencies, both at Dark House Press. Exigencies was up for a Shirley Jackson award. Editing The New Line Up: 20 Provocative Women Writers with Black Lawrence Press. And then Burnt Tongues with Chuck Palahnuik and Dennis Widmyer, which was up for a Stoker and a Shirley Jackson, as well as winning some other smaller awards. All that kind of pushed me towards the kickstarter this year where we raised $55,000 to start Gamut, my first magazine. An online magazine which will launch next year and through the kickstarter we got over 800 subscribers and that’s what I’ve been spending the last 4 months on, putting that together, buying stories, putting the website up, getting all the original artwork for the stories, getting all the people, their accounts set up, all this different stuff so we can launch in January. So that’s the long version…
Amazing. I don’t need to ask any more questions now.
Haha. Good night! Thank you!
Fantastic. Thank you very much for sharing all that. Regards Gamut , how is that going, because obviously kickstarting your own magazine is an absolutely colossal effort. Securing the funding alone was an incredible process. We know from running very small kickstarters how difficult it can be, let alone a big one like that. How is that going? You have an amazing submissions intake. Your response times are incredibly quick, is that related to your own experience of waiting?
Yeah, for sure. It’s been a crazy ride. When we did the kickstarter I didn’t know if we were going to raise $500 or $5000 or $50,000. And we almost came up short. Towards the end there we were a couple of grand short. A couple of people threw some money at me and just said “Make this happen” which was so cool. A couple of grand here, a couple of grand there, pushed us over the top. That was a long and involved and we made it, we got the money, but that was kind of just the beginning of it. We had to incorporate. And get accounts set up. And start getting everything set up with Duotrope and Submittable. I hired my staff. Great staff. I looked at the roster, co-editor Whittney Jones, some other columnists and artists. Luke Spooner is actually in the UK, he’s doing some art for us.
It’s fantastic artwork.
You know his stuff?
Yeah, it’s really vivid. I read the sample stories you put on the website too because I’m also a fan of Max Booth III. I read The Mind is a Razorblade a couple of years back and that really blew me away, it was a bit of a wake-up call for me having dabbled with classical literature a lot and then moved into something very modern. How did you discover these writers, because George Cotronis I believe is also involved in the project?
Yeah, when I put my staff together I tried to be diverse and get a range of people but I also wanted people close to me that I knew and I could trust. And, I wanted to get a variety of people. So that’s kind of how I got Mercedes and Dino and Casey. Case and I go back to The Cult days. Dino was somebody I just edited his short story collection and I liked his attitude and his voice. Mercedes is already an angel, she’s a saint , she’s so talented and very kind and I knew they all got my aesthetic. And then Heather, Whittney: Heather was in my MFA, Whittney was too. And then Hillary Dodge who’s doing our non-fiction, I actually mentored her. Luke Spooner did interior illustrations for The New Black, Exigencies, and Stephen’s collection After the People Lights Have Gone Off. I loved what he was doing. I wanted to make sure he was a part of Gamut. He’ll be doing original art for every short story. And then George Cotronis and Daniele Sierra and Bob Crum were all different visual artists and I remember working them in to have a pop of colour now and then. I know George because he published my short story collection at Kraken Press.
Yeah, Staring Into the Abyss?
Yeah. Daniele, I used his art for a cover for Exigencies. Bob, I actually work with him freelance here in Chicago on site. Max and I go way back. Different circles. Publishing alongside each other in different places. I loved his little hotel series and that kind of sense of humour. And then I edited a novel of his, at least one, maybe two, forgive me, my memory… He’s got a column [at Gamut] for some humour. And then there’s a woman named Arkay Arsenon and then Keith Rawson. He’s doing more interviews and reviews and more straightforward journalism stuff. We’ll see how it goes from there. But basically, people around me that I thought of. The hardest thing was to try and get a wide range of people. A lot of people I reached out – we probably could have made it even more diverse – but they were too busy, or it wasn’t enough pay, or interest: they wanted to focus on their writing. So I tried to build up our diversity: the depth and point of view and perspective with our authors. So we already had a good 40 authors and poets connected to the magazine before we even did the kickstarter and the bulk of them have submitted. I get bogged down in some of the technical crap. Like trying to get 800 names logged into our website and all the back end stuff which isn’t very sexy. At the same time we’re trying to do submissions which is why we capped it at 300 a month. And that’s why we hit our mark .Every month we hit the maximum target for submissions in about 24 hours or less. I think one month it was 14 hours. We also have a budget and so Submittable, that’s about the rate we can pay to get that cap. And then that’s a nice manageable number that my editors can get through.
The way the process works is that my three fiction editors all read every story that comes in and then they either vote YES or NO or MAYBE. And if the story gets one YES, or a couple of MAYBEs, or more than one YES, it gets kicked up to me and then I read it. So they’re going through the slush and rejecting stuff and if I can jump in to help clear it I will but basically I’m relying on them to recognize what I’m looking for. There were a couple of stories that they weren’t that hot on that I wanted but for the most part, I’d say probably on 75 maybe 90 percent of stories, we are in agreement that there’s something special. Some people love it more than others. There have only been a handful that are 4 YESes. I don’t necessarily want to have agreement, because you can’t get all 4 people to love every story because we’re all different people, right? But, if they can find something in a story that’s special, something unique, something that’s compelling or emotional or innovative: anything different that we haven’t seen a ton. Or that moves them whether it’s a good emotion or a bad emotion. We had a story that was upsetting but in the end we realized that we had to take it because it was such a good story. It was horrifying. It wasn’t pointless. It wasn’t gory or senseless violence or misogynistic. In the end, the disturbing and unsettling aspects were an important aspect of the story, so we took it. We also had some other stories that were lighter and more inspiring, it’s a wide range of stuff. You know fantasy, science fiction and horror, it’s crime, neo-noir, it’s magical realism, it’s southern-gothic, it’s transgressive, and all of them hopefully with some sort of literary aspiration. So yeah, it’s been crazy. But so exciting. I can’t wait to launch so I can share all these stories with everybody.
