Regularly, we feature a different author, publisher or bookseller who has earned the RLK! seal of approval! We will highlight and review their books/company as well as providing author biographies (where available) and publishing information. We hope you enjoy RLK! Spotlight On....
RLK! EXCLUSIVE Author interview:
RLK! is delighted to be able to bring you this
exclusive interview with Rain Graves, one of the best up-and-coming horror writers
around. We'd like to thank Rain for her time and effort with this interview. Everybody...please
make Rain feel at home.
Photo credit: Victor Garrison
Richard Laymon Kills!: G'day Rain, thanks for
To get started, tell the readers of RLK! a little about yourself.
Rain Graves: When people ask me to tell them about
myself, I never really know what to say. There is the usual: I was born on October
28th, 1974 in Washington D.C. and moved out to California in 1995 to be a rock
star. I became a writer instead. I'm a quadruple Scorpio, which usually sends
people running, for good reason. I am addicted to horror. The more bizarre the
Aside from writing, I can dance a mean Argentine Tango and I used to play guitar
and sing when I lived on the East Coast. My dance partner and I recently won the
title "Best American Couple" in a competition last march, and we're going to Argentina
all expenses paid, care of the Argentinean government. I don't really play guitar
much these days, but I do still sing from time to time.
RLK!: How long have you been writing?
RG: Probably as long as I can remember. It was how
I got out of multiple-choice questions in school--taking the essay option. Later,
it was my saving grace on exams. It wasn't ever anything I took seriously back
then. There was a professor I had in college who took me aside once and told me
I should change my major from Broadcasting to English and focus on writing novels.
I told him he was crazy--I was going to play guitar in a rock band. The broadcasting
thing was just my safety net. I guess he wasn't so crazy after all.
RLK!: Most of your stories are within the horror/dark
fantasy genre, why?
RG: I'm not quite sure. I sit down sometimes, and
try to write things in a more literary way... Yet, when I get past the first paragraph
and begin developing my characters--a brain sucking, flesh-chewing zombie pops
up. Or a serial killer. Or a good kid, gone bad. (I loved the movie, The Bad Seed).
I think it's a fascination I've always had with things of a dark nature; I like
them. I think about them. I have a morbid sense of humor. I inspect the corpses
of my relatives very closely, for the stitching in the lips--where the makeup
has gone untouched, trying to understand why they don't look like themselves when
they are dead, aside from the soul leaving. It's still the same flesh, right?
Then why does it look so different, now that it's empty?
Much to my mother's bewilderment, it's probably her fault. When I was 12 I was
allowed to stay up while my parents were out and watch The Exorcist movie for
the first time. I slept with a Bible for a month after that, and I wasn't a religious
When I was 13 or 14, she gave me my first horror novel outside of the V.C. Andrews
FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC series, to read. It was called THE BLACK DAHLIA, by James
Ellroy. It terrified me. Mostly because I knew it was based on a true story (like
the Exorcist) and a murder that had never been solved. I don't think she would
have given me the book if she'd known what was in it. These things fueled my interest
and my imagination wildly.
RLK!: Tell us about some of your non-fiction writing.
RG: The nonfiction stuff mostly falls under the category
of interviews with other authors for other publications. I also write a lot of
horror-oriented poetry. Some articles, too. Occasionally an editor will email
me and ask for something out of the ordinary to report on, and I usually enjoy
projects like that.
I had the opportunity to write a "true" story for a project Lone Wolf Publications
just put out, which included some other wonderful writers like Gary Brandner and
Ramsey Campbell. It's called PERSONAL DEMONS. I also love digging up conspiracy
theories--like the JFK murder. King Tut's demise. True crime with a mystery has
wonderful possibilities and it fascinates me to no end.
I was once asked to look over a manuscript given to me by a musician friend of
a photographer friend--who'd been corresponding with a serial killer on death
row in Florida. He'd been a fan of hers, and harmless enough behind bars on death
row. This inmate has since been executed, but right before hand, he sent this
woman his journal. The journal turned out to be an extremely detailed account
of every killing he'd ever made... I was actually too chicken to read the manuscript
(remembering how I reacted to the Exorcist). Most people would have jumped at
the chance. At least, the people I know. Last I heard, Bob Rand--the fellow who
wrote on the Menendez Brothers--was going to have a go at editing it for publication.
