Welcome to Cat After Dark, Steve! It’s so nice to meet you. I’m glad that you were able to take time out of your schedule to let us get to know you a little bit better.
Of course—I’m always grateful for opportunities to talk about my writing.
You’ve been a professional, not to mention award winning author for many years now. Do you remember the first story you submitted and sold to a publisher?
I started submitting stories when I was still in high school, around 1967, mostly to magazines like Fantastic and Amazing. In graduate school I published a lot of poetry in university and small magazines, and some brief pieces of prose (such as a section of what would become my novel Blood Kin in Juice magazine out of Kentucky). But I didn’t get paid for any of that. My first actual professional sale was “City Fishing,” in 1980, to Ramsey Campbell for his New Terrors anthology. I sold it before I was married, so it appeared under the “Steve Rasnic” byline. It’s part of my collection City Fishing.
What are you working on now? What does your writing/publishing schedule look like for the future?
Like most writers my working day is split between promoting and preparing old work, creating new work, and “reseeding” my imagination for future work. My middle-grade Halloween novel The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack comes out early October, so I spend some time each day talking and writing about it (including doing interviews like this one). I have two story collections coming out next year—Everything Is Fine Now (a collection of YA stories from Omnium Gatherum) and The Night Doctor & Others (the best of my recent horror in a nifty hardcover from Centipede Press)—so I’ve been giving input on covers and endlessly proofing the pages. As for new projects I’ve been working on some science fiction stories about climate change and expanding my zombie story Bodies & Heads into a novel. And in and around all that activity I’m watching movies incl. lots of documentaries, reading books and magazines like Science News, jotting down ideas for stories I may not write for years to come.
If you could spend the evening chatting with any one person from history, who would you choose and why? Language is not a problem.
Helen Keller would be interesting. My late wife Melanie was legally blind, and we talked a great deal about how it was for her growing up, and how her brain processed the limited imagery it received. I would like to get Keller’s perspective on some of those issues.
But if I had the stomach for it, I think I’d really like to talk to Adolph Hitler. He was monstrous, but by definition he was also human. I wonder if I would be able to perceive the evil in him just by talking to him, and if he would seem that much more “evil” than a number of political personages we have now. Would the evil be immediately obvious, or would I have to dig for it? It would be a really useful and enlightening perspective to have.
What makes you laugh?
Pretty much everything, given the right circumstances. The human comedy. I firmly believe that if you’re going to dwell on the dark aspects of life then you need to balance that out with a heavy dose of comedy. So I watch comedic movies and TV shows, and I follow stand-up comedians as well. Some of my current favorites are the ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, Demetri Martin, Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, Tina Fey, and Hannah Gadsby—her Nanette special is an incredible blend of comedy and tragedy.
What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?
It would be hard to pick just three, but let’s go with Kafka’s Collected Stories, Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Currently I’m reading The Silent Garden: A journal of esoteric fabulism from Undertow Publications in Canada. It’s a terrific anthology of weird writings.
Have you discovered a new to you author recently that excited you with their storytelling ability?
That’s a hard one to answer only because we’re living in a golden age of fiction, I believe, and I’m discovering a wonderful new writer I’d never heard of before every couple of months. But the latest would be Olga Tokarczuk, whose Primeval and Other Times is this incredible concoction combining fabulism with a sweeping sense of time and history.
How did you introduce your children and grandchildren to reading? What kind of books do they like?
With both my children and grandchildren I bought them comic books and let them read my own (I’ve always been a huge fan). But for Christmases and birthdays I would also give each of them a large box full of books including Caldecott and Newbery winners and whatever was popular for younger readers that particular year, children’s classics, etc. I wanted them to at least have the opportunity to read the best work for children. They haven’t always continued to read, but I have at least one granddaughter who reads enthusiastically and would like to be a writer someday. Her favorite reading is adventure, fantasy and supernatural tales. For my two daughters it’s true crime, especially anything involving serial killers.
If you could swap bodies with one person for one day, who would it be and why?
I think I’d like to be some sort of forest animal for a day. I think human beings could learn a lot if they could tap into a non-human perspective, especially about empathy for and appreciation of the natural world. It would make us healthier I believe.
What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I watch a ton of movies, and see a movie in the theaters at least 2-3 times a week. I also volunteer for the Citizen’s Climate Lobby—I don’t want to leave that huge problem for my descendants to solve. I meditate at least once a day, and I play around with visual art—drawing and painting—for my own enjoyment. I think it helps the writing.
How would you like the world to remember you?
Realistically speaking, the world forgets most writers—including the popular ones—within only a few years after their death. And yet to maintain quality I think you have to try to write as if you know you’re going to be read down through the ages. So I don’t worry about what the world thinks particularly. I do hope my children and grandchildren remember me as a good and loving father/grandfather. And that everyone else I love remembers me as someone who cared for them and wanted to make their life just a little better by being a part of it. That’s really as much of the world as I care about in terms of how I’m remembered.
Steve can be found at all your favorite social media sites. Check them out!
I posted my review for THE MASK SHOP OF DOCTOR BLAACK on the Random Reviews page of this site back in August. If you haven’t had a chance to read the review, now’s the time! Then run, don’t walk – or click like a bunny quick to your favorite online retailer and order this book today. It may be billed as YA, but that’s misleading. It has kids as the main characters, so that might lead you to think it’s for kids. Nuh uh. It’s for everyone to read every Halloween. Enjoy!