Monday, October 31, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 26: AMONG THE STACKS: David A. Riley


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why hello, David.  Welcome to The Gal here on this FANTASTICALLY GRUESOME Halloween.  You are *Day 26* (cause internet issues... and Michael James McFarland's book distracting me when I'm not spending my days in retail) - with each day, my guests just get better and better :)
            We're going to start out with something easy to get your brain working: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

David A. Riley:
I've been writing since I was about thirteen or fourteen, when my biggest ambition was to get a story published in the then highly successful series of horror anthologies edited by Herbert van Thal, The Pan Books of Horror.  After the inevitable rejects, I eventually succeeded in 1969 in getting a story accepted and The Lurkers in the Abyss duly appeared in The Eleventh Pan Book of Horror the following year.  I was eighteen at the time.  It was also the last story I submitted to Pan, as at this time my friend, David Sutton, was given the opportunity to edit a brand new series for Sphere Books, New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural.  Over the course of the next few years I had a handful of stories published in professional anthologies but I was never prolific.  It wasn't really till about ten years ago that I got in my stride, sparked off by a letter from John Pelan, who wanted to republish my first story, The Lurkers in the Abyss in a mammoth, two-volume anthology he was putting together for Cemetery Dance, The Century's Best Horror Fiction, which contained 100 stories, one from each year of the twentieth century.   He was also currently editing a series of books for ROC Books in the States, the last of which was Alone on the Darkside.  He asked if I had anything available he could take a look at.  As a result, Inside the Labyrinth was published by him the following year.  That sort of sparked off my interest in writing again and for the next few years I wrote more stories than I had previously completed so far and completed two novels and made a start on several others, which are nearing completion, including The Return, which was published in 2013 by Blood Bound Books.  In 1995, having been made redundant by British Aerospace, I invested my redundancy pay in setting up a professional science fiction/fantasy magazine called Beyond.  I had always been interested in publishing and this seemed a golden opportunity.  I managed to arrange newsstand space for it through a major distributor and had stories and articles in the magazine by the likes of Karl Edward WagnerJohn BrunnerStephen GallagherKim NewmanStephen LawsRamsey Campbell, etc., but, unfortunately, I was persuaded, unwisely, to publish far too many copies of the magazine by the distributor and, after returns came in, the magazine folded after three issues, leaving me with a sizeable debt.  This probably had more to do with me losing interesting in writing too for the next ten years or so, till John Pelan helped to revive my interest once more.  Curiously, my interest in publishing has also returned and for the last two years, with my wife, Linden, I have revived Parallel Universe Publications, which published Beyond magazine, and have been able to publish more than twenty books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

David A. Riley:
  1. For quite a few years I was secretary, then secretary and chairman, of the St. Mary's Pantomime Group, which is a local organization which puts on a pantomime every year in our local theatre with a cast made up of local children up to the age of eighteen.
  2. I've appeared a couple of times in amateur productions in our local theatre, once in a madcap comedy called Macbeth Did It, in which I played a drunken billionaire, and then later in Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, in which I had two parts: a wealthy dock owner who gets murdered offstage, and a gangster.
  3. Driven several times across Europe to Bulgaria, where we have a house in the countryside at the end of a mountain range.
  4. My first professionally published story was written while I was still at school.
  5. In 2007, my photograph, together with an article concerning my collection of horror books, took up almost a full page in the London Financial Times.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

David A. Riley:
I can't recall the title, but I do remember when I was quite young I must have borrowed every Capt. W.E. Johns' Biggles book stocked by our local library.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

David A. Riley:
I love crime novels as well as horror, fantasy and science fiction, and I'm currently reading a police procedural by Graham Hurley, Borrowed Light.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

David A. Riley:
Perhaps because of my known involvement with horror, fantasy, and science fiction, the books of Simon Scarrow, most of which are set in ancient Rome during the reign of Claudius - I do love historical fiction, too.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

