I first came across R. Thomas Riley's work when I read and reviewed the great collection The Monster Within Idea. Since then, R. Thomas has written several other collections and novels, and worked with some of the more well-known “small” press publishers.
From his bio: R. Thomas Riley is the author of the short story collection The Monster Within Idea (2009-2011), published by Hugo-nominated Apex Publications and re-released as a Kindle exclusive in 2011. His second story collection, Their Last Dying Acts, was released in July 2012; and Husks was released in August 2012. If God Doesn’t Show - a Gibson Blount novel (co-written with John Grover) - was published by Permuted Press and Audible.com in August 2012. The Flesh of Fallen Angels - a Gibson Blount novella (co-written with Roy C. Booth) - was published by Grand Mal Press in February 2012. Diaphanous (co-written with Roy C. Booth) is available now on Kindle. The Day Lufberry Won It All was adapted to short film by Frosty Moon Omnimedia in 2010.
R. Thomas Riley recently agreed to interview with FEARnet about his upcoming works.
You have a new collection being released soon. What's it about?
My newest collection is with co-author Lisa McCarthy. It’s called Of Flesh and Skin. Lisa previously released a novella, The Butterfly Waltz, and it is a well-written, thought-provoking, wrenching study of a disintegrating marriage and the fight to save it. The sex scenes were written with skill and attention to detail, and there was hardly a wasted word in the piece.
I loved the novella and during a conversation with Lisa, the idea of writing a series of darker, erotic fiction stories was broached. Why couldn't there be erotic stories that were well written, deeper, and thought provoking, with more than just hot sex scenes?
What started out as a seemingly harmless idea most writers toss out there, and then forget about, the idea began to ferment, take shape, and sound like a really viable idea. One conversation led to another, until we decided we would write just that type of erotic fiction ourselves.
I've dabbled in science fiction, thrillers, fantasy, and mystery, but my main publications have focused on horror and dark fiction for nearly 13 years now. One thing I’ve learned over my career is you've got to keep the writing fresh and interesting. Of Flesh and Skin was the result of that collaboration and it’s now available on Amazon Kindle under my pen name R.T. Riley.
So what aspects Of Flesh and Skin are in the horror/dark fiction realm, if any?
Of Flesh and Skin is a bit of an experiment for me. Since the dawn of horror fiction and films, sex and horror have always seemed to go hand-in-hand. I wanted to play up more on the exploration of the darker sexual fantasies lurking deep in the part of us we normally don't want to admit exists. For example, The Watcher explores the relationship and power play between the exhibitionist and the voyeur to a nightmarish conclusion. While, Gone is about how numb an experience leaves someone and the extremes it would take to feel anything, ever again. And finally, The God Machine deals with an invading race of aliens who’ve wiped out the male population and the fight of one girl’s quest to remain human. The collection contains seven tales and all the tales still have my “known for” darker exploration of how there’s a monster that lurks in all of us.
Speaking of monsters, one of your collections, Monster Within Idea, has done quite well since its release. How did that collection came about?
Writing has always been my personal therapy and my way of coping with what happens in my personal life. The bulk of the stories for this collection were written leading up to, in the middle, and the aftermath of my divorce. The stories were the first time in my career where I didn’t hold back and I wrote honestly. There was never a conscious intended theme to the collection, but readers and reviewers have noted there is a theme of loss, sacrifice, and regret throughout the stories, and how those have an impact on a person. Though I hadn’t intended a theme, I’m happy to agree with their sentiments. I merely set out to explore the “monsters” inside all of us.
I met Jason Sizemore, owner of Hugo Nominated Apex Publications, at a writer’s convention in 2006 and he’d read my first collection and enjoyed the stories. We discussed working on something, and I eventually ended up being invited to submit a story to his Gratia Placenti Anthology. What I ended up submitting was a story called Only Spirits Cry, a modern day fantasy involving unicorns, a gorgon and practitioners of strange magic. We both had a good laugh when I told him I was submitting a story with unicorns, but I feel the story is one of the best I’ve written to date, and I certainly stepped out of my comfort zone for that one. A few months later, the publisher dropped my first collection and Jason approached me about republishing it with Apex Publications. We eventually decided to go with nearly all new stories, the ones I’d been writing during my divorce. I was extremely hesitant to release the collection at first, because the stories were so raw and personal to me, but Jason encouraged me and he made the right call.
