Tom Piccirilli is an American novelist, short story writer and poet. He has sold over 300 stories in the mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, erotica, and science fiction fields, has written more than 20 novels including Shadow Season, The Cold Spot, The Coldest Mile, The Midnight Road, and A Choir of Ill Children and has published three poetry collections including A Student of Hell, This Cape is Red Because I’ve Been Bleeding and Forgiving Judas and My turn to go under the Knife. Piccirilli is a two-time winner of the International Thriller Writers Award for “Best Paperback Original” (2008, 2010). He is a four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. He was also a finalist for the 2009 Edgar Allan Poe Award given by the Mystery Writers of America, a final nominee for the Fantasy Award, has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and twice for the Edgar Award and he won the first Bram Stoker Award given in the category of “Best Poetry Collection”.
I’m extremely honored for the opportunity to interview Thomas Piccirilli. Tom has a genuinely diverse body of work. He intimately incorporates personal life experience encompassing the limitless depths of his imagination where reality meets fantasy and emerges transformed. He writes with courage and temerity weaving a thread of sensitivity that captures our deepest attentions. Not only is he adept at prose and brilliant story-telling – he’s also an insightful poet with a body of work that reveals a plethora of powerful emotion from one end of the spectrum to the other. It’s awe-inspiring to interview someone willing to reveal the nature of things that inspire the presence of both the light and the darkness within them. For it reminds us of the potentials that dwell within us: the monsters churning beneath the surface, hidden in our darkness; and our angels of mercy descending from the light who work toward concession and vindication. All of Tom Piccirilli’s creations reflect a true artisan lost in their work striving toward the resolution of conflicts. Some of these conflicts we know intimately. Some of them we fear with intensity. Many of them Tom has the honor of knowing that he introduced us to them first. And we were hit with the force of a tidal wave.
Without further ado, let us commence with the interview!
RD: Tom… thanks so much for this opportunity. It’s an honor to be here for this interview. Let’s get started with our first question: What was your first professional debut as a writer?
TP: My first novel Dark Father, which sank like a rock.
RD: Tom, you are as amazing as a poet as you are in constructing prose within your novels and short stories. I sense an essence of connection threading everything into an invisible tapestry of unity. Everything you write seems to share an intimate relationship with one another. Do you have a preference when you write?
TP: Prose. At night.
RD: Where were you born and raised?
TP: On Long Island. Traveled only the last couple of years.
RD: Who are your favorite authors?
TP: Bukowski, Crews, Ellroy, Ellison, Willeford, Rabe, Fisher, Cain. Chandler, McBain, Westlake.
RD: The blatantly candid aspects that thrive in your work are captivating. The words you choose to create the imagery can be poignant. How does it feel to just let it rip? Although vicarious, I experience a personal catharsis through your writing. It’s disturbingly refreshing.
TP: Thanks, I’m glad you feel that way.
RD: Hellboy – man – I know you have to relate to this character as an archetype. I see that Hellboy: Emerald Hell was published in 2008. And yet, there was so much more waiting to fuel your writing. How did you get involved writing in the Hellboy universe? Would you do it again?
TP: I got the job from Chris Golden who was at that time running the Hellboy books. I wanted the book to be like the early stories, with just Hellboy and a supernatural force.
RD: I just finished reading Forgiving Judas. Wow. I no longer wonder if someone else has similar thoughts, feelings or walks with nightmares as I do. Your poetry should be required reading in Universities, High Schools and especially all ecclesiastical institutions. You create the most beautiful – sometimes shocking – always surprising – and most sincere shards of life. Do you have a specific objective when you compile a collection of poetry?
TP: Well, it’s not compiled. I write 40-50 poems in a row and I’m good for a year.
RD: When I prepare for an interview, I make certain I do as much research as I can about the person I’m going to spend time with. I am certain that reading Forgiving Judas was the best thing I could have read taking me into the inner sanctum of Tom Piccirilli. I just want to read everything. I have already loaded my Wish List in Amazon. I started on A Choir of Ill Children and I feel like I need to take a walk after almost every chapter, but I’m adjusting. Man – you are awesome – deep respect for you, Tom.