I don't know what ever happened to it.
RLK!: Which is easier to write, horror or nonfiction?
RG: Poetry is probably the easiest of everything
for me. I can do that on the fly, anywhere, anytime. Then would be the horror.
Nonfiction is the hardest because it's true. You are taking something out of your
own life and putting it on paper for the world to read. With horror--you are making
stuff up. You know it's not real; and there is comfort in that. Nonfiction is
uncomfortable. Except of course, when writing about events or other people in
a third-party way. An article on Sarah Winchester is easy enough, and intriguing
RLK!: Who are some of your influences?
RG: I have a lot of influences. Obviously James Ellroy
was a big early one. Charles Bukowsky, Lord Alfred Tennyson--they were big ones
for my poetry. Clark Ashton Smith and Ray Bradbury were big ones for my fiction.
So was Hans Christian Anderson--those horrid little fairy tales often gave me
nightmares as a child. John Saul, Richard Laymon, Stephen King (early stuff),
Glen Cook, Neil Gaiman. I spent my later teen-age years buying up Sandman comics
like I bought up Spiderman when I was ten. Anything and everyone that made me
think--those were my influences.
And then there was Vincent Price. I *loved* Vincent Price. I don't really know
why. I only remember being at my grandmother's house as a child, watching Dr.
Phibes every summer--which usually came back to back with the movie Frogs, or
the Birds. The only reason I ever liked Michael Jackson was because of the song
Thriller, and Vincent Price's diatribe. Well, ok--that and the break dancing.
Later, his bizarre fascination with doing bad things to his face. His friendship
with Liz Taylor... That whole weird Disney thing. I'd love to write his biography.
RLK!: If you could co-write with any author, living
or dead, who would it be?
RG: I think I would have liked to write something
with Dick Laymon and Gary Brandner I respect their work immensely. Ray Bradbury
and Harlan Ellison (just to see if I could actually write that well). Poppy Z.
Brite or Clive Barker... I'm not even sure that I'd be up for the challenge--I
think it would be more or less that I would hope to some day write something that
those persons would have liked, or enjoyed as much as I've enjoyed things they've
RLK!: Are you a full-time writer, or do you have
other jobs outside the "writing gig?"
RG: I have a day job in computers that's flexible
enough for travel and writing related holidays. It pays the rent, and my horror-habit.
I also make a little money on the side from the tango dancing--I perform around
the Bay Area about once a month. It would be nice to write full-time. The reality
of it today is harsher than the 'dream' might allow. Unless you are Dean Koontz
or Stephen King, it's impossible to carve out a living writing horror in today's
RLK!: Have you had any luck breaking into the mainstream
NY publishing scene?
RG: I haven't really ever tried. I'm terribly bad
about sending work out once it's completed. I'm not even sure why. If it wasn't
for David N. Wilson, I don't think I would have ever sent out my very first manuscript
in 1997... There is a book I'm working on now that will be my first attempt at
mainstream, called THE SECRET LIFE. I really don't even know where to begin with
it (selling it to New York, that is), so I think I'll just finish it one day and
go from there. It's all up in my head, just a matter of getting it out now. Even
though it's mainstream, elements of horror keep cropping up with it.
Rain ready to Tango!
RLK!: What are your feelings about the small press
RG: I love the small press. There are so many gems
in it. So many amazing writers like Charlee Jacob, Jack Ketchum, John Pelan, John
Shirley and so on. These are the kinds of authors that influence me today--mostly
because you evolve as a reader as much as a writer. The more you delve into new
and curious things, the more you learn. I've learned a lot about beauty, craft,
and terror while reading these writers. I could have never read them without publishers
like Gauntlet Press and Necro Publications. They publish quality authors, and
I would never have been given the opportunities I've had as a writer without the
small press either. I owe my career to the industry, and I support it on all levels:
As a writer, a reader, and a fan.
