Halloween Extravagana: INTERVIEW: David A. Riley

Meghan: Hi, David! Welcome to the new blog… and welcome back to the Halloween Extravaganza. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

David A. Riley: Not so much writing, though I have turned to it once more in the last few months. I have concentrated on publishing books by other people through Parallel Universe Publications, and spent a lot of time working on one particular project, which was a large art book for my friend Jim Pitts. The Fantastical Art of Jim Pitts, which is available as a limited-edition hardback and, more recently, as a two-volume soft cover. This was a major project for me, involving an investment in a new, more powerful computer to handle all the graphics and some rather expensive software. It was very time consuming too as each page had to be designed individually. I also branched out into publishing hardcover book collections, including Fishhead: The Darker Tales of Irvin S. Cobb, which was another labour of love, involving a lot of research and copying out a great many stories.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

David A. Riley: Gardener, cook, reader, film and theatre-goer. I now have three grandchildren, which is fantastic.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

David A. Riley: I love it, though I don’t go out of my way looking for favourable comments about it, as I know it’s unlikely I’ll get a completely honest appraisal – except from my wife, who is totally honest and whose judgement I know I can rely on.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

David A. Riley: I don’t regard it as either, except when I am struggling with a particular story – then it’s definitely a curse, especially if I become convinced that whatever skills I might have once had have deserted me! I think that’s a not uncommon feeling, though.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

David A. Riley: Though I don’t write specifically about this in everything I turn my hand to, there are quite a few things I have written that reflect my upbringing in Lancashire, in an industrial town. On the other hand, I have written a number of stories set in the United States, including New York, which I am assured read convincingly even though I have never visited the States. It’s good to have your roots as an influence, but a mistake to be shackled to them all the time. A writer should be able to use their imagination and what they have learned, either through travel, reading, films and TV, to branch out.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

David A. Riley: Strange for the UK: guns, as handguns are illegal here. I did quite a bit of research into the handguns used by the Mossad, as one of my characters always used one in his role as a gangland enforcer in London. I first learned of them from a friend who had a genuine but deactivated Beretta .22.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

David A. Riley: The beginning. That has to grab me first of all or I find I very quickly lose the incentive to go on. I must have characters from the outset I can believe in and with whom have some empathy. If they’re just cardboard cutouts I can’t go on. They bore me. And if I’m bored, what can I expect from any potential readers?

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

David A. Riley: I don’t outline. I do work from the characters to start with, and I prefer to have some sort of vague plot in mind, but I find the best ideas come while I’m writing, which sometimes veers off quite a lot from what I intended. The characters and their predicaments do have a tendency to take over, which in my view is as it should be.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

David A. Riley: Hope I can maneuver things towards a proper story in the end. That doesn’t always happen – and that story will remain on my computer, unresolved. Sometimes I can take a look at it again some time later and things suddenly start to work out. Sometimes, though, they don’t.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

David A. Riley: Feel in the mood to start with. I don’t think I can force myself. That doesn’t work for me. I wish it did. I would probably write a lot more if that happened.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

David A. Riley: I read every day, though not as much as I would like. I used to read a lot more when I was younger. On the other hand, we have a holiday home in the country where we have only limited internet and even more limited TV where I spend a lot of time reading. I was there last week and got through three rather hefty novels. And loved them.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

David A. Riley: Novels in particular. Though I mainly write short stories, I am not as big a reader of these as I used to be. I have also found that my tastes have altered over the years and I must admit I don’t like a lot of new short stories. I now love crime fiction and historical novels, particularly writers like Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, and Simon Scarrow. I also like crime novels that veer towards supernatural horror, like John Connolly, who is one of the best writers in horror today. I have also started to reread a lot of books I first came across many years ago, like Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, and Robert Bloch.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

David A. Riley: I am particularly keen to see more movies based on books, if only because that will take us away from the obsession with remaking old movies with inferior ones. On the other hand, it is saddening to see some great books rendered into poor movies because someone thought that making major changes would improve on the original – something that rarely ever happens. A lot of film makers seem to have a poor idea of storytelling and it’s disheartening to see a great book butchered by someone who wrongly thought they knew better than the original writer.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

David A. Riley: Frequently. That’s a common fate in my short stories especially. In my novels not so much so, though I did have one main character who at the end commits suicide because that was really the only option left open to him.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

David A. Riley: Not particularly, and often I do feel sad about this – which I hope the reader feels too! If they do, I have at least made them feel some empathy towards the character in question, which means I also managed to make that character believable.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

