Steve Stred talks to Ronald Malfi
Steve Stred: First off, thank you so much for doing this.
I want to just say, personally, a big thank you for being so kind and encouraging towards myself for the last year and a bit, since we connected. Our mutual friend, Erin, always raves about your work, but for you to offer words of support and share/retweet etc, really has been amazing. So, thank you.
Congratulations on the news and arrival of your latest release “Come With Me.” Coming out in July of 2021, through Titan Books, this one sounds like another fantastic addition to your stunning bibliography. Can you share a bit about the book and what it’s about?
Ronald Malfi: Thanks, Steve. I’m very excited about the release of Come with Me. It’s the story of a man whose wife is killed in a mall shooting, and following her death, he discovers that she’s got a dark past filled with secrets she’d kept from him, including a very dark obsession. It’s an obsession that, the more he delves into it, the more it transfers to him and becomes his own obsession.
SS: When was the idea of “Come With Me” conceived? And when was it written? Was this an idea that struck you and you needed to put everything aside or did you work on it over months or years?
RM: This was the first novel I’d written in about a decade that wasn’t already under contract when the writing began. I had finished a three-book deal with Kensington, once my novel Bone White came out, and I hadn’t signed a new contract with them. I wanted to focus on music for the next year, which is mostly what I did. But then in 2018, a friend of mine, Wendi Winters, a reporter for The Capital newspaper, was gunned down, along with four of her coworkers, in the offices of the newspaper when a lunatic came in with a gun. It was just terrible. I remember sitting at a bar by myself across the street from the recording studio that day, watching the news, not yet knowing who the victims were. My wife texted me later that night while my band was in the studio, letting me know that Wendi had been one of the victims. The news hit me hard. On the writing front, my mind had already been occupied with the story of the Golden State Killer, and how Michelle McNamara had been researching his crimes for years—there was something poetic and chilling in that real-life tale—and I knew I wanted to write something in that vein. But each time I started, thoughts of Wendi kept infiltrating my mind. I realized both stories were—or could be—connected. So that’s what I did, as a way to deal with the grief I carried over the loss of my friend. Because I wasn’t under contract at the time for this book—no deadline, in other words—I wrote the book throughout 2019 at my leisure.
SS: With “Come With Me” what can the reader expect? Would you consider this to be a read that will quicken our pulses or will we be keeping a light on and making sure our feet are not over the edge of our beds?
RM: Well, I hope it does all of the above. It’s primarily a dramatic thriller with undertones of horror—horror adjacent, as my agent likes to say. I’ve somehow found myself, as a writer, in a niche where my novels tend to walk a fine line between plausible thrillers and supernatural horror. This book continues that trend, although I think it probably does so better than any other novel that came before it.
SS: You released an amazing novella last year through JournalStone, “Mr. Cables.” I absolutely loved that novella, which shamefully was my first of yours I’ve read. “Come With Me” in comparison is a novel. Do you have a preference on which style to write or do you allow the story to dictate how long it’ll be?
RM: The story always dictates what it needs to be. That doesn’t mean, however, that I may sit down to write what I think is a short story or even a novella and it turns into something much lengthier. Personally, I love the depth and the time involved—the relationship—an author has while writing a novel. And it is a relationship, with all the ups and downs of real relationships, so it’s not always pleasant. But it’s full and it’s whole and it feels like you’d run a marathon once you’re done. So I would say my preference is in writing novels. That said, I found the writing of the novella Mr. Cables to be wholly satisfying. I think the novella length for that particular story was just perfect.
SS: You’ve had a number of your earlier releases return in print and in ebook over the last year or so. How has that been for you? Exciting or stressful? I know on various social media platforms readers have been clamoring for their return, so that must have been great knowing people were patiently waiting for them?
RM: I’d wanted to get these novels available to readers for a few years now, ever since they went out of print. Readers were paying exorbitant prices for battered library copies on eBay and I thought that was just unfair. So now that the books have been republished, I’m thrilled to see readers finally able to get them—at least in a digital format for now—and read them without paying ridiculous prices. Moreover, new readers have also discovered them, which is just great.
SS: Recently, following an interview I did with another author (Adam Nevill) we discussed on Facebook Adam’s decision with doing his own imprint and essentially controlling his releases completely from conception to publication. You hinted at being in a similar boat and looking into it. With you having a number of releases still out of print and a phenomenal backlist, is this something we may see you do as well?
