Dale Bailey has a PhD in literature from the University of Tennessee and currently teaches at Lenoir-Rhyne College in NC. His second novel, HOUSE OF BONES, will be released this December by Signet, and his short story "The Resurrection Man's Legacy" has recently been optioned by 20th Century Fox.
Q: Your first novel THE FALLEN deals with a different take on angels and Old Testament stories, did you draw inspiration from other myths as well? What was the spark that first started the story for you?
Most of the inspiration for the novel came from a brief passage in Genesis: "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." I found the passage fascinating because I didn't understand it. When I started looking into it I found that most Biblical commentators didn't have any more answers than I did.
Who were these "giants"? Why were they here? What powers did they possess? The novel--a short story originally, called "Giants in the Earth," which was later reprinted in one of Ellen Datlow's Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies--grew out of my speculations on those questions.
Q: "The Resurrection Man's Legacy", which is available in your new short story collection, has been optioned by Twentieth Century Fox, what is the story about? If you were producing who would you like to direct?
I don't have a real strong preference in terms of director--I'd just be delighted to see the movie get made!
The story is a science fiction piece--a kind of nostalgia piece in the manner of Ray Bradbury. It's about a boy who loses his father, and comes to see a robot as kind of substitute father-figure. It's about growing up and losing your parents.
Q: You also have a career as an English professor, have you encountered any condescending attitudes towards genre fiction in academia?
Reactions to genre fiction are all over the map in academia. I've certainly met my share of people who seem to think the commercial genres I tend to work most in--horror, science fiction, fantasy--don't quite qualify as literature. But I've also met a lot of people who are genuinely excited about genre fiction. I think maybe we're in the middle of a shift in those attitudes. Since the advent of studies in popular culture, people in academia have slowly begun to accept genre fiction--not as literature, exactly, but as something equally interesting and equally worthy of study.
As for myself, I think if you put the best genre fiction up against the best literary fiction, they measure up pretty well. And that shouldn't really surprise us; after all, literature springs from fantastic roots in myth, and many of the great landmarks in Western literature are essentially fantastic--Beowulf, Paradise Lost, the Greek myths, Dante, a lot of Shakespeare.
Q: What horror novels have left the most lasting impression on you?
Gosh. There are lots of them. I love Davis Grubb's NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. I've read--and been deeply influence by--Stephen King's work. Lovecraft, of course. I really liked T.E.D. Klein's THE CEREMONIES. Bradbury's short fiction and his novel, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. Shirley Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. Among newer writers, I really like Graham Joyce and Steward O'Nan--A PRAYER FOR THE DYING is great, and so is his new novel, THE NIGHT COUNTRY.
A lot of my favorite writers stand at the edge of horror, where it collides with other genres--names already on that list, but also other people. John Crowley is a huge influence. Richard Matheson.
Q: Tell us about your new novel HOUSE OF BONES which will be published this December by Signet.
House of Bones grows directly out of my doctoral work on the haunted house novel, especially my study "American Nightmares: The Haunted House Formula in American Popular Fiction." After reading and thinking so much about haunted house novels, I suppose it was natural that I wanted to try one myself.
As a result, the novel is a kind of homage to the great haunted house novels of the past--Shirley Jackson's HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, THE SHINING, Matheson's HELL HOUSE, and a book that's maybe not so well known, JULIAN'S HOUSE, by Judith Hawkes.
I just love the situation all those books share--a group of psychic investigators move into a haunted house and get more than they bargain for. Only in HOUSE OF BONES the haunted house is an abandoned inner-city housing project. Don't worry, though: my characters still get more than they bargained for. Way more!
Q: If you had to choose between a full time career as a fiction writer or continuing as an academic, which would you prefer? why?
If I had to choose, I would definitely choose fiction writing. That said, I hope I never do have to choose. I really love teaching, and I really love writing, too, and I think that the two enterprises feed each other in rewarding ways. Ideally, I'd like to teach less--six or eight hours a semester, not twelve--thus creating a little more time to write. But I can't imagine giving up teaching altogether.
Q: What will you be doing on Halloween night 2003?
Normally, I'd be taking my four-year-old daughter trick-or-treating. She's dressing up as a butterfly this year. However, on Halloween I will be at the World Fantasy Convention debuting my new collection, THE RESURRECTION MAN'S LEGACY AND OTHER STORIES--which isn't quite as good as taking my little girl trick-or-treating, but as a consolation prize isn't bad at all. In fact, I'm really excited about the collection and about the convention.
Special thanks to Eric Hoheisel for coordinating the interview