At Kendall Reviews I’m delighted to welcome Rio Youers. Rio is a British Fantasy Award-nominated author whose short fiction has been published in many notable anthologies, and his novel, Westlake Soul, was nominated for Canada’s prestigious Sunburst Award. Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife, Emily, and their children.
Rio’s latest novel Halcyon was published by St. Martin’s Press in the USA and Canada, and by Titan Books in the UK. It’s available everywhere books are sold.
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
I’m a British-Canadian writer, and I’ve been writing stories since I was very young. Five, six years old, maybe. At sixteen I decided that writing stories would be a good way to earn a living, so I wrote a short story called The Dog and sent it to a magazine. It didn’t take long for the rejection slip to come through (The Dog was, in fairness, a very bad story, although it showed some promise for a sixteen-year-old), but I found the possibility of being published, in a real magazine, immensely enticing. Many more rejections followed, of course. I used them to fuel and educate me. Eventually, I was a strong enough writer for an editor to cut me a cheque. That was a good day, believe me.
That’s a little about my humble beginning as a writer. I guess we’ll find out more about me through the following answers.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
I enjoy spending time with my family. I have two young children who fill my day with light, Lego, and love. I adore reading, of course—I’ve always got a book on the go. Often more than one. I enjoy listening to music. I play guitar in a band, and that’s a lot of fun. I also enjoy TV and movies (there’s so much great stuff to see right now), and I play video games (probably too many) that are driven by story and character.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
I don’t know if I have a specific favourite, but I loved Stig of the Dump, (by Clive King) when I was a little kid, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, of course.
Somewhere around ten years old I discovered the Pan Books of Horror Stories—a long series edited by Herbert Van Thal—and devoured those one after the other. And then, as a young teenager, I made the jump to James Herbert and Stephen King. I was hooked from that point on.
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
I have many go-to albums, and I consider them all favourites. But my all-time favourite is The Wild, the Innocent, & the E-Street Shuffle by Bruce Springsteen. Track after track, it’s an epic piece of work, with theatrical, visual storytelling and a huge, full-band sound. I love it.
Music inspires me, so it does play a role in my writing. Sometimes directly (I’ve written several music-themed stories), but more often in the background. I have a soundtrack, or playlist, for every book I have written. Even my short fiction has a theme tune. For example, I listened to “Burn” by Nine Inch Nails, pretty much on a loop, while writing “Outside Heavenly.” It was a perfect fit for the story, and gave the writing a real groove.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
A favourite horror movie? Hmm … I really like An American Werewolf in London, but The Exorcist holds a special place in my heart, as does Dracula A.D. 1972, The Changeling, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (what unsettles me about Chainsaw isn’t Leatherface, but that the whole freakin’ family is in on the act; they’re all nuts!). You can also add The Evil Dead to the list, and Rosemary’s Baby was pretty creepy, as well. But if I had to pick only one … okay: American Werewolf, just because I dig the scene where the police inspector get his head bitten off and it bounces across the hood of his car. Also, it’s still—thirty-seven years later—the best werewolf transformation on film.
As for a favourite director. There are many great horror directors: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, David Cronenberg. But I have to go with George A. Romero. Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow, Martin. Dude was a legend.
KR: What are you reading now?