Great. You mention that they have a literary component. This is something that’s very pertinent to a lot of university debates and creative writing courses: discussing the big division between those who write speculative fiction and those who don’t. You mentioned briefly about lyrical content and layers of metaphor, is there anything else you’d like to add to that in terms of defining literary versus genre?
Yeah. I think with genre a lot of times it’s about what’s expected. If you go to read a horror story, for example, there are certain things that you expect to happen, right? And a lot of horror is going to scare you, thrill you in the same kind of way. It’s why we go to see all the Halloween movies even though they’re similar because we want that certain kind of rush out of it. The same way we read mystery series, whether it’s F. Paul Wilson or Agatha Christie, it’s a formula we like and you want to go through it and try to figure it out, right, because it’s a mystery and you want to solve it. Every genre has kind of it’s set conventions. With literary fiction, and how literary can elevate genre, and when I try and edit and publish work, is that it needs to work on 3 levels. It needs to work on the surface, so the story: things need to happen, it needs to be interesting, entertaining, you want to turn the page, things are happening, people are moving around and doing things. You want to turn the page and see what happens next. That’s kind of the surface. I look at it as kind of a trinity: mind, body and soul. So you have that on the surface, and then underneath it there’s emotion. There’s symbolism and depth to the story that gives you more than just what’s on the surface. If you want to feel something, it’s got to be deeper, it’s layered, it’s imagery and metaphor, a lot of different things that give the story depth and breadth. So I see that beneath. So above it all it’s mental, the mind. That’s your intellect, your insight, your philosophy, those are the things that make you stop and think about what you’ve read, the things that stay with you after the story is over. The emotional stuff can stay with you too.
So to me, the intersection between genre and lit is bringing all of that together. There’s a lot of really great literary fiction and there’s a lot of really bad literary fiction. The worst of literary fiction to me is naval-gazing, self-involved, intellectual, in-the-head; same thing there’s some great genre fiction that really moves you and scares you and thrills you, and innovative stuff too, and then there’s really bad genre fiction. Week in and week out, you’re going to find horror, you’re going to find mystery and crime, you’re going to find romance, you’ll find some fantasy and science fiction, and you’ll find a little bit of literary fiction, but the bulk of it is genre. Those are the books that sell. There’s a mystery series I’ve given up on because I’m like: “Oh my God, don’t give me this tenth book in the series because it’s the same detectives and cops and whatever.” Criminals trying to doing the same things. It’s just a formula now. So for me, the best literary fiction taps into what works best in genre and vice a versa. There’s a really great craft book that just came out called Thrill Me by Benjamin Percy. You know Ben Percy?
No, I don’t actually. It seems like I’m woefully ignorant of many American writers.
Not at all, he’s not a huge name. But Ben’s awesome. He’s the kind of guy who can publish in the Paris Review and Cemetery Dance. His craft book, that I just was reading today, details about putting yourself as the author at the centre of these books. Whatever your genre. Whatever your voice. Literary fiction tends to be a little more dense, you know. Some people have called my books and my stories “purple”, the prose. I don’t think it’s purple. But if you want a straightforward narrative, to you it might seem purple, dense and un-needed. Just like some people read Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian and then go: “Hmm, that’s too much. It’s too dense. It’s too thick. Too verbose. Too much. I just want to be entertained.” I get that. I go to McDonalds all the time. I hit Burger King, hit Taco Bell, it’s great. It is what it is and I love it and I’m not ashamed of that, but it’s not particularly innovative. I also love to go out for Tapas food, a great Mexican dinner, I love to go out for Sushi, Chinese and Thai food, I like to go to some of the best restaurants in Chicago where they’re doing innovative work too. Those meals are special. Those are the ones you remember. There’s room for all of that, but I think the best work is what taps into all the aspects of what makes us human: body, mind and soul, and you need to react on all those levels and if you can write that way, get the audience to react that way…
Food as a great writing analogy! It’s interesting you’ve used that actually because Stephen King once described himself, perhaps over-modestly, as the “fast food” of the literary world. Do you think that’s a true statement?
I wouldn’t say he’s, you know, McDonalds. But I wouldn’t say he’s five-star dining either. I get what he’s saying, a lot of his sentences are pretty blue-collar, pretty pedestrian, pretty straight-forward, he’s not known for being a lyrical writer, per se. But I think he’s a really amazing storyteller, and I think that’s where he has his gift. He can build worlds, characters, complex characters, and man, you really care about all those people. I can’t think of an author who I’ve cried more to.
