Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Inside the Wondermind of Horror Author RICK R. REED

Author Interview by AJ Llewellyn

1. Rick, you definitely do not write to the comfort level of your readers. There is rarely a happy ending. Sometimes one character gets it, another doesn't. You also bump off major characters. Is this a conscious decision in your work, to flaunt tradition?
Oh, I don't know; I think you'll find a lot of happy endings in my work. It all depends on how you look at things. When I write, I simply like to look at things realistically, so my books are rarely black and white in any sense, they move between the two extremes...and happy endings are one example of what I think of as realism and the shades of gray we find in real life. My stories are very personal and usually driven by my characters, who become very real in my head. So I don't think there's any deliberate attempt to flaunt tradition.

2. When did you start writing? I believe your first published book was in 1991 wasn't it? But what about the actual writing?

I started writing when I was about six years old, when I wrote my first short story. I haven't let up since. I wrote my first play in 4th grade, my first novella in fifth and, by the time I graduated high school, had written two novels and enough short stories to fill an anthology. Of course, I wouldn't share any of that stuff with anyone now! Writing is a constitutional thing with me. Like being gay, it's just who I am...and definitely not a choice!

3. What drew you to horror and whose work in that field do you admire?
I have always been fascinated with the dark side of things. Even as a small child, I preferred horror movies over Disney type stuff (my parents used to let me stay up late on Saturday nights to watch the Chiller Theater double feature out of Pittsburgh). Horror intrigues me because it explores that dark side that I think we all have inside us. I find flawed and even frightening people much more interesting to contemplate. True crime fascinates me and I can quote chapter and verse on most of the twentieth century's most notorious serial killers. I admire in fiction people like Flannery O'Connor (whose work is deliciously horrific), James Purdy, Patricia Highsmith, and Ruth Rendell. Of course, from when I was small, I have been a die-hard Stephen King fan and continue to be so. I used to feel that way about Anne Rice, but now, not so much.
4. Rick, I am very interested to hear you say this about Anne Rice because I loved her books too but could not get through much of Christ, the Lord Out of Egypt. I felt that a lot of what made her books so original was gone. Did you read that book?
No, I started giving up around the time Queen of the Damned came out. It was so long and overblown. I was afraid she was beyond the reach of an editor. When she started putting religion into her books, I just got bored. But the first couple Lestat novels were beautiful…some of the best vampire fiction I think, well, ever.
5. I know you have said your ideas come from different sources but with each successive book, you manage to pinpoint topical issues such as sexual addiction in High Risk, meth amphetamine addiction and gender bias in Orientation. Do you follow the media much? Or are these things you see in your life in general?

I think the inclusion of topical issues is more on a subconscious level because, as I said above, I am fascinated by flawed people and one of my biggest fascinations is of obsession. It really intrigues me to think about people doing things they can't help doing, but do it anyway because their compulsion is so fierce. I will pass on saying how this relates to my own personal life.

6.You are one of the pioneers of GLBT fiction. How has it changed in recent years?

A pioneer? Thanks for making me feel ancient!
(AJ says: I didn’t mean to, I meant it as a compliment!)
Oddly, thanks for making me feel honored. I don't know if I am a pioneer or not, but I do think we have seen a much broader acceptance of GLBT fiction and media lately and that's a good thing, but I think we still have a long way to go. GLBT fiction is still way too marginalized and hard to find. I think the key is finding stories that appeal not to the sexual beings in all of us, but to the human beings in all of us. We all share common bonds and when we find those stories, I think GLBT stories will be much more accessible to a wider audience. I try to write not from a GLBT perspective, but a human one. My character's sexuality is secondary to their humanity.

7. I have noticed on message boards you get a lot of female fans. Why do you think more and more women are becoming drawn to gay fiction?

I have noticed that too. I expected my gay serial killer novel about online hookups to have a very narrow appeal to gay men, but then I get letters from grandmothers telling me they loved it. I think the reason women are drawn to M/M stories is because that, when they are done right, they appeal to common issues people have: love, hope, desire. M/M is just a variation on a theme, and perhaps, a compelling variation.

8. What sort of books do you prefer to read in your own time?

I read mostly fiction, with occasional forays into non-fiction (mostly true crime or histories of disasters--am I cheery or what?). I mentioned some of my favorite authors above, but I do enjoy a good mystery and am even discovering some aspects of science fiction that I like, a genre I never thought I'd enjoy.

9. When you branched out from your usual fare with High Risk, were your publishers and fans receptive?

HIGH RISK is, if I may say so, a thrill ride of a story (I've had more than one person tell me they stayed up all night to finish it or had to read it in one sitting). So I would say that, in general, my publisher and my readers have been receptive. No one has complained about the characters' straight orientation. As I said, I think a good story appeals to anyone, regardless of gender or orientation.

10. Can you please tell me a little about your writing life? Do you write at specific times? Do you commit to a certain number of pages per day?

When I'm writing a novel, I do try to be disciplined about it, because I am my own boss (unlike I am my own wife, which is a whole 'nother story). I usually write first thing in the morning because I am very much a morning person. I usually give myself a goal of 1,000 words per day. It's an easily attainable goal for me and I often write more than that. But on the other hand, if I only write 1,000 words or a little less, I don't beat myself up too badly...and when I do beat myself up badly, I always steer clear of the face.

11. (Laughing) Dead End Street, your new book coming in October looks very, very dark. Do you spook yourself when you are writing? As a reader, your books are harrowing...what do you put yourself through to write them?

