by David Necro
photos by: Rick Florino
Rick Florino started his dream at young age. 19 to be exact. He went to Los Angeles to pursue this dream. He was and is successful. Starting out with magazines such as 'Metal Edge,' 'AMP,' and 'Lollipop,' he brought forth a unique style that was clever, vivid, and highly eloquent. This led to his own creation, 'Ruin Magazine.''Ruin' is a full-color glossy rock magazine that expressed more of what Rick's vision is. And that is artistic genius and candor. Rick is also the editor for ARTISTdirect.com. where he conducts interviews with A-list film and music talent for exclusive features. In print and on-camera.His first book, 'Do the Devil's work for Him,' came out in June of 2009. Rick was featured on 'No Good TV' with members of Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver, System of a Down, and Devildriver which brought forth a hilarious segment with both Rick and the members of said rock groups.He now is in the midst of his unholy creation, called the 'Dolor' series. Which delves futher into his passions; fiction writing and the horror genre. 2 of which have been published to date. They are 'Lila,' and 'Chrissy.' This will be a 10 volume set when all is said and done. It is shaping up as a must read for aficionados of horror, suspense, and intrigue **Paraphrased from the book, 'Dolor: Chrissy, Book II'
Crypt Magazine had a chance to sit down with this soon-to-be master of mayhem, and to get a peek inside this man's warped mind...
David Necro: How and when did you get into the horror genre?
Rick Florino: For as long as I can remember, I've always been intrigued by the horror genre and horror culture. My effective "entry" into horror undoubtedly came with discovering Edgar Allan Poe's work as a kid. After reading Poe's short stories like Ligeia and The Tell-Tale Heart, I realized the infinite possibilities inherent in short horror fiction—hence my Dolor series of ten 40-50 page horror novellas [Laughs]. Poe's Ligeia will always remain an inspiration to me. I think Ligeia is Poe's most poignant work, because it poetically explores obsession in a palpable fashion. Horror works best when it plays on the amplification of everyday emotions—when an author, filmmaker or musician can take "normal" feelings such as infatuation, anxiety or depression and let them burgeon and bubble into something terrifying and self-reflective, it's the ultimate form of art, in my opinion. So Edgar Allan Poe was certainly my gateway, but there are so many other facets to horror that made me a fan and, moreover, functioned as a catalyst for my becoming a novelist. After discovering Edgar Allan Poe, I became transfixed by the work of Stephen King, who remains the true master of the genre and my biggest influence, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft. I'm also a devout cinephile, and I have been since I was a kid. Movies inspire me more than anything, and some early inspirations were The Shining, Carrie, The Exorcist, Halloween, Se7en and Fallen. Also, I'm a diehard From Dusk 'Til Dawn fan. That film combined everything that I love—a pulp aesthetic, tongue-in-cheek humor, horror and action. In many ways, it's the perfect popcorn flick, and it shows the best way to create an amalgam of different genres and styles. I feel like heavy metal will always stay bonded to horror as well. Listening to White Zombie's Astro Creep 2000 and Pantera's Great Southern Trendkill definitely reinforced my love for horror culture. I feel like both records embrace the genre's aesthetic, and capture the extreme emotions that come along with crafting horror. The thing that I love the most about the genre is that people who are into it are diehard about it. The same holds true for heavy metal. People become enmeshed in the culture in both, and it truly is a very unifying thing. Going to heavy metal shows as a kid, like Korn or Pantera at the Worcester Centrum when I was growing up in Massachusetts, it was easy to feel a part of something. There would be this sea of people with a common love for hard rock coming together to celebrate a band and have a good time; and there's no better feeling in the world. Horror is the same way. Fans line up to go catch the new Saw flick or Friday the 13th and they exude the same fervor. I love being a part of that, and it's invigorating and inspiring.
DN: What challenges present the writer when writing about the horror genre?
