Interview: Catching Up with Ronald Malfi

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photo of author Ronald Malfi
Ronald Malfi

For me, an avid reader of horror who reads nothing but books in this genre day in and day out, Ronald Malfi is among the legends. He is the award-winning author of several novels, novellas, and two short story collections, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of his work.

My introduction to his storytelling was the collection, We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone. The first story stood up and punched me square between the eyes, making me a fan for life! I highly recommend it. Later, I went on to read December Park (one of my favorite coming-of-age novels with an intense murder-mystery-thriller storyline) and Bone White (a creature-feature with heart, high-stakes, and themes of loneliness/isolation).

I’m excited that I have more Malfi books to look forward to both from his back catalog of fan-favorites and new releases. We talk about those books and more in this interview.

(Interview conducted by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann)

CEMETERY DANCE: Hey there Ronald! Or Ron. Is Ron good? Some people are particular about their shortened names. Like I know a Michael that hates “Mike.”

RONALD MALFI: You can call me Ron, but I go by Ronald professionally.

Good to know. How have you been surviving this year? What are some highs and lows?

It’s been a crazy year, for sure. My day-to-day is much the same, writing-wise, since I’m accustomed to staying home and holing up in a room to write. Other aspects are different, of course. My wife and I have two children, so we had to deal with the whole homeschooling thing. That’s been a treat. Thankfully my wife has been on top of that. You know, I miss hanging out with friends, going places, but I’m taking it in stride.

Ah yes, I’m homeschooling a sophomore in high school while working at home, so I know all about those challenges. I saw Jonathan Janz tweet about a book called Mr. Cables. Can you tell us about that?

It’s a new novella that came out earlier this month from JournalStone. I wrote it a while back, for DarkFuse’s novella line, but then DarkFuse shut its doors before the book came out and the story just sort of sat in limbo for a couple of years. I eventually reworked it, tweaked it, and found a home for it. I’m very happy with how it turned out.

It’s a creepy little tale about a writer who discovers a book with his name on it, one that he didn’t write, and in searching for answers he slips deeper and deeper into darkness. The titular Mr. Cables, who first appears as a character in a book the protagonist, Wilson, is reading, is a swarthy, fedora-wearing fellow who creeps around the periphery of the tale. Some reviewers have likened it to Melville’s “Bartleby,” which makes me smile.

I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for that one! A few of your titles have been out of print, but I know that they’re all getting a re-release in 2021, can you share with us what the process for that has been like? Also, it was fun to do a limited edition of Snow for Night Worms.

cover of December Park by Ronald MalfiWhen Medallion Press went out of business a few years back, several titles of mine went out of print. Some of these books — Floating Staircase, December Park — were big books for me and fan favorites. Readers began scouring the internet, eBay, for used copies. December Park in particular found a wealth of new fans, which was great, but of course, I needed to get the books back out there for mass consumption. My agent and I looked around for the best home where these reprints could thrive, and ultimately signed a deal with Open Road, who will be publishing five titles in January — the aforementioned Floating Staircase and December Park, as well as The Ascent, Cradle Lake, and an old Leisure Books title of mine, Snow, which, as you know, was reprinted as a special edition for Night Worms through Thunderstorm Books. Snow has enjoyed a nice run and has been reprinted a few times, but I’m most excited about having all these titles branded and released through Open Road at once.

I saw the rebranded covers on your website and they look great! Malfi collectors are going to want the whole, matching set for sure.

I remember a time when I heard some buzz about one of your books getting optioned for a movie. Are there any updates on the silver screen treatment these days? I can’t imagine making movies is an easy industry during Coronavirus.

My novel Bone White is currently in development for a television series, produced by the Littlefield Company and Fox21, for an Amazon original series. It’s being written by C. Henry Chaisson, who penned the feature film Antlers for Guillermo del Toro. I’ve read the pilot script and it’s wonderful. And you’re right, it hasn’t been easy moving this project along during the pandemic. The producers of my show were also producing the television shows Fargo and The Handmaid’s Tale, and they couldn’t begin tackling mine until they were able to complete seasons of those other two shows. Everything got waylaid for a bit. I guess we’ll see what the future brings.

