Thriller: an interview with Christopher Rice

Are writers made not born? This notion is almost absurd when Christopher Rice is the subject. Rice was definitely born of words. He is the son of renowned poet Stan Rice and one of the most widely read contemporary authors Anne Rice. Christopher Rice made a name for himself and is highly acclaimed for his three bestselling thrillers: A Density of Souls, The Snow Garden and Light Before Day.

Are writers made not born? This notion is almost absurd when Christopher Rice is the subject. Rice was definitely born of words. He is the son of renowned poet Stan Rice and one of the most widely read contemporary authors Anne Rice.
Christopher Rice made a name for himself and is highly acclaimed for his three bestselling thrillers: A Density of Souls, The Snow Garden and Light Before Day.
With his fourth novel Blind Fall undergoing final editing, Rice takes the time to talk terror.

Stephen King’s books are often converted into film. Of your books to date, which would you be happy to see on the big screen?

I would most like to see my forthcoming novel Blind Fall made into a movie. It has a complex but sympathetic main character, a marine who is still looking for ways to be a hero now that he has come home from combat. It also has the most hopeful ending of anything I have ever written.

What is the creepiest thing you have ever read?

It was a scene in Stephen King’s novel Desperation. A band of people trying to flee a haunted desert town in Arizona come across a seemingly empty house only to discover an entire family seated at a dinner table, dead in their chairs. Too late, they notice the bite marks covering their arms and faces and then rattlesnake after rattlesnake comes slithering out of every crevice. Terrifying! The kind of scene a B-movie director couldn’t pull off but Stephen King makes you feel every single second of it.

Are you a fan of horror movies?

When I was younger I was a bigger fan of truly gory horror films. Maybe I felt more invincible but now I find myself unable to watch them. I was entirely turned off by the “torture-porn” phenomenon that swept horror films in the US over the past few years.

What are your top five horror favorites?

Pure classics that no Halloween movie night should be without:
1. Jaws, 2. Halloween (The original), 3. The Sixth Sense, 4. The Silence of the Lambs, 5. Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

What is your idea of a horrifying Boogeyman?

Faceless killers don’t frighten me as much as someone with the ability to seduce me into making myself vulnerable to them. The serial killer who starts by lending a helping hand scares me silly. Ted Bundy would be close to my idea of the Boogeyman.
Have you had any truly eerie encounters?
I used a Ouija board once in a former orphanage that my mother owned in New Orleans. I left the room while two of my friends handled the board. I picked a book of a shelf from a library on another floor and returned to the room with the book hidden under my shirt. The Ouija board spelled out the title of the book that I was concealing to the letter! I’ve never gone near one again.

What was it like growing up with a mother who wrote so much about vampires and witches?

My mother never scared me with stories of vampires and witches. As a young child, I remember thinking that the real world, the threat of nuclear war and serial killers was frightening enough. She shared in that view. We are both highly imaginative people and we only need to hear a few details of some horrible news story or frightening true life tale to imagine what it was like for someone to go through it.

You’ve lived in New Orleans and California. Which place has a larger fright factor?

New Orleans has the obvious creep factors but there are far scarier things about California. Most of California is rural and desolate and even the big cities are incredibly easy to get lost in. You can be anonymous, cut off from the rest of the world in L.A. in ways you could never be in New York or Chicago. Also, people come to California with very big dreams and when those dreams aren’t satisfied, their ambition can warp into a very scary thing.

What essentials does a writer need to know when trying to deliver a suspenseful thriller?

Good suspense is not the result of external factors. It comes from the collision of something intrinsic to your character and the external factors pressing down on them.
It’s not enough to put a bomb under the dinner table. One of the people seated at the table has to know the bomb is there but they refuse to diffuse it for a very specific reason.

Your New York Times Bestselling thrillers A Density of Souls and The Snow Garden contain wicked, monstrous people. How did you tap into such a sinister mind frame and create these evil characters?
I think part of my fascination with “real monsters” comes out of my sense of having been an outsider for most of my life. But another part of it is my belief that evil does not consider itself evil, so how do you define it? In creating these real monsters, I think all writers are looking for new terms they can use to define evil.
Christopher Rice’s new novel Blind Fall (Scribner) is due out in March 2008.

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