Multi-Award Winning Author Steve Rasnic Tem talks to Kendall Reviews

One of the finest and most productive writers of imaginative literature in North America.”—Dan Simmons

Steve Rasnic Tem’s collaborative novella with his late wife Melanie Tem, The Man On The Ceiling, won the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild awards in 2001. He has also won the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, and British Fantasy Awards for his solo work. His recent novel UBO (Solaris, January 2017) is a dark science fictional tale about violence and its origins, featuring such historical viewpoint characters as Jack the Ripper, Stalin, and Heinrich Himmler. Steve’s novel Blood Kin (Solaris, March 2014), won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award. His previous novels are Deadfall Hotel (Solaris, 2012), The Man On The Ceiling (Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, 2008, written with Melanie Tem as an expansion of their novella), The Book of Days (Subterranean, 2002), Daughters (Grand Central, 2001, also written with Melanie Tem), and Excavation (Avon, 1987). A handbook on writing, Yours to Tell: Dialogues on the Art & Practice of Fiction, also written with Melanie, appeared in 2017 from Apex Books.

Steve has published over 400 short stories. His first collection of stories, Ombres sur la Route, was published by the French publisher Denoël in 1994. His first English language collection, City Fishing (Silver Salamander, 2000) won the International Horror Guild Award. His other story collections are The Far Side of the Lake (Ash Tree, 2001), In Concert (Centipede, 2010-collaborations with Melanie Tem), Ugly Behavior (New Pulp, 2012-noir fiction), Onion Songs (Chomu, 2013), Celestial Inventories (ChiZine, 2013), Twember (NewCon, 2013-science fiction), Here With The Shadows (Swan River Press, 2014), and the giant 72-story treasury, Out of the Dark: A Storybook of Horrors, from Centipede Press, featuring the best of his uncollected horror.

KR: Coffee?

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KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

A transplanted Southerner from Lee County Virginia, I’m a long-time resident of Colorado. I have a BA in English Education from VPI and a MA in Creative Writing from Colorado State, where I studied fiction under Warren Fine and poetry under Bill Tremblay. I’m a past winner of the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and British Fantasy Awards. I have published over 430 short stories. Some of my best stories are collected in Figures Unseen: Selected Stories, from Valancourt Books. A handbook on writing, Yours To Tell: Dialogues on the Art & Practice of Writing, written with my late wife Melanie, appeared last year. I have published a number of young adult and middle-grade short stories over the years, but The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is my first novel for that age group.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

I read a great deal (as anyone wanting to be a writer should). I also watch lots of movies, at least two in the theater every week. I also enjoy spending time with my grandchildren—I have six, five girls and one boy.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

The one I read over and over again was The Adventures of Robin Hood. When I got a little older I read Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island. That was probably the first book that made me want to write the things I write now: science fiction, mystery, and horror.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

Probably Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Although I used to listen to music, mostly rock & roll, while I was revising my fiction, now I only listen to it to relax and turn off my brain. These days I find it too distracting to listen to music while I’m writing.

KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director? 

There are so many, but both Polanski’s Repulsion and Argento’s Suspiria would have to be near the top. And Dario Argento is probably my favorite horror director.

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KR: What are you reading now?

I’m currently re-reading Ramsey Campbell’s The Grin of the Dark. Ramsey has always been an inspiration—no one does tone and mood via description better than Ramsey Campbell.

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

In the beginning it was Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov. Later I discovered Borges, Barthelme, Kafka, Italo Calvino, Ramsey Campbell, M.R. James, Robert Aickman, Dennis Etchison. They all had considerable influence as I tried to discover my own way of writing fiction.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

For short stories I often take off from just a minimum of direction—a few words of dialog, a theme, a bit of description. For novels I really have to plot them out in detail or I can’t finish them.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It varies considerably. Stories may involve reading a few articles and looking up information on the internet. My last adult novel, Ubo, about violence, required years and volumes of research. For The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack I went back into my past and wrote down everything I could remember about Halloween—how I had celebrated it, how I had loved it, every memory I could think of. I then did some research into the customs of Halloween. After that I was ready to pull my story together.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

Most days I get up at 8 AM, exercise and eat breakfast. Then I write for 2-3 hours before lunch. After lunch I usually take a nap for an hour or so, then write another 2-3 hours. Evenings I try to keep free.