RF: The biggest challenge is keeping the reader's attention. That holds true for any kind of writing, but now I think that's the case more than ever since people's attention spans have become so short with our collective Internet-fixation and the Twitter-ific communication breakdown. As a first time novelist, I definitely took that into account. That's precisely why each installment of the Dolor series is as short as it is. You can say a lot in 40-50 pages, and I learned that from reading Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King's short stories. The first installment of Dolor, Lila, encompasses everything from the loss of a child to demonic possession to drug addiction to the horrors of high school to the disintegration of a marriage to feelings of intense alienation, and it's less than 50 pages! However, it resonates because it's quick. You can read it in one bus-trip, and then because there is so much that's alluded to, you'll come back. Also, each series installment has a cliffhanger ending. There's no true resolution until the end of book ten. I keep the sentences brief too. I like to write with quick and snappy short sentences that are easy to digest and follow. This way the text feels punchy, and it's easy to read right through in one sitting. I love alliteration and adjectives, but I don't want to ever over-burden the story. The story's the most important part. It doesn't matter if the text often feels colloquial or there are grammar mistakes here and there if the story is interesting. The biggest challenge is keeping the reader's attention, and I know that each Dolor story does that. The second biggest challenge is scaring the reader [Laughs]. That's not easy either these days because this generation has seen it all! That's why subtlety is any horror creator's best weapon and an inversion of imagery that's traditionally safe and comforting. In Lila, there's a satanic, possessed Teddy Bear that barks orders at our tragic narrator. It's creepy because that childhood image that's so classic becomes evil, and it's guaranteed to give you nightmares, especially if you have a teddy bear at home. In the second installment of the series, Chrissy, there are some heinous things that happen in a trailer park that have scarred the narrator mentally. In one very creepy flashback, this woman, who he's in love with but shouldn't be, relays the story. The terror is heightened because he's lost control and is stuck in this house listening to this story about the worst day of his life, and things get even worse after that. I like to explore that loss of control. Nothing is scarier than losing a hold on your own destiny, and Dolor definitely delves into that in each and every story in some way. So, I feel like the series certainly tackles those two biggest challenges [Laughs]. Another challenge is maintaining a sense of humor within this dark landscape. That's important. When you're writing about subjects like kidnapping and the murder of a child, you need to be able to take a break for a joke here or there. In Lila, those moments of humor also come from the teddy bear Henry, and in Chrissy they come from the fact that even though the narrator has been kidnapped he doesn't mind because his captor is a gorgeous woman and he can't get a date not to stand him up otherwise [Laughs].
DN: Where do you get your creative ideas from?
RF: I feel like Dolor exists in the mental space between the fear of the supernatural—the boogeyman, the dark, the devil, clowns, snakes etc.—and how terrible people can be in real life. I draw ideas from everywhere. In many ways, I feel like the first two installments of the Dolor series are very akin to records. The albums in particular are Korn's self-titled debut, Korn's Life is Peachy, Staind's Dysfunction, Stone Temple Pilots' Purple and Slipknot's All Hope is Gone. The aesthetic and the artwork for Lila remind me of early Korn photo shoots from 1994-1997. There's that feeling of a demented lullaby that you see in Korn's video for "Shoots and Ladders" or "Clown" or on their early stage production that always deeply affected and inspired me. Those first two Korn albums remain on my top ten of all time too, and I feel like their raw, cathartic approach to art definitely influences my writing. James "Munky" Shaffer is one of the most innovative and incredible guitarists ever, bleeding with every riff, and Jonathan Davis's cathartic and honest style is entrancing. It's the same thing with Staind's Dysfunction. Aaron Lewis bares his soul unlike anyone else, and he paints pictures of pain that stand proudly alongside Layne Staley and Phil Anselmo's best work. I listened to Dysfunction constantly while I was writing Lila, and it definitely influenced how raw, real and personal the text it. Purple was on "repeat" as well, with "The Big Empty" being a massive help for the writing process. Then there's Slipknot. Corey Taylor is one of the most intelligent, poetic and charismatic frontmen ever, and his writing on songs like "Snuff" is a huge inspiration. Queens of the Stone Age also inspire me endlessly. Then there are movies, I just saw Shutter Island, and I instantly wanted to go home and write. It's one of Scorsese's best movies and easily my favorite film this decade—a horror classic. Seeing something like that, which is so expertly crafted on every level from Dennis Lehane's original novel to Laeta Kalogridis's script to DiCaprio's Oscar-worthy performance, I had to go home and start working on another horror book! My ideas come from movies and music and every day life. Often times, when I'm running in the Hollywood Hills, ideas will come to me for short stories. I'll run back to my phone and punch in these one-sentence synopses, and they'll spark short stories or new novels. Dolor was something that I always wanted to write. I wanted to create my own world, and after dreaming of a little girl leaving her teddy bear outside her door when she was scared, I had to write the first book, Lila. I finished it in three days, and the rest followed. I typically write because I'm interested in the characters. I want to see what happens to them and where they go, the fun part is, I get to control their destinies [Laughs].