You know, The Dark Tower, The Stand, people dying, pets dying, everything from, you know, It and The Stand and The Shining, The Long Walk, The Dead Zone, so many great books that really stayed with me. Is his prose particularly complicated and eloquent? Not really. But I think his storytelling can be hypnotic. His last maybe 5 books, I don’t really think too many of them have been really special, maybe 11.22.63 was the last one I really kind of loved. But a lot of his earlier work I go back and re-read it. It endures. Unlike many other authors out there. He’s pretty unique I think.
I’m aware we’ve talked about many writers who you publish and work with and we’ve talked about Stephen King. We haven’t talked too much about you, actually, so let’s get back to the focus of the interview.
We wanted to talk a little bit about your collection Tribulations. We’ve mentioned models for excellence in literature. Was there a particular collection or work that really inspired Tribulations or were you trying to push the boat out and do something that hadn’t been done before?
That’s a great question and thanks for your kind words about the collection too. A lot of people didn’t respond in the way that I hoped they would, so it means a lot to me when people get something out of it. I like to think that I keep evolving as a writer and so I was trying to find a unifying theme in my work and quite often it’s about trials and tribulations, people being in situations they have a hard time getting out of. People ask why I write dark stuff all the time. I like to put people into situations. What I was trying to do with my more recent work and some of the stories in that collection, was replace the darkness and death at the centre of those stories with something else. I was trying to replace it with magic where I can, so the stories are a little more uplifting. The stories can be intense but the endings aren’t always so bleak. I’m trying not to kill off all my characters and tap into a little bit of magical realism and dark fantasy in order to inflect that. I don’t think I can ever write like Cormac McCarthy but there are a couple stories in there where I tried to be dense and make it work at different levels so it hooks you in many different ways, that stay with you, so that when you walk away from whatever you read of mine the imagery and hopefully the emotion stays with you. Sometimes it’s just as simple as a story idea comes to you and I want to chase a philosophy. Sometimes I’m just writing for a deadline for an anthology I got roped into. Hopefully all those kind of things came together in the collection. There were a lot more themes. People go: “There were a lot of stories about family in there.” I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t really recognize that.” That can happen too.
You mentioned about stories that really stayed with you and one of the things I found really impressive about Tribulations is that, as a fan of Stephen King and Clive Barker and other writers like that, who’s “short” stories are generally novella-length…
…whereas in Tribulations most of the stories felt like they were below 3,000 words, maybe 5,000 maximum. That’s quite a short length of time to leave such a big impact. Does that tie in with a core writing philosophy that you have?
Well, I think part of that is that a lot of markets just don’t want to publish stories over 5,000 words. And for me that sweet spot has come to be somewhere between 3 and 5,000. Of the hundreds of stories I’ve written there’re only a couple that are over 5,000 words. I’ve written two that were 6,000 words. One was called ‘Repent’, and that was in Beautiful Horror Stories. And ‘Offering on the Hill’, that was in Chiral Mad 3. And then I’d written a story that was almost 7,000 words called ‘Victimised’ a number of years ago. Other than that, pretty much all of my work has been under 5,000 words. But I want there to be enough meat on the bone. I think a lot of people don’t like short stories because they have to jump in, they have to learn it all again, new characters, new place. I mean if you like an author and you like their voice you might be a little more open to it. You might be like: “Oh, I can jump into his voice pretty easily.”But I think because some of my stories can be a little more dense, that the 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 words can feel like more, ‘cos you really do have to slow down a little to understand what’s going on and understand all the context, all the sensory details. If you really want to, kind of, embrace the narrative.
You mentioned about the density and taking in all of the sensory details: one of the stories in Tribulations, ‘Little Red Wagon’, I immediately had to go back and re-read in order to fully grasp it. That was a story that felt it had – you mentioned “layers” earlier – was that something you were planning meticulously from the start or did it arise naturally?
I’m trying to remember where the idea for that story came from. So, it’s little bit of a homage to one of my favourite movies Blade Runner. I wanted to play with the idea of AI, what’s real and what’s not real. And I had that story: I don’t remember where that story came from, where the grandfather talking to the young girl asking her what her earliest memory is. I think that came out of the whole Blade Runner monologue where they’re quizzing the replicants and asking them about: “You see a turtle and its lying on its back…” It’s like this test, right? To see if they’re human or not human. That story, when the grandfather’s asking the girl, the first time you hear it: it doesn’t really mean anything to you. She describes a little red wagon, and it’s filled with puppies. I think it’s puppies, or is it kittens… I can’t remember…
Haha. Can’t remember my own work.
You don’t see this all coming [in the story] and you add it all up and you realize the consequences of what’s already been put in motion and that it can’t be undone. That should be the impact of the story. At that point, the [the father] realizes what he’s done but it’s too late, right? I don’t really plot. It just came out of that Blade Runner idea and AI and what it means to be human and the differences and what might be an interesting take on it. I wanted to do something slightly different with that setting. Hopefully it’s kind of an isolated place and time, but hopefully there’s enough there that it has some depth. I think it’s cool that you went back to read it again. It’s cool. You get to the end of Sixth Sense and you’re like: “Oh man, this can’t be right. I’ve gotta go back and check it. It can’t be true.” Or Memento.
Absolutely. A great Nolan film. If you’re interested in AI are you watching Westworld?
