Friday, January 31, 2014

Chainsaw Exorcism with Author R. Richardsson about his Novel The Rise and Fall of John Rizzerio

Could you tell me about yourself and about your books?

For as long as I can remember, I have been a huge fan of horror. The first horror movie I watched was Evil Dead. The first book, Stephen King’s ‘It’. From then on I was hooked. Very little frightened me, and in fact, I have been searching for twenty years for a movie or book that will do just that. The things that do frighten me are more mundane than monsters; (some) nightmares, personal loss, that sort of thing. I’m married, with four children and as such, I never see more horror than I do in the news.

I am currently finishing the third book in a trilogy simply titled ‘Ballad of John Rizzerio’. Book one, which I see you later ask about, is ‘The Rise and Fall of John Rizzerio’. John, or J.R. to his friends, is a direct descendant of Abraham Van Helsing and though he doesn't yet know it, is about to re-embark on his great-grandfather’s quest. This book takes place in two different time periods, past and present, where we find him respectively coming into his full potential and later falling from grace.

In the second book, ‘The Hunter Reborn’, the story picks up three hours after the closing events in book one. J.R., moments after having defeated an enemy that has long plagued his family, has been incarcerated and is being charged with multiple counts of murder. His friends are gone, his family, taken and he is descending a downward spiral into a dark hole he may or may not be able to return from. Friends, old and new, come together to rescue him from not only the coming tides of darkness, but from the darkness in himself as well. Will they be able to do so before it’s too late?

Book three, which I am in now in the final chapters of writing, will be titled ‘J.R. Van Helsing’. From the second book’s cover and title, we already know that there is a resurrection of sorts. This novel, and epic conclusion to a story twenty years in the making, will see J.R. and his friends coming head-to-head with the Prince of Darkness himself; Vlad Tepes III…or as he is more commonly known; Dracula.

Why do you write?

Writing was the easy choice, after I took into consideration the years of storytelling already behind me. I’ve always been a sucker for a good story, especially of the scary variety. Once I discovered this passion, I began to devour every one that I could get my hands on. Whether it was written, told through film or by other means, I had to be a part of it.

It wasn't long before my school’s library was no longer able to offer me what I was looking for and for a time I simmered. I wasn't yet old enough to get to the town library, and living in a one parent home meant I wouldn't have very many days when said parent wasn't working one job or the other in which I could get a ride there. Yes, I simmered for what seemed like an eternity, (Actually only the length of a summer…), but it wasn't long before I found my way into a type of story I had more control over; table top role playing games.

For the next year, I absorbed the rule books, histories and anything else I could sink my mental teeth into. There were many adventures to be had in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. There were many nights to survive in Vampire: The Masquerade. I was an Elfin Decker in Shadowrun and I loved every minute. But, it just wasn't enough. I had to have more!

So I learned to host the games. I WAS the game master in my group. I created the stories, the adventures and I loved every minute of it. Eventually, I discovered that my friends did as well when I couldn't take back the role of the gamer! *laughs* From then on, and until we parted ways, I continued my new role.

Why am I a writer you ask? I've been too far gone from storytelling. I’m bored with the stories being offered by Hollywood. I don’t have the financial freedom to delve into the newest adventure/rpg game for my gaming systems. I write because I have that need to experience a new story. More importantly, I write because I have a need to share that story with you (the reader).

What characters do you most identify with and why?

I think that J.R. and I have more in common than either of us would care to admit. Here is a man that has all the potential in the world, but he finds himself heavily burdened by his own inner turmoil. Every man has a cross to bear, but not every man is able to do so heroically. Sometimes…sometimes we have to fall before we are able to realize the potential with-in ourselves. Sometimes we fall much further than others.

I see a lot of myself in J.R., but I can’t say that I see all of myself in him. Each of my characters are living entities in their own right. No, I most identify with him because he and I have had to go through similar struggles to get to where we are today. Though our stories are different, the foundation lies true.

What was the writing process like? What inspired you to write your books?

I wish that I could say that it was some magical process, or that I was methodical about what I did, but this wouldn't be true. The story of J.R. came to life two decades ago as a final project for an advanced English course I was taking at the time. When I felt that first spark, I sat down and wrote a brief look into his life as a thirty page document. It took me most of the night. And because I was a huge procrastinator at that time it happened to be the night before the project was due, but it was well worth it. That was the moment.

I wasn't so much as inspired to write, as I was compelled to do so. As I previously mentioned, my passion for stories pushes me not only to read them, but now to write them as well. It was more of me coming across the old manuscript and thinking; “Hmm… I suppose I better finish this.”

Like before, I simply sat down and began. Only this time, the night lasted three months. When I read through those old college rule pages, it was as if John were calling to me. He reminded me that his story wasn't yet told and being the storyteller that I am, I couldn't just let it lie.

What about writing makes you feel most powerful?

