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 Fantasy Society. 

Short Story Collections

I Smell Blood
(Lulu, 2011)

reviewed by A J Kirby

Remove the Eyes (2009)

Interview with Ralph Robert Moore

The Short Review: 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.

TSR: Did you 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.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

RRM: 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 stories.
   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.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

RRM: 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.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

RRM:  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 my book.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

RRM: 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?

RRM: 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.

TSR: What are you working on now?

RRM:  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.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

RRM:  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.
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