That is so exciting though! I have been anticipating an adaptation of Bone White ever since I finished it. I can’t wait!

What’s the status of your band VEER right now? Are you able to gather on zoom calls or practice? Chat with me a bit on what it’s like to be a band during a year of social distancing and no projected end in sight. What do you see as the future of live music?

cover of the album Apocalyptic, Baby by VEERIt’s been a crazy year for the band. Our last show was in January before all this madness started, and we had planned to head into the studio to record our sophomore album. We laid down a few drum tracks and then the lockdowns began, and we had to pull back and set things down for a while. Since then, we haven’t played any shows, of course, but we’ve been getting together to work on new material, record new songs. This whole thing has slowed the progression of the new record, but we’re still plugging away.
A benefit to all this is that I’ve been holed up in my house with nothing but time on my hands, so I’ve written a ton of new material for the band, and we’ve gradually been working through all of that. We’re getting ready to release a new single and a music video very soon, and continue to plug away at the new record. But it’s certainly slowed the whole process down. I’m hoping to be able to release the new album sometime later this year, though that may be optimistic.

I do want to send my sincere thanks to the fans who have continued to support the band through these tough times — buying T-shirts and other merchandise, downloading music, all of that. It’s helped keep the band alive during a time when we’re not able to perform. So many of our fans have become friends and one of the worst aspects of this whole pandemic is that we haven’t been able to all get together since this all began. Much love to all those VEER fans out there!

I love finding good things we can celebrate. Thank you for sharing that with us. It inspires me to keep fangirling for the things I love too — because every uplifting, encouraging thing counts extra this year.

Do you live in the city or a more rural setting? How does this influence your writing?

cover of Floating Staircase by Ronald MalfiI live in a suburb of Annapolis, so it’s fairly quaint and quiet here, with a strong sense of community and a peaceful lassitude you can only find living near the Chesapeake Bay. Many of my books and stories take place in various fictional towns in Maryland; I love this state and am intimately familiar with its culture, vernacular, and scenery, so there’s no question about the authenticity of the location in my fiction. Recently, The New York Times named Floating Staircase the most frightening novel to take place in Maryland — they wrote an article about the 50 most frightening novels in every state — and I guess that’s a milestone for me, being recognized for having such a tether to the place where I live, the location of many of my stories.

I read that article! I thought that was a really cool idea. It had its flaws, but for the most part, I enjoyed seeing all those different horror books representing their state.

What are you writing these days? Can you give us some breaking news on current WIPs?

Well, I’m very excited to have recently signed with Titan Books, who will be releasing my novel Come with Me in July. This novel had been a labor of love for me, a bit of catharsis, too, since its partial impetus came from a very dark, very real place: a friend of mine, a newspaper reporter, Wendi Winters, was murdered when a mass shooter entered her office at The Capital Gazette in 2018, killing her and four other people. I was devastated; our whole community was devastated. When I started writing Come with Me, I realized the woman at the center of the story — a strong-willed, vocal, righteous woman — was the fictional embodiment of Wendi. It was good to see her again, spend time with her during the writing of that novel, even if the character of Allison Decker in my book began to deviate from the real-life Wendi Winters. So much of Wendi is in that novel — mostly its heart, I think. There’s a lot of heart in that book, and I’m very excited to share it with readers.

Ooooh! That made me tear up a little bit. That’s such a special way to honor your friend. I’m really looking forward to reading that book.

Lastly, what have you read from your peers in 2020? Any recommendations for books, movies, shows on Netflix? What has really caught your attention and helped distract you from the chaos?

This is always a tough question, because there is so much good stuff out there, and I always worry about leaving someone out. I’m currently reading Stephen Graham Jones’s The Only Good Indians, and I know I’m not alone in saying just how spectacular it is. I mean, it’s really just a wonderfully written, wonderfully honest novel. I go through a lot of audiobooks, too, and am currently listening to The Night Will Find Us, by Matthew Lyons, and it’s very good. Prior to that, I thoroughly enjoyed Aex North’s The Whisper Man.

Big time agree on The Only Good Indians, and I’ll add those other two to my list of books to read!

Thanks so much for your time. It was great catching up with you.

Thanks, Sadie! Take care!

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