Ricardo Bare is a writer and game designer living near Austin, Texas. Currently he works as a game designer for Arkane Studios which released Dishonored in 2012. Ricardo started his career in the games industry working on the Deus Ex series, winner of a BAFTA and numerous other Game of the Year awards. Ricardo is the author of Jack of Hearts and Fool of Fate, the first two books in a young adult fantasy series, and Worship Hymn, the first in a series of horror novellas.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
The strange thing is I never really read a lot of horror. It certainly wasn’t my go-to type of fiction in the way that
fantasy was, especially when I was younger. But when I started writing short stories I ended up with stuff like the Rat Burner, where a man living in an alternative version of Austin leads desperate folk to a black door where they can shave off bits of their soul in exchange for a small boon. Looking back and seeing people’s reactions I was surprised: “Well, I guess I wrote a horror story.”
There wasn’t really a deliberate attempt to be scary or anything like that. It’s just what I gravitated toward naturally. Weird characters, seemingly mundane settings with supernatural underbellies and so on. I think that’s what really interests me about this kind of writing: taking something familiar and undermining our understanding of it. That eerie feeling of not being quite sure you know what you’re looking at. Did the quilt on my sweet old grammy’s lap just … squirm? Legs can’t move like that, can they? Come to think of it, have I ever actually seen her legs? And suddenly I’m doubting everything about her.
What is your most notable work?
Horror-wise that would have to be The Rat Burner. It was my first published short story which came out in the
second issue of Shock Totem, which is a great magazine; good stories and wonderful cover art. Aside from that I’ve written a few fantasy adventure novels about a boy who trades his heart to a witch. The first one is called Jack of Hearts. In my day job as a video games designer I’ve had the privilege of working on such games as Deus Ex and Dishonored.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a set of horror novellas, called Cedar Park Tales. Just recently, I released the first in the
series: Worship Hymn, which is about a girl who finds a severed head floating in her neighbourhood creek. The head sings to her. The next story will be out very soon. After that I’ll probably jump back to my fantasy series.
How much planning and research do you undertake before writing?
It depends on the story. The problem is I love to read and I get distracted easily. Since I know this about myself I try to avoid stories that require a ton of research, if I can help it. Otherwise I’ll dive deep on something, then days later realize I’m three topics removed from the original subject and haven’t gotten a single line of writing done.
Describe your writing routine.
The video games industry can be pretty greedy with my time, but fortunately there are seasons of calm as well. So I tend to write in bursts. When I write, my goal is to get to a first draft as soon as possible. I like to make a custom playlist of songs for whatever new project I’m working on. I slip my headphones on and crank it out as fast as I can. This means that first draft is barely coherent, of course. Then its revise revise revise until I can get it to a point where another human being might have a chance at understanding it.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
It’s probably a terrible cliché to say so, but I’m going to say Stephen King, though not because of his fiction. Like I said before, I didn’t really ‘grow up’ reading horror. I can probably count on one hand how many of his stories I’ve read. Instead, more recently, I read his book, On Writing which offered some wonderful perspective on storytelling and great biography about the man.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
I definitely prefer psychological chills. The borderland between the real and surreal, the familiar and the strange is where I think the magic is.
Why should people read your work?
Storytelling is a way to connect with other people. If you love some of the things that I love then I think you’ll enjoy my stories, whether they are horror stories or not.
Recommend a book.
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.
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