Interview With Richard Larson

Richard Larson
Richard Larson

Richard Larson’s story “Frosty’s Lament” can be found in Shimmer Issue #13.  was born in 1984 and is a Brooklynite by way of St. Louis, MO. His stories have appeared in such venues as Strange Horizons, ChiZine, Electric Velocipede, Sybil’s Garage, and many others, and are forthcoming in Subterranean and Wilde Stories 2011: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction. His book and movie reviews also appear regularly in Strange Horizons and Slant Magazine. He went to grad school at NYU but all he got was this stupid T-shirt, so now he just writes weird stories while haunting Brooklyn coffee shops. He can be found online at http://www.rlarson.net, and can be reached at rlarson84@gmail.com.

Where did the idea for “Frosty’s Lament” come from? Talk to us a bit about the genesis of the story.
I think often about relationships between people and what we get from others that we can’t somehow create for ourselves. The idea of making a snowman, or really any sort of artificial companion, runs parallel in a lot of ways to human relationships; the snowman fulfills the purpose that he’s assigned, until he suddenly doesn’t. But I wanted to turn this dynamic around and look at it from the point of view of the snowman. What if he didn’t like his assigned role? What if he wanted more?

How did you celebrate your first fiction sale?
I’m not sure I remember, actually. I was sixteen, and I sold a pretty traditional fantasy story about dueling wizards to a now-defunct small press (which was eventually published as a chapbook alongside a dark, twisted story by the awesome Brett Savory) and I’m sure I thought that I was now officially a writer and that it would all be downhill from there. So maybe I squealed and then went bowling with my friends or something.

When did you realize you were a writer?
I’ve sort of always thought of myself as a writer. I used to watch old black-and-white horror movies with my grandfather and then I would write my own stories based on the movies. I still remember the day he showed me the original King Kong for the first time. Anyway, my friends and I would illustrate the stories and turn them into weird little books filled with lots of blood and death. I’m sure our mothers were very proud. So I always knew I wanted to tell stories about monsters and other scary, mostly imaginary things. I guess now I’m living the dream. Having other people read and enjoy my stories is a particularly pleasurable bonus.

What piece of writerly advice do you wish someone had given you?
That’s a tough question. I’m a very young writer in the grand scheme of things, so I’m sure people will still be giving me advice for quite a while. And I’m sure much of it will be really useful, and of course some of it won’t be useful at all. I guess something that would’ve saved me a lot of time, though, would have been someone telling me to stop worrying about everything and just focus on doing the writing. If you’re excited about what’s showing up in the pages, it’s likely that other people will be, too.

Favorite book you’ve read in recent weeks?
I recently read Paul Tremblay’s amazing short story collection, In The Mean Time, and I’m still thinking about it. There’s so much in there worth loving and savoring. I’ll be reviewing it soon for Strange Horizons.

If you could talk to any author from the past, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Another tough one! I’m not sure, given the opportunity, that I would have anything useful to ask. I like to think that everything is already there in the work they left behind. Maybe I’d explain blogging to Hemingway and ask him if he would’ve found it useful to his career. This seems to be what everyone is concerned about these days.

Do your characters talk to you?  Do you see the stories as images?  Do you ever argue with characters you hadn’t planned?
The characters do tell me things sometimes, but not in a creepy way. Mostly they just tell me what they’re up to and what they’re talking about—and this conversation only takes place when my pen is on the paper, or when I’m, like, doing my cardio workout at the gym and wishing I had my pen and paper with me.

I guess every story starts out differently. Sometimes it’ll be a “what if…” sort of thing, but more often it’ll be just a weird scenario that occurs to me, something I want to unpack further. And sometimes it’s something as minor as a turn of phrase that sparks associations and then starts a narrative that hopefully ends up turning into a story.

But no, I never argue with my characters. I have to trust them completely or else this just won’t work out.

What do you like most about living in NYC? What do you dislike? Does the city fuel your creativity at all?
I think the best thing about living in New York is being aware of all the things that are available at any one moment, even if what I want to be doing is sitting on my couch with a glass of wine watching old horror movies. Which is something that I do often. But so much of New York is imaginary, the product of all these disparate fantasies projected together onto one relatively small patch of land, and that definitely fuels the creative process because the city makes impossibility seem tangible, like something that we can still have a legitimate conversation about. New York is a different place for everyone, and that’s what I love about fiction, too. We all bring different perspectives to the table, and that’s what keeps it alive.

Do you have a favorite story among your own works?
I like to think that my stories are all equally awesome. But seriously, I do tend to prefer the ones that are the most personal, the most rooted in my hopes and experiences and fears and anxieties. Which I guess, also, is all of them.

Croissants or calamari?
A good croissant is one of the most perfect things in the world.

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