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

My favorite is probably “The Man on the Ceiling” which I co-wrote with my late wife Melanie and which won a number of awards. It expanded my ideas of what I thought a piece of fiction could do.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Sometimes, but I try not to. Everyone has different tastes, and you can’t please everyone. For the most part I find them a distraction, so I try not to take them too seriously.

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

Read 1,000 short stories, but read them carefully. How did the author begin the story? How did the story end? What strategies did the author use to get between those two points? Think about that seriously for 1,000 stories and you will learn something.

KR: What scares you?

Among the primal fears, it’s heights. Beyond that, I fear that something will happen to those I love.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

If it’s a book that’s important to me I want it in hardback, otherwise paperbacks will do. For lighter reading or for research I prefer e-books. I’m trying to have fewer “things” in my life.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack is a middle-grade novel about Halloween. A Strange Shop, a Stranger Proprietor, & the Wrong Mask. Fall is Laura’s favorite time of year, but this autumn, things are different. She’s a teenager now, and the season brings new changes and challenges. Laura’s decided she’s too old for trick-or-treating and wants a more grown-up Halloween experience with her friends. Unfortunately for Laura, her parents tell her she has to take her little brother, Trevor, out trick-or-treating first. When they go shopping for Halloween costumes, they stumble upon a very strange shop and its even stranger proprietor. When Trevor tries on the wrong mask, the consequences are exciting…and dangerous.

KR: What are you working on now?

I’m putting together two new collections of my short stories: We’re All Fine Now will be a collection of my young adult short stories for Omnium Gatherum Press. And The Night Doctor & Others from Centipede will collect some of my creepiest stories from the past couple of years.

KR: Thank you very much Steve.

To find out more about Steve please visit his official website www.stevetem.com

You can follow Steve on Twitter @Rasnictem

Steve’s author page can be found here

Fall is Laura’s favorite time of year, but this autumn, things are different. She’s a teenager now, and the season brings new changes and challenges. Laura’s decided she’s too old for trick-or-treating and wants a more grown-up Halloween experience with her friends. Unfortunately for Laura, her parents tell her she has to take her little brother, Trevor, out trick-or-treating first. When they go shopping for Halloween costumes, they stumble upon a very strange shop and its even stranger proprietor. When Trevor tries on the wrong mask, the consequences are exciting…and dangerous.

You can buy The Mask Shop Of Doctor Blaack from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Two interwoven memoirs of love, loss, and family with a haunted, frightening edge.

In 2000, American Fantasy Press published an unassuming chapbook titled The Man on the Ceiling. Inside was a dark, surreal, discomfiting story of the horrors that can befall a family. It was so powerful that it won the Bram Stoker Award, International Horror Guild Award, and World Fantasy Award–the only work ever to win all three. Now, Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem have re-imagined the story, expanding on the ideas to create a compelling work that examines how people find a family, how they hold a family together despite incomprehensible tragedy, and how, in the end, they find love.

Loosely autobiographical, The Man on the Ceiling has the feel of a family portrait painted by Salvador Dali, where story and reality blend to find the one thing that neither can offer alone: truth.

You can buy The Man On The Ceiling from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Daniel is trapped in Ubo. He has no idea how long he has been imprisoned there by the roaches. Every resident has a similar memory of the journey to Ubo: a dream of dry, chitinous wings crossing the moon, the gigantic insects dropping swiftly over the houses of the neighborhood, passing through walls and windows as if by magic, or science.  The creatures, like a deck of baroquely ornamented cards, fanning themselves from one hidden world into the next. And now each day they force Daniel to play a different figure from humanity’s violent history, from a frenzied Jack the Ripper to a stumbling and confused Stalin to a self-proclaimed god executing survivors atop the ruins of the world. The scenarios mutate day after day in this camp somewhere beyond the rules of time. As skies burn and prisoners go mad, identities dissolve as the experiments evolve, and no one can foretell their mysterious end.

You can buy Ubo from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem are no strangers to the writing business. Between the two of them, they have published more than 600 short stories, 20 novels, and 10 short story collections. Not to mention numerous articles, essays, poems, and plays. They’ve won the World Fantasy Award, British Fantasy Award, and Bram Stoker Award.

In this book they go over everything from the mechanics of writing, to how to find the time to write, to dealing with allthe paper writers tend to collect. They discuss plot, point of view, setting, characterization, and more, all in an informal tone that invites you to become part of their conversation. Learn how to find your stories because they are Yours to Tell.

You can buy Yours To Tell from Amazon UK & Amazon US

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