David A. Riley:
A friend at school made me think about it after he started to write a story and we went on to compete against each other, though I think he soon got bored.  I didn't.  As mentioned earlier, I was about thirteen at the time.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

David A. Riley:
Wherever my computer is.  I haven't written anything by hand for years and I couldn't imagine doing so any more.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

David A. Riley:
I don't know whether it's a quirk, but I am an incessant rewriter, editing what I have written again and again as the story goes on.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

David A. Riley:
Battling against the conviction that I have lost the ability to write.  When I am actually dong it, especially when I am gripped by whatever I am writing, I'm fine, but beforehand it's something of a minor battle to get past the first hurdle of actually getting something down in black and white.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

David A. Riley:
That must be The Return.  I spent a lot of time working on it and I became thoroughly engrossed in its characters, though I also have a fondness for what I am told is one of my more untypical stories, mainly because it is what's termed "quiet horror," The Last Coach Trip, which appeared in The Eighth Black Book of Horror.  That's very loosely based on activities I took part in ten years ago at a local working men's club.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

David A. Riley:
Initially it must have been writers like Robert BlochIsaac Asimov and, of course, H.P. Lovecraft, with doses of Kafka.  One book that helped change the direction of my writing was Ramsey Campbell's Demons by Daylight, which I loved for its use of everyday settings in Liverpool and its portrayal of ordinary people undergoing extraordinary events.  At around the same time I was impressed with Samuel Delaney's The Einstein Intersection which heavily influenced my only attempt at a science fiction novel, which was never published and which I lost the only copy not long after it was written - which was probably no great loss in reality!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

David A. Riley:
That's a hard one to answer.  I think interesting, believable characters must be a key part of it.  Without that, a story is just a string of events.  I need to believe in my characters when writing a story.  If I can't achieve that, I find it tends to fizzle out very quickly and I lose interest in it.  A reader must have some empathy with the characters they are reading about, the more the better.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

David A. Riley:
Another hard one, as some of the characters I have created are not nice people and it would be difficult to like them.  Essentially, though, they must be to some degree or another at least credible.  You can feel some sort of empathy with any character, no matter how bad they are, so long as they are believable, so long as the reader (or the writer for that matter) can see them as flesh and blood.  Cardboard characters are no good for anyone, least of all me as a writer.  At least, that's what I hope I can achieve.  How successful I am is up to others to decide.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

David A. Riley:
None, to be honest.  Others, of course, may make their own comparisons, but none of my characters, so far as I am aware, represents more than a fraction of how I see myself.  I certainly don't aim to be autobiographical in any way and any resemblances there would have to be coincidental. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

David A. Riley:
Sadly, yes, I am put off by a bad cover.  With regard to the covers of books published by others for me, I had some minor involvement, but not an awful lot.  I was most involved in the cover for The Lurkers in the Abyss & Other Tales of Terror, published by Shadow Publishing, when I was able to choose the artist I would prefer (Paul Mudie, who also did all the covers for Mortbury Press's Black Books of Horror) and the story on which I would like the illustration to be based, which was Fish Eye in this case, which originally appeared in The Lovecraft Ezine.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

David A. Riley:
Mainly how much I still have to learn about the craft of writing.  It's an ongoing process.  One of the things I have learned is to be economical with my prose, something which differentiates my earlier stories from what I write now.  That's been a difficult lesson to learn.  I picked up quite a bit about the importance of POV, and of avoiding unnecessary adverbs (by using the right verb to start with) and other technicalities of professional writing from the HWA forum some years ago, at a time when the forum was far more robust and educational than now, especially from writers like the late Bob Weinberg.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

David A. Riley:
Writing fantasy stories is always the hardest task for me, especially when trying to create a credible fictitious world.  Setting the opening scene to an as yet to be fully completed fantasy story called A Grim God's Revenge is proving hard - hard in the sense of convincing me that it is totally realistic.  Getting that right more my own satisfaction is always the most difficult task.  If I can't convince myself I can't expect anyone else to be convinced either.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

