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Rick R. Reed Pumps Up the Volume

By, Vince A. Liaguno

Rick Reed is a busy guy. Probably the busiest guy in dark genre fiction right now. With an astounding four novels slated for release in 2008 alone, the man Unzipped magazine once called “the Stephen King of gay horror” has nary the time to take a breath in an unconventional literary career that’s now bearing fruits aplenty.

ReedPic3.jpgReed’s professional writing career began in the early 90’s with the publication of two novels under Dell’s popular horror imprint, Abyss. Obsessed, about a serial killer who believes he’s a vampire terrorizing Chicago, and Penance, which concerned street kids in Chicago’s uptown and the pedophile who preys upon them, went on to sell an impressive 80,000 copies and suggested great things to come for the Ohio-born dark scribe. 2000’s A Face Without a Heart, Reed's modern-day take on the Oscar Wilde classic The Picture of Dorian Gray, further cemented his growing reputation as a literary voice on the rise.

In October of 2006, Reed relocated from his longtime home in Chicago to Miami with his partner, Bruce, and their Boston Terrier. Judging from his fiction output in the few short years since that move, it would appear that the sunny skies over Miami had the effect of a caffeine drip on his writing. His short story collection, Twisted: Tales of Obsession and Terror, kicked off that year and was followed by In the Blood, a tragic vampire love story that followed a streetwalker / artist in parallel storylines set in the abstract expressionist art scene in 1950s Greenwich Village and modern-day Chicago.

In 2007, Reed released IM, the story of a gay serial killer who uses internet hook up sites to lure his victims – which I called “the gay version of S7ven” in my review for the horror site Unspeakable Horror. The book was well-received by fans – straight and gay alike - and attracted the interest of Daniel Farrands, noted screenwriter (The Girl Next Door, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers) and documentary director (the History Channel’s documentaries on the Amityville Horror and the upcoming comprehensive documentary on the iconic Friday the 13th film series).

And in 2008? One needs a scorecard to keep track of Reed’s projects this year. He began with the supernatural thriller Deadly Vision, a story with his patented blend of serial killers and the supernatural. High Risk is Reed’s latest, an updated Fatal Attraction-like tale that takes the idea of desperate housewives to an entirely new level, and he’s found time to appear in a new four-author horror collection featuring three of his short stories called Like a Chinese Tattoo . Still to come: a dark love story called Orientation that takes on reincarnation and ponders the idea of an emotional love overriding the hard wiring of sexual orientation and Dead End Street, Reed’s first foray into the young adult market.

In between his days spent with the gay serial killers, psychic lesbians, reincarnated lovers, and desperate housewives of his macabre dark fiction, Reed finds time to blog regularly and interacts with his readers via his very active MySpace page. It’s not uncommon to find sexy anecdotes, politics, and humor thrown in between new book announcements that seem to come weekly.

Somewhere between writing, blogging, partnering and parenting, and loving life (we’ve determined he can’t possibly eat, drink or sleep), Reed sat down poolside in his tropical paradise of a backyard to chat with DSM and share the secret of how he pulls it all off.

Dark Scribe Magazine: You’ve been quite a busy guy lately. Let’s start off with High Risk. Tell us something about the new book.

Rick Reed: An early reader compared High Risk to Fatal Attraction, except from a female cheating spouse’s point of view. ReedHighRiskCover.jpgI liked that comparison, because I think Fatal Attraction was probably one of the best suspense movies I’ve ever seen. Of course, in my version, the cheating spouse doesn’t get off as easily as Michael Douglas. Pun intended.

Dark Scribe: No gay or lesbian main characters? A bit of a departure from previous efforts. Conscious decision or just the way the cards fell in terms of the story?

