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Saturday, March 31, 2018

An Interview With Horror Writer R.K. Finnell

writing as Ivan S. Graves

I recently had the opportunity to chat a bit with horror writer R.K. Finnell about her recently released collection of short stories, Grue Tales: Death by Fiction. A lifelong resident of Kansas, R.K. Finnell is the author of two other books; Kickshaw Candies, and The Plague Son. Her first two books are actually part of a trilogy, and she is currently at work on the final book in the series. Primarily hailed as a writer of horror, one thing that separates her body of work from traditional horror are strong elements of fantasy which give her tales a different edge, and is honestly quite refreshing. While you will still find many of the typical creatures and haunts that live in many horror fiction books, R.K. Finnell puts a new spin on them, and makes them uniquely her own. It was a joy spending some time getting to know more about her and her writing, and I hope you will enjoy the time as well.

Q. You recently published Grue Tales, a collection of short stories. Seems like you have been writing for a long time. How far back do some of these stories go for you?

A: I began writing in high school but didn't consider it seriously until later in life. For me it was something I enjoyed and that I was good at, being more of a hobby at the time. I had a teacher who would always give us story writing assignments and I found myself compelled by the experience to do more writing. There was always a story in my head that needed to be put down on paper.

Q: Obviously Grue Tales is horror, but there are also elements of what I like to call dark fantasy. Did you always write in that genre, and what lead you to dark fiction?

A: I've always been fascinated by the horror genre from books, television and movies. It is what I grew up on, so it was naturally something I would write. I love the idea of writing stories that not only give the reader chills, but also make them think. Dark fiction lets me explore the dark thoughts in my head and share them in my writing. I can go as far as my imagination takes me and sometimes even beyond.

Q: Cillian's Story is a very dark and foreboding tale. For me, in a way, it sort of describes the craziness in the world we live in and our constant struggle to keep sanity alive and well, and perhaps even a desperate hope that humanity survives it all in the end. What was this story for you when you wrote it?

A: For me it was not only a story of survival, but also what one is willing to do for those he loves. From caring for his brain damaged Mother in Anything for Mom, to saving the lives of the children. In a way it was a tribute to the caretakers of this world who rarely get recognized for what they do and how often the duty is thrust upon them. I saw Cillian as a character who reflects what many of them go through in the challenges of adversity and what one is willing to do not only for their survival but also for those who cannot care for themselves.

Q: That's one of the things about a lot of horror fiction that a lot of people miss, and I am not trying to pigeonhole you into a genre of course—I know writers hate that. But there's a lot of compassion in the plight of most protagonists, and while evil is strong and always an element, in the end it seems mostly that good always wins over evil. Do you feel that way about your work? About your characters? Are they mostly good people, with good intent, fighting battles over the evil that exists in their lives? Do you mostly want them to win?

A: For the most part I do want good to overcome evil, but there are times when the story dictates a less pleasant outcome and evil triumphs. No matter what may show on the outside, it is the evil within that eventually shows its face. Life is not always a bed of roses and when it is, one must watch out for the thorns.

Q: In reading your bio, you mention a ride in a hearse when you were four years old. What was that all about?

A: We were at a church in Sedalia, Missouri where my grandfather was marrying his second wife. Before the wedding my sisters and I were playing outside when the man who lived next to the church backed his car out of the drive and hit me. I ended up in the hospital with a broken leg and other injuries. When it was decided to move me to a hospital closer to home in Kansas City the funeral director of a local funeral home volunteered. At that time the town only had one ambulance and they didn't want to risk there being an emergency with no ambulance available, so they packed me up surrounded by sand bags and put me in the back of the hearse. As far as I know I'm the only person to be delivered to a hospital, alive, in a hearse.

Q: You often say that a lot of the mainstream fiction that's out there is not so good as their sales might suggest. I tend to feel that way about music too, that there a lot of very talented musicians on the fringe that don't get the recognition they deserve. Who do you like to read, and what makes their work most interesting for you?

A: I have a passion for the classics, particularly Dickens and O. Henry. One of my favorite scenes in Great Expectations is the introduction of Miss Havisham. The dark melancholic description of the character and her surroundings gives one the sense that they are there right in the room and feeling all the emotions that Pip is as he stands gazing about the room.

I get to mention my favorite book, which makes me quite happy! The Elementals by Michael McDowell. It's dark, twisted and has the great line "Eat my eyes." What horror enthusiast could resist loving it?

Q: How does a story usually develop for you? Many writers know the story from start to finish before the first word is ever written. Others like to let the story form its own path.

A: For me it is getting that first sentence written. Once I have that, the story begins developing. I do often let the story and characters guide the way. Sometimes the characters have better ideas of how a story should be told. I think it is the element of surprise that even catches me off guard and makes the story more interesting.

Q: So, what do you have in the works right now?

A: I have some unfinished short stories I've been working on for a second Grue Tales book. I also have the third book of my Kickshaw Candies trilogy to finish and thinking of doing another series based on shapeshifters.

Q: Shapeshifters are always fun. What is this story about, and I have to admit I did not know that Kickshaw was a trilogy. What do you have in the works for either?

A: There are shapeshifters in the Kickshaw Candies series but they are not the main focus of the story. I'm toying with the idea right now on doing another trilogy with shapeshifters as the main focus. Where do they come from and how does one become a shapeshifter? Are they born that way or is it something else? In Grue Tales I explore the idea of shapeshifters in the story "Shift" but I want to take it further.

The third book of the Kickshaw Candies series, The Changeling's Touch, begins where the second book, The Plague Son, left off.

Q: It was a joy chatting with you. In closing, I suppose aside from the books, the readers are quite an important part of any writer's pursuits. Anything you wish to say to them?

A: For all my readers and future readers, thank you. I hope you enjoy my books. Remember, whether you are reading my work or that of another author, please leave a review and let others know about books you have enjoyed.

Links to R.K. Finnell

The R.K. Finnell Home Page
R.K. Finnell on Facebook
R.K. Finnell on Books2Read

Ivan S. Graves is the former editor of the popular monthly online horror fiction magazine FrightNet Online Magazine which was published 1997-2000, and editor of the short story collection Dark Whispers. 

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