The collection was with Apex Publications for two years and was reviewed favorably in multiple outlets and one of the stories received an honorable mention for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Vol. 2. Another of the stories was adapted to short film by Frosty Moon Omnimedia. Despite our best efforts, the collection just wasn’t a commercial success and was dropped by Apex Publications. It was truly an honor to be published by such a well-respected press, but it was purely business.
In 2012, I self-published the collection on Amazon in Kindle and paperback, and after a year of hard, hard work, the book reached the Top 100 in paid Kindle sales in the horror category. To date, the collection has been downloaded nearly 70,000 times.
You've also worked on a number of anthologies. Can you talk a bit about those?
The past few years I’ve only submitted to anthologies to which I’ve been invited. Some of those included anthologies by Permuted Press, Apex Publications, Grand Mal Press, and others. Nearly all those stories have been included in my second story collection, Their Last Dying Acts, released this year.
In 2008, I made the decision to only submit to markets that paid professional rates, and so these days I am very particular in which markets I submit. Short stories are my love, but you’re not going to make much money on short stories these days. Novels are more cost-effective, in time and effort. I still write short stories, and usually have at least five or more in various stages of development, but at this point in my career, I normally don’t write a story unless I already have a market in mind.
How is the process different between working on the types of anthologies you've been in and a collection (besides the fact that the collection only features stories from one author)?
Most anthologies tend to be themed and those can be a challenge and I thoroughly enjoy those challenges. With anthologies, each experience is different depending on what the editor is looking for. Sometimes, a story I’ve already written might fit, but most of the time an anthology will require me to write and tailor the story to a specific set of requirements.
You're in the military as well, so how does your work influence your writing?
It definitely influences my work. My newest novel, If God Doesn’t Show, published by Permuted Press, is an apocalyptic-Cthulhu-mythos-military-horror/thriller, and I drew heavily on my military background to get certain details accurate and authentic (as much as I could without compromising, of course).
Apocalyptic-Cthulhu-Mythos-Military-Horror. I think that's a new genre! So what's the deeper story there? Can you reveal more about the plot and main character?
Here’s the publisher’s synopsis:
“Thaddeus Archer is an ex-police officer whose missing daughter holds the key to the mysterious force that threatens to lay waste to what’s left of our world. It’s a race against time for the broken and desperate Archer who must trust the only man who understands what’s happening, Gibson Blount, an agent of a secret government agency that doesn’t officially exist.
As their world spirals into chaos both men must overcome their differences and personal demons in a world besieged by the re-animated dead, natural disasters, and elder god set on destruction.”
There’s already plenty of apocalyptic novels out there dealing with zombies and the destruction of the world, and more being written every day. But John Grover and I wanted to explore this genre from a military perspective, rather than the average citizen fighting back angle. We wanted to really explore how the President of the United States, the military, and a secret Government organization that deals with the supernatural would fight a zombie outbreak, and then pair that with the Cthulhu Mythos.
Since If God Doesn’t Show is the second book in the Gibson Blount series, the book really delves into what makes Blount tick and explores even more of his shadowy history. I’ve been writing about Gibson Blount for nearly a decade now and it was only till a few years ago that I realized he was crying out for his own series of novels. Gibson is the only character I’ve written that even I still don’t know everything about and I still keep getting drawn back to. Gibson Blount’s third novel adventure will be published by Permuted Press sometime next year and it’s called At the Foot of the Mountains.
What other projects are you working on?
I currently have multiple projects in various stages. Those include Book 3 in the Gibson Blount series with co-author John Grover. The other Gibson Blount books are The Flesh of Fallen Angels, co-written with Roy C. Booth (Grand Mal Press) and If God Doesn’t Show (Permuted Press).
Then there's Jim O’Rear’s Mortuary of Madness, adapted from his original screenplay. Again co-authored with Roy C. Booth. The novel is currently with beta readers and will start the submission process with various publishers in the next few months.
Also, a requested paranormal werewolf erotic romance novella, co-authored with Lisa McCarthy, for Scarlet Petals Press, an erotica imprint for KHP Publishers, Inc. There's The Sorrow Cage, a police/thriller/action novel. Think “Die Hard in a ghost town.” Adapted from an original screenplay, co-written with Jake Lockrem.
I have another novel coming up, Powder Train, a historical WWII spy thriller/coming-of-age piece set on Oracoke Island, NC. And finally Strings, Gibson Blount novel #4, co-authored with John Grover and Roy C. Booth.
Anything else you want to add?
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Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!; and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Fellow of Film Independent's Project:Involve.