David A. Riley:
I couldn't possibly say.  I wouldn't like to make any claims whatsoever - that's for readers to decide.  I think I am too close to them to be objective about them.  I like to think they are different but I could, of course, be fooling myself.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

David A. Riley:
I find short stories the easiest, perhaps because if it's something quirky or off the cuff, it doesn't matter too much, it's only a short story.  With a novel I find it much more difficult, as if the sheer size of it places a heavy burden on me to get it exactly right or, at least, as right as I can.  The only exception was my one and only fantasy novel, Goblin Mire, which had that title from the outset.  The Return was a title I came to after months of deliberation and I'm still not sure if it is the best I could come up with, even though it has several connotations with the story on different levels.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

David A. Riley:
Both really.  Some short stories have given me a very strong feeling of pride, especially when I think I have succeeded in creating characters whose lives give me a feeling of credibility and about whom I, and hopefully the reader too, can care.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

David A. Riley:
Having written horror, fantasy and science fiction, it's a little difficult to say what my target audience is, though I do hope that whichever genre it is that readers take away a feeling of satisfaction, of having finished a well-crafted tale.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

David A. Riley:
The Return has a couple of deleted scenes, mainly involving meals, as my editor, Geoff Hyatt, quite correctly thought there were getting to be too many of these.  Usually, any deleted scenes have been of no great significance, certainly nothing caused by anything potentially controversial, just a case of avoiding making the reader bored with stuff that didn't read as interesting afterwards as originally intended.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when the have extra time.  Do you have one?)

David A. Riley:
I have quite a list of trunk projects awaiting those rainy days, both short stories and novels.  I have a crime novel tentatively called George and Glenda which is up to 80,000 words and will one day be completed (Glenda is quite a piece of work).  Most of them are because they ran out of steam or I grew bored with them - and if I as the writer grew bored, what hope is there for the reader?  They're all there on my computer where I occasionally take a look at them.  Sometimes inspiration strikes and I can finish them off, though I doubt that will happen for most of them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

David A. Riley:
I have spent most of the past twenty months working on publishing books under my Parallel Universe Publications imprint.  PUP has brought out twenty-one so far, with a twenty-second in the pipeline.  It's been a great pleasure to be able to get collections published for writers like Charles BlackCraig HerbertsonJohnny MaimsKate FarrellMark SamuelsSteve LockleyPaul LewisAndrew DarlingtonJessica PalmerAdrian ColeAndrew Jennings, and Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso, not to mention a collection of tales by the late Irvin S. Cobb.  We have also published an anthology of new stories, Kitchen Sink Gothic, and are looking to doing another anthology next year as soon as funds have been set aside to pay all the writers.  I intend to ease off a little over the next twelve months, though.  We have another three books to publish this year, which will make twenty-four in as many months.  2017 I want to get back to doing some writing of my own so we'll probably only publish a small handful of books.  At least that's the plan.  I have a couple of novels I want to complete and I would like to put together a fourth collection of my own stories.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

David A. Riley:
You can find my own personal blog as a writer here.  You can find Parallel Universe Publications here.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks, again, for stopping by today, David.  It was a pleasure having you... and now I have several more books to add to my To Read list.
            One more thing before you go: 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?

David A. Riley:
I just hope that anyone who does decide to take a chance on reading any of my stories or my novels, enjoys the journey I take them on and that they at least enjoy them as much as I did in writing them.


About the author:
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 Bad 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.

About the books:
Contains: Lock-In, The Worst of All Possible Places, The Fragile Mask on His Face, Their Own Mad Demons, and The True Spirit.

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.  

This second collection brings together under one cover seventeen of the author's best blood-curdling stories.

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 a ll 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.

This collection includes: Hoody (first published in When Graveyards Yawn, Crowswing Books, 2006); A Bottle of Spirits (first published in New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural, 1972); No Sense in Being Hungry, She Thought (first published in Peeping Tom #20, 1996); Now & 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, 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).

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