Monday, June 8, 2015

Interview with Mark Rigney.

Full Name:
Mark Rigney

Do you have a nickname or what do your friends call you?
I’m tempted to say, “The call me Mr. Tibbs,” but that’s just not true.  My friends call me Mark.  When I meet people who turn out not to be friends, I block their calls.

Urbana, Illinois.

Current hometown:
Evansville, IN

Favorite city and why?
Oh, dear. Are we talking U.S.? For a big city, maybe Boston. Plenty of culture, but I don’t feel trapped there, the way I do in Manhattan.  For a small city, maybe Flagstaff? Desert, mountains, aridity.  What’s not to love?
I’m the opposite when it comes to Boston and Manhattan.  Boston feels like it was built like a hedge maze.  I was brave enough to go up a few times on my own when I was in college, armed with a map, but I never really got out of the downtown hub.  These days I don’t go there unless I’m going with someone else as a guide. Manhattan is just a grid and the east/west streets are numbered.  I’ve only been lost in Manhattan once, and then, it was only for a block.
Boston, seen from space, is indeed a hedge maze.  Minus, in most cases, hedges. But I don’t mind being lost, and my approach to Boston is this: leave extraordinary amounts of lead-time for even the shortest of journeys.  Always bring a book.  If you get there early, read.

How would you describe yourself physically?
Fit.  Aging.

How would someone else describe you physically?
Not worth remarking on.

The first thing people notice about you is…
Well, I once had an orthodontist who claimed that the first thing people would notice about me is my mouth, but I think he was self-interested: he wanted my parents’ money.

Religion, if any?
Agnostic.  And yes, it is a defensible position.
I am interested in knowing your defense.
I’m limited by my perceptions, by my status as a single being who is really (mostly) a host for an awful lot of bacteria.  Since my perceptions are limited, I must admit to a limited grasp of existential phenomena.  While I see no viable evidence of the sort of God revered by the Bible, etc. (Homo sapiens writ large), I’m also not fool enough to discount the concept out of hand.  I can blindfold a person, and just like that, they won’t know where they are.  Who’s to say I don’t spend my days blindfolded in much the same way?

Are you superstitious? Any phobias?
I’m not at all superstitious. As for phobias, I’ve spent a long time conquering my fears of the dark and deep water... but, having been swimming in Lake Shasta at night, I believe I’ve got those under control.

Do you smoke/drink? If so, what? Any bad habits?
My vice is soda. Yum.
Favorite brands/flavors?
This is a matter of great sensitivity. I’m afraid I’ll have to refer you to the relevant departments at Halliburton and the CIA.

Current occupation / Dream job:
I’m a writer and an at-home father. I write plays. I write stories. I write novels. I’ve had success in each form, though never enough.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I’m always at work. The trick is finding a time when I am in no way working.

What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?

Weapon of choice:
Verbal pomposity, but only against zombies.  In other walks of life, I’m with John Lennon, Ghandi, and all those silly peaceniks: love is the only weapon worth deploying.

Do you have any special skills?
With a backhand, ruined knees and all, I can still send a 175 gram Ultrastar disc (often erroneously referred to as a Frisbee) seventy yards. I can also pull splinters out of a child’s foot with a minimum of screeching from either one of us.

Did you go to college and, if so, what for?
I went to college.  I’m still not sure what for!  Officially, I have a degree in government from Oberlin College, and an MFA from Columbia University.  This explains all the ivy that creeps all over my house; I do battle with it every month of the year, and so far, it’s a draw.

Any pets?   If so, what are they and what are their names?
No pets.  No time for pets. I used to work in a zoo, however, and I love animals.  That’s partly why I don’t have any pets.  I have been bitten by a nilgai. Perhaps this makes me unusual.  Or infected.
I had to Google what a nilgai even is.  That’s why I do these interviews.  Learning!
I’ll say this for Nilgai: one knows them even better after one has been bitten by one.

What is your favorite animal?
Lemurs.  All types.  I love lemurs.  Long live lemurs.

Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?
Politicians who pander, talk in sound bites, spend all their time fund-raising, and refuse to acknowledge that the issues with which they grapple are difficult, nuanced, and ultimately non-partisan.  The next time I hear a politician sounding off about “helping the middle class” instead of proposing actual, specific, point-by-point policies, I shall TURN BLUE AND EXPLODE.  (After that, I’ll find a nilgai and yell, “Sick ‘em!”)

Favorite / Least favorite Food:
I could eat Lebanese cuisine until the sun goes nova, or possibly slightly afterward. Actually, I’ll eat pretty much anything. (Possibly not bird’s nest soup. There are limits.)

What is your favorite quotation / motto / saying?
Igor Stravinsky: “Even when I do not feel like work, I sit down to do it just the same.  I cannot wait for inspiration, and inspiration at best is a force brought into action by effort... Understanding is given only to those who make the active effort.”

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
Aside from the stable marriage and the two growing children, which is surely the correct but also the stock answer, I’d have to say maintaining my sense of humor.  It’s so easy to lose.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
Lost my temper with my kids, who surely deserve better. (No, I didn’t hit anyone. Sorry. I’m not that kind of so-called “grown up.”)

