HW Interview

by Mark Sieber


Stephen Mark Rainey is perhaps best known to longtime horror readers as the editor of Deathrealm Magazine, as well as the author of the classic short story, "Fugue Devil." Abandoning the magazine in 1997, his two most recent publications are an anthology of the best of Deathrealms from Delirium Books and The Lebo Coven, a novel from Five Star Books.

HW: Mark, I have to ask, did you reject stories for Deathrealm from writers that later became prominent in the genre?

SMR: I did. And some that were prominent at the time. It was always about the story, not who was who. Well, I like to say that, anyway; I'll be the first to admit I ran a few stories from "name" writers I might not have had they come from lesser-known names. But it's undeniable that the names often did move copies, and that helped keep the magazine at the forefront, so I don't suppose I can complain. Happily, the readers never really did. I will say that one of the great things about the horror community is not just the talent but the character of so many of the writers I've come to know over the years. In the days since the magazine retired and moved to the Shady Rest Bone Yard, a remarkable number of authors who've gone on to make names for themselves have told me that Deathrealm played some small part in their success--oftentimes because they were rejected. That means the world to me because, with Deathrealm, I really wanted to do something right--for me, for all the people who contributed to it, and for the readers. That lets me know that maybe I wasn't wasting my time for all those years.

HW: Does the publication of Deathrealms herald a return to editing for you?

SMR: Well, maybe sort of. I did edit Song of Cthulhu for Chaosium several years ago, and I've just completed editing an anthology with James Robert Smith for Arkham House called Evermore. It's an anthology of tales that revolve around Edgar Allan Poe and his life. I don't mind doing the occasional anthology, but I could never handle a perpetual slush pile again as in the Deathrealm days. When I look back at that ten-year period, I cannot comprehend how I managed to write a word of my own fiction. With a full-time job, a family, a magazine that was, by rights, a second (non-paying) full-time job…I must've been out of my mind. Well, I don't regret a minute of it, so maybe I'm still a bit off.

HW: I know you have a day job. Do you ever see yourself becoming a full time writer?

SMR: As much as it might be my desire, to be honest, I don't know that it's going to be practical in this life. There are certain very severe medical situations in my family that we're handling now only because we have relatively secure day jobs that offer regular paychecks and health benefits. Healthcare, sadly, is an absolutely critical issue for us, and when I see how much so many self-employed people I know (basically healthy ones at that) are paying for insurance, it absolutely gives me nightmares. Losing the coverage we have from our jobs could just about spell our financial doom. Unfortunately, the reality is that it's almost certainly going to happen, eventually. The whole outlook for the healthcare system in this country is beyond depressing.

HW: You published  The Lebo Coven with Five Star Books. How has it been working with them? Do you think you'll have future novels from them?

SMR: Five Star has been a pleasure to work with; very professional, very cordial. Their books are gorgeous; the packaging of The Lebo Coven is about as sharp as it comes. I would certainly enjoy working further with them. Of course, their primary market is libraries, and since they don't sell a lot of copies outside that venue, their audience is somewhat limited. I'd love to see that audience expanded…

HW: The majority of your fiction has been in the horror genre. Have you ever or do you ever consider writing outside the genre?

SMR: I've done a wee bit of high fantasy, borderline SF, a few straight thrillers, but they're admittedly rare. I've always been drawn to horror, and the dark side often manages to insinuate itself into the work even when I start out with a different idea in mind. I've dabbled in "literary" fiction--just on my own--and while I think I did it pretty well, I didn't get a whole helluva lot of gratification from it. I'm all for working outside my comfort zone, though, so it's possible I'll make other such ventures. And you know, though I've never intentionally written romance, the romance market sure seemed to take to The Lebo Coven. That bothers me not a whit.

HW: Knowing you from Shocklines, I'm aware of how much of a fan of classic horror films you are. How much influence do they have on your writing?

SMR: Rather a lot. Curse (Night) of the Demon is my all-time favorite horror movie, and I love so many of the old, moody flicks that dealt with the supernatural. Over my years of reading in the genre, it seemed that few contemporary tales managed to strike the same nerves that originally drew me into the field. So whether consciously or unconsciously, I've found myself often striving to put some of that old-fashioned "horrific magic" into my work. Robert M. Price once said that I was on a one-man crusade to put a new face on the old conventions. He meant that as a compliment, and I take it as such. You know what, though? In recent days, when I read people like Scott Nicholson, Michael Laimo, James Newman, and others, I find they seem to be doing the same kind of thing--all with their own unique voices and styles. Very different from mine, yet coming from a similar perspective. I rather like that.

HW: I understand you're working on a new novel. Could you tell us a bit about it?

SMR: It's called The Nightmare Frontier, and I just turned it in to my agent. It's a distinctly supernatural tale, but the focus is largely on the psychological aspects of the physical and emotional isolation of certain characters. The whole idea came from a particularly chilling dream I had last spring. What am I saying? Almost all my stories come from particularly chilling dreams I've had (not all necessarily last spring). The novel features alternate realities, gross critters, ugly people, and a spot of romance (for the folks who enjoyed the sappier…I mean happier…moments of The Lebo Coven).

HW: Finally, please assure our readers that you are NOT the BTK killer!

SMR: Must I? ;)

HW: Thanks Mark!

2005 Mark Sieber, Horror World

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