quarta-feira, 12 de março de 2014

[Interview] A conversation about the Mind and Writing of R.M Ridley

This week I interview horror and urban and dark fantasy writer R.M Ridley. I´ve known him firstly through his about.me profile, and he appeared to me as a very interesting individual, because he upfronts displays that he possess some hard days living - reasons are stated below. As I am a fellow sufferer, and also a writer, and, other than that, there were so many other things that caught my attention about him, I wrote him and proposed an interview. He agreed to it, and so here it is.

In blue are my questions.
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Thanks a lot for agreeing to do this interview. Let´s start with some questions about yourself. Tell us a little bit about you up until when you decided to write. Tell us a bit about your published material so far, as well.

The ‘about me’ in 100 words or less, goes something like this. I live in Ontario, Canada and have been married for over twenty years to a wonderful, patient woman. We have spent the last decade living on a small homestead, in an old converted schoolhouse, raising chickens and sheep. I am living with severe bi-polar disability and anti-social disorder, and I have my good days and not so good days. I like to garden, both vegetables and ornamental and, when it’s warm enough, enjoy spending the evening sitting on my back deck, drinking gin and tonics, and talking with friends. I have been writing semi-seriously since I was in my twenties, but didn’t give any thought to doing anything with my writing until I was in my thirties. Even then, I would only very occasionally submit short stories to magazines and anthologies, but I was still really learning the craft. Now, in my forties, I’ve spent a decade honing my skills and learning the art of story telling. I have been published in a fantasy magazine, a horror anthology, a mental health collection, and an anthology of paranormal short stories. My publication credits are not many but they certainly are varied.

What do you think about yourself that helped you being a writer, and an horror writer, most of all. You told me you suffered from some psychological issues, right? Which are those, especifically, and also, many horror writers want to dismiss the fact that maybe they also suffer from some psychological issue as well, but others, like Thomas Ligotti, for instance, do not. What do you think about that, and how that helped you as a writer?

I have always had an active imagination – as a child my mother would send me to stand in the corner for fifteen minutes as a form of discipline. When the time was up, I’d remain there. My mother would always say I was ‘cutting off my nose to spite my face’ but the truth was I would be lost in my own little world of story telling and imagining. I write the gauntlet from urban fantasy to horror  and like to blur the lines between them, but horror attracts me because it is visceral. It gets under your skin, deep into your mind, and makes you react on a unconscious, primal level. Everyone has been afraid at some point in their life, tapping into that feeling makes the experience of reading more intimate. Yes, my brain is not ‘wired’ like most people’s brain. Bi-polar and anti-social disorder can make for some trying times, although I’m lucky and my medication takes the edge off the worst days and makes the good days quite livable. Do I think that this weird ‘wiring’ is responsible for my writing – I’d have to say yes. I write very ‘organically’. I ‘see’ a brief moment, or ‘hear’ a dialogue in my head, and capture it on the computer. From that captured bit, I spin out the rest of the scene, almost unconsciously. I never really know where my plot is going for certain. I understand the basic, general overview but all the particulars come as I write them. I have often wondered if I would have that ability if I didn’t also have my mental health issues and time, and time again, I come to the conclusion that they are two sides of one coin. Are all other writers, especially those who tap into the darker side of stories, dealing with mental issues of one sort or another - I highly doubt it. Some probably are and, like me, reach inside to the ‘disturbed’ part of their nature to give form to demons and things that go bump in the night. But then some people plot out every aspect of their novel before setting word one down, and I think they find the darkness, not in themselves, but in the actions of others that they study. But I can only guess.

Do you think living with psychological "issues" increases the power of conveying feeling and emotion by a writer?

For me, it is actually quite the opposite. I have had to ‘learn’ feelings and emotions. I was actually given a page covered with ‘smiley faces’ all with different expressions on their faces and under which was written the emotion the ‘face’ corresponded to. This phenomena due to my anti-social disorder; emotions for me were anger and not anger. I could laugh and have a good time but rarely did I actually feel true joy during these times. So emotion for me is a very new thing, in the scope of my life, and remains an almost intellectual exercise instead of a natural process. That being said, having to learn how people respond, and what visual signs they give, in correspondence to an emotion, may have allowed me to be able to describe a characters feelings through action instead of simply stating it – I’m sure my editors will disagree.

Have you ever gotten stuck while writing a story? 

Oh yes, many times. I’ll be writing an average of fifteen hundred words everyday for a week and then – nothing. As I mentioned, I write from the images that come in my mind and then spin out the scene from there. If the images fail to appear in my head, I have nowhere to go. I’m dead in the water. Usually when that happens, I switch tracks and begin editing another project, so that I am still using the same basic aspects of my mind, just from a different angle.

