Continuing my interview series called THE SEVEN, in which I invite some of my favorite authors to answer seven questions about their most recent projects, today’s guest is Steve Rasnic Tem, who is, in my opinion, one of the finest practitioners of the short form we have. He’s no slouch at novel-length either, as evidenced by EXCAVATION, DAUGHTERS (with Melanie Tem), THE BOOK OF DAYS, and most recently the wonderful DEADFALL HOTEL, an excerpt from which you can find at the end of this interview.
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Q. What inspired the project?
What didn’t? I always wanted to tell a big story about a haunted structure which would summarize most of what I felt about the genre and its themes. DEADFALL HOTEL is the result–I just hadn’t anticipated it would take me more than 25 years to finish it.
Q. What is the primary theme you’ve chosen to explore with this project?
Primarily it’s about the roots of horror, the sources of our fear and their ramifications in our collective imagination. Another way to put it is that it’s a novel about a haunted hotel.
Q. Of everything you’ve written to date, which project has been the most difficult for you?
THE MAN ON THE CEILING —the collaborative novel with my wife. Not only because of the personal, emotional investment, but because we had to constantly examine and re-invent its structure.
Q. Which title would you suggest as a good introduction for newcomers to your work, and why?
Probably my Ash-Tree collection THE FAR SIDE OF THE LAKE. It’s a good sampling of my themes, told in my more subtle mode.
Q. What are your thoughts on the burgeoning digital market?
It’s not going away. I don’t think it’s going to wipe out the printed book market any time soon (but in a hundred years, maybe). I think it may replace the mass-market paperback segment, however, within the next 20 years, maybe less. So you ignore it at your peril. My real frustration with it, however, is that ebooks don’t fully utilize the capabilities of the digital medium. The technology suggests a completely new mode of storytelling is possible, but writers don’t have the right authoring software yet to exploit it.
Q. What’s next for you?
I’ve finished a YA novel and I’m working on another. It’s a different market for me, and my agent and I are still poking around for a publisher for these projects. In the meantime I have 4 collections coming out over the next year and a half: UGLY BEHAVIOR – a dark noir collection from New Pulp Press, ONION SONGS – an offbeat, somewhat experimental collection from Chomu, CELESTIAL INVENTORIES, collecting my best contemporary fantasy stories from the last few years from ChiZine, and TWEMBER, a short science fiction collection from Newcon Press.
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From the opening of DEADFALL HOTEL by Steve Rasnic Tem:
Deadfall Hotel. A curtain of gnarled, skeletal oak and pine hides it from the rest of the world. The hotel is not well-lit, there is no sign, and night comes early here. The main highway bypassed its access road nearly half a century ago. From the air (and a few private pilots still venture over, out of curiosity) the hotel appears to follow the jumbled line of a train wreck, cars thrown out at all angles and yet still attached in sequence.
Additions have been made haphazardly over the years, torn down, rebuilt, fallen into disuse. Repairs have not always been effective. From the back, facing the lake, boarded-up windows, doors, even entire discarded sections may be seen, coated in slightly different shades of paint, constructed of a miscellanea of materials and in a range of styles. But the owners have always tried to maintain a uniform appearance in the front of the hotel, facing the road; they have established facades, like film‑sets, over some sections of the structure.
Although the hotel has more than three hundred rooms, fewer than a third are serviceable at any given time. The staff has always been kept small, and the repairs are too many. Systematic repair schedules have been attempted, but time seems to work its destructions at varying rates throughout the rooms, favoring some and wreaking havoc on others, so that projections as to the decline of any one part are virtually impossible. Walking here, you become disoriented to time, place, even spatial relationships. Unless you have a guide. Unless you are of the right frame of mind, or species.
The current proprietor will not bother you; he will want to respect your solitude and, besides, he will have too much else on his mind. Once again, his predecessor has stayed on as caretaker. The hotel takes its name from the grove. Those who stay here often complain of the trees in their dreams – long, snake-like, involved limbs they imagine must mirror the tree’s root system.
Limbs you feel compelled to follow, in and out of shadowed hollows where branches disappear, where nests, newly inhabited or ancient and abandoned, are hidden. In parts of the trees the branches are so interlocked – both within and among individual trees – that the strongest wind will not free them.
Yet when the time comes, and only the grove itself seems to know the secret to this timing (certainly no natural thing; past proprietors have allowed botanists to study the grove, and all have been at a loss to explain its peculiar physics) the branches, the deadfall, fall with rifle-shot sound and abruptness, to join the decades-old clutter layered beneath.
Running such a hotel requires a special calling, or need. There are visitors coming, guests who have nowhere else to go.
– from the diary of Jacob Ascher, proprietor, Deadfall Hotel, 1969-2000
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Excerpt from DEADFALL HOTEL copyright 2012 by Steve Rasnic Tem. Used by permission