The ability to fly has always been a fascination of men. Before the Wright brothers, dreams of soaring through the heavens occupied the sketches of Da Vinci, the Greek myth of Icarus, and who knows how many countless others. One person who understands life in the sky is first-time author, Richard Farnsworth, who, in addition to writing great horror fiction, pilots the AH-64 Apache helicopter. Farnsworth’s first novel, “Succumbing to Gravity” features a character familiar with flight, now grounded as part of his punishment. Farnsworth was kind enough to answer a few questions for the curious readers of Horrorview.com.
Rick, welcome and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. I recently completed reading “Succumbing to Gravity”, ironically, on a plane. I remember very well the imagery and detail of the opening pages, where the lead character describes soaring through the skies on his mighty wings. The love of flight is so important in this novel. Tell me how your profession led you to choose this lead character.
RF: Thanks for having me. As a pilot, especially of a small aircraft, you get a real sense of how dynamic the atmosphere is, and I always wanted to convey the visceral nature of flight in a character. The fallen nature of the angel comes from the fact that I have been promoted out of direct piloting responsibilities. So in effect I can feel Greg’s pain on several levels.
A falling angel is a serious topic in itself. What made you decide on Greg/Ara’s heroin habit? There are plenty of ways to fall from Heaven, and still be a contributing member of society, as we see later with Ambrose. What was the motivation behind Greg’s addiction?
RF: I started with the simple question “If you lived in God’s Grace (which is a good thing) how bad would it suck if you were kicked out? And how much worse would it be if it were your own fault?” So Greg has this self-loathing, impulse control issues, and no hope. In my limited experience it sounded like the sort of thing an addict would say. I spent time on a number of drug recovery blogs and the voice of despair you hear in Greg is a voice you can find closer to home than you would imagine. I went with heroin as I think it’s clearly one of the most destructive (and self-destructive) things out there.
While on the subject of the angels, what made you choose this particular group of Angels, and the concept of the second rebellion?
RF: I was inspired by the Jewish Apocryphal Book of Enoch. I wanted to do a slightly smaller and more intimate treatment than you usually see with the ‘Big Fire and Brimstone’ novels that use Demons and Fallen Angels (think Constantine or the latest Legion). So, the second rebellion was a natural extension- if you had it good on earth and were locked in Hell wouldn’t you do what you could to get out? I certainly would. And I got to play with literary allusions to the Milton and others.
Without giving too much away, tell me about the confrontation in the church? Did you have the dynamics between the heroes and the villains, and Ara and Turiel. It’s a scene that just rips the reader’s heart right out. Powerful stuff. Did you have that mentally mapped out, or did it evolve as you wrote the novel?
RF: It was certainly a hard scene to write. I did mapped it out before hand and rewrote it many many times. I had several plot points that I thought anchored the story and the Turiel/Ara scene was one of the more important ones. I don’t want to give it away, so forgive me for being cryptic. But Greg’s life sucks, and he’s dealing with it poorly. So I needed to push him one step further (which gave us the scene after and that sort of explains from his point of view why heroin) and also helps to explain what happened to make him hit bottom like he has. Of all the horrible things we people can do to one and other, I think the hardest to deal with is hurting those that are close to us. Add to that that isn’t that person’s fault but our own shortcoming that is the real cause, and yeah horribly tortured.
Ok, let’s jump to the writing process. I love the switch of voicing and point-of-view. It breaks tradition completely, but allows readers to escape the single vision of the main character. When did you decide on that writing approach?
RF: I wanted the story to be Greg’s in first person, there are so many things that you need from the story that you can only get from his POV. But doing that didn’t allow me to tell Maria and Graves’ stories. And it really was their book too. (Greg was often hard to write- to get the balance between fallen hero, addict, wise-guy with, as you wrote in the review, a noir vibe, really challenging. Graves on the other hand was a blast I kept asking ‘what would crazy uncle so-and-so say in this instance.)
So I played around with Greg in 3rd Person and it was just so much flatter. I ended up just going for it. James Lee Burke writes these lovely textured novels with a similar technique, so, though unconventional, not completely iconoclastic (and you get to see one of the people who have influenced my writing).
How did you join Reliquary Press, and how has that relationship matched up with what you expected when you first started writing?
RF: Reliquary was pretty an answer to a call for submissions. The Gentlemen that run the press have been great to work with and I’ve been happy with the product. As a small press they have a limited advertising budget, so there’s no limo taking me to the book signings or anything. But I believe in the book so I don’t mind helping with the marketing.
There are a lot of things I really enjoyed about “Succumbing to Gravity.” Given how heavy the story is, and how it ends, I’m going to guess you have other things in mind before readers get to hear from Greg again. Can you tell fans what’s coming next from Rick Farnsworth?
RF: Yes, I do. I think StG will be a stand alone, because I don’t have any idea how to undo what I did and set him up for a new story. My next novel is the story of a Special Forces Captain who is attacked by a were-hyena (Bouda) while fighting the global war on terror in east Africa. He returns to the States, infected and trying to come to terms with his lycanthropy. His normal ‘life’, post integration, pretty much falls apart. He runs afoul of two werewolf packs. Mayhem ensues. The story is meant to represent the challenges of integrating back into civilian life after going to war (I was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom so I have some experience there). It came from a short story in ‘The Beast Within’ by Graveside Tales, that I was motivated to write after returning from the war about a ‘disabled’ veteran, only his disability is his lycanthropy.
Finally, do you have any advice or recommendations for the many fiction writers who visit our site? I’d like to hear a few things you might suggest from your own experience.
Wow, that’s a really big question, isn’t it? First don’t quit. The difference between a writer and a non-writer is writing, not how well your book sells (though that’s nice too). I write. I read a lot. I read in and out of different genres. When I write I pick apart the ‘authenticating details’ in a scene and start with that. Something that can anchor the reader quickly and have him/her say ‘I know that’. When I read, I ask myself, self, how could I have brought the reader into the scene better (or as good, but different). And, did I say keep writing?