The simple-and honest-answer would be because my foolish heart doesn't know any better. It's a little like asking, why do you fall in love? When I finish a story and give it to somebody, on the surface I am saying, "Take a look at my new story," but on the inside I am saying, "Here I am; this is me; this is my soul." Which, when you think about it, is exactly what you do when you fall in love. The process of creating, and our inclination to love, are drawn from the same mysterious well. With both, you find out things about yourself, you experience unparalleled joy, and at times subject yourself to terrible pain. It's a beautiful thing.
Also, writing satisfies me; it's mental chocolate, and it's delicious. It massages me-knuckles of creativity expertly kneading away my pains. I don't know what I would do without it. Honestly, I don't even like to think about it. Writing is my dæmon. Anybody who has read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy will know exactly what I mean.
Q: What is your background as a writer?
I have a BA in Letters of Rejection and a PhD in Frustration Studies. Seriously, like any writer, I've been through the mill. In fact, I've been through it several times (I am on first-name terms with the workers at the mill). I have come close-so many times-to hitting a home run, but the ball always seems to bounce off the top of the fence and fall for a long single. That's not to say that I haven't had my successes. I had a novella called Ellie's Boy published in 1999, which sold very well. Many of my stories have found a home on various Internet sites, to favorable reception. My website receives hits and downloads from all over the world. Hell, I'm even getting fan mail, too. And then we have End Times, my new novel, which is just snowballing. It's getting great reviews and selling extremely well. It's a story I'm very proud of, so to see it doing so well is incredibly satisfying.
Q: End Times is a complicated tale, dealing with addictions, cults, and Native American mythology. How did the idea come about?
The pulse of End Times, the first sign of life, was felt in a dream: a beautiful girl in a forest who beckoned me to follow her, and as I did I could see that her feet were not touching the ground. I woke up and she was still in my mind. I went to work and she was still there, floating and smiling. I entertained her; we danced, we laughed, and I gave her a name: Mia Floats Softly.
I knew I had a story. I didn't know anything about the story, but it was there-I could feel it. As for the other subjects like heroin addiction and the disturbing amputation cult... these things leaped out at me and demanded a place on the page. I can't recall the exact moment I decided that Scott Hennessey would cut off his fingers, it just happened. I am frequently surprised by what happens in my own stories. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. I guess some aspects of the writing process run too deep for simple explanation.
As for the Native mythology... I came across The Legend of White Buffalo Calf Woman some time after my dream about Mia Floats Softly. Mia and the legend came together in my mind with unnerving symmetry. My story found its true shape; the pulse became a heartbeat-something with life and rhythm, and I was happy to dance to it.
I still think that End Times wrote itself. That's an overused cliche, I know. But really... I was just following the sound of the drums.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of writing the novel?
The first draft of End Times was written in longhand at the tail end of 2000, through the summer of 2001. This was a time of transition for me and my wife (then fiancee). She had just finished University, I had sold my house, and we were going to use the money to get married and take a long trip to Australia and the Far East. We were also about to emigrate from England to Canada. There was a lot going on in my head without this complicated novel. Add to this the fact that we had taken up temporary residence in a squalid, abandoned retirement home; we were living out of boxes in one tiny room, and I had to clear enough space to find a place to write. The retirement home was in the process of being refurbished, but it was still a damp, shambling mansion with walls that crumbled when you touched them and doors that opened and closed all by themselves. And I don't care what anybody says: 'retirement home' is a euphemism for a place where old people go to die. You could still smell the old people. You could still smell the death.
But like I said, writing is my dæmon, I need it... and I managed with all this going on. Perhaps because it was going on.
Another difficult aspect of the writing was in the subject matter. End Times called for a great deal of in-depth research. I wasn't satisfied reading about heroin addiction, so I opted for more direct research methods. I spoke at length with addicts, and found them to be open and honest. It wasn't easy listening to what they had to say-to see the level of their hurt and desperation. If End Times was going to be believable, I knew I had to convey that pain within its pages. Judging from some of the reviews, I think I managed it.
Q: What are your other books/stories and themes that you work with?