I am. I am. I vaguely remember the original. Yeah, I’m totally watching it. I talk to my students about this a lot too, and my friends, that you have to constantly fill up the well creatively. Find ways to be inspired. That could be, you know, Westworld or Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, there are good shows out there have really good writing. The Wire, Shield, Six Feet Under, so many good shows. Westworld is pretty weird. I don’t know quite yet know where it’s going, which is ok. I’m not one of these people who has to know where it’s going or is always guessing. It’s doing enough to make me interested. I don’t write a lot of science fiction – a lot of the stuff I write I think of more as soft science fiction – because I don’t really think I’m intelligent enough to write the hard science. The science and the math of it all is sometimes beyond me. You might have noticed that in ‘Little Red Wagon’ I try to work around what’s happening. I don’t necessarily show you all of the science and technology and explain it. I don’t try to explain the time travel, how it all works. I ask you for kind of a leap of faith and if you by it, you’ll get there. I’m not Asimov. More social science and soft science.
Awesome. Speaking of Sci-Fi… well Lovecraft arguably is his own cosmic entity, but there were moments in Tribulations where it felt influenced by Lovecraft. I think the story ‘White Picket Fences’ is an example. Do you view yourself as someone who is influenced by him? I know a lot of writers do claim him as a kind of Godfather figure.
You know I haven’t actually read much Lovecraft, which you may or may not find surprising. I’ve read a lot of stuff which is kind of Lovecraft inspired. And I read quite a lot of other New Weird and other authors who tap into that whole cosmic, chaotic, ancient tableau he puts together. But I haven’t read him. But that was my attempt to write a Lovecraft story. I tried to write a Lovecraft story for a previous anthology George Cotronis was putting together and I failed miserably. I couldn’t get the Lovecraft, I couldn’t get the 50s, 60s down. And I blew it. I didn’t get in. I didn’t even send him anything. But then I had this second opportunity. I think part of it was trying to understand Lovecraft. You know it’s like when someone says: “Write this kind of story”, you want to avoid it, because you don’t want to imitate what they’re doing, right?
So, Lovecraft, I revisited a couple of his more famous stories. I studied what he represents, his themes, and the kind of content of the bulk of his work. And that was enough for me. And then I was reading this story by Joyce Carol Oates called ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been’ . It’s a fantastic literary short story that also has this kind of creepy supernatural elements to it if you look close enough. It’s a beautiful, haunting story and it’s set in the 50s. And the voice and the tone and the attitude of the age was perfect. I kept reading it over and over again. And so that story ‘White Picket Fences’, it came out pretty well I thought. But to tap into that innocence of the age and then to have it kind of come unhinged at the end seemed like a very Lovecraftian thing. I wouldn’t necessary says he’s a huge influence although probably some of those themes and ideas and concepts are in King and Barker and Straub and other lesser known New Weird, Horror, speculative writers.
Awesome. You mentioned Joyce Carol Oates, who is very popular over here. She’s taught on many creative writing courses in the UK. I think she coined the phrase “For God’s sake, write about what you don’t know” which is one of my favourite quotes.
But generally, there is quite a difference between UK and American writing traditions. And obviously there is lots of English literature now coming from all over the world: India, China, etc. Do you find that you are influenced by one tradition more than the others?
I definitely need to read more broadly. I definitely don’t read enough work outside the United States. I don’t know if that’s a case of not being more open to translations or just not reading enough. But there are a lot of authors that I take. I’ve been reading a lot of Olivia Llewellyn lately and I can remember reading Haruki Murakami in the MFA program and that opened me up to his world and Japanese culture and the mythology in his books, his magical realism. I don’t read enough widely. One of the authors that was in Exigencies, Usman Malik, I published a story of his and he’s just won the Bram Stoker short story award last year and he’s the first Pakistani to do that.
You know, so I think part of it is related to McDonalds and Stephen King. I’d rather go to McDonalds and get a Big Mac or a quarter-pounder with cheese and know what I’m getting – I know it’s going be fine. It’s going be good, nothing special – than try something else out. Gamut has got subscribes from all over the world, 800 backers in dozens of countries. I’m going to say 50 countries but that sounds crazy. The bulk of them are probably from a good 20 countries. We’re reading authors from all over the world. We’re getting submissions from people in Japan and China, Australia, in the UK, in Spain – they have a different kind of magic to them than, let’s say, the Japanese do. Different ghosts. Different gods. One of the things I’m talking a lot about at Gamut is I’m so tired of seeing the same old Anglo Saxon gods, enough of the Greeco-Roman mythologies. Usman’s work and the Pakistani culture and context of his stories is so cool. Other Asian authors I’ve been reading and publishing, Alyssa Wong and Samuel Khan, it’s not only the context of their culture but sometimes it’s not using that culture: it’s a science fiction story set in space and it’s not necessarily set sometimes through their point or through their characters, who they are as an author and the history and the narrative that they’re bringing to the table which is awesome, it’s so brilliant, and it’s so uniquely them, and often times a little bit different than what you’re used to seeing. You know it’s a matter sometimes – talk about the cooking metaphor right? – a lot of different cultures use curry, but how do they use it? I always love to see something I haven’t seen before. Part of that is me pushing to read more broadly and to make people feel more welcome wherever they come from. When a story works and I want to buy in, I love the fact that I’m seeing different things.
It’s interesting because as well as different gods and different ghosts, cultures also have different literary conventions. We find that in America the short story is still hugely accepted when compared with, for example, the UK and other areas where it’s a very difficult market to break in to. A lot of UK authors turn to American publications in order to sell their short stories. Why do you think that is?