How did you get started doing what you do?
I’ve known I would be a writer of some sort since college, and the way to start being a writer is (wait for it) to write.  It’s that simple.  I did kind of think I’d be a screenwriter, but that form is very constricting.  Plays and prose have more breathing room.

What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do?
Keep your standards high, ‘cos if they aren’t, you’ll never know if maybe you really should be taking “No” for an answer.  Read John Gardner’s The Art Of Fiction.  Then read it again one year later.  Repeat, ad nauseum.  Not because you have to be a slave to what he says, but because it’s the best, most challenging advice––and from the sternest taskmaster––that you’re likely to find.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on/finished in the past? Give us a little history if you will.
I started out trying to write exclusively literary fiction, but I discovered that about half the stories I want to tell involve or invoke some element of fantasy and the supernatural. So I write what I like, and then try to find a market. In the lit world, I’ve had stories pop up in places like The Bellevue Literary Review (I’m up to three stories with them), Witness, Ascent, THEMA, etc.
In the realm of dark fiction and horror, I’ve published stories in venues like Talebones, Black Gate, Realms Of Fantasy, Escape Clause, Betwixt, Unlikely Story, All Hallows, Day Terrors, Shadow Regions, Shelter Of Daylight, Terror Train, and more.  I’ve signed the contract for a new story to appear, eventually, in Cemetery Dance, but that might not show up until 2016...
That short is part of an ongoing series of fictions about my semi-dynamic duo, Renner & Quist, the former a Unitarian minister, the latter a retired private eye, both of them unhappily attuned to all things that go bump in the night. Samhain Publishing has published two Renner & Quist novellas, The Skates and Sleeping Bear, and one novel, Check-Out Time. The sequel to these will be out in or around September of this year (2015), entitled Bonesy.
I also write plays for the stage, and while the horror genre and theater rarely converge, my play Ten Red Kings (Playscripts, Inc.) focuses on a young woman addicted to World Of Warcraft, and when she’s sent to a wilderness camp to cut her ties to the ‘net, her avatars, including not a few trolls, follow in her wake.
Several of my disquieting, dark-of-the-soul fictions are available for free on the web, and you can find links to many of these HERE.

What projects are you working on now?
I just finished up major revisions on a historical, The Copyist, without a shred of fantasy to be found anywhere in its pages.  My agent enjoyed round one (indeed, he seems very enthusiastic), and I’ll likely hear something any day now.  Will he be ready to take it out into the perilous marketplace?  Who knows?
And then I’m working hard on a new play, The Shout, that will debut at Indianapolis’s Indy Fringe Festival this coming August (2015). A long one-act, we’ve done a first and second) read-through, and the cast and director are very enthusiastic. We’ve recruited a stage manager and our regular composer and all around collaborator Jason Gresl. I’m very optimistic—which is not my usual perspective at this point in any process. But once in a while, the stars align; this looks to be a wonderful team of people with whom to work.
I know it’s taking it in a different direction, but I know that some of the readers of the blog are aspiring authors.  Getting represented by an agent is something that most authors will have to deal with if they reach that level of success.  How did you go about it?
First, getting an agent is not essential to getting published.  My Samhain titles are not work that even goes through my agent, since Samhain pays per title sold, so there’s no advance from which my agent can claim a cut. Also, I don’t have an agent for my stage plays. Plays aren’t usually lucrative enough to draw representation, unless the writer in question also works in episodic TV.  Want to know why the quality of TV writing is so exceptionally high these days?  Because those shows are scripted, more and more often, by experienced, talented playwrights.
Second, the best way to get an agent is to have a manuscript placed with a publisher already.  That way, the agent has a real incentive (and with very little effort on their part) to represent you.  It cuts out the whole “shop the manuscript” process.  Later on, when you come back with a fresh manuscript, your agent will be happy to shop it because you have a track record, and because you’ve already contributed to their bottom line.
This makes agents sound very mercenary, and that’s not really my intent.  That said, they run their business like a business.  If you don’t contribute to that bottom line, you’re no use.  If you do contribute, out of the gate, you’re in the money.  As it were.
So if you’ve got a saleable manuscript, my advice is: send it to publishing houses that are willing to look at slush.  If you can, identify a specific editor within that publishing house and target them (“target”: makes it sound like you’re on sniper duty, but: truth hurts).  Then, if you’re lucky enough to garner a sale, ask the editor to recommend a reputable editor or three.  Talk to more than one if you can; choose the one you enjoyed speaking with most.
Me, I got my agent through my friend and fellow author Howard Andrew Jones, who did exactly what I just advised. He wrote a novel, pitched it to an editor (whom he also met through a friend), got it accepted, and then went out on the hunt for an agent.  Having found one, he was kind enough to pass my name along as someone worth keeping an eye on, despite the fact that I didn’t have an offer of publication on the table.
What I did have was a contest-winner. A Most Unruly Gnome won the Florida First Coast Novel Contest (now defunct, sadly), and that helped get it through my agent’s door. Between that and Howard’s say-so, it was a slam-dunk.
But that was four years ago. More. Gnome hasn’t found a home—and my agent has tried, he really has. So now, we’re hoping The Copyist will turn the tide. But I’ve learned not to expect good news, and the publishing world moves slowly. Even Samhain, very efficient folks, take over nine months to bring a manuscript from acceptance to finished product.
The moral:
If you’re an impatient sort, don’t become a prose writer. Or a playwright. You won’t be happy.