DN: What does writing do for you on an emotional level?
RF: This is a great question, thanks David! Writing is my favorite thing to do. I don't enjoy anything else more. So emotionally, it works on two levels. I have fun while I'm writing. I genuinely love the process and every moment of it. However, I also feel like I undergo the same catharsis that my favorite artists have undergone while creating. By exploring life's light and dark moments, you truly learn about yourself and grow. I think I grow up with every book or short story that I compose. I'm able to see things clearly, take a step back and enjoy life by immortalizing these moments on the page. I get what I'm thinking about there, and I feel like I convey a message. Creating is the most gratifying thing in my life, and I'm blessed to have people interested in my work. I really would love to inspire others, and when I hear that readers have been inspired by something I wrote, I'm indescribably grateful. I began writing because I was so inspired by Jonathan Davis, Scott Weiland, Phil Anselmo, Aaron Lewis, Maynard James Keenan, Rob Zombie, Stephen King, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino and countless others, so to inspire someone else is my main goal. When that happens, nothing else matters.
DN: Without giving too much away, how would you describe 'Dolor?'
RF: Ten diaries from ten very different people comprise the Dolor series. Each book is a personal account of some harrowing, supernatural tragedy that occurred in this fictional town. They're all narrated by a different denizen of Dolor, and each narrator is at the end of his or her rope. Usually before someone's about to die, they have the clearest perspective on life, but at the same time, they're scared beyond belief about their impending fate. Each Dolor story examines that phenomenon from a separate perspective. All ten books intertwine and connect, and they form one true hell ride. It's fun to read because you can't put it down, and hopefully you have nightmares afterwards [Laughs].
DN: How much work was it to write and edit the 'Dolor' series?
RF: I'm constantly working on Dolor 24/7 [Laughs]. It's become my life, but I've never been happier! The writing is the most fun part. I don't write unless I know exactly what I want to say. So typically, the stories are written over a three-to-four day period. I'll blaze through 40-50 pages, and that's it. The text needs to stay raw in some ways, because it comes from different people and is written diary-style. Once the text is written, I'll give it to my editor Kathy Kendrick and she'll read it once and make corrections. Then we go over it line-by-line during a series of 2-3 hour phone calls. To finish one Dolor book, we usually talk on three or four calls. Then there's the art. I let the artists illustrate what speaks to them in each text and I carefully associate each picture with a page. Editing takes longer than actual writing, and the same is true for the pictures. However, each piece adds up to making a very deep final product. In addition, my company New American Deities, publishes and distributes Dolor. Spreading the gospel, as it were, is the most work! I dig that as well, but writing is my favorite part!
DN: What are the differences between 'Lila' and 'Chrissy?'
RF: The biggest differences come from the fact that each story is told by a different man. Lila's narrator Caleb Taylor is a police officer who just lost his daughter, Lila. She drowned. His wife left him. He hasn't slept in about a week, and he's talking to his daughter's ghost through her Teddy Bear Henry. There are so many character idiosyncrasies that inform the story. Caleb's a lot older than Chrissy's narrator Rob, plus he's father. All of those factors dictate a different narrative. Lila is primarily told through the use of flashbacks as well. It relies heavily on explaining why things are in so much disarray for Caleb. Chrissy is told in chronological order, with the exception of one very significant and important flashback. Remember, death is knocking on each narrator's door, so in that circumstances they're prone to a lot of reminiscing [Laughs]. Rob is younger than Caleb. He's a bit immature. He's not married, and he has no kids. He's also fixated on trying to find love. Caleb just wants his little girl back. Both men go through Hell, however, it comes in different forms. For Caleb, it's a seeming psychological breakdown, and for Rob he gets hit by a car and kidnapped. In each text, the character's history, flaws and personality directly influences his or her own fate. Here's a bit of a preview—in Book 3, Arielle, Rob and Caleb both come back to help the main narrator Sam in some way. Sam's another guy who is mired in regret during the downturn of a marriage, and then all hell breaks loose for him too. Some really, really sick and scary stuff happens at the end of that book. Nevertheless, it's all a result of where Sam has been…just like in Lila and Chrissy.
DN: How do you develop the characters in your books?