You know, that’s a great question. I always find it interesting when I see my friends publishing and getting short stories translated, publishing in Japanese magazines or Spanish magazines or Italian or whatever. I haven’t published a lot in the UK. In fact, the only place I publish in the UK is a magazine called Litro. You know Litro?
But I don’t submit to a lot of UK magazines. I don’t know if that’s because I don’t know of them… Is Black Static in the UK? I don’t know if…
I think Black Static might be.
Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know why the short story is more popular in the US. The only thing I can think of is when it comes to time-management, people being impatient or not having a lot of extra time or not making the time. This quick-fix, instant gratification, and a lot of people in the US that’s how their lives are. They don’t have time to sit down and read a book.
Or reading something online. That’s the cool thing about Gamut is that two years ago if you’d told me to read a short story online I would have been like “Errrgghh I don’t like that.” If I wasn’t at my computer for so much I have to do already, I don’t want to spend more time on there. I still haven’t quite embraced the Kindle and the eBook, but I’m trying to. But what happened was, if I wanted to read people, a lot of the places were online. So if I wanted to read the story I had to go online and read it, I had no choice. And so I started reading a lot of fiction in Tor and I was like: “This is so good.” I had to go back. And that was kind of changing my habits as a reader. And that’s what I’m trying to do with Gamut and that’s why I think the short story will work there. 3,000 words. 4,000 words. 5,000 words. You can read that in one sitting. Whereas with a novel you’ve got to get all situated. You’ve got to sit down, it’s this huge narrative and every time you jump in and out of it there’s a bit of a disconnect, you know, and you’ve got to remember where you were. At least with the short story – it’s coming back to this fast food idea – you’re just going to have a quick bite. I think Stephen King said a short story was like ‘A stolen kiss in an alley’ and a novel was like a love affair. So, it depends on what you want, right? You want a quick snog in an alley, or you know, a long relationship. And I think if a short story writer does their job and does it well, you can jump into it, you can become invested quickly, you can care about the characters and have a strong emotional reaction in a very short period of time. Hard to do, but I think if you do it right, it’s a really cool experience. And it’s not the commitment of sitting down and reading for hours, for days, for weeks. I love novels too, it’s a whole different thing, but I love short stories too. And it also allows me as a writer to experiment with different voices, different voices, different genres, different forms. And if it fails, I haven’t invested a year of my life.
And I have more markets to send to, instead of the same ten or fifteen horror markets. I have a broader range of places to send me work. But I’m not sure why people in the UK don’t read many stories. I don’t know if that’s a loyalty thing, they have their authors and they want to stick with them and they want to sit down and respect the literature and read a longer narrative. They don’t want to have to learn the story again. They want to get in. They want to read a chapter. They want to know what’s going on. They want to strap in and have that long experience. It’s not for everyone, you know?
Interesting. Certainly, essays could be written about it.
I’m sure they have been!
Absolutely. John Lancaster comes to mind. Also, talking a little bit about something we touched on earlier with genre fiction and why people who read genre fiction will often read literary fiction but not the other way around.
And the interesting breakdown of why that might be. A conversation maybe for another time!
They’re snobs that’s all it is!
Ha Ha. It could well be. You talked about that kiss in an alley and that process of making a short story work being incredibly difficult in a short space of time. Are there any secret hints and tips you could offer first time writers on cracking the initial hook or ending of a short story?
Yeah, one of the things I kind of teach – I have a class called Short Story Mechanics that really kind of taps into that – there are certain key elements that I think are pretty essential to writing a short story that works. We talked about three levels of how that works: mind, body and soul. On the surface, beneath and above. There’s a structure, a classic dramatic structure called Freytag’s triangle, or Freytag’s pyramid, it’s a dramatic structure that’s very old. It’s been taught a lot, been around for a long time and you can see it in any show or movie. And so, to me, it has to have a narrative hook. It has to start off with a good hook. It has to have that inciting incident, that sense of urgency and then place, that crossroads, where something has happened. And it’s a place in time after which the tension increases. And you have these conflicts, internal and external, what’s going on inside your protagonist, that they’re thinking about, their mood and their needs and their wants and their emotions and their desire.
Then you have what your story’s about: is it time, is it people, is it understanding, is it a car, is it a monster, right? So you have the internal and the external. So that’s all battling and that’s in play. And that’s going to lead to this tension, this rising tension that’s going to lead up to your conclusion, or as the French say, your denouement. So you have to have something that changes, something that’s resolved and the resolution directly ties back to your narrative hook. So if you have not resolved what you started, where you started, and if you have not resolved the conflicts, then your story’s not going to work. You need to get a sense of what has happened, and how that has affected you and what that change means to your character. You can look at any movie or book or story and it should have this structure in it, for the most part. People break form, they break convention, they don’t do all these things. And then along the way you have to, like, care about your characters. You have to have setting, a little or a lot depending on your style. What’s in the refrigerator? That all creates depth and character and so all of this should build up.
