Ralph Robert Moore' s fiction has been
published in America, England, Ireland and Australia in a wide
variety of genre and literary magazines and anthologies, including
the nineteenth edition of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.
His novel, Father Figure,
was published in 2003.
In 2009 Moore’s first short
story collection, Remove the Eyes, was published.
Remove the Eyes was
long-listed for Best Short Story Collection of 2009 by the British
with Ralph Robert Moore
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Ralph Robert Moore:
The stories were
written at different times, out of sequence, with other stories not
included in the collection written in between. In terms of actual
writing time for all eight stories plus the short novel, I'd say
about a year and a half. I tend to write one story a month, and the
short novel that concludes the collection, Kid, took ten months. (I
Smell Blood is about 100,000 words long.) Of course, there's also a
tremendous amount of time spent editing each story. I spend much
more time revising than I do on the first draft. The only way to
"find the statue in the stone" is by editing.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
RRM: I didn't. There are
stories I've written which are meant to be connected to each other in
one specific story cycle or another I've put together over the years,
but the stories in I Smell Blood, as well as in my previous
collection, Remove the Eyes, are all standalone works. Think of
them as strangers to each other, riding on the same train, but
reading different newspapers.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
I've written close to eighty stories at this point, most of them 5,000
words or more. So I have a huge pool of stories from which to choose.
That allows me to fill a collection with what I feel are my very best
stories, all of them strong, with no filler. Six of the stories in I Smell Blood
are previously published, and five of those six stories received
Honorable Mentions in either The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, or
Best Horror of the Year.
What's important to me in writing a story is to
create a narrative where the reader does not know where the story is
going. Where she or he cannot say, Oh, okay, it's this type of story. I
love reading a story, or hearing a song, or watching a movie, where I
have absolutely no idea what's going to happen next. I love the newness
of that. It's also important to me that each story be character-driven,
and get not only an intellectual response but an emotional response
from the reader. I'm big on emotions. I want my readers to feel what
these characters are going through. And I want the characters in each
story to be completely different from the characters in the other
So when I selected the stories for I Smell Blood, those were the elements on which I put the most emphasis.
Although I write in different genres, all the stories in this collection (as well as my previous collection, Remove the Eyes),
are horror. To me, horror isn't something bad happening to a bad
person. Horror is something bad happening to a good person, and that's
reflected in the collection. I also love taking a horror idea and
presenting it in the context of a literary story, so that you have the
strong sense of strangeness and dread, but also a lot of care spent on
the characters, and writing style.
So far as the order goes, I tend to start a
collection with the shortest story in the book, in case a potential
reader wants to read a sample of my work while standing next to a rack
in a book store, and end with what I think is the strongest work in the
collection. What's essential, of course, is that all those stories in
the hammock of the middle also be worth-while.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
As I've written
elsewhere, a short story to me is a game played between writer and
reader. The reader steps from word to word through the sentences,
down the paragraphs, not certain where he or she is being led. Parts
of the path are so well prepared -- a description, a dialogue -- we
walk back up a stretch of stones just for the pleasure of strolling
back down the paragraph again. In the best stories, the reader is
called to the clearing of the final sentence, where the writer's
short stab slides in.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
My ideal readers are
two people in bed. They've made love earlier in the evening, had a
wonderful dinner the two of them cooked together, had a great talk at
the kitchen table while waiting for dinner to be ready, and now
they're lying in the bed they share, side by side, each reading as
the windows turn dark. And the one of them reading I Smell Blood
turns to the other after laughing or shivering or wiping a tear and
says, "Want to hear something?" And reads a passage from
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
I'd of course like to
know if they enjoyed reading it, and what their favorite story was.
It always surprises me what someone's favorite story is, just like,
when a story of mine is published in a journal, it always surprises
me what quote they pull from the story to highlight.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
It feels great. How
could it not? With both my first collection and I Smell Blood, I've
been getting some great reviews, and terrific fan letters. That kind
of feedback is extraordinarily appreciated by a writer. Someone once
said, and I apologize that I can't remember just now who that someone
was, that the best phrase they've ever heard that describes the
writing process is the title of Alan Sillitoe's short story, The
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Writing is one of the most
solitary professions in the world. You're working in a one-room
cabin so far away that when you open the front door, there aren't
even paw prints in the snow. So it's always heartening to hear that
short wave radio crackle.
What are you working on now?
I'm actually working on
a new story cycle of connected stories, each dealing with death and
the afterlife. After that I really do want to write my sixth novel,
Just Like Furniture, about a man in a frightening new world who used
to be famous, but no longer is.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
Some writers read
fiction all their lives; some writers read an enormous amount of
fiction when they're young, then stop once they start writing fiction
themselves. I'm in the latter category. Not that I don’t read any
fiction these days, but not much. Mostly autobiography, biography,
and letters. Certainly three short story collections I'd heartily
recommend are Julio Cortazar's Blow-up and Other Stories, John
Updike's Too Far to Go, and The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. All
three writers approach our world in different ways, but each path is
stunning, shot with sunlight, alive with bird songs.