TP: Thanks, man.
RD: “Tonight’s not the night for the ghosts of dead poets to giggle in the underbrush.” I just had to quote from Forgiving Judas. Where did that come from?
TP: I just like the sound of it. When you think of poets, you usually think of dead ones.
RD: You’re appearing at the Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat in Estes Park, Colorado sponsored by Dark Regions Press this coming October as a Guest Author. Do you plan to do anything strange or unusual while you’re there, besides meeting me?
TP: Actually, I lived in EstesPark for five years just a couple of blocks from the Stanley Hotel so I know it very well. I have eaten there, hung out with friends there but I have never seen anything strange.
RD: What is the biggest influence on your writing today?
TP: Influences continue.
RD: Do you prefer a prefabricated universe or would you rather create from the abyss?
TP: Abyss, I suppose.
RD: Do you intricately plot when you write or do you take a more developmental organic approach?
TP: Organic. Which is why some of the novels are so weird. They lead up to an ending I never envisioned.
RD: What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for anyone? What is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
TP: My wife sticking by me the last two years. It’s been hard on her. Plus she married me. That’s nice.
RD: Of all the places you have been in your life, where do you enjoy spending the most time?
TP: Montauk Point, on Long Island.
RD: What audience do you feel that most identifies with you? Is there an audience you would like to reach out to that you feel you may not have connected with yet?
TP: I hope not. I’d like to do more science fiction.
RD: What do you have scheduled for 2015?
TP: Another novel, this one called BLUE AUTUMN.
RD: If you could take back anything you’ve ever done in your life, what would it be?
TP: The way I treated my mother.
RD: In a nutshell, what are your religious and philosophical beliefs?
TP: I’m not sure if I believe in God, but I believe in people. Give them half a chance and they’ll surprise you.
RD: You were diagnosed with brain cancer. Minor Celebrity in Forgiving Judas certainly said a lot, but for those who haven’t as yet read this poem or this amazing collective of thought remembering part of your journey through life, would you be willing to offer some insight into what you really went through during this time? People respond or react differently in many situations. The discovery of a tumor growing in your brain the size of a tennis ball has to elicit a tidal wave of inner experience. Would you share the experience of the announcement of the diagnoses, the following treatment and surgery and what the aftermath has been like for you? How are you today?
TP: I wrote an essay about my experience titled, MEETING THE BLACK. It appeared in the British magazine Beware the Dark #2. Readers can purchase an e-copy at Crossroad Press or Amazon. I have been in remission for over two years. My doctor just told me today that my MRI’s will be going from every three months to every six months.
RD: What is your biggest vice?
TP: Fast food.
RD: Who are your favorite musical performers or bands and what are some of your favorite songs? What song would you say you have listened to the most over the course of your life?
TP: Probably Bruce Springsteen’s “Back Streets.”
RD: What welcoming advice would you give to writers and to those who would love to become writers today?
TP: Take your time. Learn from your mistakes.
RD: What advice would you give to us about life?
TP: Just live it and love as much as you can along the way. And forgive yourself time and time again.
RD: Tom – Thank you so much, once again, for taking the time to share part of your busy, tumultuous and successful life with us and also for being so candid. Thank you for helping us to understand a little more of what you represent, the things which inspire you and for sharing your thoughts for the future. Thank you for being so generous and for taking us on this magnificent journey.
TP: Thank you, Robin.
Tom Piccirilli lives in Loveland, Colorado and can be found online at https://www.facebook.com/tompiccirilli,https://twitter.com/TomPiccirilli, http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Piccirilli/e/B001ILM8YQ, and also at his blog ‘The Cold Spot’ http://thecoldspot.blogspot.com/.
Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times Book Review called THE LAST KIND WORDS, “A caustic thriller…the characters have strong voices and bristle with funny quirks.” New York Times bestselling thriller writer Lee Child said of Tom’s work, “Perfect crime fiction…a convincing world, a cast of compelling characters, and above all a great story.” And Publishers Weekly extols, “Piccirilli’s mastery of the hard-boiled idiom is pitch perfect, particularly in the repartee between his characters, while the picture he paints of the criminal corruption conjoining the innocent and guilty in a small Long Island community is as persuasive as it is seamy. Readers who like a bleak streak in their crime fiction will enjoy this well-wrought novel.” Keir Graff of Booklist wrote, “There’s more life in Piccirilli’s THE LAST KIND WORDS (and more heartache, action, and deliverance) than any other novel I’ve read in the past couple of years.” And Kirkus states, “Consigning most of the violence to the past allows Piccirilli (The Fever Kill, 2007, etc.) to dial down the gore while imparting a soulful, shivery edge to this tale of an unhappy family that’s assuredly unhappy in its own special way.”
- Dark Father (Pocket, 1990) ISBN 0-671-67401-3
- Shards (Write Way, 1996) ISBN 1-885173-23-7
- Inside the Works: A 3-Way Collection of Hardcore Horror (Necro Publications, 1997) (with Gerard Daniel Houarner, Edward Lee) ISBN 1-889186-07-4
- Hexes (Leisure, 1999) ISBN 0-8439-4483-8
- The Deceased (Leisure, 2000) ISBN 0-8439-4752-7
- The Night Class (2000)
- A Lower Deep (2001)
- Grave Men (2002)
- Fuckin’ Lie Down Already (2003)
- A Choir of Ill Children (2003)
- Coffin Blues (2004)
- Thrust (2005)
- November Mourns (2005)
- HeadstoneCity (2006)
- The Dead Letters (2006)
- Frayed (2007)
- The Midnight Road (Bantam, 2007) ISBN 0-553-38408-2
- The Fever Kill (2007)
- The Cold Spot (Bantam, 2008) ISBN 0-553-59084-7
- The Coldest Mile (Bantam, 2009)ISBN 0-553-59085-5
- Shadow Season (Bantam, 2009) ISBN 0-553-59247-5
- The Last Kind Words (Bantam, 2012) ISBN 978-0-553-59248-1
Felicity Grove series
- The Dead Past (Write Way, 1997)
- Sorrow’s Crown (Write Way, 1998) ISBN 1-885173-53-9
- The Cold Spot (Bantam, 2008) ISBN 0-553-59084-7
- The Coldest Mile (Bantam, 2009) ISBN 0-553-59085-5
- The Cold and the Dead (forthcoming tentative title)
- Hellboy: Emerald Hell (Dark Horse, 2008) ISBN 1-59582-141-4
- Cast in Dark Waters (Cemetery Dance Publications, 2002) (with Ed Gorman) ISBN 1-58767-013-5
- All You Despise (Shroud Publishing, 2008)
- The Nobody (Tasmaniac Publications, 2008) ISBN 978-0-9803868-7-5
- Every Shallow Cut (ChiZine Publications, 2011) ISBN 978-1-926851-10-5
- The Walls of the Castle (Dark Regions Press, 2013)
Collections and anthologies
- Epitaphs: Two Novels of the Dead Past (1999) (contains The Dead Past and Sorrow’s Crown) ISBN 0-7394-0218-8
- Pentacle (Pirate Writings, 1995), introduction by Jack Cady. ISBN 0-9640168-2-6. Features five short stories that make one continuing narrative:
“Bury St. Edmonds”
“Eye-Biting and Other Displays of Affection”
- The Hanging Man and Other Strange Suspensions (1996)
- The Dog Syndrome and Other Sick Puppies (Marietta Publishing, 1997)
“The Dog Syndrome”
“Where the Swamp Folk Go When the Need Comes”
“Water Wears the Stones”
“Lilith at the Playground”
- Deep into that Darkness Peering (Terminal Fright Press, 1999) ISBN 0-9658135-6-8
- A Student of Hell (poetry collection) (2000) ISBN 0-9675774-0-3
- Four Dark Nights (Leisure 2002) (with Douglas Clegg, Christopher Golden, Bentley Little). Featuring the Piccirilli story “Jonah Rose.” ISBN 0-8439-5098-6
- This Cape Is Red Because I’ve Been Bleeding (poetry collection)(Catalyst Press, 2002) ISBN 1-930997-21-3
- Mean Sheep (Delirium Books, 2003) ISBN 1-929653-47-6
“The Misfit Child Grows Fat on Despair”
“The Whole Head is Sick, the Whole Heart Faint”
