M.R. Interviews...Rick R Reed
Cutis Anserina welcomes Rick R Reed
What were some of the particular challenges in creating the character of Joe MacAree in Obsessed?
Joe came to me one night when I was driving home from a job I hated, back when I was a young married man living in Chicago. I had had to work late, it was raining, and all of a sudden, I noticed how the colors looked almost neon in the rain-slicked pavement of the Eisenhower Expressway. For some reason, I thought of a man who had just murdered a woman, heading home to his own wife, and what was going on in his head. This scene, altered and fictionalized, became the opener for the novel.
Joe was obsessed: obsessed with killing, blood, and the sexual gratification it gave him. As we read the book, we learn of Joe’s disturbing background and one time a reviewer said he killed because he was the controlled becoming the controller. There was a lot of truth to that.
Once I knew who Joe was, he led me. He got deep into my psyche in ways I don’t even want to think about. So, I can’t say how challenging writing him was—once he was real to me, I just followed him.
In your novels Bashed, Tricks, and Blood Sacrifice you combine romantic elements within the context of the darker horrors that elements. When crafting these novels is it difficult to find a balance between these polarizing elements?
I don’t really agree that horror and romance are polarizing. As I’ve said before, fear and love have a lot in common. Fear is a powerful emotion and I’m fascinated by how people react to terrifying situations, and what makes evil characters tick. Readers of horror want to be scared; it’s terrifying and fun all at once. Readers of horror want a satisfying ending, that’s the safe part. Fiction is a created world where things can be put to right, unlike the real world, where atrocity doesn’t necessarily have rhyme or reason and may go unchecked. Similarly, love is unpredictable and often terrifying. Good can turn bad very quickly. There’s a remarkable emotional vulnerability. Readers like romance because it’s also a controlled world. They can count on a happily-ever-after ending. Romance in fiction allows the reader to experience the thrill and conflict of love, in a safe way, because the reader knows it’s not real. I think that sense of emotional vulnerability applies to both romance and horror. Vulnerability is universal and that’s why people enjoy reading about it.”
Crime Scene has a very personal connection for you contained within the story. Is this a common thread throughout your writing?
My goal with Crime Scene was to write about a crime through the eyes of a distant witness. I was inspired by a picture in a book of actual crime scene photographs of a little girl who had been strangled and left on a women’s room floor. It was so disturbing that I wanted to capture what it would be like to go back to when the crime occurred and, in a way, change time and put things to right. That can never happen, but it can give the observer and sense of peace to imagine that things turned out differently than they actually did.
A Face Without a Heart is a modern re-telling of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey. Was updating the work of Mr. Wilde a daunting prospect?
Not really, because I thought the story—about a quest for youth and beauty at any cost—was even more relevant in today’s times than it was during Wilde’s. It was also very liberating to have the ability to bring the gay elements of the story out in a more graphic way. The only thing that was daunting was capturing and retaining the wit with which Mr. Wilde wrote. I hope I have done him justice.
Blood Sacrifice is a vampire tale; are there any other classic monsters you wish to try your hand at?
I already have. I’ve written about a demonic force haunting a house in A Demon Inside, werewolves in The Blue Moon Café, and ghosts in Bashed and Echoes. IM features a diabolical serial killer, which is, to my mind, another “classic monster.” I think I have explored a lot of monsters, both real and imagined, in my work. The only thing I have yet to write about are zombies—we’ll have to see if that ever happens.
What is your favorite character that you created? Do you love or hate him/her?
In Obsessed, there’s a wheelchair bound woman who becomes an accidental witness to one of the murders. But she’s a hateful woman, obsessed herself, and ends up entrapping the killer and using him for her own twisted sexual gratification. In her own way, she’s just as, if not more, evil than the killer. And that makes her kind of deliciously fascinating. The fact that she’s handicapped and that she overcomes her paralysis not for good, but for evil, makes her a very unusual character, one of the oddest I’ve ever created. Pat is certainly not sympathetic, but you can’t look away from her.
Supernatural or conventional horror, which do you find easiest to craft? Which to you find to be personally more frightening?
The horror of real life is what I find the most frightening—and what I am drawn to writing about more. In IM, Obsessed, Penance, Crime Scene, Orientation, Bashed, Echoes, Deadly Vision, Tricks, and others, I write about monsters that could, and do, exist in the real world, which makes them infinitely more terrifying. The supernatural is more like a thrill ride and can be more “fun” as opposed to disturbing because there is a lot less chance you’ll wake up and read about a werewolf or vampire going on a killing rampage in the morning paper. Real folks, though? Not so much. That scares me.
What is the first book you remember genuinely being frightened by? Was your immediate reaction to run out and find other similar tales, or stash it in your closet and block it out?
That’s tough. All my life, I’ve devoured books. I never take a break from reading. Once I finish one book, I’m on to the next. Writers who have affected me most and made me compelled to read more of their stuff include Patricia Highsmith, Flannery O’Connor and Ruth Rendell. All three of these women know what darkness lurks in the human heart and explore it in their work to fascinating result. I know that didn’t quite answer your question, but it’s impossible for me to pick one, or a first.
What are some of your current favorite genre writers working today? What attracts you to their work?
I read a lot of thrillers. I love Brian Freeman, Harlan Coben, the Scottish writer Denise Mina, and, as I mentioned above, Brit author Ruth Rendell. All of them write books I can’t put down and that I can completely lose myself in. I love that.
I am working on a love story right now that actually has no dark elements. It’s called Chaser and I’m about ¾ of the way through it. I don’t really want to talk about—I rarely talk about work in progress in any detail. It kind of spoils the momentum for me. I do look forward, though, to getting back to my darker side in the book I will write when CHASER is finished. Right now, I’m thinking of either a vampire story or a suspense/romance novel with elements of murder and multiple personality disorder.