Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Pro-File: Ray Garton; Noir Short

Pro-File: Ray Garton

1. Tell us about your current novel (or project).

My novel Scissors was just released in paperback. It's about a man named Stuart Mullond who, as an adult, is still trying to recover from an abusive, repressive childhood. As a boy, he endured a very unpleasant medical procedure that was supposed to be done during surgery under anesthesia when he had a hernia repaired. But the doctor, a urologist named Dr. Ferguson, forgot to do it and the procedure was performed in the doctor's office. It's extremely painful and humiliating, and Stuart remembers his mother holding him down while it was done. Now, as he goes through a tough time in his life, Dr. Ferguson begins showing up unexpectedly. The doctor says he wants to perform that same procedure on Stuart's son, and he always has his scissors.

Of my horror novels, Scissors is my personal favorite. Most of my horror fiction deals with traditional genre icons like vampires and werewolves and ghosts, that sort of thing. In Scissors, the monsters are more psychological and emotional. They're the scars left by Stuart's upbringing and the pressure he feels as a parent who's only experience with parenting -- his own -- has been abusive. The book looks at how our memories effect our emotions, and vice versa. And I'm very fond of Dr. Ferguson, a villain who gave me goosebumps more than once as I was writing the book.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

I'm working on a few things now, which is never a good idea because I'm lousy at multitasking. I'm finishing up a novella -- or maybe it's just a long short story, I'm never sure -- called Threesome that will be published later this year by Sideshow Press. I've gone back to work on Dismissed From the Front and Center, a humorous and quirky coming-of-age novel based on my two years at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy. And I'm preparing to start writing the follow-up to last year's Bestial.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

It's hard work at times, but it really doesn't feel like hard work because I love writing so much. When I hear others complain about their jobs, I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing something that gives me so much pleasure.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

Probably distractions. These days, anyway. I was pretty young when I started writing full time, and I wrote constantly. That was mostly because I was so miserable. Writing was a great escape, a hole to dive into and hide. When I look back on those years, I'm pretty astonished by how prolific I was. I'm pickier these days and I write slower, but more importantly, I'm not miserable anymore. I'm very happy for the first time in my life and I haven't quite adjusted to the change yet. I neither need nor want to escape anymore, so work is more difficult. As much as I love writing, most days I'd rather be out of the house enjoying myself with other people. The solitude and isolation of writing never bothered me before, but I'm much less comfortable with it now. These days, I have to force myself to sit down and immerse myself in whatever I'm writing, and I'm easily distracted. Which reminds me of something my friend, the late writer Francis Feighan, once told me: "The biggest dilemma a writer faces every day is whether to write or masturbate."

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

I would remind them that there was once a time -- not so long ago -- when a writer would write something, show it to publishers, and the publishers would decide whether or not they were interested in buying it. Now it seems much more common for publishers to tell a writer what they want to see and how it should be written. There seems to be a "let's build a blockbuster together" mindset out there. It's a different business than the one in which I started.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

I'm not sure if he's in print these days, but I've always enjoyed the novels of British writer Stephen D. Francis, who wrote under the pseudonym Hank Janson. In fact, just thinking about those books now reminds me how long it's been since I've read any -- I need to take a few off the shelf.

Again, I don't know if there's much of his work in print anymore, but I also love the work of David Goodis. I think if you look up "bleak" in the dictionary, you'll find his bibliography.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

Selling my first novel was one of the most exciting -- maybe the most exciting -- experience of my life. But at the same time it was kind of lonely and sad because, at the time, there was no one else in my life who was too excited about it and some even treated it as something I shouldn't discuss in polite company, like hemorrhoids or autoerotic asphyxiation. I was raised a Seventh-day Adventist, which is not only a religious denomination -- a cult, actually -- but also a subculture, a very enclosed, cloistered community. They keep to themselves, patronize businesses run by other Adventists, and usually send their children to Adventist schools. When you're an Adventist -- or, as I like to call them, Sadventist -- it is your world and you know nothing else. You're surrounded by Sadventists at home, at shcool, at church -- you can't swing a dead Catholic without hitting a few Sadventists because your life is filled with them. Sadventists believe that fiction (among many, many other things) is bad, that it's damaging to one's emotional, psychological and even physical health. So writing novels -- and horror novels, no less -- is not something that's likely to get much support or encouragement in that environment. In fact, I was punished for it. But even so, it was an indescribable thrill. I was twenty at the time and was shocked when Seductions sold. I honestly didn't think it would happen that early in my life.

-------------------The Mystery Scene Website

As you probably know Mystery Scene is not only a peerless mystery news magazine, it is also a peerless website packed with just about everything except Glenn Beck's latest fantasies. There's something very special posted on it now. Do yourself a favor and check it out. http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/msblog/

Here's editor Kate Stine to tell you about it:

The Endless Night: A Valentine to Film Noir is an absolutely brilliant fan video using a dizzying array of clips from classic film noir all set to Massive Attack’s “Angel.”

According to her bio on YouTube, “RubyTuesday717″ is 20 years old (!) and her dream job is to be photographer or film critic. We think she has a bright future.

Maybe DVD companies should hire her—this makes us want to buy every single movie featured. There’s a list of the films at the YouTube site in case you have the same urge.

(And Brian and I already own “Angel” by Massive Attack but I bet this sells some songs for them, too.)



Frank Loose said...

Thanks Ed and Ray for an interesting interview/post. Re Stephen Francis, aka Hank Janson, several years ago Telos published new editions of about a dozen early Hank Jansons and used the original Heade artwork for the covers. Lovely editions for some terrific stories.

Harry said...

Ray is an old pro and an interesting interview. Hell, he evenb likes cats. Can't be all bad :)

Anonymous said...

Any info on how his follow up to Bestial is coming along?