Member Profile – Tom Piccirilli
Posted by Dark Whisperer on August 23, 2007
HWA member Tom Piccirilli lives in Colorado where, besides writing, he spends an inordinate amount of time watching trash cult films and reading Gold Medal classic noir and hardboiled novels. He’s a fan of Asian cinema, especially horror movies, pinky violence, and samurai flicks. He also likes walking his dogs around the neighborhood. Are you starting to get the hint that he doesn’t have a particularly active social life? Well to heck with you, buddy, yours isn’t much better. Give him any static and he’ll smack you in the mush, dig? Tom also enjoys making new friends. He’s the author of seventeen novels including The Midnight Road, A Choir of Ill Children, and Headstone City. He’s a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a final nominee for the World Fantasy Award and the International Thriller Writers Award. And, as you will see, one heck of an interesting writer.
How did you start writing?
The need to fantasize has always been with me. Like most writers I think I got the bug when I was very young and finally decided to take a stab at it in my teens. I wanted to somehow become a part of what I felt was the overwhelming profound grandness of literature. I’d scribble away in a marble notebook during lunch or study hall and write stories about an adult world I was barely a part of. It’s no wonder I eventually fell into writing fantasy. When you’re fifteen and your experiences are vastly limited, it’s probably easier to imagine your own world than write with any authenticity about the real one.
Most influential work?
Quite possibly Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me. Although much of Thompson’s work has been overly lauded in the past couple decades, Killer reamins a benchmark in the gray area between noir and psychological horror. It’s a brutal examination of a clever killer driven to commit heinous acts all the while disguised as a bumbling deputy sheriff. The first time I read it the novel opened up a whole new world of dark literature for me, and in subsequent rereadings the book still hasn’t lost any of its power for me.
Which of your works is your favorite and why?
Probably THE DEAD LETTERS. It’s the novel where I managed to fuse nearly all the themes that comprise my books and stories taken as a body of work. It’s got touches of horror, crime, psychological suspense, hardboiled full-throttle asskicking. It’s the novel where I bridged the atmosphere of terror with that of a thriller, and a narrative drive of a noir/mystery storyline. Like most writers I love reading in many genres. I’ve written novels in many genres, but in TDL, I think I managed to take my strengths from across the board and blend them together into something that has its very own flavor.
What is your most recent novel about?
THE MIDNIGHT ROAD is suspense novel with some (possibly) supernatural touches along the way. It’s about a Child Protective Services investigator who during the course of an investigation runs into some violent and deadly folks. He’s involved in a car crash, dies, is revived, and from therein out winds up in a cat-and-mouse game with a killer. He’s also haunted by a dead talking ghost dog who enjoys Betty Grable movies.
What is coming up next for you?
I have two novels due out early in ’08, a straight-up crime novel THE COLD SPOT from Bantam, and HELLBOY: EMERALD HELL from Dark Horse.
What was it like working with such an iconic character as Hellboy?
Right from the start Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy and all-around Big Kahuna at Dark Horse, said that he didn’t expect me to write a Hellboy novel so much as he expected HB to appear in a Piccirilli novel. That allowed me a lot of play, bringing in some themes and elements I’ve toyed around with before and dropping Hellboy right in the middle of it all. It’s such an interesting character and applying him to a world where I’ve never seen him run rampant in before really was a great deal of fun.
What attracts you to the horror genre?
The world is so huge and vast, and our understanding of it so limited, that I’m taken with the thrill of the idea of what lies beyond our comprehension. Of the unknown. And as we all realize, what’s unknown is often feared. To question and be curious about what we don’t understand naturally leads us down the path to terror. The fight or flight response is the first and most inherent building block to our psyches, so if you’re really interested about what makes us human, you need to go right back there to those deepest feelings. The drives that make us run, and those that make us stand up and fight against what frightens us.
Many of your works also have a noir element – care to talk about what drives your interest there?
I think noir fiction is probably the most understandable form of dark literature from an honest, emotional point-of-view. Noir generally deals with good men led down some dark path and are unwilling or incapable of turning back even though they know it might very well lead to their own demise. I think that’s the essence of my horror and my crime work–it’s not so much good people caught up in terrible events as it is how these terrible events bring out the worst in my characters. Their traumas, flaws, fears, angers. And it’s from that emotional context that I try to tell my stories. It’s what I find most interesting about dark literature–not the blood and guts or the horrors or the good vs. evil tango, but the idea that we all have certain ineradicable character flaws which are always waiting to lead us to our doom.
To learn more, check out his official website, Epitaphs