The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paul Tremblay. It’s amazing, and I’m not at all surprised. Paul is on fire right now.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
I’m going to subtly change this question to: Who are the authors that inspire you to write? Because I continue to be inspired, and continue to learn. And honestly, there are so many. I’m really only going to scratch the surface here: Graham Greene, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Dennis Lehane, J.K. Rowling, Elmore Leonard, Peter Straub, Margaret Atwood, George Orwell. I want to mention Christopher Golden, too. Not only is he a great writer, but his work ethic is off the chart, and he’s a true champion for the speculative fiction community—so generous with his time and wisdom. How can you not be inspired by that? And no interview question regarding inspiration can be answered without mentioning Stephen King. I mean, he’s a force of nature—the greatest story teller to ever live. I’m a peace-loving vegetarian, but I’ll go toe-to-toe with anyone who says differently.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I usually have a few key scenes in mind and build around these. It’s a terrifying way to write, and it doesn’t always work out. But when it does, it’s magic. There’s no other way to describe it. Novels like Halcyon and The Forgotten Girl came together beautifully … but there was a good deal of adjustment throughout the writing and editing stage for everything to appear seamless. I’m a slow writer, too, so that helps. I deliberate way too much, which (I think) means I run into fewer brick walls … at least walls that aren’t so high I can’t clamber over them.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do some research before beginning a book, but most of it is done as I truck along. What kind? Well, that depends on the book. It’s usually quite harrowing, unfortunately, because I deal with harrowing subject matter. For Halcyon I had to research, among other things, mass shootings and terrorism across the United States. It wasn’t fun. I even had to research how to make a car bomb, which I’m pretty sure placed me on just about every FBI watch list. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Even in my darkest fiction, there are occasions to Google something like, “Top TV shows from the 1980s” or to use Google maps to get the layout of a street in … I don’t know, Brooklyn, say. The Internet is a blessing and a curse. It’s a massive distraction, but an invaluable research tool.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
I’m a morning person. I like to get up early, brew some coffee, and go to work. Quite often I leave the house to do this, to remove myself from the many distractions. Ideally, I like to have most of my writing done by 11 a.m., which gives me the afternoon to send emails, post (nonsense or book-related stuff) to social media, and perhaps add to the 700 to 1,000 words I managed that morning. It doesn’t always work out that way, though. Like I said earlier, I have two young children, and they tend to shake things up quite a bit.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
My favourite of my short stories is probably “Wide-Shining Light,” published in Psycho-Mania, and edited by Stephen Jones, or “Depth,” published in Shivers 7, edited by Richard Chizmar. I’m also very fond “The Typewriter,” which was recently published in New Fears 2 from Titan Books, edited by Mark Morris.
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
Some of them. Probably most of them. But I have a hard and fast rule that I only look on Goodreads on the first day of every month.
KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?
Embrace your rejections and learn from them.
KR: What scares you?
Donald Trump is pretty terrifying, isn’t he?
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
All of them. Reading is bliss, in any format. That being said—and I say this as a peace-loving vegetarian—you can’t beat the smell of a dead tree.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
My new novel, Halcyon, is about an island community in the middle of Lake Ontario, a seemingly idyllic place that offers respite to Americans who have lost faith in their country, and in society as a whole. The novel’s main protagonist, Martin Lovegrove, moves his family to Halcyon in an effort to heal, and to restore some hope, in the aftermath of a personal tragedy. However, he soon suspects that there is more to the island than meets the eye, and that something sinister lurks beneath the surface. Desperate to keep his family safe, he sets out to discover the truth about Halcyon and its enigmatic founder, Mother Moon.
There’s a lot going on in the novel. It’s deep and incredibly dark, with some truly tense and disturbing scenes. I worked very hard on bringing the characters—both good and evil—to life. The reviews, so far, have been excellent, and I couldn’t be more proud.
KR: What are you working on now?
I’m working on a balls-to-the-wall action thriller called Lola on Fire. It’s Quentin Tarantino meets Martin Scorsese with a cool helping of Elmore Leonard. It’s wild and violent and I’m having a blast with it. If the writing continues to go well, I expect it to be published in the first half of 2020.
KR: You find yourself on a desert island. Which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
a) One fictional character from your writing.
One of my own characters? Hmm, this is difficult. All of my characters are messed up in some way—some of them are seriously messed up—but they have their qualities, too. So … okay, let’s say Harvey Anderson from The Forgotten Girl, because he’s friendly, resourceful, and he can play guitar.
b) One fictional character from any other book.
A fictional character. This is easy. Piggy from Lord of the Flies, because I’d like to give him a better island experience than he had last time. I would treat Piggy kindly. We’d be bros.
c) One real life person that is not a family member or friend.
My real life person would be Tomoe Gozen, a female samurai badass from the twelfth century, because us fraidy-cat dudes would definitely need someone to protect us from pirates and sharknados.
KR: Thank you very much Rio.
You can find out more about Rio via his official website www.rioyouers.com
Rio’s author page can be found here
Please follow Rio on Twitter @Rio_Youers
HALCYON is the answer for all Americans who want to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems. A beautiful island in the middle of Lake Ontario – a self-sustaining community made up of people who want to live without fear, crime, or greed. Halcyon is run by Valerie Kemp, aka Mother Moon, benevolent and altruistic on the outside, but hiding an unimaginable darkness inside. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing. And she believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure. On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. He soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer and sets out to discover the truth – however terrible it might be – behind the island and its mysterious founder, Mother Moon.