I (C Dulaney) recently had the awesome opportunity to interview Mr. R. Thomas Riley, co-author of If God Doesn’t Show. Or rather, he was tazered and dragged into the interrogation room. Let’s see what information we could get out of him, shall we?
Since we both write for Permuted Press, I’m going to pretend I know nothing about you or your writing. So, if you want to start out by telling us a little about yourself, here’s your chance.
I wrote my first story when I was 15 and had no clue what I was doing. I was an avid reader growing up and devoured every book I could get my hands on. Trying my hand at writing myself was a natural progression. I found I had stories I wanted to tell, rather than read them. I wrote stories and even a novel for the next five years. They were all completely and utterly dreck and horrible.
I was raised in a very sheltered environment and my parents were (and very much so) hardcore Independent Baptists. I was only allowed to read the Bible, but at around age 7, I discovered fiction from the likes of Stephen King, Bentley Little, and Dean Koontz and my love of the horror genre was born. I had to hide these types of books from parents and I spent many, many late nights hiding under the covers being scared by these wonderful books.
Around 2000 I started hanging out in writing chat rooms and the rest, as they say, is history. I still didn’t know what I was doing for the next few years. I had no idea how the publishing business worked, but fortunately, in those chat rooms I began to interact with fellow authors, many of which I read previously. They took me under their wings and taught me the ropes and the ins and outs of the business. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the likes of Ray Garton, Douglas Clegg, Tom Piccirilli, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, among many others, taking the time to talk to an aspiring writer. I make it a point to pay that forward as best I can with the writers coming up behind me today.
I’ve always been interested in co-authoring something. What was that experience like and how, exactly, does it work?
Every collaboration project is different. What may work for one collab, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Currently, I write with Roy C. Booth, John Grover, and Jason Brannon. I’ve collaborated with other authors, but those turned out badly.
Collaborating requires an intense amount of trust to work correctly. With Roy and John, we are so in sync and have such similar tastes in fiction that we work very well together, but even these collabs are conducted much differently.
With John, when I brought the idea of writing If God Doesn't Show I had 30,000 words done on the project already. He merely jumped in, read what I had, and continued the story. We worked so well together, even I started to have trouble seeing who wrote what, our styles were so similar. At this point, I can start a sentence, and he’ll be able to finish it.
With Roy, it’s an entirely different process. There is much more discussion before we even begin to write, hours and hours of plotting beforehand, and maneuvering. With his vast experience in comics and movies, he’s more attuned to what has come before and he’s been reading much, much longer than I have (yeah, he’s old, haha) so he knows what’s been done fictionally before. While I grew up cutting my “reading” teeth on 80’s and 90’s horror, he more of a horror classical guy. This really complements our two styles, as well.
Jason is a new addition. We’ve known of each other for about 10 years now, getting published in many of the same mags, anthologies, and with some of the same small presses. We’re working on our first project together and we’re still feeling each other out, but I think it’ll be a good fit.
Tell us about If God Doesn’t Show. And I don’t want the back-cover summary here. Really spill some beans without angering the Gods of Spoil.
If God Doesn't Show is a culmination of writing about a character for a decade now. There’s a lot going on in this novel. There are zombies, demons, angels, and ancient gods. You’ve probably heard write what you want to read if it isn’t out there and that’s basically what John Grover and I did. John and I approached our zombies from a completely different angle and from what the readers have said; we seemed to have nailed it. These aren’t your typical zombies and I hope we’ve brought something fresh to the mythos.
I drew heavily on my own military experience and the stories I’ve heard from my buddies in the various branches. Most of the events, especially in regards to the nuclear strikes that occur in the storyline, are as accurate as I could make them without revealing too much “real world” tactics. This novel is the second book in my on going series about Gibson Blount, with The Flesh of Fallen Angels being the first book. John and I are hard at work on book 3, and books 4-6 are plotted and just waiting to be written. Of course, this all depends on the first two books in the series being successful, so go out and buy them, read them, and leave reviews.
I believe you have other work out there for folks to read. Tell us about that and other plans you might have for future works.
I currently have two short story collections available. The Monster Within Idea (previously published by Hugo Nominated Apex Publications) and Their Last Dying Acts. I also have a new novel called Husks, a highly experimental novel that is quite different from my usual style and content. As I said in my previous answer, my collaborators and I are deep into writing and planning the Gibson Blount series and I’d like to hope I could concentrate on his stories for at least the next decade!
When you read, do you prefer pre-apocalyptic, shit-as-it’s-hitting-the-fan, or post-apocalyptic stories, and why?
I like both, if they’re done right. To write a good pre-or-post apocalyptic novel research is key, if the author neglects this crucial aspect, then they’ve failed before they’ve even written the first sentence. Readers today are an extremely savvy bunch and if you’re writing about guns, military tactics, or whatnot, you, as the author, better know your subject like the back of your hand. Personally, I’m more curious to read about the post-apocalyptic scenarios, as I like to see how authors deal with the aftermath and how society picks up and carries on.
I think we’ve all been asked this one, but I can’t not ask. What are your thoughts on the current zombie craze?
I absolutely LOVE it! There’s just so much out there to consume, pun intended. It’s a great time for the zombie genre, from comedies, to outright horror, and everything in between.
True or False: The Walking Dead is awesome.
I have a love/hate relationship with the TV show. One minute, I’ll be screaming mad at the screen, the next I’m completely in love with the show. Still, it’s among one of the best shows on TV at the moment.
If you could only pick ONE, in which sub-genre would you most prefer to write?Apocalyptic. What can I say, I like destroying the world and being sadistic to my characters.
What’s the very best piece of advice you’ve ever received? This doesn’t have to pertain to writing.
Never stop learning or be complacent with your writing ability. Always strive to be better. The learning never stops, ever.
Writer’s block: real or imagined?
Imagined. If a project isn’t working for you, there’s plenty of other stuff to write about.
What’s your process? Take us through a day in the writing life of Mr. Riley.
Research is key in my work. I want to be as realistic as I can and I like to write stories that’ll make the reader think, “This could really happen.” It took me a few years to realize that every great idea I have doesn’t necessarily make a good story. At this point in my career, I don’t write a story or novel until I have a contract or a very real interest from a publisher. It’s simply not an adequate use of my time to spend six months on something I’m going to have a hard time selling.
Depending on the project, I may or may not outline. Each project is different. I write best under a deadline, so when possible, I make it a point to have one.I have a full time job, so my writing time is limited, but I’m never not writing in my head, so by the time I actually have the time to sit down and put words to paper, I know exactly where I’m headed and what I need to accomplish.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? And don’t lie, everyone has one.
In your opinion, what’s the best way to handle a bad review? Not just bad, but the kind that makes you want to take a fork to someone.
First, see if there’s any merit to the review. You have to realize (and be at peace with) that what you write isn’t going to be liked by every reader. If there’s no merit or anything to learn from the bad review, I just off them in a story.
If you were only able to write one more story, just ONE, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s a tough one, but I’d have to go with apocalyptic scenarios.
Okay, if you haven’t already talked about it (or even if you have) here’s your one chance to pimp anything and everything you can think of.
Pick up If God Doesn't Show and The Flesh of Fallen Angels. Read, review, and rate!
Pick up If God Doesn't Show and The Flesh of Fallen Angels. Read, review, and rate!
Return... in some time for when R. Thomas Riley interviews Craig DiLouie! As for my part (Thom Brannan) I apologize for the huge break in interviews. Blame it on me, take away my birthday, whatever you have to do. Ayuh.