What are you watching?
Breaking Bad.  Might not make it past season three.  Too many absolutely unbelievable plot holes.  Too bad.  Such a well-acted show, and with such a fine, squirm-inducing premise.

What are you listening to?
Kirsty MacColl.  Much missed.  Only the good die young?

What are you reading?
I just finished George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman. (I even posted a critique and review on Black Gate, feel free to visit! I blog there on a bi-weekly basis.)  Next up, either something by John Crowley or Thomas Pynchon’s V.   I’m also behind in my short story reading, and I’ve got a back issue of Unlikely Story here on my desktop, and I love that publication.

Favorite author / book?
T.H. White, The Once and Future King.  John Crowley’s Little, Big runs a close second.
I quote two authors with great (and perhaps greater than is good for me) frequency: Lewis Carroll and A. A. Milne.

Favorite band / song?
Oh, there’s no one favorite.  Never has been.  But I spend a lot of time with Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, the Waterboys, and Bruce Springsteen.  Procol Harum’s “A Salty Dog” has been running through my head for days.

Least favorite band / song?
Hmm.  Boy bands in general?  Air Supply?

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?

Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met? You get three choices:
Alive. Dead. Fictional.
Well, if I weren’t happily married, I’d set sail on Serenity and hang out with Kaylie.  I know she’s not real, but still.  One can dream.

What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?
The worst job I ever had involved lying, and I can’t talk about that without impugning and possibly indicting people who––well.  Let’s just let that “lie,” shall we?

Are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you wished I had asked that you would like to answer now?
I can’t believe you’ve failed to ask me about my beer can collection.  But I forgive you; after all, how could you have known?  So yes, I collect old beer cans.  Really old beer cans.  Cone tops, flat tops, zip tops, instructionals, early ring pulls, straight steel.  I will buy cans and collections.  My specialties are cans from Ohio, Canada, the U.K., and Scandinavia.  Yes, I can supply photos and images to prove these otherwise incredible statements!

Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?
Possibly.  Depends on how you want to stretch the limits of horror.  C.S.E. Cooney is a writer to watch, and if you want to talk with editors, I’m friendly with the folks at both Unlikely Story and Betwixt.
Well, the blog is mostly an interview blog.  It’s not really a horror author blog.  I’ll interview anyone about anything as long as they’re willing to play along.  So if they’re interested, feel free to pass it along.

Got any questions for me?
Ever read any of Josh Rountree’s stuff?
I have to admit I haven’t.  If I were so predisposed, where would I start?
I’m not sure what’s happened with Josh. I first met his fiction when we each had stories in Shadow Regions, an ill-fated anthology where the publisher ran off with the money and the book was never promoted. Too bad; the quality was high. Josh’s story “Only the Young” freaks me out to this day, and I’m not easily disturbed.
His one anthology is still in print:
But I honestly don’t know how to reach him. Probably his publisher does!
And another question back to you: have you interviewed playwrights before? Or are we a diverse and separate species?
I don’t really discriminate by self-attributed job title, but since I’ve done almost two hundred of these interviews, I’m sure there’s probably another playwright somewhere in there.

Thanks for letting me subject you to being interviewed!
The pleasure is mine.

Pitch parade:
Give me all of your links for things you want to promote.   All of them.
In the Mix:
Samhain Publishing:

About the Interviewee:
Mark Rigney’s novellas and novels, The Skates, Sleeping Bear, and Check-Out Time are available from Samhain Publishing, with Bonesy to follow in 2015. His short fiction appears in Witness, Ascent, Unlikely Story, and The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, among over fifty other venues. In non-fiction, Deaf Side Story: Deaf Sharks, Hearing Jets and a Classic American Musical (Gallaudet) remains happily in print. As a playwright, he has won multiple prizes and had work produced in twenty-two U.S. states, including off Broadway, along with Australia, and Canada. Published plays include Ten Red Kings and Acts of God (both from Playscripts, Inc.) and Bears (IndieTheaterNow). His ten-minute plays appear in the Smith & Kraus series, The Best Ten-Minute Plays (2012, 2013, and 2014). His website is

About the Interviewer:
Scott Lefebvre can write about whatever you want him to write about.
Mostly because when he was grounded for his outlandish behavior as a hyperactive school child, the only place he was allowed to go was the public library.
His literary tastes were forged by the works of Helen Hoke, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft.
He is the author of Spooky Creepy Long Island, and Condemned; and a contributing author to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, The Call of Lovecraft, and Cashiers du Cinemart.
His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Screams of Terror, and he has appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and HorrorHound Magazine.
Check out his publishing imprint Burnt Offerings Books here:
Check out his electronic music here:
And here:
Check out his Etsy here:
Stalk his Facebook at:
E-mail him at:

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