Dead End Street is a young adult novel, so while it is horror, in many ways is less dark than my other books. It's the story of five misfit kids who discover an abandoned house in their small town where a family was murdered years ago (and the son went missing) and decide to tell ghost stories in the house over the course of several weeks. Only the house is NOT as abandoned as they might think...and that's where the terror comes in. I can't really say I spook myself. I do get caught up in my characters and what's happening with them, yet I don't have to keep telling myself "it's only a book." I'm the little man behind the curtain...and I know all secrets of what will scare my readers, so I protect myself in that way.

12. You have a prolific output. Do you work on more than one book at a time?

There's no way I could write more than one book at a time! I have a hard enough time keeping everything straight in one book at a time. I just look prolific because 2007 and 2008 have been good years for me getting published. It doesn't necessarily mean everything was written from scratch in that time frame.

13. What are you working on next?

I am contracted to write two ebooks (novellas) for my publisher and need to get those done. One will be a homoerotic take on a very popular fairy tale and the other will be a coming out story about a married, closeted man. After that, I want to write a new full-length novel and will either do a sequel to IM or a new story that's been dancing around in my head about a gay couple, a murder, and a haunted condominium.

14. A haunted condo? I love it! You have been described as the Stephen King of gay horror. As such, I have to ask you, what does your muse look like? He says his muse is an ugly, chubby guy with a beard. What about yours?

I'm afraid I'm more prosaic. I just look in the mirror. He's a tough muse and he's getting old.

15. What are the two things you love most about Lily? And how does she feel about your books?

Lily is, of course, my Boston Terrier. I love the way she snorts like a pig and how she loves to cuddle with my partner and I at night when we all go to bed. She thinks my books are potboilers and not worth the paper they're printed on. But what does she know? She's a dog.

16. You say on your website that you suffered numerous head traumas. Is this true? And if so, what happened and has this influenced the 'twisted' elements in your work?

Yes, it is true. If I shaved my head, I'm afraid it wouldn't be a pretty; it would be a mass of scars from stitches and concussions. What happened: bike riding accidents (as both an adult and a child), a sledding accident where I knocked a STOP sign out of the ground with my head, being hit by a car, falling over the banister in my parents' house and landing on my head, hitting my head on the edge of a coffee table. What else? That's all I can remember. Those injuries probably explain a lot...more than just my twisted stories!

17. You and your partner are allowed to invite anybody to dinner – but they must be dead and/or fictional. Who would you invite and what’s on the menu?

If they’re dead, that would be kind of gross, wouldn’t it? At least I wouldn’t have to worry about what to serve them. I guess the first fictional character that popped into my head was Ignatius O’Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces. He would have bad manners and would complain loudly about whatever I served, but he would make me laugh, and that goes a long way in my book. I suppose, befitting his home town, I would cook him up a mess of red beans and rice with a nice big ham hock and some corn muffins. And we’d have to have lots of beer…and maybe some crayfish…and shrimps.

18. One final question. I just made you God for a day. Quick, you get to change one thing about the world. What will it be?

I’d give the Republicans the same things the Tin Man and the Scarecrow were missing.

On behalf of Dark Divas Reviews, I want to thank Rick for his time and his awesome answers.

Find out more about Rick R. Reed at his website: http://www.rickrreed.com/

and visit his myspace page at www.myspace.com/rickrreed


Unknown said...

Great interview!
& Rick, to pull up a stop sign with your head? OUCH!
It was nice learning about you and your works.
AJ you do awesome interviews!
C.R. Moss

AJ Llewellyn said...

Hey CR,
Thanks for stopping by - Thankfully Rick's head won the battle with the stop sign!!!
Looking forward to running your interview on the 30th!


Savannah Chase said...

What a great interview, I know about Rick and his work from seeing him on myspace....

Unknown said...

First I've got to say that YOU, my friend A J, have got skills. I loved your questions--lighthearted to hard-nosed. Fantastic job.

For Rick, I so agree about Ann Rice. And as for why women are drawn to you. Well, I think it's because women are drawn to any work of art that reflects humanity. Anytime you bring out true emotion and make characters honest and real--women are there.

As for how your books end--I love realism in my books. I'm afraid I got away from the typical romance genre years and years ago. I want to read something gritty with lots of edge--something that takes my breath away. And let's face it, life is not filled with that traditional happy ending.

I only hope that some day I will be one tenth the writer you are.

Thanks again, A J. This was a fantastic interview. And thank you, Rick.

AJ Llewellyn said...

Hey Savannah and Tess, thanks for your comments. I could have interviewed Rick all day. He's a fascinating guy and I'm happy to say he's coming back in October for another round of questions!


Jon Michaelsen said...

Excellent interview - more than I can get through a few e-mails back and forth with a fellow author. I'm awaiting Rick's title, "IM", and can't wait to get my hands on it - then, "Orientation" - there are so many and (believe it or not), count me among the few that have just discovered this fantastic author!

Jon Michaelsen

K. Z. Snow said...


I remember you being one of my first "friends" on MySpace, after I posted a blog about where all the good horror has gone. (And, dayum, I'm addicted to it!) Just picked up a copy of your novel Obsessed, which happens to be the title of my latest release, and can't wait to get to it!

P. S. I think the English language needs more evocative words! ;-)

Neil Plakcy said...

Great interview-- sharp questions and terrific answers.

But all those head injuries -- ouch!

Happily Ever After Authors said...

Wow! This was one of the best interviews I've read of late. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hadn't heard of Rick before. Now, I'm going to be looking at his work.

Thank you for having him.