David A. Riley: A heroic but nevertheless barbaric goblin – the main character of my only fantasy novel, Goblin Mire. Mickle Gorestab is old, irascible but unflinchingly courageous – and stoutly convinced of the rightness of his cause: the reestablishment of a Goblin Empire. I really loved this character for all his faults.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

David A. Riley: The best was from Otto Penzler. When interviewed about his anthology Zombies! Zombies! Zombies, he was asked “If a reader has an opportunity to read only one story from Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, which one would you recommend?” He would recommend two: “…the stories that jump to mind are Seabrook’s “Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields” because it’s such a comprehensive introduction in the genre, and David A. Riley’s “After Nightfall” because it is, holy moley, so damned scary.”

The worst is a review of my only fantasy novel, Goblin Mire, which simply stated: “Terrible. Everything about this[sic] book is terrible. I’d write more but I’d be wasting both of ours’ time…”

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

David A. Riley: John Connolly’s Charlie Parker. He is such a great character. But he would be wasted on me. I couldn’t use him anything like as well as Connolly.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

David A. Riley: I am not sure. I have never been keen on retreading the same ground and have only once (after much badgering by a friend) written to sequel to any of my stories, so the idea of doing a series doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. The nearest I have come is in using the same settings, as in Grudge End, where I have set a few of my stories and also my novel The Return. It’s my English version of Arkham or Dunwich.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

David A. Riley: I have tried a couple of times to write a collaboration with another writer, but it didn’t work out. I don’t think I would ever be tempted quite honestly.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

David A. Riley: Hard to say. I hope to get at least one more novel finished. I have several which are part written, one with about 60k words, another with 40k. I would like to get a few more science fiction stories completed. I have always felt I should have written more SF. My first love when I first started writing was SF and I actually did complete a SF novel, now lost completely. I kind of stumbled into writing horror because I found SF more difficult. Then again, I started writing about the same time that the New Wave started in the late sixties under Moorcock and New Worlds, and I didn’t really gel with all that. I was overjoyed when I had a science fiction story published some years ago in Aboriginal Science Fiction.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

David A. Riley: Parallel Universe Publications for my publishing activities and my website for my writing and everything else

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

David A. Riley: The most important thing is to support writing and writers. And to try and give your favourite writers some kind of positive feedback, especially those who have never been fortunate enough to have achieved best selling status, as this is the only kind of thing to give them a boost and encourage them to write more. I am a great believer in the written word and, though there is far more fame and glory these days in TV and films, a well-written book or story still has far, far more to offer. If films and TV disappeared tomorrow, I could live with it. If books did, I couldn’t.

David A. Riley writes horror, fantasy and SF stories. In 1995, along with his wife, Linden, he edited and published a fantasy/SF magazine, Beyond. His first professionally published story was in The 11th Pan Book of Horror in 1970. This was reprinted in 2012 in The Century’s Best Horror Fiction edited by John Pelan for Cemetery Dance. He has had numerous stories published by Doubleday, DAW, Corgi, Sphere, Roc, Playboy Paperbacks, Robinsons, etc., and in magazines such as Aboriginal Science Fiction, Dark Discoveries, Fear, Fantasy Tales. His first collection of stories (4 long stories and a novelette) was published by Hazardous Press in 2012, His Own Mad Demons. A Lovecraftian novel, The Return, was published by Blood Bound Books in the States in 2013. A second collection of his stories, all of which were professionally published prior to 2000, The Lurkers in the Abyss & Other Tales of Terror, was launched at the World Fantasy Convention in 2013. His fantasy novel, Goblin Mire, was published by Parallel Universe Publications in 2015. Their Cramped Dark World is his third collection of short stories. With his wife, Linden, he runs a small press called Parallel Universe Publications, which has so far published ten books. His stories have been translated into Italian, German, Spanish and Russian.

The Return

It was never going to be easy to return for one last look at the streets where he spent his childhood years. Even knowing this, Gary still felt he had to make the effort, just this once, to see if they were really as bad as he remembered. In a few months demolition was due to start on Grudge End… When Gary Morgan travels north to lie low after a gangland shooting in London, a childhood friend is violently maimed within hours of his arrival. Decades after escaping the blight of his hometown, he finds himself ensnared in a place he hates more than any other.Feuding families, bloodthirsty syndicates, and hostile forces older than mankind all play a role in the escalating chaos surrounding Gary Morgan. Now he must unravel the mysteries of Grudge End and his own past or meet his doom in the grip of an ancient, unimaginable evil.

