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The Hidden Lands
Dissent: Volume 6 of the Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing

The Hidden Lands

American novelist Ronald Malfi has a number of novels to his credit in the horror/thriller genre, but his latest, The Canyon of Souls, is his first release in India. An adventure-sports thriller set around the regions of Nepal and Tibet, the book has been well-received by readers in the country. The author spoke to Oswald Pereira, author of The Newsroom Mafia (review), about his work, India, and future plans. Read on for excerpts—

Helter Skelter: Ronald Malfi
Author Ronald Malfi.

I was at the edge of my seat while reading The Canyon of Souls and there were times when I had goosebumps! Can you share with your readers how you manage to pack in so much of mystery, danger, and thrills in your writing? Does it come in easily or do you slog at it?
I wouldn’t say it necessarily comes easily, but it does come naturally. These are my favourite stories to tell—a strong character piece underscored by elements of mystery, suspense, and horror. The Canyon of Souls is one of those books that writes itself—one chapter led into the next very easily, and I was never at a loss for where it was headed. Not all books come that simply!

I’ve read that your novel Shamrock Alley, released a couple of years ago, was based on the experiences of your father, a retired Secret Service agent, but The Canyon of Souls seems to be pure fiction. What made you write the book?
I came up with the idea one afternoon—namely, that it would be interesting to trap a group of men on a mountaintop, hunted and toyed with by a sadistic killer seeking revenge. I really liked the idea but knew it would require a lot of research, since I knew very little about mountaineering. It was daunting to think about all the research that would have to go into the story. It is very different from Shamrock Alley in that regard. I tend to write what interests me and leave the worrying about what genre the book belongs in to my publishers.

Do you love this book as much as your other work or is The Canyon of Souls your best book to date?
It’s certainly one of my favourites. I really empathise with the main character, Tim Overleigh, and I like how all the “good” characters are also very flawed characters, as evidenced by Tim’s drinking problem and the failure of his marriage and, subsequently, his life after Hannah’s death. Even Andrew has a sympathetic side, in his rationale for his motivations. I’m very intrigued by characters like that and enjoy writing them and learning more about them during the writing process.

“I find that if I know exactly how a story will end, I will lose interest in it and never get around to actually writing it.”

When you write do you go with the flow or do you meticulously plan and plot your story and sculpt your characters in advance, weaving them into the scheme that you’ve mapped out?
I’ll sound terribly lazy admitting this, but I tend to just go with the flow. I never outline and rarely do I take notes on the plot of a story. Typically, I come up with an idea and think about it for awhile until I have some vague and partially-defined idea of where the story is headed. Very often I don’t know exactly how a book will end as I’m writing it. I find that if I know exactly how a story will end, I will lose interest in it and never get around to actually writing it. This way, I learn what’s going on with the story the same as the reader.

Helter Skelter: The Canyon of Souls
The Canyon of Souls book cover.

The release of your book in India seems to mark your entry or direct contact with the readers here. How excited or optimistic are you about this?
I am thrilled. It seems India is a rich literary landscape, with so many great books being published there, and I’m excited to be a part of it, and to have a great group of publishers on my side to make this happen. From what I understand, the book has already been warmly embraced, and I’m hoping that continues. I mean, come on—how cool is it to have a book published in India!

See Also
I Am a Troll

Would you consider planning a book where all the action takes place in India?
That appeals to me very much, as does taking a trip to your country to get a better feel for the land and the people. It’s such a cultured and deep society that I would fear I wouldn’t capture it correctly without having been there firsthand. Perhaps I can sleep on your couch during my visit?

What’s your next writing venture looking like?
Currently, I’m involved in promotions for my current title here in the U.S., a ghost story/mystery titled Floating Staircase, that is doing well. The following year will see a horror novel released, titled The Narrows, which explores what type of monsters can come to a small rural U.S. town when the industry dries up and the people begin to move away. I also hope more of my titles will become available in India, following the success of The Canyon of Souls.

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