RICHARD THOMAS is the award-winning author of eight books: three novels—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), as well as Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); four short story collections—Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press), Tribulations (Cemetery Dance), and Spontaneous Human Combustion (Turner Publishing); and one novella in The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 170 stories published, his credits include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Shallow Creek, The Seven Deadliest, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), PRISMS, Pantheon, and Shivers VI (with Stephen King and Peter Straub). He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, has received five Pushcart Prize nominations, and has been long-listed for Best Horror of the Year seven times. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, Thriller, and Audie awards. In his spare time, he is a columnist at Lit Reactor. He was the Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press and Gamut Magazine. His agent is Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. For more information visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com.
The Fiends in the Furrows III: Final Harvest
“The Keeper of the Light”
What do you like most about Folk Horror?
I’ve loved reading stories since I was a child, and so I think a lot of the thrills and wonder I got from reading came in the form of mythology, legends, lore, fairy tales, and folklore. Part of what made those stories powerful was the idea that it was possible. When you base a story on culture, region, or even religion there are facts, and evidence, to go with the tales that are passed down from generation to generation. Recent films like The Witch and Midsommar tap into those fears subscribe to conspiracies and present evidence that is sometimes hard to deny. I’m sure that these stories were started in more innocent pursuits, customs, and rituals, or some strange deformation in nature, the chupacabra merely genetics. But when you’re out in the woods, and it gets dark, it seems like anything can happen. Folk horror is a powerful subgenre. With that authority comes fear.
What inspired you to write your FIENDS III story?
Whenever I sit down to write, I keep in mind a few things—genre, destination, goals, the story idea, and my own personal aspirations to continue to write stories that are special. I put myself on the page—body, mind, and soul—and try to be honest, and vulnerable. I speak to my own personal hopes and fears while seeking out universal truths, and a way to subvert the expectations of the reader while delivering on what I promise. My story “The Keeper of the Light” is a story set not far from where I live, and I thought about perception vs. reality, and the responsibilities that some people take on in the name of preservation. That weird old man who lives in that house? What if he’s taking on the sins of the world, and becoming something monstrous in return? What if our wishes DO come at a price? And what might that look like? And I’ve always loved the idea of beauty and horror, pairing wonder with fear. The last line in the story (and this won’t spoil anything) is, “And I nodded as he evaporated into the quiet of such awful wonder.” When you break down that word awful, it’s really pairing awe and full. Full of awe. So at that moment, there is both light and dark. Those moments of transformation, those gatekeepers, those secrets draped in transcendence—they fascinate me.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
Well, my fourth short story collection, Spontaneous Human Combustion, came out last year, and it’s getting some recognition. Currently on the Bram Stoker Preliminary ballot, and the Locus Recommended Reading List. So, fingers crossed. Aside from that, my agent is shopping my fourth book, Incarnate, this sin-eater, arctic horror novel. I may have some good news on that, but I can’t quite talk about it yet. In addition to that, I’m just writing short stories and teaching my classes.