“This, and That’s the End of It”
“New York Comes to the Desert”
“At One Stride Comes the Dark”
“Her Child Arises”
“Come Back to Tell You All”
“Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crowd”
“Whisper, When You Drown”
“Souls, Written on the Flea”
“Twilight in the Room of Fathers”
“A square Wedge of Vanilla”
“Tracking the Death Angel”
“Those Vanished I Recognize”
“Mean Sheep” (poem)
“What You Leave Behind on the Side of Your Plate” (poem)
“In the Outrunning” (poem)
“A Lightning Sting on the Far Side of the Skull” (poem)
“How To Perform Heart Surgery With Someone Else’s Gaze” (poem)
“When the First Lemming Drops” (poem)
“The Curve After Which the Engine Squeals” (poem)
“My Conscience Shattered by a Jittery Scrawl” (poem)
“Staring Into A Bitter Face I’ve Seen Before” (poem)
“The Living Room” (poem)
“Tragedy As You Like It” (poem)
“45 Seconds On Third Avenue and 8th Street” (poem)
“Another Man’s October” (poem)
- Waiting My Turn to Go Under the Knife (poems) (2005)
- A Little Black Book of Noir Stoires (Borderlands Press, 2003) ISBN 1-880325-40-3
“Seems Like Old Times”
“Inside the Works”
- The Devil’s Wine (Cemetery Dance Publications, 2004), a poetry anthology featuring Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub, and many more. ISBN 1-58767-070-4
- Midnight Premiere (Cemetery Dance Publications, 2007), also contains Tom Piccirilli’s short story “Shadder.” ISBN 978-1-58767-146-3
Anthologies containing stories by Tom Piccirilli
- 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories (Barnes & Noble, 1995) edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Martin H. Greenberg, and Robert H. Weinberg. Features the short story, “Sorrow Laughed.” ISBN 1-56619-762-7
- Stranger by Night: The Hot Blood Series part VI (1995) edited by Michael Garrett and Jeff Gelb. Features the short story, “Take It as It Comes.” ISBN 0-7860-1648-5
- Fear the Fever: The Hot Blod Series part VII (1996) edited by Michael Garrett and Jeff Gelb. Features the short story, “Call It.” ISBN 0-7860-1649-3
- White House Horrors (DAW, 1996) edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Features the short story “Broken ’Neath the Weight of Wraiths.” ISBN 0-88677-659-7
- Women Who Run with the Werewolves: Tales of Blood, Lust, and Metamorphosis (Cleis Press, 1996) edited by Pam Keesey. Features the short story, “The Hound of God.” ISBN 1-57344-057-4e
- Crimes of Passion: The Hot Blood Series part IX (Pinnacle, 1997) edited by Jeff Gelb, Michael Garrett. Features the short story, “Curs.” ISBN 0-7860-1650-7
- Terminal Frights (Terminal Fright, 1997) edited by Kenneth E. Abner, Jr. Features the short story, “A Lower Deep.” ISBN 0-9658135-2-5
- Cat Crimes Through Time (Carroll & Graf, 1998) edited by Ed Gorman, Martin H. Greenberg, and Larry Segriff. Features the short story “Of Persephone, Poe, and the Whisperer.” ISBN 0-7867-0555-8
- Horrors! 365 Scary Stories (Barnes & Noble, 1998) edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg & Martin H. Greenberg. Features the short story, “On the Panecraft Train.” ISBN 0-7607-0141-5
- Going Postal (Space & Time, 1998) edited by Gerard Daniel Houarner. Features the short story, “Nietzsche Sooths Fishboy Lenny.” ISBN 0-917053-11-7
- More Monsters from Memphis (Zapizdat Publications, 1998), edited by Beecher Smith. Features the short story, “Go Back to the Church.” ISBN 1-880964-24-4
- 100 Hilarious Little Howlers (Barnes & Noble, 1999) edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, and Martin H. Greenberg. Features the short story, “Chasing the Ugly Dog.” ISBN 0-7607-1385-5
- Future Crimes (DAW, 1999) edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers. Features the short story, “The Serpent Was More Subtle.” ISBN 0-88677-854-9
- New Mythos Legends (Marietta Publishing, 1999) edited by Bruce Gehweiler. Features the short story, “Of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine.” ISBN 1-892669-06-4