I do wish there was a better way to promote and distribute small press authors.
For instance--I learned of Tom Piccirilli's work through his novel SHARDS. Since
then, he's gone mass-market with HEXES and the like. How many people can go and
find a copy of SHARDS these days? It's not easy. Charlee Jacob is another--I first
read her work in the way of a short story in the now defunct magazine Bloodsongs.
I became an instant fan... but it was so difficult to find her work outside of
going to conventions and buying a book there.
Thank the Gods for Mom and Pop, independent bookstores. They are the only places
likely to carry such titles. People should support them first, before buying a
book in Borders or Barnes and Noble. Places like Dark Delicacies in Burbank (a
horror writer haunt on any given day) keep the small press industry within a reader's
RLK!: How do you view your place within the horror/writing
community as a young female writer? Are there advantages...disadvantages?
RG: It's a little weird sometimes. Horror is written
predominantly by males. Horror is *read* however, by a 40-50% female audience.
I can't say being a woman has helped or hindered me in any way... Though I was
greatly intimidated attending my first convention as a writer. I found I was surrounded
by men--and I wondered how they would react to my work. Would they think it was
weak, because a woman wrote it? It was a silly notion, actually. Everyone I've
ever met bases writing on its merit, not the gender of its author.
RLK!: You were invited into BAD NEWS by Richard Laymon.
What are your thoughts and memories about Dick?
RG: I remember Dick as an amazingly genuine, kind,
funny guy. He was always smiling or laughing--unless he was flinching at something
gross. Dick was the kind of person you always hoped existed--the kind that helped
people he believed in, unconditionally, for no profit or gain of his own. He offered
sound advice, too. He was also a great author--the kind that doesn't concern themselves
with how to *be* an author. He concerned himself with how to tell a story, and
he always told a damn good one.
He was so unassuming, too. Always eager to have conversations with anyone and
everyone. I know a lot of people who had their first encounters with Dick when
they had no idea he was the man in the conversation next to them. They'd finish
talking, and after Dick wandered off elsewhere, they'd say something like, "That
guy was really cool. What was his name? I didn't catch it..." and someone would
say, "That was Richard Laymon." And a sudden look of awe and shock would cross
their face, growing in to a steady beaming smile.
The first time I met Dick was at World Horror Con in Phoenix, Arizona--I think
it was 1998. I had only ever attended one convention before. I had published very
little at the time, and I saw so many writers whose work I admired, and this intimidated
me. I felt like a little guppie in a great big sea of--well--great big smiling
scary whales with beers in hand (harmless enough, but scary all the same). I was
introduced to a lot of different people, but didn't know the first thing about
how to get them to seek out or read my work.
In the program there was a listing for the "Annual Gross Out Contest," with no
note on the judges, and a simple explanation of showing up, signing up, and stepping
up to read. The requirements were reading a 5-minute piece of your most visceral
work. I didn't know what to expect other than that.
When I showed up, I saw the judges were Jack Ketchum, Dick Laymon, John Pelan,
and Ed Lee. I instantly wished I hadn't signed up, but I figured if I my story
sucked that badly one way or the other, they might at least remember my name as
having given it a shot. I was so nervous. It was also my first public reading.
There must have been 50 people in the audience, at most. When I began, I kept
my head down and didn't look up. Then, I heard it: that noise a person makes when
his skin's crawling--a gulpy flinchy thing. I heard it again, and I began to feel
more confident that I was doing well--the noises were coming (along with heckles)
from the judges. I have since learned that if you are being heckled by the judges
(or they are making that noise), you are doing something right.
When I was done, there was applause and I was grateful. I won second place that
night--some "cricket-lick-it" lollypops and packages of Larvets (bar-b-que and
cheddar cheese flavored meal worms, which I'm told Ed Lee picked out all by himself).