The closest I can come to answering this is in the most obvious; being able to have complete control over the story. But that wouldn't be fair if I used it. It’s not that I have power over my writing. I don’t look at it that way. I think of it as channeling a story that’s already there. It’s not like I am constantly thinking of my next story. It’s already alive up there, somewhere. All it takes is that spark to get my attention. Once it does, I know that I’m in it for the long haul!

Very little changes from thought to paper except for the way it’s worded. My fingers are always flying across the keyboard, desperately fighting to stay even with them (my thoughts), but it doesn't always end up that way. As a result, I may go back and find that I have to expand a paragraph into a page, or that I need to remove a placeholder thought and replace it with the actual description.

I can’t say that I feel powerful when writing, only humble that I’m allowed to do so. It’s a greater feeling still when I hear from a reader who enjoyed my work.

I see that Jesus is on the cover of your book "The Rise and Fall of John Rizzerio." Could you tell me about why you choose the image?

Ah yes, a question I’m all too familiar with, and thank you for asking. One of the things you will immediately notice is that we find the image of Christ contorting in pain. Not only this, but he displays signs of stigmata by the bleeding from his wounds.

This image plays an integral role in my books as it represents the holy relic J.R. wields against the creatures of the night and all of their brethren. The cross, being directly connected to him in a spiritual and emotional state, grows more and more agitated as his condition deteriorates.

Throughout the first book, we see the support characters reacting to its (the cross) condition when they are not able to judge so by J.R.'s appearance alone. While he doesn't mask his pain very well, he is able to keep his spiritual weakening well hidden… You can see this connection implied by the shadow below the cross, which depicts a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat (as J.R. is known to do in the books).

What did you learn about yourself as you were writing? What might your readers learn about themselves?

Wow, what can I say? When I first opened the file that would house book one, I knew that my life was forever going to change. That day, as I wrote the first few lines of ‘The Rise and Fall…” I learned that I was a writer. I had surpassed the threshold of ‘always wanting to’, and entered the realm of ‘finally am’.

I also learned that I had a lot of room to grow as well! As I recorded the story of J.R.’s rise and fall, I realized that my writing style and my writer’s voice would only be heard if I continued past this point. I started this book wondering if I had it in me to write this story but here I sit wondering if I have it in me to finish it!

If there is a lesson to learn from J.R.’s story, I hope that it’s to value friendship.

Let’s just leave it at that for now. J

You mentioned that your first book is a dark horror fantasy. How dark does it get? What was it like writing the dark parts?

To answer this question, we need to look at a definition of dark fantasy. Notice I didn't say ‘the’ definition? That’s because I’m borrowing this next paragraph from Wikipedia. When I was scrolling through the genre selections, I researched those closest to what I thought my work was and this is the definition that I decided upon.

Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy which can refer to literary, artistic and filmic works that combine fantasy with elements of horror. The term can be used broadly to refer to fantastical works that have a dark, gloomy atmosphere or a sense of horror and dread.

There are several things I didn't in this series. First, I didn't want a traditional vampire hunter story. In order for this to happen, it has to have some elements of realism. Even with there being all this spiritual and supernatural power, something has to hit close to home. In order to do that, we need to turn down the lamp and let the darkness creep in a little.

We see J.R. struggling internally throughout the first two books. Even with all of his abilities, he isn't able to protect everyone he loves and this hits him hard. As a result, we have to follow him into a place that most don’t make it out of. Darkness isn't always about the blood and guts. It’s in the choices that are made. It’s the thoughts we have during our darkest hours and it’s certainly about how we feel in said times. I’m not against bringing you there for a little while.

What was it like traveling down that road? I won’t lie. It was hard. I've bared to you some of my darkest fears in a previous answer, and I share them with you through some of my writings as well.

Where can readers go to find out more about your writings? 


I’ve conveniently collected every link for my book, in ebook as well as in print form, and placed them on my website. Why not drop by sometime and pay me a visit Beneath The Headstone at www.rrichardsson.com? You can also like me on facebook and follow me on twitter.

I’m always looking for new mourners to lament the stories found with-in. There are many things to do Beneath The Headstone, I ensure you. Of course there are the links to my books, but you may also stumble across some hidden gems as well!

I’ve resurrected ideas for short stories, and will continue to do so for you to read as we make this journey together. You can also join my current webseries; She Has A Pretty Face Though, & The Box, each of which are nearing the end of their tales.

My short stories and webseries are a way of allowing readers to sample my style and to hear my writer’s voice. These I freely share to you and as they finish, other’s will begin anew!

In the ‘Ballad of John Rizzerio’, you can get copies of books one and two anytime. In fact, I encourage you to do so! It won’t be long before the final installment is released, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be thirsting for what happens next!

Finally, thank you for following me on this Q&A. I also want to thank izombiheartzoey, who was kind enough to host this interview.



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