And then of course a plot of some kind; it can’t be the same old thing we’ve seen a million times. So I think all these elements coming together give a chance to do something that will resonate with your audience but if you don’t have change and you haven’t built in that tension and then resolved it, and then that denouement, that epiphany at the end, is often what gives your story, or the movie, the impact. ‘Cos that’s that kind of moment at the end when you’re like “Ohhhhh wooahhhh.” That’s the heaviness, that’s the depth, that’s the philosophy, that’s the understanding and revelation that adds up to something, the weight of it. There’s lots of great craft books out there that talk about this stuff and similar things. They give a chance to do something special.
Amazing. In terms of writing advice that you’ve received, was that something that you learned on some of your training or is that something you’ve developed over time yourself?
You know, I feel like a lot of people teach this structure. There are only a handful of books that really speak to me, as far as craft. One of them is Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s part memoir but I like his ideas on craft a lot too, there’s some great stuff in there. There’s a really good book on speculative fiction called Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer. Beautiful book. Really big book. Great graphics.
Then there’s a super agent in New York that I got a chance to meet down in Texas at a conference, a workshop where I was teaching. His name is Donald Maass. He has a book called Writing 21st Century Fiction. Top-down, mind, body, soul, in a contemporary way, a lot of great examples from film and television and books. And then a really recent book that I told you about, Thrill Me, by Benjamin Percy. I’ve only read the first chapter but man, it’s speaking my language. My own process and my own formula, I don’t think it’s particularly unique, but we all have our own process and our own voice. And what I would say is: whatever works for you, do it. I do think that all those things I just talked about are important and that you can kind of push and pull as you see fit. I’m more of a maximalist whereas Chuck Palahnuik is more of a minimalist. He has less heavy setting, more insight and more internal. There’s everything in between. There’s Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King. Part of it is finding your place in the world and studying not only the masters of the genre, genres, you are in – you know, if you write horror you have to read Stephen King – big names, Brad Bright in the science fiction, Neil Gaiman in fantasy, to understand.
I read the Best Horror of the Year Anthologies every year edited by Ellen Datlow and I can see what’s resonating with her, with the Horror community now, because it changes. It shifts over time. And it helps me to look at: Okay , what did they do to get in? I’m trying to get in. what do I need to do? I’m looking at where I am. I read something and think: “Damn, that’s good! Ah, that’s how you do it.” I find something unique or I find something deep or I find something disturbing and that pushes the bar up. And it kind of puts the bar out in front of me to push my own work. One of the most frustrating things at Gamut is when [submitters] screw up something. It’s like in gymnastics, they do this great trick and then they blow the landing. You know like: “Ahh. The story was so good but the ending was so cliché or the ending was really not fulfilling at all. Or it’s a great story but the dialogue is really flat or it’s a great story but one of the characters is really thin.” It’s tough because you go: “Oh damn, that was so close.” It’s not being perfect. I don’t go back and mess with [my stories] too much. Once I’m done I’m done because you can pick at it forever. But I read the authors that are winning the awards and getting into these anthologies. And not just Best Horror. You know, I read the Best American Short Stories anthologies as well. I read the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, whatever I can get my hands on. Because I want to read a wide range and I want to see what’s working. I like to read the New Yorker, not all the time. But I know that’s good. I need to learn to do all those things so that when the times comes and I need to push a button I know how to push it, and I can manipulate my readers into feeling what I want them to feel, and if I can orchestrate this movement, if I can create this five course meal, then hopefully by the time you get to the end of it, you experience something.
I’ve look at the time and just seen we’ve done an hour and a half, which is amazing. Thank you for giving so generously of your insight and your time. We really appreciate that. I wanted to drop the inevitable questions regards the American Presidential Election. Feel free not to comment, if you’d rather not, but you posted quite a powerful statement on social media earlier. I was wondering if you’d like to elucidate on that a little? Share your feelings on whether Donald Trump is fit for governing one of the most powerful nations in the world? (be good to include his tweet here)
It’s pretty upsetting. Over here, in the US, it’s pretty much Democrats and Republican. There are a lot of things in our government which are not working very well. People have been talking about wanting universal healthcare. We look at the rest of the world and the things we’re not doing. I voted Democrat my entire life. I would vote Republican if there was a candidate I felt strongly about. I originally voted for Bernie Sanders at the primary. I like Hilary Clinton, I think she is, of course, flawed. I think most politicians are by the nature of what they do. But I think Trump is something very dangerous. The things he has said and done over the course of his campaign and the fact that he’s still gotten half the votes of this country is pretty unsettling. The hate he speaks, the racism, the misogyny, God, it’s just endless. The things he’s said and done are shocking and he’s still… I thought he was going to be crushed. I don’t know if the Democrats didn’t turn out. I mean, only half of our country voted.