Little did I know that I'd also won the respect of Dick Laymon--who came up to
me later and told me he thought it was the "most poetic piece of viscera" he'd
heard in a long time. He didn't know it then, but that simple shake of my hand
and words of praise encouraged me to take my writing more seriously than ever--and
I went home with a new friend, and new desire to not only write, but write *well*.
Rain at Dark Delicacies
RLK!: What are your fond memories of the BAD NEWS
RG: Probably the shock of having been invited to
write for it. Dick tracked me down through an ex-boyfriend's best friend--a year
after I'd done that first reading at World Horror. All I saw was an email address
in my inbox I didn't recognize, with the subject line "Bad News". I opened it
up only to find amazingly good news. Someone I regarded is a better writer than
Stephen King, had taken an interest to invite me to write for him.
In the same moment of glee, I was terrified of writing a bad story. I put on some
Nina Simone (the story was originally titled Lilac Wine, and contained lyrics
from it--but her publishing company wanted too much for the licensing of use)
and wrote "Lila Came A Walkin'" in a night or two. Sent it off to Dick, and within
a week he'd accepted it. I think I did a snoopy dance around my living room when
I got his letter.
RLK!: Briefly describe how you write a story - its
genesis, etc. What do you feel are the crucial elements that are essential to
any story - is mood more important than character or...?
RG: It usually begins as an idea. The light hitting
something a certain way...A weird thought I get, from a weird feeling as I'm walking
by a place that gives me the heebie-jeebies. I roll it over in my head a few times.
The "what ifs" come into play, and my imagination runs with them. What if that
spooky homeless guy that just grabbed my arm and mumbled, "I knew your mother
when she was Kali..." really *did* know some little boy's mother, and what if
she really *was* the incarnation of the goddess of birth and destruction.
What if the church the homeless man lived under had a secret sept somewhere in
the basement--walled with old turn of the century brick and the bones of priests
had been ground up in the mortar. What if they whispered the name "kali" as you
walked by--what IF... At that point you have to start writing it down, lest it
get away from you.
I think the crucial elements of a story are the characters and their ability to
be real for other people. You can't feel anything from a story, if you can't feel
the characters and what they are going through. Mood certainly is important, but
your characters can set the mood. A good setting adds to it. Events add to the
setting and the mood, while the characters enact them. You can always begin a
story with mood alone--most often that's what writing for anthologies tends to
be like. I prefer to have the people in mind first, though. It's the people you
wind up loving or hating, in the end.
RLK!: Do you consider yourself part of a "Goth" community
/ lifestyle? If so, what does "Goth" mean to you and how do you feel it influences
RG: I consider myself a part of a lot of things.
By day, I'm corporate. A Goth might not see a person dressed in a corporate way--black
or no black--as a Goth. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays--I'm a Tanguera--a
tango dancer. A Goth might see the vintage aspects of that, but not necessarily
come to the assumption that it's Goth. I suppose the answer to your question is
yes--but it's not always my lifestyle at any given moment, as my lifestyle is
Goth is a very tricky thing to define. I see Goths on newsgroups and e-lists trying
to do this all the time--there are so many definitions. Is it a mentality? Is
it a fashion statement? Is it the music? Are they all murderers and weirdoes who
do mean things to puppies? There are Perki Goths, Rivet Head Goths, Punk Goths,
Gothier Than Thou Goths, Vintage Goths, Corporate Goths, Nerd Goths, Not-A-Goths,
Mopey Goths, Vampire Goths, and just...well...Goths.
There are labels for everything, I would imagine. I would define it as a place
where people go when they don't particularly fit into any group or class, and
they enjoy wearing different shades of black, maybe think out of the norm of things,
and enjoy a morbid sense of humor. Quite frankly, a Goth could be you or your
daughter or your grandfather. With a little creepy clothing, and some black lipstick--maybe
some Switchblade Symphony, VNV Nation, or Sisters of Mercy in the CD changer...
I'm involved in the San Francisco Goth community very much. I used to edit fiction
for the SFgoth.com webzine ERRATA--which was devised by a DJ named Perki, who
did all the art and music features, while I took care of fiction and interviews.