I think horror fiction can be divided into two main categories. You have things that go bump in the night-the surface horror, spooks and vampires and such. And then you have the psychological horrors, the things that could really happen-kidnap and mental illness and serial killers. My fiction has explored both categories over the years, and I find both equally satisfying. I remember wanting to write a story about a serial killer that preys on teenagers at a music festival, and it turned into a novel called Everdead, about a vampire that preys on teenagers at the vacation hotspot of Ibiza. I have just completed a short story called This is the Summer of Love, which deals with domestic abuse. Another of my stories, Old Man Scratch, is about feuding neighbors (think: Grumpy Old Men meets Pumpkinhead). Ellie's Boy is a werewolf novella that doffs its cap to the Hammer Horror movies of yesteryear. I created a Malaysian village of malformed freaks in the story, End of the World, as well as your standard mix of haunted houses, zombies, and gun-wielding eight-year-olds.
Much of my early material-too early to ever see the light of day, and thank Jeebers for that-was heavily inspired (dare I say borrowed) from the likes of Lovecraft and August Derleth. I used to delight in writing sentences like, "I am aghast, for it has no shape: an amorphous, intangible vapor filled with glimpses of teeth and sick, pulsating flesh. Ah... my dearest Morton, I fear this is the end..." When I was fifteen years old I thought I would set the world on fire with writing like this. Alas, my dearest Morton... I have grown up since then.
Q: Do you tend to be influenced by other authors?
Of course; I am driven by great storytelling, great fiction, and great writing. It fuels me, baby! Graham Greene is one of my favorite writers; whenever I read one of his novels I am inspired-challenged-to write something amazing. Whether or not I manage this is a matter of opinion, but the inspiration is always there. I could say the same about Stephen King and Shirley Jackson: pure storytellers who make me want to be the best I can be. There are so many great authors-too many to read in a lifetime-from Charles Dickens to DBC Pierre, and I intend to gorge myself on as many as I can.
That's not to suggest that I don't rely on my own voice. Anybody who has read End Times will tell you that it has a unique quality. I trust that my fiction will find its own way, its own voice, depending on the characterization and subject matter. But fantastic storytelling will always influence me. It needn't come from an author, either; I could just as easily be influenced by someone I meet-one of those electrifying, interesting individuals we come across throughout the course of a lifetime. And music can influence me, too; my new short story, This is the Summer of Love, was actually inspired by a Bruce Springsteen song.
Q: What do you have in store for the future... upcoming work?
Everdead-my funky vampire novel-will be published in the first half of 2008. Right now I'm just considering my options for it, which is a nice position to be in. I have a new short story called Mama Fish that will be available for download on my Website very soon (you know that weird kid from school? Every school has a weird kid, right? Well... that's what Mama Fish is about). I'm also working on my new novel, Souls Fall, which I hope to finish early next year.
Q: What is your opinion about the state of horror today, both in books and movies?
Horror has the boundless energy of a six-year-old. It can run around all day, wild and shrieking, and never get exhausted. Sometimes it will embarrass you, and sometimes it will make you proud. It never seems to get bored of the same old things, though-much like a child who constantly wants to be thrown in the air or pushed on a swing. One more, the energetic child that is horror will say. Just one more.
The horror movie is alive and healthy. It seems that something new comes screaming into our theatres every week, and more often than not it's a new version of an old horror movie. Nothing wrong with that. I actually quite liked Rob Zombie's version of Halloween. I also quite liked the new Dawn of the Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Quite liked, yes, but not loved. Horror movies are simple entertainment. They've fallen into self-parody and as such are no longer frightening. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I'm simply suggesting that the horror movie nowadays tends to entertain rather than frighten.
Horror fiction is like horror movie's big brother: maybe grown up enough to grow hair on its balls and talk like a man from time to time, but still not old enough to be taken seriously. Which is a great shame, because there are some very serious voices within the genre. The adults (Great Uncle American Literature, Grandma Period Fiction, and Second Cousin Modern Fiction) frown when the horror novel sits up at the grownups' table and demands to be heard. But the voices are equally valid and booming: authors like Joe Hill, Brian Keene, and Jeff Strand... voices with something important to say, and that deserve to be heard.
There is good and bad in everything, I guess. Horror is no different. And right now, it's more alive than it's ever been.
You can also go directly to my Website, www.rioyouers.com and follow the appropriate links. You might want to check out my short stories while you're there. This is the Summer of Love and Old Man Scratch are proving extremely popular right now. You'll also find Everdead on the site for a limited time.
Q: Finally... for the people who haven't read your work, how would you describe it?
Most people haven't read my work, so to the masses I say this: I'm just a guy who enjoys writing stories. Most of my fiction has a dark flavor. Some of it bows to the traditional, and some is utterly unique. The reader won't know what to expect, because most of the time I don't know what to expect. I just want to have some fun, and hopefully the reader will, too.