Which I think is ridiculous. And if you look at how it broke down, by race too, it was heavily white men and women and mostly in rural uneducated communities. People who didn’t go to college and aren’t in cities. You know, you can look at the map of the colleges and see where it all went. And he’s the one preaching violence and guns, you know, kicking the Muslims out, not letting them come back in. And building a wall, I mean, it’s ridiculous. He talks about grabbing women, all these crazy things. You know one thing, if Hilary had done one thing like that they would have roasted her. I don’t understand. It’s pretty upsetting. You know, my wife and I have cried the last day. We’ve tried to explain to our kids, this is not the end of the world. There’re not in any danger. It’s not the apocalypse. And I hope and I pray that maybe Trump isn’t as bad as he seems and that maybe, I don’t know – there are Republicans who aren’t necessarily happy with him either. Republicans have the house and the senate and the presidency, and I hope they’ll keep him in check. And that he – it’s tough to believe he can make positive change when you see all the ways he’s failed as a business man, as a husband, as a man, as a human being for Christ’s sake. It feels like a movie to me. It’s like “Donald Trump the President”. I don’t know . A lot of people on social media were upset. A lot of my friends are upset. Hopefully this will push for some change in the future. But it’s all way down the line. It’s all the people and all of us that have to be held accountable whatever party you’re in. And I think we need to push more toward the middle; I don’t know if it’s more toward the middle or more toward something else…
With Gamut we’ve tried to create the sense of inclusion, the sense of diversity. Trying to get away from senseless gore and misogyny in the work we’re publishing. And the horror and in the fantasy and science fiction we’re trying to do all these things, set up scholarships, trying to make it affordable for people to subscribe. All these different things. And break out into these film series too. And just, across all of this, to just kind of be decent human beings. I guess that’s what I find so shocking. People will say to me: “Richard, you’re such a good guy.” Or, “I saw what you said or I saw what you did and that was really cool of you.” Sometimes I look at that and that feels like the most base level of humanity, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything necessarily special.
Black or white. What your religion is. Where you come from. How much money you make. None of it should matter. It feels so basic to me. If you’re a good human being: none of that stuff should matter to me. It’s ok to have your differences. I might not understand your culture. I might not understand necessarily what’s important to you or what it is to be you. You know, body, mind and soul again here, the fact that you would feel like certain people are less than you, I don’t get that. You know a lot of the right are religious, it’s a very religious right, and if you look at the Bible, the teachings of Christ, this isn’t very Christ-like behavior.
Absolutely. There’s an interesting division between dogma and what is actually written in the Bible. That’s something that’s a contentious issue for many people. And it can be very difficult for people to speak up about saying “Well, no, I think the Bible is actually pro-equality.” It’s been manipulated as all religious texts have been manipulated throughout history.
But it’s an interesting observation from you about how that plays into America.
Yeah. I guess I’ll say one last thing and we can move on. I see a lot of people in the religious right. To me it feels like they’re hiding behind the Bible. They want to say: “Well, I’m pro life” and so they accept everything else that Trump has said and done as being okay. They hang on that one issue: “I can’t vote for Hilary because I can’t kill a baby”, can’t kill this tiny bit of life that they think is life. It’s weird. I still feel the laws are there. And that a woman, it’s her right to choose and it’s not my place to tell her what to do. I know every country is different as far as the rights to abortion. But it just seems pretty crazy to me that so many people would accept all the other things that Trump has said and done and hang their whole vote on that one issue.
I try and weigh those and I go: “I don’t know, can you say that there’s this one thing you get that’s important to you and ignore all this other stuff.” I can’t ignore it. I guess that’s part of the frustrating part. And so many women that would vote for him to after all he’s said and done.
60% or something like that?
Yeah, 60% of white women. At least a lot of minorities turned out. But then again, I sometimes look at that and I’m like: “How does Trump still get 30% of the black or Hispanic vote?” He should get like 5%!
It’s great the numbers are different but I’m like: “Damn!” It’s been a crazy year. I don’t understand a lot of what’s going on.
I think everyone is in the same boat. Obviously, it’s an American issue but the whole world was watching .
And felt involved in the decision, just as when Obama was elected there was a lot of support across the world and people really felt the sense of change. And now people are sharing in the commiseration of what’s happened.
I mean it affects more than just the United States. Donald’s relationship with Russia is not just between us two, it affects the whole world and that’s kind of frightening. But as a lot of people have said on social media there should be a lot of good creative work coming out.
Talk about the horror, right?
I think Ross directly asked Chuck Palahnuik in his interview for Storgy whether he thought it would be a creative spur and he said: Absolutely, there’s going to be some really great fiction coming out of this! I think maybe we should end on a positive note.
I’ve dragged you into the gutter, here. One last question: are you working on anything new in terms of your own writing or are you mainly focused on Gamut for the moment?
This year and last year’s been pretty weird. I think I wrote 4 short stories last year. I think I’ve written 2 this year, which to me is horrible. I would love to write a short story a month but it doesn’t always work out that way. You know I have the 2 short stories come out this year I told you about in anthologies and I had a book: Breaker and a collection Tribulations. And I have this novel in novellas The Soul Standard. That’s been a lot of stuff coming out this year, but that’s a lot of things built up over the last couple of years that all just happened to hit this year. I was going to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but with getting Gamut ready I don’t think I’m going to have time. My agent wants me to write a new book and I’ve been thinking about it for months, trying to get it going. It’s tentatively titled Fathom. It has to do with the depths of the waters off the coast of Hawaii. Talk about Lovecraft, some sort of ancient horror. But I don’t think it will be any sort of traditional narrative. There’s a really great book called Come Closer. You ever heard of it?
I think I have, who wrote it?
It’s by Sarah Gran. It’s a story of possession, like, demon possession, and it’s really good. Very much a-typical to your standard devil/demon kind of story. It’s a short book. I go back and look at that a lot because it’s not your traditional horror story. And the way that she gets into it and lures you into the story, and then once it’s too late, you can’t get out, kind of thing. I think Paul Tremblay’s book kind of does the same thing. You know the one I’m talking about?
Again, I’m displaying my ignorance here.