Moloch’s Children

Elm Tree House had a sinister history but few realised the true demonic power that lurked within its forbidding depths till it was taken over by a cult determined to make use of its horrendous secret.

Goblin Mire

Many years have passed since Elves defeated and killed the last Goblin king. Now the Goblins are growing stronger in their mire, and Mickle Gorestab, one of the few remaining veterans of that war, is determined they will fight once more, this time aided by a renegade Elf who has delved into forbidden sorcery and hates his kind even more than his Goblin allies. Murder, treachery and the darkest of all magics follow in a maelstrom of blood, violence and unexpected alliances. Facing up to the cold cruelty of the Elves, Mickle Gorestab stands out as the epitome of grim, barbaric heroism, determined to see the wrongs of his race avenged and a restoration of the Goblin King.

Into the Dark

There’s a serial killer at loose in London. Janice, who has a chronic fear of the dark, stumbles into a relationship with the man who may secretly be the murderer. Neither know that in the North of England, in a place previously owned by his dead mother, activities are taking place that may unleash a horror that could spell the end of civilisation in Britain – an ancient evil that would make the activities of any serial killer look like child’s play by comparison. Could a psychotic killer be the only man capable of ending this? Andrew Jennings is also known as David A. Riley.

The Lurkers in the Abyss & Other Tales of Terror

David A. Riley began writing horror stories while still at school and had his first professional sale to Pan Books in 1969, which was The Lurkers in the Abyss, published in The Eleventh Pan Book of Horror Stories. This story was chosen for inclusion in The Century’s Best Horror Fiction in 2012. Over the years he has had numerous stories published in Britain and the United States plus translations into German, Spanish, Italian and Russian. His fiction has appeared in World of Horror, Fear, Whispers, Fantasy Tales, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Dark Discoveries and Lovecraft e-Zine. His first collection, His Own Mad Demons was published by Hazardous Press in 2012. The Return, a Lovecraftian horror novel was published by Blood Bound Books in 2013. This second collection brings together under one cover seventeen of the author’s best blood-curdling stories.

Their Cramped Dark World & Other Tales

Their Cramped Dark World and Other Tales is David A. Riley’s third collection of short fiction, spanning 40 years of publication, from appearances in New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural #1 in 1971, to the Ninth Black Book of Horror in 2012.He has had numerous stories published by Doubleday, DAW, Corgi, Sphere, Roc, Playboy Paperbacks, Robinsons, etc., and in magazines such as Aboriginal Science Fiction, Dark Discoveries, Fear, and Fantasy Tales. His stories have been translated into Italian, German, Spanish and Russian. His Lovecraftian crime noir horror novel, The Return, was published by Blood Bound Books in 2013. His fantasy novel, Goblin Mire, was published by Parallel Universe Publications in 2015.Table of Contents Hoody (first published in When Graveyards Yawn, Crowswing Books, 2006) A Bottle of Spirits (first published in New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural 2, 1972) No Sense in Being Hungry, She Thought (first published in Peeping Tom #20, 1996) Now and Forever More (first published in The Second Black Book of Horror, 2008) Romero’s Children (first published in The Seventh Black Book of Horror, 2010) Swan Song (first published in the Ninth Black Book of Horror, 2012) The Farmhouse (first published in New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural 1, 1971) The Last Coach Trip (first published in The Eighth Black Book of Horror, 2011) The Satyr’s Head (first published in The Satyr’s Head & Other Tales of Terror, 1975) Their Cramped Dark World (first published in The Sixth Black Book of Horror, 2010).

His Own Mad Demons

David A. Riley’s first professionally published story was in the 11th Pan Book of Horror in 1970. Since then he has been published in numerous anthologies from ROC Books, DAW Books, Robinson Books, Corgi Books, Doubleday, Playboy Paperbacks, and Sphere. Two recent notable anthologies in which he has appeared are The Century’s Best Horror Fiction from Cemetery Dance, and Otto Pensler’s Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! from Vintage Books.In 1995, David and his wife Linden edited and published Beyond, a fantasy/SF magazine. His stories have been published in magazines such as Aboriginal Science Fiction, Dark Discoveries, Fear, Fantasy Tales and World of Horror.His Own Mad Demons contains his stories “Lock-In”, “The Worst of All Possible Places”, “The Fragile Mask on His Face”, “Their Own Mad Demons”, and “The True Spirit”.

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