RF: The characters are really the most important element of these books since each book is a diary. I deeply develop the narrators first. I'll come up with detailed character outlines in my head that cover everything about the narrator—from favorite music to worst grade school memory to favorite movie to favorite food. I know EVERYTHING about the narrators, and that's the only way to effectively write someone else's diary. Each detail of the character's upbringing is important to me too, since there are a multitude of flashbacks. I carve out every piece of information about the narrator first and then the secondary characters tend to be personifications of emotions in a classic sense. They all fit into the framework of the narrator's history and the larger story. The narrators definitely dictate everything that happens. In order to write a convincing account of someone's life and fears, you have to everything about him or her, so I'm very close and personally connected to all of these characters.
DN: Do your books blur the lines between the real and surreal?
RF: You nailed it! That's why I love Crypt Magazine—you get it! That's exactly what Dolor does. There are a lot of occurrences and moments in these books that everyone can identify with. Everyone has been let down by someone, and everyone has loved someone that didn't love them back. However, not everyone has gone up against a Satanic teddy bear [Laughs], a few of us have, but not everyone or been hit by a car and kidnapped [Laughs]. I like to take those relatable instances and heighten the tension and suspense by adding elements of the supernatural and surreal. That's what makes the text fun. Readers identify with the characters' problems and trials and tribulations and they read on because they want to see how creepy and strange the stories get with what's going on in that larger supernatural context. For me, these stories really have it all! Everyone can identify with the relationship struggles and then it only gets more interesting when the real evil begins brewing in this literary cauldron.
DN: How do you build suspense in your novels?
RF: Suspense is tricky. That arises from allowing the audience to slowly find out the truth. The writer always has to stay two steps ahead of the reader, but constantly allude to a larger and more intricate plot line that's not instantly visible. It's really about creating a journey of discovery. The reader needs to be able to find something new on every page. At the same time, even though one question is answered each page, three more need to be asked. I think that's the proper way to build suspense, and I definitely feel like Dolor does that. Even at the end of Lila and Chrissy, the reader has a ton of questions, and to me, that's what great literature does. You need to cause the reader to continue to ask questions, while you're allowing them closer to "what's really going on" in the story. For me, that's the most important thing in creating suspense. Keep the reader intrigued, enlightened and confused [Laughs].
DN: Who and/or what is your main inspiration in regards to writing?
RF: My biggest inspirations in regards to writing are Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Dennis Lehane, Vladimir Nabokov, C.S. Lewis, James Ellroy, Dean Koontz and so many movies—Goodfellas, Casino, Heat, Apocalypse Now, Pulp Fiction, Vertigo, The Hangover, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Chinatown and Donnie Brasco. Then there are my favorite singers Scott Weiland, Corey Taylor, Chino Moreno, Phil Anselmo, Jonathan Davis, Aaron Lewis, Eddie Vedder, Jerry Cantrell, Josh Homme and endless more. I'm constantly looking to other art for inspiration. I love comic books too. My favorites are Preacher, Transmetropolitan, The Punisher and anything, absolutely anything by Frank Miller. I think that in order to write well—whether or you're creating fiction or writing criticism—you need to be a fan first and foremost and you need to understand and be immersed in everything that has come before you.
DN: How do you keep the creativity form running out?
RF: You can't force it, and that's what every artist needs to remember. I only write when I know I have something to say. The story has to really speak through you in some sense. The story is larger than the architect, and that's why that must remain paramount. Allow the story to be born and then bring it to life. I think it's really about taking yourself out of the equation and allowing the art to flourish.
DN: Where do you go from here?
RF: There are eight more Dolor books following those now available on www.bookofdolor.com, Lila and Chrissy. Arielle, book III, will be out this summer for sure. I have a horror novel-poetry anthology entitled Lullabies for the Insane and Crooked Fairy Tales for the Depraved due out later this year, and another horror/action novel, Eyes Lie that's on the way! Plus, I've got a comedy, coming-of-age book, Ruined and the best guide on how to get into the entertainment industry that I wrote with my friend Amy Sciarretto, Do the Devil's Work for Him: How to Make it in the Music Industry (and stay in it). That's available everywhere now! I'll never stop writing and creating and I'm thankful for every day that incredible outlets such as Crypt take the time to talk to me and spread the word. I just want to keep writing and hopefully inspire a few people to create something positive and personal!
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