Rick Reed: No, I didn’t sit down and say, “Now I will write a book that will not have gay characters in the main roles.” Goofy as it sounds, my characters come to me, wanting me to tell their stories. And this time, the central characters just happened to be an adulterous housewife with too much time on her hands, playing Russian roulette with sexual partners. She was so obsessed with guilt and worried about ending up with HIV that she hardly even saw it coming when a very handsome—and very psychotic—man came into her life and turned it upside down.

Dark Scribe: Deadly Vision also hit bookshelves this past January. This one was told through the POV of a lesbian protagonist, and quite well, I might add. How did you get inside this particular character’s head?

Rick Reed: Thanks, Vince. I hate to sound all mystical, but I got inside my lesbian protagonist’s (Cass’s) head just like I thDeadlyVisionCover.jpgget inside any other character’s head: I just sit down and start writing. I always seem to kind of slip under and start seeing the world through the eyes of whatever character I’m writing about. In the case of a lesbian woman, I think I can write through her eyes because we’re both human and both share many of the same feelings, longings, hopes, and disappointments. I have had people ask me about writing a “lesbian” book, but I pretty much assert that I am not writing books about gay men, or lesbians, or straight women, but about people. Their sexuality is just one aspect of their personalities. Just like in real life! I think we have far more things that bond us together as human beings than we have things that set us apart.

Dark Scribe: How have lesbian readers responded? Are they impressed with the character’s authenticity as well?

Rick Reed: From the time I read the prologue at last year’s Golden Crown Literary Society’s annual convention in Atlanta to when the book first came out on StarCrossed Productions’ website and immediately sold out, I think lesbian readers have been very happy with this effort. Both the convention I mentioned and the website are devoted to lesbian fiction. Of course, the book is really a suspense novel, and the fact that the main character is a lesbian is only secondary to the narrative drive of the story. Cass’s sexuality may play a larger role in upcoming books about her.

Dark Scribe: Next up, you’ve got Orientation and your first young adult novel, Dead End Street. What can you tell us about these projects?

Rick Reed: Orientation comes out next month and I’m very excited about it because it too is something of a departure for thmed_Orientation.jpgme. Although it has aspects of the paranormal (reincarnation), it is really a love story that asks some deep and probing questions. Aside from the strange love story between the two main characters, a gay man and a lesbian, this is the first book in which I confront the horror of AIDS in its early days and another plague on the gay community: crystal meth addiction. Early readers and my editor both have told me the book made them cry, which is always affirming to hear that you’ve affected someone on such a deep level.

Dead End Street is also different (gee, do you think I like to fool around with lots of different genres and forms…I’m kind of a promiscuous slut when it comes to writing, huh?). It’s my first young adult novel. It’s about five misfit kids who form a Halloween Horror Club in which they tell scary stories in an infamous abandoned house in their small town. The house has been empty since an entire family was murdered there years ago. But the kids, as they start to find out, may not be alone in the house. The dread builds slowly but surely. Some of my early YA readers have blessed it with their “read it in one sitting” suspense seal of approval.

Dark Scribe: How difficult was it transitioning from the more overt bloodiness and sexiness of your adult novels to writing for young adults? Any YA writers out there lend some support or words of wisdom?

Rick Reed: It wasn’t difficult because, again, my characters did the work for me. And they were all around thirteen or fourteen years old. So, writing through their eyes helped me keep the narrative on track and to make it appealing (I hope) for readers in that age range. I didn’t get any help from any YA authors because the writing process for me is a pretty solitary endeavor. I usually don’t show any of my work to anyone until it’s finished and polished. I have a fourteen year old niece, Mallory, back in Ohio who, whether she knows it or not, helps keep me attuned to what works for readers in that age group. Mal is a voracious reader (and loves horror!) and I do take note to what she’s reading and what she likes (most recently Stephanie Meyer’s excellent Twilight books).

Dark Scribe: Four books in twelve months’ time. Do you eat, sleep? Seriously, what’s your trick to such a substantial output?