It began as a service to the community--something for intelligent people who loved
dark fiction to read. It grew much larger than we could keep up with eventually,
which is why we had to shut it down. Two people cannot possibly maintain a website
that has grown into a hairy monster. You never have time to pee.
Now, I edit poetry for Gothic.net -- which I'm very happy about. I've been a long
time fan of the webzine.
RLK!: If you weren't a writer (or rock star), what
job would you have chosen?
RG: I think I'd be a scientist. Science has always
fascinated me. That, or an Egyptologist. I haven't ruled out the latter yet.
RLK!: Have you ever thought of teaming up with a
few other horror writers to form the world's first horror writer rock band? What
would you call the band?
RG: Haha! No, I've never thought of that. How about,
"Chucky?" No wait--we'd get into trademark trouble there. "The Traveling Vampire
Show," would be perfect if Dick hadn't thought of it first. Maybe just "Twisted
Sicker." Yes, that would do nicely.
RLK!: So, tell us about your future projects?
RG: I'm notorious for having my hands in too many
fig baskets--starting things and never finding the time to complete them because
I've started too many of them at once. I do eventually finish everything, but
it's slow going.
THE MOSIQIOUS is my first foot forward in full-length fiction. I'm courting publishing
interest now that the first three chapters are complete, and I'm plowing away
on the rest. It's horror and dark fantasy with a weird biological twist, mostly
about history repeating itself and humanity's inability to be...humane. It's depressing,
gory, and strangely uplifting in the latter parts. Its secrets are its charm.
THE SECRET LIFE is a mainstream romantic tragedy about the dark life of Argentine
Tango. It's NOT romance--though I wouldn't mind making a romance writer's salary
on it. Essentially, it's the story of the mysterious lifestyle of Tango, and how
it sucks people up and they become obsessed. It's not autobiographical, but it's
based a lot on my experiences and travels. One can't write about tango without
learning to dance it, nor can they learn to dance it without going to Buenos Aires
to understand how it began.
THE GODS OF GODS is a book that's all John Pelan's fault. It's a Lovecraftian
novel, currently on hold as I've no time to work on it. No one knows anything
about it yet. I've used points of true history to explain Lovecraftian mythos
and monsters in a story-like fashion. It began as a short story idea, really,
for John Pelan's CHILDREN OF CTHULHU book--but he urged me to make it into a novel.
So I did (and he was right--it's more a book than a story).
Rain and Gak
The artist Gak and I work on a lot of things together. MODERN MONSTERS is one
of them -- a graphic novel in which "heroes are ordinary people." Sort of a modern
day Antony and Cleopatra with a cyberpunk nasty edge. It was originally called
Danger Boy and Lightning Girl as a joke...until a certain Sandman writer explained
very gently that people wouldn't get it. The people who read old school comic
heroes would pick up the book and expect a Wonder Twins type thing. They'd be
disappointed when they read the first few pages and realized it was a dark, brooding,
adult-oriented comic about oppression, corruption, and greed in modern societies.
Likewise, the audience we'd hoped would read it would be put off at the get-go
from the name. We heeded his suggestion and changed the name. We're very excited
Dark Delicacies has the first (probably not any left) print we did of the main
I'm also in a sampler that Gauntlet is putting out sometime this November. Clive
Barker, R.C. Matheson, Richard Matheson, Barry Hoffman and others will be involved
as well. This is probably the collection I'm most excited about right now.
RLK!: Graphic novels have carved out a new niche
in the publishing world over the past few years, do you find writing comics easier
than straight fiction? Can you "go further" in graphic novels with subject matter
that you may have held back in normal fiction?
RG: Not necessarily. What holds me back in comics
is the format they must be presented in--the comic scripting process. What holds
me back in fiction is often how to end something, or how to twist what hasn't
yet been twisted without ruining it, or the fact that I'm excessively long-winded.
With a graphic novel, there is so much you can do with your characters, in so
little dialogue. With a full-length fiction novel, you are locked into certain
things that might be open to interpretation otherwise.