- Bad News (Cemetery Dance Publications, 2000) edited by Richard Laymon. Features the short story, “The Whole Head is Sick, the Whole Heart Faint.” ISBN 1-881475-95-6
- Star Colonies (DAW, 2000) edited by Martin H. Greenberg, John Helfers, and Ed Gorman. Features the short story, “I am a Graveyard Hated by the Moon.” ISBN 0-88677-894-8
- October Dreams (Cemetery Dance Publications, 2000) edited by Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish. Features the non-fiction piece, “My Favorite Halloween Memory.” ISBN 1-58767-019-4
- Corpse Blossoms (Creeping Hemlock Press, 2005) edited by Julia Sevin and R. J. Sevin. Features the short story, “”An Average Insanity, A Common Agony.” ISBN 0-9769217-0-7
- Evermore (Arkham House, 2006) edited by Tom Robert Smith and Stephen Mark Rainey. Features the short story, “Of Persephone, Poe, and the Whisperer.” ISBN 0-87054-185-4
- The Death Panel: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness (Comet Press, 2009) edited by Cheryl Mullenax. Features the short story, “Blood Sacrifices & The Catatonic Kid.” ISBN 978-0-9820979-9-1
- A Splintered Mind edited by Trent Zelazny.
- Crucified Dreams: Tales of Urban Horror (Tachyon Publications, 2011) edited by Joe R. Lansdale. Features the short story “Loss.” ISBN 9781616960032
- Welcome to Hell: A Working Guide for the Beginning Writer (2000)
- Deconstructing Tolkien: A Fundamental Analysis of the Lord of the Rings (2004) (with Edward J McFadden, J.R.R. Tolkien and Jane Yolen)
- Introduction to The Well by Jack Cady
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Poetry Collection” (2000) : A Student of Hell
- Bram Stoker Award for “Short Fiction” (2002) : “The Misfit Child Grows Fat on Depair”
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Novel” (2003) : The Night Class
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Alternative Forms” (2004): The Devil’s Wine
- International Thriller Writers Award for “Best Paperback Original” (2008) : The Midnight Road
- International Thriller Writers Award for “Best Paperback Original” (2010) : The Coldest Mile
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best First Novel” (1991) : Dark Father
- World Fantasy Award for “Best Collection” (2000) : Deep into that Darkness Peering
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Fiction Collection” (2000) : Deep into that Darkness Peering
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Novel” (2000) : Hexes
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Novel” (2001) : The Deceased
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Long Fiction” (2003) : Fuckin’ Lie Down Already
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Novel” (2005) : November Mourns
- Bram Stoker Award for “Best Anthology” (2007) : Midnight Premiere
- International Thriller Writers Award for “Best Paperback Original” (2007) : Headstone City
- International Thriller Writers Award for “Best Short Story” (2009) : “Between the Dark and the Daylight”
- Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for “Best Paperback Original” (2008) : “The Cold Spot”
- Bram Stoker Award – Forgiving Judas (Crossroad Press) for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection (2014)
- Thomas Piccirilli’s Official Website
- Thomas Piccirilli’s Bibliography on Fantastic Fiction
- Video review of Piccirilli’s Cold Spot
- Tom Piccirilli at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
This is Robin’s gift:
Millions of scabrous black shards impatiently wait to deeply embed themselves into the tender flesh of your susceptible mind. They lay concealed like bloodthirsty parasites - wearing unnatural faces of the evil in your long forgotten, worst nightmares. Preparing to reveal to your conscious mind the horrors your subconscious mind never want you to know – about your true self – about your disease – if you but dare look…