|'Man, can this guy write. (He) has the power to introduce you all over again to the pleasures of reading good prose' - Ed Gorman|
The following interview first appeared in Fandomania magazine.
FANDOMANIA: Would you please start by introducing yourself and how you became interested in writing?
TR: I’m the author of -- so far -- four full-length novels, five novellas, and more than eighty short stories, with five collections to my name. I’ve been nominated for both the Bram Stoker and British Fantasy awards. And yes, I’m a full time writer.
I’m not sure I did ‘become interested’ in writing. I simply started doing it, from a pretty early age. I’m no kind of artist really, but I started drawing my own comic strips at the age of about nine. And then that progressed to stories by the time that I was twelve. I have no slightest idea why … it’s just the way my brain’s wired.
FANDOMANIA: By the time this interview is posted your newest work, Night of Demons, will have been released. What is it about, and who is your target audience?
TR: It’s the second novel in a series set in a town called Raine’s Landing, Massachusetts. The first book was called ‘Dark Rain.’ And the central premise is that there were real witches in Salem, Massachusetts, back in 1692. They got wind of the forthcoming witchcraft trials and left that place before they happened, moving to Raine’s Landing instead. They married into either wealthy families or families who would be wealthy later on. And now, in the present day, they pretty much run the place and the town is full of strange dark magic.
In the current book, a really awful serial killer called Cornelius Hanlon -- on the run from the police in Boston -- decides to lay low there. But he can’t let go of his old habits. He kills the town’s oldest and most respected adept, and finds himself in possession of an extremely strange magical device that gives him inconceivable powers. He also forges an alliance with a malcontented female adept -- it turns out a lot of things are not what they seem, there’s been some bad stuff going on below the surface, and she’s looking for revenge on the whole town. And it’s up to the two central characters -- an ex-cop turned detective and a tough, sarcastic waitress -- to stop them.
Target audience? Anyone with a lively mind who likes a good, fast-moving, entertaining read, I’d suppose.
FANDOMANIA: Urban Fantasy has been exploding lately, and in many cases in seems to be taking themes and elements from the Horror genre. In your opinion, where is the line between horror and urban fantasy?
TR: I’ve written dozens of straightforward horror stories, and am very proud of them. But a friend pointed out to me once that straight horror can be quite formulaic, always following the same set pattern, and he has a point. What Urban Fantasy does is it takes some of the standard themes from horror -- vampires, werewolves, and so on -- and uses them in different ways, making them sexy and even funny rather than just scary. You can throw in elements like magic, which I do. In fact, you can go anyplace that your imagination takes you. It’s really quite a liberating process, a step up from standard horror. And you don’t have to follow any kind of set pattern at all -- you can create your own.
FANDOMANIA: That defined, is Night of Demons horror or urban fantasy? How about your other works?
TR: There was some debate about the first Raine’s Landing novel, with some people saying, “yes, it’s definitely horror,” and others going, “no it isn’t, it’s dark fantasy or urban fantasy or a supernatural thriller.” And I suppose it’s going to be the same with ‘Night of Demons,’ since the book contains elements of all of that. There are certainly some scary chapters -- some genuinely unpleasant creatures pop up and Cornelius Hanlon isn’t exactly Mr. Nice Guy. But there’s magic and wonderment too.
My first novel, ‘The Harvest Bride,’ was a supernatural thriller. My second, ‘Night Feast,’ was a horror epic spanning five decades. And I’ve gone everywhere you can think of with my shorter fiction, even blending and combining genres.
FANDOMANIA: Do you have an interest in exploring other genres? If so which and why, and if not why?
TR: Just like Stephen King, I started out with the ambition of being a science fiction writer, and I’ve written a good load of those types of stories. I’ve also written a handful of crime tales, and even the occasional mainstream story. But to float my boat, there usually has to be some kind of supernatural theme. Again, I’m not sure why. My imagination just seems to work best in that kind of arena.
FANDOMANIA: Who are your literary inspirations?
TR: The first serious writer I ever got into was Hemingway. I picked up ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ from my school library aged about fourteen, not even knowing what it really was, simply attracted by the cover. And it blew me away completely. Then I got into the great noir crime writers, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald. That shows a little in my current work. In terms of fantastical fiction, my absolute hero is Ray Bradbury. What I love about him is that the very best of his stories could be placed alongside the work of so-called ‘literary’ writers and stand the comparison. And yet his work is still lively and fascinating. I’m a huge admirer or Fritz Leiber and Harlan Ellison as well.
FANDOMANIA: Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us?
TR: I’m currently working on the third Raine’s Landing novel, ‘Midnight’s Angels.’ There’s a lot more going on with the characters in this installment. Willets starts coming out of his shell a little. Ross makes some strange new friends. And Cass’s life is going through some pretty huge changes. Plus I’m seeing through to print two short story collections that will appear from Dark Regions Press next year, and a new novella that will see print just before World Horror 2010.
FANDOMANIA: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?
TR: Being interviewed by Fandomania, of course. Other than that? I write because I feel compelled to. No explaining it. Being a writer’s not just what I do … it’s who I am.
FANDOMANIA: At Fandomania, we like to ask, what are you a fan of?
TR: There are so many terrific writers out there that my reading gets spread extremely thin and I can’t claim to be a ‘fan’ of anyone specific. I just dip into anything that comes my way. I’ve recently come across Dennis Etchison’s novels, which I’ve not read before, and I’m finding them extremely good. Jocelynn Drake’s ‘Nightwalker’ was great fun, the product of a very lively mind, and I’d like to read more. And I’ve just started up on Richard Kadrey’s ‘Sandman Slim,’ and found myself instantly absorbed.
FANDOMANIA: Lastly, is there anything additional you would like to share with your readers?
TR: I’m a regular at the big conventions, World Fantasy and World Horror. So if you want to step up and say “hi,” please do. It’s part of the reason I go there.
Copyright © 2010 by Fandomania, and Tony Richards.
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