ReedPic2.jpgRick Reed: It’s all smoke and mirrors, honey. Actually, since I’ve been so fortunate lately in getting things published, people ask me that question a lot (even the sleep and eat part…and believe me, I never miss a meal or my eight hours). The truth is that a lot of good things have come together for me all at once. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve written every one of these projects all at once. Some of them were written, put away, revised, sent back out, put away, revised, sent back out. You know how it goes. So, having four books out in a year does not mean I’ve written four in a year. You also have to consider that it can often take a while for a book to go from submission to being for sale in a bookstore. But I will say that I have learned over the years to be very disciplined about my writing and where, once upon a time, I would let months pass where I didn’t write, I now write faithfully almost every day.

Dark Scribe: Your books often cross (and re-cross) genre lines. Is it difficult for you to straddle the line between genres?

Rick Reed: It’s difficult for me to straddle a picket fence (and I have the scar to prove it!). Genres…not so much. My writing is about telling the kind of stories I want to read (and that I hope someone else will want to as well). I can’t say that I start out with a genre in mind. I start out with a situation, a conflict, and some characters. A story develops from those things. I let someone else decide what labels go on each story. Some people call IM a “mystery;” others a “thriller;” still others, “horror.”

Dark Scribe: Sexuality also plays an important part in your work. How difficult is it to maintain a balance between the horror/suspense elements and the sexual elements in your books? Is there an imaginary tipping point between the horror/suspense and all-out erotica?

Rick Reed: Again, it goes back to my characters and their stories. I would hope that sexuality grows organically out of their relationships to other characters. I don’t ever stick it in (sex, I mean) just because I think it would be titillating or that the story needs some hot action. I think there is a tipping point between erotica and horror/suspense, but I don’t think I ever reach that point because I’m more interested in concentrating in the horror/suspense…the sex is just an added dimension for me. For other writers, it’s the opposite.

Dark Scribe: Somewhere between multiple novel projects, you found time to join David Thomas Lord, JA Konrath, and Cullen Bunn for the Like a Chinese Tattoo anthology from Dark Arts Books. What can you tell us about your contributions, and how was the experience working with this relatively new press?

Rick Reed: Bill Breedlove, the editor of Like a Chinese Tattoo, was kind enough to contact me and asked me to be one of the authors in the book when he was putting it together. I was honored, but initially leaned toward turning him down because I really didn’t have time. But he assured me that whatever I submitted would be in (which was a new experience for me and extremely flattering) and that I could submit one previously published story. I gave him one of my darkest—and best, I hope—previous stories, which was “Moving Toward the Light.” The story originally appeared in The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams, an anthology edited by James O’Barr, who created the original Crow graphic novel upon which the films were based and featuring the works of people like Iggy Popp, Henry Rollins, Andrew Vacchs, Nancy Collins, and other terrific writers. I’m glad that story will reach some new readers. I also included a story that’s my take on one of literature’s most famous vampire hunters, and a little preview of another upcoming novel, a short story that’s very twisted, called “Stung.”

The people at Dark Arts have been some of the most supportive I have worked with in terms of marketing and getting behind the book. For example, at last month’s World Horror Convention, they debuted the book and held an all-night long pajama party in honor of its release.

Dark Scribe: IM – your gay serial killer novel – has been optioned for film. If you were to land the job of casting agent im.jpgon the film, who would your choices be for the key roles?

Rick Reed: Wouldn’t that be a great gig to have? Casting agent? Imagine the power and the fun you could have. Casting agents probably would beg to differ, but the grass is always greener. Anyway, my dream cast would include Macaulay Culkin as the serial killer, Timothy Bright, Jake Gyllenhall as the tortured detective, Stockard Channing as Aunt Helene, and I would hope a bevy of up and coming out and proud actors jostling for position as the victims. Well, I can dream… But Daniel Farrands, the guy behind the possible film, has been talking with some interesting indie-type people about the possibility of casting some of the roles.

