An interview with Horror Garage by Jerry Stratton
The term is thrown around very often, but author Ronald Damien Malfi is truly a literary horror novelist. His works are devoured by fans of the genre and are taught in colleges across the country at the same time. His career was jumpstarted with the release of his gothic horror novel The Fall of Never in 2004. Critics and readers alike praised the work, and it is currently being translated into various languages and has been optioned for a feature film. Then in 2007, his novel Via Dolorosa stunned genre fans with its breadth and artistic lyricism, and many said the book was reminiscent more of Ernest Hemingway than Stephen King. In todayís publishing marketplace, Ronald Damien Malfi is the refreshing example that ďhorrorĒ can also be literature. His website is www.ronmalfi.com.
Horror Garage: To begin with, youíve got a new novel out [September 2008] through Delirium Books called Passenger. Tell us something about it.
Ronald Damien Malfi: In Passenger, the main character wakes up on a Baltimore City bus with no memory. He doesnít know who he is or where heís going. His head had recently been shaved and his clothes appear brand new. On the palm of his hand is an address. This character spends the duration of the novel trying to piece together who he is and what happened to him, meeting strange and unusual people along the way who attempt to aid -- or prevent -- him from learning the truth. Itís also my first title with Delirium Books -- they are issuing a simultaneous 150-copy hardcover edition as well as a trade paperback -- and I am very happy to be working with them. Iím almost a bit embarrassed to admit this -- and I donít think Shane [Ryan Staley, publisher] at Delirium would even remember -- but long ago, when I was still scribbling short stories in string-bound notebooks, I sent Delirium a collection of admittedly bad short fiction. It was ultimately rejected, of course -- as it should have been -- but Shane had sent me a very nice personalized note telling me to keep at the craft. And now, years later, Passenger is Deliriumís book of the month for September.
HG: Youíve mentioned in a previous interview that you didnít think Delirium would be interested in Passenger at first, and were surprised when they bought it. Why is that?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Simple: Delirium Books is arguably the premiere specialty press for the horror genre and I personally donít consider Passenger to be a ďhorrorĒ novel in the conventional sense. It is certainly horrific and frightening and dark, but it has managed to keep away from the trappings of the genre. Deliriumís interest and support of the book is only further evidence of their dedication to newer writers and literature that pushes the envelope.
HG: You call Passenger your second novel in a trilogy of loosely-related Baltimore novels. What is the trilogy about?
Ronald Damien Malfi: ďLoosely-relatedĒ is the right term. Living most of my life just outside of Baltimore, I always found the city to boast such an eclectic blend of attitude, culture, art, and lifestyle. I felt it would be interesting to explore the different sides of the city with three very different, cross-genre novels, the first of which was the satirical mainstream novel, The Nature of Monsters , published in 2006. Passenger is a much darker tome, exploring a much different side of Charm City. While I already know what the third book will be, I havenít begun writing it yet.
HG: Are there any recurring characters in these books? Is it important to read them in order?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Each book is its own standalone novel, so there is no specific order in which to read them. All the characters are different as well.
HG: One interviewer referred to your work as ďart-house horror.Ē How do you feel about that label?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Iím not a huge fan of labels, but I guess theyíre also unavoidable. The term ďart-house horrorĒ came about from one readerís review of my last novel, Via Dolorosa . Like Passenger , Via Dolorosa was a horror novel strictly in the sense that it explored horrific elements. Yet on the heels of The Fall of Never , readers were anticipating a straight-up horror novel, so Via Dolorosa was characterized as one right out of the gate. Still, the book did well and it opened doors to readers who were typically not avid fans of the horror genre.
HG: Which one of your books is your favorite?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Each one is my favorite when I am writing it.
HG: What is the process for writing a book? Do you outline, take copious notes, edit as you go?
Ronald Damien Malfi: I donít outline or take many notes. Typically, when an idea comes to me, I allow it to simmer on the backburner of my brain until it either boils into vapor or percolates until it runs over. I know it is time to write when that perfect first line jumps into my head. Thatís when I sit down and start writing, starting with that first line, and going straight through from there. I tend to edit as I go, although I will do a clean edit after the manuscript is complete. Any notes that I make during the writing process are relegated to scribbled nuances in the margins of notebooks, often just dealing with continuity issues, or a phrase or two I liked and wanted to remember to include in the final text. Fro the most part, I also considered outlining a story somewhat restrictive, since itís rare that a story will turn out the way I thought it would. If you breathe enough life into your characters, youíll find it difficult to make them adhere to a predetermined set of bullet points.
HG: Do you ever suffer from writerís block?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Iím not important enough to suffer from writerís block.
HG: Youíve published a lot of short fiction in magazines, anthologies, and online. Any chance weíll ever see them all compiled into one collection?
Ronald Damien Malfi: I am asked that question quite often and, in truth, Iíve given it some peripheral thought. The problem I see is that my short stories all tend to be very different from each other and I havenít yet decided on a cohesive format for bringing them all together. But you never knowÖ
HG: What does the future hold for fans of your work?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Iíve got a novella titled ďBorealisĒ coming out through Delirium Books in November. It is one of three novellas in a book called New Dark Voices II , edited by the inimitable Brian Keene. Iíve also just signed a multi-book deal with Medallion Press, with the first book coming out in hardcover next year. Itís called Shamrock Alley , and Iím very excited about this book. Itís a crime drama based on an investigation my father was involved in back when he worked for the Secret Service. I also plan on writing a few more short stories as well -- something I havenít done in quite awhile.
HG: Any advice for up-and-coming writers out there?
Ronald Damien Malfi: To write. Every day. No excuses. Find the time, turn the TV off, secret yourself in a quiet room, and put the pen to paper. Simple as that.
HG: Thanks for your time, Ron. I canít wait to read your next book.
Ronald Damien Malfi: Thanks so much!