RM: I read that interview and I love Nevill’s work, so I was interested in his thoughts process as to why he’d begun self-pubbing his recent work. And yes, it was something I’d been considering for a while now, for the very reason you just mentioned—that I’ve still got a number of older work out of print and it would be nice to get them back out there. My reluctance to do what Adam has done is that I just don’t feel I’ve got the wherewithal and knowledge to become a publisher on top of an author. The marketing, the sales, the storage and shipping of books, the garnering of press—none of those things appeal to me in the least, and I fear to undertake something like that would strip me of time better spent writing more books.
SS: I always enjoy asking this question to authors – so, of your releases, which one do you see as being the gateway book or Malfi discovery book? Is there one that stands out as being most reader’s first experience with your writing?
RM: I’m asked this a lot, and the answer always depends on who’s asking. Bone White is a very accessible book that gives a good feel for what I write. December Park and Floating Staircase tend to be fan favorites. But I think Come with Me, once it’s released, will be my go-to answer to this question in the future, because it really is a perfect example of the type of books I write.
SS: Now, throughout the dark fiction world, extinction-level events/plagues/pandemics are frequently written about, but of course, none of us ever thought we’d end up living through Covid-19 times. You wrote ‘The Night Parade’ which is about an event that decimates mankind. When you look back on this work, does it feel different to you now?
RM: It’s chilling, and it’s hard for me to read certain passages of that book right now. So many elements of that novel that seemed like science fiction at the time of writing have come true. When I wrote The Night Parade, back in 2015 or so, I had contacted the WHO, the CDC, and spoken with an epidemiologist in order to make my fictional disease, Wanderer’s Folly, more realistic. I asked them to give me numbers—death numbers, fatalities—that a disease would cause that would in essence bring polite society to a halt. What they gave me were Covid numbers, although at the time they assured me that a pandemic of that magnitude was highly unlikely. Jump ahead a handful of years, and here we are. Back in February or so of 2020, I really started paying attention to news out of China and what was happening in Europe, and I became worried. I even remember telling my wife that these were Night Parade numbers, and she needed to stock up on canned goods. At the time, she thought I was nuts. Then like a month later, everything went to hell. So, yeah, to answer the question, I view this novel differently now than I had when I wrote it. At its heart, it’s a story less about a virus and more about the love of a father for his daughter, but it’s hard to view it strictly under that lens given the world we currently live in.
SS: Switching gears – you’re also in a hard rock band, Veer (which for a very short time had Bernie Sanders as a member! I kid – it was a Bernie Sanders meme). Do you approach writing your lyrics similar to how you approach setting a scene in a novel?
RM: Not really. Writing music is a bit of a different animal than writing fiction. In both cases, I’m always conscious of cadence and rhythm, even in my novels, but clearly that element is at the forefront when writing a song. My lyrics tend to be broad and open to interpretation, and I guess you can say some of my books are like that as well, but it’s really about serving the melody. In songs, lyrics serve the melody. In books, lyrics (or words) are the melody.
SS: Lastly, what’s next for you? Have you started your next novel or novella? Or will get another short story collection? Your last one was “We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone,” which has a cover that still creeps me out!
RM: I’m simultaneously outlining a new novel, working on some television projects, and pushing forward with Veer’s second album while promoting the newest, “Red Tide.” The recording of that album got stalled because of Covid, but we’re just now climbing out of the trenches and figuring out how to move forward and get some more songs in the can. And of course, I’ll be doing a virtual book tour—for lack of a better term—to support the release of Come with Me.
SS: Huge thank you for doing this Ronald. Best of luck with the book launch!
RM: Thanks, Steve!
Ronald Malfi is an award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award for Popular Fiction, and he is a Bram Stoker Award nominee. Most recognized for his haunting, literary style and memorable characters, Malfi’s dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, and eventually relocated to the Chesapeake Bay area, where he currently resides with his wife and two daughters.
You can follow Ronald on Twitter @RonaldMalfi
You can find out more about Ronald by visiting his official website www.ronmalfo.com
Come With Me
A masterful, heart-palpitating novel of small-town horror and psychological dread from a Bram Stoker nominee.
Aaron Decker’s life changes one December morning when his wife Allison is killed. Haunted by her absence and her ghost Aaron goes through her belongings, where he finds a receipt for a motel room in another part of the country. Piloted by grief and an increasing sense of curiosity, Aaron embarks on a journey to discover what Allison had been doing in the weeks prior to her death.
Yet Aaron is unprepared to discover the dark secrets Allison kept, the death and horror that make up the tapestry of her hidden life. And with each dark secret revealed, Aaron becomes more and more consumed by his obsession to learn the terrifying truth about the woman who had been his wife, even if it puts his own life at risk.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here