Dark Scribe: Unzipped magazine once called you “the Stephen King of gay horror.” Has that blurb helped or hurt in terms of reader expectation? Has it limited/relegated you in any way to the role of “gay horror writer?”

Rick Reed: I am so happy Unzipped made that little comparison. I have probably gotten more mileage out of that than any other quote. Since I have been a huge Stephen King fan since I was a kid, it’s a great honor to me to even be mentioned in the same breath with him. I don’t think the comparison has been limiting and, as I’ve mentioned before, I leave labels to those who do the labeling. I’m just a storyteller.

Dark Scribe: You maintain a very active MySpace blog, one that’s seemingly quite popular with your fans. Some of your entries are quite personal and political in nature. Do you ever fear that this level of familiarity with Rick Reed, the person, might detract from the effectiveness of Rick Reed, the author?

ReedPic1.jpgRick Reed: I’m too old to worry about such things. I’m also too old to be too concerned over what people think about me. I like to think that my blogs help people get to know me better as a person (and that includes my personal life and political and ideological beliefs). I don’t ask that people agree with me, I just want to show them a side of me they may not get from reading my fiction alone. And I believe that this level of familiarity can only help the effectiveness of Rick Reed the writer, because I think people respond to someone who’s honest and willing to share with them as individuals and not just potential readers.

Dark Scribe: There are many naysayers out there who roll their eyes at celebrity opinions on politics or issues outside of their particular craft - whether acting or music or writing – and take the stance of “who cares what they think?” As a notable craftsman in your field, why do you think people are interested in your views?

Rick Reed: As I said, I don’t put forth my views with any expectations that people will agree with me. I’m just one person, with opinions on many different things. My biggest hope for my blogs is that they make people think, or laugh, or, hopefully, remember me. But no, I don’t believe my opinion on most topics carries more weight than anyone else’s.

Dark Scribe: While we’re on politics, let’s detour for a moment. If the Democratic candidates actually listen to their constituents and combine forces, would you rather a Clinton-Obama ticket or an Obama-Clinton ticket? Why?

Rick Reed: Now, see, my feeling is first: why would anyone care what I think about this? The truth is, without going into a lot of why’s, is that I would prefer the Clinton-Obama ticket. But I also would be extremely happy if it went the other way—I think either combination would be unbeatable.

Dark Scribe: You’ve embraced the use of book trailers in promoting your novels. As a marketing tool, how effective would you say these videos have been for you?

Rick Reed: I have no idea, honestly. They’re fun to help put together with the producer I use and I think they work well as a visual representation of what my books are about. These days, I think such visual representations are important…as well as having a presence on uber sites like YouTube.

Dark Scribe: Is there such a thing as “queer horror?” Which is more important to you as a writer – the “queer” or the “horror?”

Rick Reed: Neither. The story and the characters are what matter. Queer and horror inform my characters and my stories because they’re so enmeshed in my personal life that they’re impossible to sort out.

Dark Scribe: What’s life like for Rick Reed, the person, when not hunched over a computer screen writing?

Rick Reed: One thing I’ve come to realize over the course of the years is that family is the most important thing in life. ReedPic4.jpgAnd that’s where I am when I’m not writing…with my partner, Bruce, and our spoiled Boston Terrier, Lily. I also love to make opportunities to see my son, Nicholas, in Montreal, and my sisters and their families in Ohio.

Dark Scribe: Looking back, what’s the biggest mistake/regret in terms of your writing career?

Rick Reed: (begins to croon) “Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do, and saw it through without exemption. I planned each charted course; each careful step along the byway, but more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

(laughs) Sorry for the lapse into channeling Frank Sinatra. I don’t really have a lot of regrets. Sure, there have been mistakes and things I might have done differently - and better - but everything I’ve done along my own path was a learning experience, and both the good and the bad contributed to who I am today…good or bad.

To learn more about Rick R. Reed, visit his official author website.

Posted on Friday, April 18, 2008 at 10:24AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | CommentsPost a Comment

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