How is your proccess of writing? Tell us a little bit about it. Do you have any rituals, anything you do everytime you plan to write?

I have no real rituals, if I’m writing in the morning I make sure I have a cup of coffee beside me - which if I’m really in the groove just goes cold. If I am writing late at night, I like to have a cold gin and tonic, which if I’m in the groove becomes warm. Right now, as I have heavy edits to do for my upcoming novel, ‘Tomorrow Wendell’, I’m trying to do my writing in the morning first thing, so that the rest of my day is free to focus on what needs to get done for my editors.

Which are you main influences on writing about the horror genre, dark fantasy, weird fiction and anything of this sort? 

The main ‘gods’ of the pantheon of writers for me are, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Raymond Chandler, and Charles de Lint. But like the ancient Romans, there are many writers that I worship, each for their own special ability.

Do you align yourself with any other kind of genre in fiction? Which other kinds of media do you find amusing? Do you watch serials, movies, nowadays or of old? If so, which ones are your favorite?

I slide between fantasy and horror and sometimes can’t tell which I’m writing. The ‘world’ and characters that currently hold me in their grasp are set in an urban fantasy world. As for reading, I’ll devour jut about any speculative fiction. I can’t write sci-fi but I sure can read it and enjoy it. I love to spend my evening watching movies or good television shows. I’m a fan of anything Joss Whedon does, from Buffy to Avengers. But last night I watched Vivien Leigh portray Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’ and enjoyed it so… it doesn’t matter the media, I want to enjoy the moment, no matter the style, genre, or tale. If I enjoy it, it can be any medium or genre.

And what about music?

My tastes in music are fairly wide, including those artists or bands that perhaps I’d rather not admit to listening to in public. About the only thing I don’t generally find enjoyable is old style country and hip-hop – but there are exceptions to that as well. I grew up on Bee Gee’s, Supertramp, and Queen, and during my early teen years listening to Madonna and Prince. Later, I found The Cure and Depeche Mode. Now I often drive my truck listening to the ‘classic rock’ station. The play list on my computer is about as diverse as it comes.

What about some non-fiction and your philosophic worldview? Tell us a little bit of your whole take on things, philosophically speaking, and if that¥s conveyed in your works as well or not? Which are you favorite non-fiction authors, if any?

Philosophy I leave to my wife – she got a BA in it so it’s her territory. I believe that nothing happens without you working for it. That good and bad things happen to everybody, and it is how you deal with it that defines you. I have mental health issues and they impact my life greatly, but if I let them define me - I become them. If I complain and sulk because I was born this way, I let them control me. There are people out in the world far worse off than I am, and I have no excuse to not to do my best, and try to reach a little beyond that. That’s not to say a good temper tantrum once in a while isn’t good for the soul. As for my writing, I never intentionally put philosophy or morals into my stories. I think that is difficult not to do so unwittingly, however. Every writer places a part of themselves in their work, it goes with the territory. How much, or how intentionally, is the question. I rarely read non-fiction. If I do, it is usually research related. I can easily get lost in a book about mythology, the more obscure the culture the better. I had a great time reading the first three installments of Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Mask of God’ but I didn’t read the forth in the series because it was too modern in it’s focus.

So, tell us about your big new release. It is due for June, is that right?

‘Tomorrow Wendell’ will be my debut novel, which I hope is only the beginning of a series featuring Jonathan Alvey, a paranormal private detective, in a world where myth and monsters are real and magic is a drug. This character first saw print in the short story ‘ The Cost of Custody’ in ‘Shades & Shadows: A Paranormal Anthology’. The story was well received by the readers, and the publisher, Xchyler Publications, liked the character and the story quite a bit, so I submitted ‘Tomorrow Wendell’ to them. A short time later, I was delighted to get a contract for the novel in the mail. If I can keep on track, the novel will be released at the end of June of this year. There is still a lot of work ahead of me, but the team at Xchyler Publications are great people. They have already demonstrated to me that they are competent, and know how to bring out the best in me and my writing. In ‘Tomorrow Wendell’, Jonathan Alvey’s newest client is getting predictions he will die in three days. Everything, from horoscopes to fortune cookies, say the same thing. Jonathan tries desperately to find who or what is behind these predictions, and if they are prank or threat. As the hours pass, he struggles to keep his client alive against a variety of creatures of myth and legend, hoping to get past the predicted deadline – but the odds seem stacked against them both.

I guess that´s it. Thank you very much for this, Mr. Ridley.

I had fun and you asked some great questions, so in all honesty, I owe you the thanks.

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If you wish to follow R. M. Ridley on-line, he can be found at any of this links:

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