Can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of “Talking in the Dark”?
Here’s how it came about. A friend of mine wrote a nonfiction overview of horror, and after the book was published, he received a great many letters from readers, pointing out what they thought were errors. When it was time for a paperback edition he was busy with other projects and asked me to fact-check the letters for him. Some were right, some were not, but a lot of them came from fans eager for a chance to write to their favorite best-selling author. I began to see a common pattern, and couldn’t help imagining a generic version, which became the letter Victor writes to Rex. They really said such things as “You are my favorite author and greatest fan” (not a typo!) and, more than anything else, “Where do you get your ideas?” My original title was “The Sources of the Nile.” My aunt and uncle once owned an ice cream shop called the Blue-and-White, the colors of Stockton High School across the street, which also happen to be the parts of the Nile River in Egypt that intersect at a place called Gezira, the fictional town in this story. I also remembered a certain editor in our field who used to make cross-country car trips specifically to visit fans who had written letters to his magazine. Hm. The story writes itself, doesn’t it? I intended it to be a tragedy, but some have taken it to be a comedy. So we really can’t control how our work is received. Unless we’re manipulating our readers as source material . . .
What are you working on lately? Any upcoming publications readers should look out for?
I’ve spent a lot of time proofreading the ebook editions of my collections The Dark Country, Red Dreams, The Blood Kiss, and The Death Artist for Dave Wilson’s Crossroad Press. They’re available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other websites, and should stand as the definitive versions. It Only Comes Out at Night, a massive career retrospective edited by S.T. Joshi, will be published later this year by Centipede Press. Tom and Elizabeth Monteleone are bringing out a collection I’m assembling for Borderlands Press, called A Little Black Book of Dark Stories. Peter Atkins and I are putting together a reprint anthology of dream stories, A Long Time Till Morning, and I’m working on an all-new collection of my own, but no publisher has been set for either of those yet. My most recent stories can be found in Stephen Jones’s anthology A Book of Horrors and in Jason V. Brock’s forthcoming Darke Phantastique. Meanwhile, my nonfiction book from last year, Matheson on Matheson, should still be available from Bad Moon Books. And of course more ebooks will soon be ready.
When you’re reading a horror story or novel, what kinds of things delight you? What kinds of things scare you?
It’s always a pleasure to be surprised by something new and fresh, something unlike anything I’ve read before; that’s the goal, but it doesn’t happen very often. Still, I hold out hope. What scares me? It’s purely subjective. Something that’s frightening to some is a joke to others. It all depends on who you are. Ray Bradbury’s “Zero Hour” and “The Veldt” and “The Small Assassin” scared me when I was young, as did Algis Budrys’s “The Master of the Hounds” a few years later, along with many of Ramsey Campbell’s stories and novels. Like Ramsey, I’m particularly visual in my own stories, at least in the way I imagine them in my mind, so—or perhaps because of that—I can’t avoid being influenced by what I see in movies. Karl Edward Wagner thought that the end of this one was a direct reference to “Don’t Look Now,” based on the Daphne De Maurier short story, but I wasn’t consciously aware of it, though Nicholas Roeg’s film certainly affected me deeply.
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