Ronald Damien Malfi
Jerry Stratton Interviews
Ronald Damien Malfi
The term is thrown around very often, but author Ronald Damien Malfi is truly a literary horror novelist. His works are devoured by fans of the genre and are taught in colleges across the country at the same time. His career was jumpstarted with the release of his gothic horror novel The Fall of Never in 2004. Critics and readers alike praised the work, and it is currently being translated into various languages and has been optioned for a feature film. Then in 2007, his novel Via Dolorosa stunned genre fans with its breadth and artistic lyricism, and many said the book was reminiscent more of Ernest Hemingway than Stephen King. In today’s publishing marketplace, Ronald Damien Malfi is the refreshing example that “horror” can also be literature. His website is www.ronmalfi.com.
Horror Garage: To begin with, you’ve got a new novel out [September 2008] through Delirium Books called Passenger. Tell us something about it.
Ronald Damien Malfi: In Passenger , the main character wakes up on a Baltimore City bus with no memory. He doesn’t know who he is or where he’s going. His head had recently been shaved and his clothes appear brand new. On the palm of his hand is an address. This character spends the duration of the novel trying to piece together who he is and what happened to him, meeting strange and unusual people along the way who attempt to aid -- or prevent -- him from learning the truth. It’s also my first title with Delirium Books -- they are issuing a simultaneous 150-copy hardcover edition as well as a trade paperback -- and I am very happy to be working with them. I’m almost a bit embarrassed to admit this -- and I don’t think Shane [Ryan Staley, publisher] at Delirium would even remember -- but long ago, when I was still scribbling short stories in string-bound notebooks, I sent Delirium a collection of admittedly bad short fiction. It was ultimately rejected, of course -- as it should have been -- but Shane had sent me a very nice personalized note telling me to keep at the craft. And now, years later, Passenger is Delirium’s book of the month for September.
HG: You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that you didn’t think Delirium would be interested in Passenger at first, and were surprised when they bought it. Why is that?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Simple: Delirium Books is arguably the premiere specialty press for the horror genre and I personally don’t consider Passenger to be a “horror” novel in the conventional sense. It is certainly horrific and frightening and dark, but it has managed to keep away from the trappings of the genre. Delirium’s interest and support of the book is only further evidence of their dedication to newer writers and literature that pushes the envelope.
HG: You call Passenger your second novel in a trilogy of loosely-related Baltimore novels. What is the trilogy about?
Ronald Damien Malfi: “Loosely-related” is the right term. Living most of my life just outside of Baltimore, I always found the city to boast such an eclectic blend of attitude, culture, art, and lifestyle. I felt it would be interesting to explore the different sides of the city with three very different, cross-genre novels, the first of which was the satirical mainstream novel, The Nature of Monsters , published in 2006. Passenger is a much darker tome, exploring a much different side of Charm City. While I already know what the third book will be, I haven’t begun writing it yet.
HG: Are there any recurring characters in these books? Is it important to read them in order?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Each book is its own standalone novel, so there is no specific order in which to read them. All the characters are different as well.
HG: One interviewer referred to your work as “art-house horror.” How do you feel about that label?
Ronald Damien Malfi: I’m not a huge fan of labels, but I guess they’re also unavoidable. The term “art-house horror” came about from one reader’s review of my last novel, Via Dolorosa . Like Passenger , Via Dolorosa was a horror novel strictly in the sense that it explored horrific elements. Yet on the heels of The Fall of Never , readers were anticipating a straight-up horror novel, so Via Dolorosa was characterized as one right out of the gate. Still, the book did well and it opened doors to readers who were typically not avid fans of the horror genre.
HG: Which one of your books is your favorite?
Ronald Damien Malfi: Each one is my favorite when I am writing it.
HG: What is the process for writing a book? Do you outline, take copious notes, edit as you go?