Richard Thomas is the author of three books – Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots and Staring Into the Abyss. His over 100 publications include Cemetery Dance, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Pear Noir, and Shivers VI. Visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com for more information.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
Well, I’ve been a long time fan of Stephen King, I’ve probably read more of his work than any other author. But his writing, for me, is more about his storytelling ability than just the horrific. But he got me to Dean Koontz and Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum and Clive Barker. I like to see how people survive difficult situations, how they reveal their true character. It’s fascinating to me. It’s not about the gore, I actually don’t watch too many really gory movies, or read a lot of extremely violent books. It’s about the story, the people, the will to survive, the compassion and sacrifice – all of that.
That’s hard to say. I have one novel out, Transubstantiate, a neo-noir, speculative thriller, but I don’t think it’s my best work, and sadly it’s out of print. I have two short story collections, Herniated Roots, and Staring Into the Abyss, but there are so many different stories in there. If I had to pick a story, it might be ‘Chasing Ghosts’ which is coming out in Cemetery Dance this year. It’s a tense story about paranoia and love, and it’s the first time I’ve been able to include details about the world of advertising in my writing, which was fun – I’ve been a graphic designer and art director for 20 years. My best long form has to be Disintegration, which my agent and I have been shopping for the last year and a half – but obviously, that’s not out, either. I won a contest at ChiZine for my story, ‘Maker of Flight’ and my story ‘Fireflies’ was selected as an honourable mention by Ellen Datlow for Best Horror of the Year, but that’s about it. I know, I totally abused this answer. ALL OF IT – my answer is ALL OF IT!
What are you working on now?
While I wait for Disintegration to sell, I’ve been writing short fiction, mostly. Shopping a few of my last MFA stories. I’m also shopping a project, Four Corners, a kind of neo-noir Sin City thing – four novellas by four authors (myself, Nik Korpon, Caleb Ross, and Axel Taiari) set in four different sections of The City over four seasons. But mostly I’ve been editing. I have three anthologies I’ve edited coming out in 2014 – The New Black (Dark House Press), Burnt Tongues, with Chuck Palahniuk (Medallion Press) and The Lineup: 25 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press). And then, as Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press, I’ll be publishing Echo Lake by Letitia Trent, as well as a collection of horror stories by Stephen Graham Jones, After the People Lights Have Gone Off. It’s going to be a crazy year!
Who do you admire in the horror world?
Those big names I mentioned above, especially King. But as for lesser known authors, people like Stephen Graham Jones, Brian Evenson, and Benjamin Percy have really taken a lot of chances, are doing amazing work taking the best of genre and literary fiction to pen some amazing stories and novels. Those are three people I really look up to, and read religiously. But there are so many authors, editors, and publishers that I talk to on a daily basis that are really inspiring – all of the HWA members, so many people. It’s a great community.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
There is a place for both – I mean I mentioned Ketchum, who has written some of the most brutal fiction I’ve ever read. I loved American Psycho, too. But for me it can’t just be the gore, there has to be a story, there has to be a reason for it, and it can’t be overused. Use it like an exotic spice – sparingly and for effect. The reason that The Girl Next Door works, in my opinion, is all of the details about the people, the neighbors, the kids – we care about them, we hate them, we root for the girls to survive.
I’d like to think I have an original voice, this mix of heavy setting, lyrical language, and impactful, emotion moments. I call the bulk of my writing neo-noir, which includes horror, but also dips into fantasy and science fiction, Southern gothic and crime, magical realism and the transgressive. I don’t think you’ll be bored reading my fiction. You might be horrified and disgusted, upset and disturbed, but if I’ve done my job well, you’ll be entertained. There is this really exciting movement of neo-noir fiction going on; it’s what we’re focused on at Dark House Press, and I hope that my work is a part of that expanding community.
Recommend a book.
One of the best books I read of 2013 was Red Moon by Benjamin Percy. If you want horror, and werewolves, but something a little bit more layered, thoughtful, and challenging, then his literary voice is a compelling, unique, and powerful read. I love what he does, he reminds me a lot of Peter Straub.
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