A Head Full of Ghosts. That one had a similar – I’m sure we probably I mean I don’t know, grew up watching The Exorcist, The Omen, that kind of thing.
Classic movies. His book kind of had that feel to it. So whatever I do with that story – my agent, she wanted something a little more “high concept” – I’m trying to figure out trying to do that and have a narrator that’s a little more likeable. So, I don’t know if I’ll get to that this year, maybe next year. I’m also on deadlines for 4 different short stories for 4 different anthologies I’ve been invited in to. So if I can get my act together I will hopefully write 4 stories in the next 2 months. But Gamut really has been taking up a lot of my time and as we get closer to the end of the year there’s a lot of logistical stuff. It’s just time-consuming. And then trying to roll out all these other things: the film series, editing stories and teaching classes. Juggling a lot of different things, but, you know, hopefully the stories in the book will come together, fingers crossed.
Our fingers are crossed for you too. Fathom sounds exciting and I’ll be one of the first people to click pre-order when it becomes available.
Well, Richard, thank you so much from Storgy magazine and from me personally. This has been a really inspiring hour and a half, hopefully for the readers of Storgy as well. Thanks for sharing your insight and your time. Have a wonderful evening and looking forward to hearing more from you.
Make sure to keep following. Thanks a lot for your support and your kind words. You know, a lot of the time when I write I say to myself: “If this story can find people, then I’ll be happy.” When they get a story and it really works for them and it resonates with them, that’s what I’m really trying to do. I want to connect with people on a one-to-one basis and to write something that stays with them. So thanks so much for your support and kind words. Believe it or not there are plenty of days when I don’t know what I’m doing and I feel like a hack. So thanks, it helps me to keep going!
Tomek – Ross here; Don’t know but I think it may be worth doing, Richard mentions lots of authors and books and wondered if it was possible at the end of the interview list the books and authors that he mentioned like a bibliography and people that like his work and want to look in more depth at his recommendations find them all in one place – as I read this I was back and fourth onto my phone checking them out and adding some to my amazon wish list. Just a thought.
Visit Richard Thomas at:
Interview by Joseph Sale
Richard Thomas Bibliography
Bear, Will Christopher, Kiss Me, Judas, Viking Press, 1998
Best Horror of the Year Volume 7, ed. Ellen Datlow, Night Shade Books, 2015
Best American Short Stories 2007, ed. Stephen King, Houghton Miffin, 2007
Booth III, Max, The Mind is a Razorblade, Kraken Press, ed. George Cotronis, 2014
Burnt Tongues , ed. Richard Thomas, Chuck Palahnuik and Dennis Widmyer, 2014
Clevenger, Craig, The Contortionist Handbook, MacAdam/Cage, 2002
Clevenger, Craig, Dermaphoria, MacAdam/Cage, 2005
Chiral Mad 3*, Written Backwards, ed. Michael Bailey, 2016
*(Includes stories by Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Ramsey Campbell, Gary A. Braunbeck, Mort Castle, Josh Malerman, Scott Edelman, Richard Thomas, Richard Chizmar and Gene O’Neill, and with 20 intertwined poems by the likes of Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, Bruce Boston, Erik T. Johnson, Stephanie M. Wytovich, and also includes an introduction by the extraordinary Chuck Palahniuk)
Exigencies, Dark House Press, ed. Richard Thomas, 2015
Gran, Sarah, Come Closer, Atlantic Books, 2016
Jones, Stephen Graham, After The People Lights Have Gone Off, Curbside Splendor Publishing, 2014
King, Stephen, On Writing, Hodden Paperbacks, 2012
Lancaster, John, When Did You Get Hooked?, London Review of Books Vol.35 No.7, 2013
Maass, Donald,Writing 21st Century Fiction, Writer’s Digest Books, 2012
McCarthy, Cormac, Blood Meridian, 1st published Random House (1985), re-published Picador 1989, 1990, 2010
Murakami, Haruki, After Dark, Vintage, 2008
The New Black, Dark House Press, ed. Richard Thomas, 2014
The New Line Up: 20 Provocative Women Writers, Black Lawrence Press, ed. Richard Thomas, 2015
Oates, Joyce Carol, ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been’, first appeared in the Fall edition of Epoch Magazine, 1966
Palahniuk, Chuck, Choke, Double Day, 2001
Palahniuk, Chuck, Survivor, W. W. Norton, 1999
Palahniuk, Chuck, Diary, Double Day, 2003
Palahniuk, Chuck, Lullaby, Double Day, 2002
Percy, Benjamin, Thrill Me , Gray Wolf Press, 2016
Shivers 6, Cemetery Dance Publications, ed. Richard Chizmar, 2010
The Soul Standard, Dzanc Books, 2016
Thomas, Richard, Tribulations, Crystal Lake Publishing, ed. Stephen Graham Jones, 2016
Thomas, Richard, Breaker, Random House Albi, 2016
Tremblay, Paul, A Head Full of Ghosts, William Morrow & Company, 2015
Vandermeer, Jeff, Wonderbook, Abrams Image, 2013
Wong, Alyssa, http://www.crashwong.net
STORGY Interview with critically acclaimed author Roisin O’Donnell.
Available online from 8th January 2017.
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6 comments on “INTERVIEW: Richard Thomas”
Fabulous interview – the space, the depth, the range – Richard Thomas a really interesting guy and writer.