RLK!: Which do you prefer: short stories, nonfiction,
novels or graphic novels?
RG: I like them all best.
RLK!: Your website is wonderful to visit. Do you
find you spend a lot of time online updating pages and answering emails?
RG: Thank you! I don't really find a lot of time
to update it as often as I should. I do spend a lot of time answering emails I
get from it. It takes me a while, but I do answer all my mail.
RLK!: Dancing is another passion of yours. Tell us
more about dancing the tango with Jack Ketchum. That must have been some dance!
RG: We never actually danced the tango. Jack taught
me how to waltz, however. As a matter of fact, it was at a horror convention in
Atlanta, where there was dancing one night as part of the convention's offerings.
I was horrible at it, but he was stubborn about having me get it right--which
I'm thankful for. It certainly helped me later with the tango version of a waltz
and I'm quite certain he takes full credit for having given me my first dancing
RLK!: Rain, thanks for your time. We hope you'll
visit Australia one of these days. If so, dinner is on me!
RG: Why, thank-you very much! I promise not to gross
you out with talk of roaches and intestines, and the possibility of them laying
eggs in human flesh. At least, not while you're eating.
Here's a complete list of works by Rain Graves:
BLOOD OF A BLACK BIRD: A Collection of Dark Wings
& Wise Tales, introduction by John Shirley, illustrated by Gak. Forthcoming in 2002, under new
THE GOSSAMER EYE, co-written with Mark McLaughlin
and David N. Wilson, Tentative release planned for September 2002, Meisha Merlin
BAD NEWS edited by Richard Laymon, Cemetery Dance
OUTSIDE IT'S CAGE edited by Matt Johnson, Obsidian
DAUGHTER OF DANGEROUS DAMES edited by Tina Jens,
BEDLAM: MEMOIRS FROM A PADDED CELL, edited by ZuZu
Cypher, Firedance Literary Press
DARKNESS RISING edited by Mick Sims & Len Maynard,
Cosmo Books (this story is CO-written with Mark McLaughlin)
HOURS OF DARKNESS edited by Lorelei Shannon & Marti
McKenna, Scorpius Digital Publishing (ebook anthology, Microsoft Reader format) http://www.scorpiusdigital.com
RED, RED, ROBIN PROJECT audio anthology, edited by
Brian A. Hopkins, LoneWolf Publications (collaborative round robin with 6 authors)
NOIROTICA 4, edited by Thomas Roche
SPECULATIVE MICRO FICTION, (fantasy section) edited
by David Kopaska-Merkel
PERSONAL DEMONS CD-ROM anthology edited by Garrett
Peck, LoneWolf Publications
EXCITABLE BOYS, edited by Kelly Laymon, FreakPress
BLOOD OF A BLACKBIRD special Advance Edition Chapbook,
"Gauntlet Press Sampler" special release of fiction/poetry
by Gauntlet Press authors, Gauntlet Press (fall 2001)!
The Urbanite, #11
Nasty Piece of Work, #14 (UK)
Gauntlet #18, 20
Blackpetals Fall, Winter 1999
Interviews with Neil Gaiman, John Shirley, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Poppy Z. Brite,
Barry Hoffman, Michael Marano, Terry Pratchett, Jack Ketchum (Errata, Hellnotes,
Work and Horror, JobsInHell Newsletter (2000)
My Ra, Storm Constantine's Lady of the Flame Iseum website (Late Dec. 2000)
The Dark Side of Hollywood, JobsInHell Newsletter #58
Neil Gaiman: The JIH Profile (co-written with Michael McCarty), JobsInHell #73
Investigative Report: storyXchange, Hellnotes (last week of April, first of May
TwilightTales Author of the Month, Dec. 1999, Domestic U.S.
ChiZine (Chiaroscuro Webzine) #2, #4, Forthcoming issue 2001
The Cabinet of Dr. Casey--Tales from the Internet, story CO-written with David
N. Wilson, issue #1
Bad Dreams: Online Journal of the Dark, #5
Lost Ages Chronicle Webzine October 2000 Horrorfind.com November 2000