I had the great pleasure of exchanging a few questions with Richard Dansky, whose novel FIREFLY RAIN returns to print, at last, from Simon & Schuster, in paperback. I thoroughly enjoyed it in hardback. Richard tells a solid Southern Gothic horror tale, and fans of Cherie Priest and Stephen King will find much to love about this book: setting, ambiance, a powerful surprise at the end, and ghosts. I recommend it to anyone looking to fill their long spring and summer days with something to read with a touch of chill. Richard, especially, nails dialogue. He's got a great ear for the way people speak, and every one of these characters feels like they could go on, at length, about almost anything if the author didn't keep them on a tight, thriller leash.
Joe) So... This book was released in hardback by WotC Discoveries in 2008, and now it's back from a completely different company? Can you tell me your journey from the hardback to here?
Speaking as a reader, it was a tremendous disappointment that the Discoveries line was canceled, because I was really enjoying the books they were putting out - yours, of course, and the Tems' Man On the Ceiling and the rest. The folks at WotC were lovely to deal with, and were kind enough to return the rights to Firefly Rain once it was clear that Discoveries was done for. I was then very fortunate in that Simon and Schuster showed an interest in the book, and that my editor there, Ed Schlesinger, did a wonderful job of tightening up the book with me for the paperback release.
Joe) What is different between the two? Are there any major changes readers should know about? And, which one do you think is the "better" book, the original hardback or the updated mass market paperback?
I think the trade paperback's the better read, largely because I had the twin benefits of another set of eyes on it and a few more years' writing experience to go back and smooth out whatever bumps and hiccups remained. It's the same story; just a little more smoothly told in a couple of places.
Also, I love the new cover art. You can't argue with a spooky old house rising up out of a field of fireflies.
Joe) What is a ghost, in your worldview, compared to specters or wraiths or banshees or souls? How do ghosts function in this world? Have you ever encountered a real ghost in this world?
Richard) I consider myself an agnostic when it comes to the supernatural. I've certainly seen things that some folks might call ghostly activity, while others would simply call...strange. As for what a ghost might be, I think it's probably best described as "unfinished business", that bit of whatever makes us human that hasn't reached some kind of resolution. Whether that's good business or bad remains to be seen, as it were. Then again, when it comes to this stuff, everyone's guessing, and I'm no exception. If there is something out there, I'd love to know what it was - and in the meantime, I'll continue to read and write ghost stories based on my own wild conjectures and conceptions, and be happy to do so.
Joe) So... Tell me about one of these possibly ghostly, strange encounters - especially if one of them influenced the book!
Probably the most...interesting one took place in a Suncoast Video in the Northlake Mall in Altanta, of all places. I was trying to redeem a gift certificate for a free movie and when my first choice turned out not to be covered by the certificate, something made a rather forceful suggestion by flipping an alternative ten feet off a flat shelf. It landed at my feet, with no one else in the store but me and the clerk. I asked her, "Did you just see that?" She smiled and said, "Oh yeah, that's just the ghost. He does that a lot."
I found out later that the mall supposedly had all sorts of trouble keeping security staff on because of late-night supernatural-type shenanigans, though I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of this report. But I did get good use out of that movie.
Joe) The small town of Firefly Rain seems to be based on real-life experience with such places. What towns were you thinking about, and do you have any fascinating small town stories you'd like to share?
Richard) A lot of the small-town feel in the book came from visiting my wife's home town, particularly in the wake of her father's passing. Everyone there knew her and picked up with her as if she'd never been away for a minute. I just tagged along behind her and observed; she was a part of that place in a way I'd never been in the (larger, suburban) town I'd grown up in. That, as much as anything else, inspired a lot of what went into the book.
Joe) Have you ever fired a shotgun? Have you ever punched a grown man in the face in a furious rage? (Both of these elements - a character's rage issues, a shotgun - feature prominently in the book... No, I'm not accusing Richard of anything untoward! He's a groovy, macho sweetheart!)
Richard) I can give a definite "No" to the punching a grown man in the face in a furious rage. For one thing, it takes a lot to get me mad, and for another, there are better places to land your first punch. As for firing a shotgun, that I can definitely claim. It's useful experience to have, not just for the writing but also for the day job, considering the kinds of video games I work on.
Joe ) Speaking of your day job, when is the next Clancy game coming? Is there anything you can tell us about it?
Richard) The next one actually drops next week. Splinter Cell: Conviction is actually one I had a great deal of direct involvement with on the writing side, and I'm very proud to be a part of the team that put that one together. I think the trailers have done a great job at showing what the gameplay's going to be like without spoiling the story, which is pretty twisty if I do say so myself.
Then again, I don't want to spoil it too much. Just remember - this time, Sam's pissed off. And that means all sorts of interesting things.
Joe) Thanks Richard! I hope you sell a million copies!
Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.