Ray Garton: ODDER JOBS

Ray Garton recently contributed the short story A Full and Satisfying Life to the Dark Horse Books Odder Jobs collection. He is the author of over forty books, including the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Live Girls, Shackled, Sex and Violence in Hollywood, and Scissors. Among his books are the short-story collections Methods of Madness, Pieces of Hate, and the upcoming Slivers of Bone and The Girls in the Basement and Other Stories. Under the name Joseph Locke, he has written a number of young-adult novels, including Kill the Teacher’s Pet, Gave Over, and 1-900-Killer. His movie novelizations and TV tie-ins include Warlock and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Resurrecting Ravana. He lives in northern California with his wife Dawn.

When did you first get acquainted with Hellboy?
I had been aware of Hellboy for some time, but I’d never gotten around to reading any of the comic books. When I was asked to contribute to ODDER JOBS, I had to confess that I’d never read Hellboy. So, the good folks at Dark Horse were good enough to send me a stack of graphic novels. I sat down and started reading one, and I ended up reading all of them in one long sitting. I was an instant fan, and I was very sorry I hadn’t started reading Hellboy sooner. After reading the comic books, I was thrilled to be a part of ODDER JOBS, and went right to work on my story.

Your story pits Hellboy versus a mythological creature, an ugly one at that. Where did you get the idea for Hellboy versus a Manticore?
I have a series of books on mythological creatures, and one of the creatures I found in them was the Manticore. I had been looking for an opportunity to use the Manticore for some time, and a Hellboy story seemed the perfect place for it.

There’s body parts flying left and right in this story. Admit it – you had some fun with this tale, didn’t you?
My work has been veering away from gore in recent years, so writing this Hellboy story took me back to familiar territory. I confess, I went over the top with it, but considering the nature of the Manticore, it seemed appropriate.

Did you have any goals for yourself in writing this story? Was there something that you specifically wanted to experiment with in regards to character, plot, or action?
My main concern was to remain faithful to the Hellboy character. I’ve written a number of books with other people’s characters in them — movie novelizations and TV tie-ins — so it was something I’d done before. But I was so instantly fond of Hellboy when I read those comic books that I wanted to nail the character as vividly as I could. That was my main goal in writing “A Full and Satisfying Life.”

You and Hellboy have something in common – lots of cats. How many cats do you have?
We have eight cats — Lamont, Yuki, Mina, Pywacket, Boris, Buddy, Sally, and Grey. Not long ago, we had nine, but our oldest cat, Bob, became very ill and sadly had to be put down at fifteen. We’re big cat lovers in this house. I’m also a dog lover, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had a dog, and frankly, I miss it. I have to content myself with playing with the neighbor’s dog. But I love our cats. They’re all indoor cats and don’t go outside, and they pretty much run the household.

What do have on your plate now? What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
At the moment, I’m working on a book that’s a complete departure for me. It’s called DISMISSED FROM THE FRONT AND CENTER: A FICTIONALIZED MEMOIR, and it’s a comedy about my two years at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy (not unlike the academy in my Hellboy story). It’s not even a dark comedy, which is why it’s so unusual for me. I’ve been wanting to write this book since the day of my high school graduation, which turned into a riot with students, teachers, and parents throwing everything from fists to chairs. My dad bopped my science teacher over the head with his cane. It was a pretty shocking experience. I needed some distance on those two years, and now I’ve had twenty-four years of distance, and I’m halfway through the book. Also in the works is a horror novel called GALLERIA, about a haunted shopping mall.

Wow! I have to ask…what causes a high school graduation to turn into a riot?
It was a long tradition at Rio Lindo, the Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy I attended, for the juniors to line the center aisle as the graduating seniors walked out after the ceremony, sort of like an honor guard. Our principal, a bitter man named James Nash, decided to end that tradition in my senior year. He didn’t like the fact that some of the seniors, on the way out, would stop and hug some of their junior friends, whom they might never see again. He said it “offended some of the older constituents.” Well, we weren’t going to take it. I was senior class president, and I conspired with the junior class president. It was agreed that as I led the graduates off the stage, I would stop on the steps with my marching partner and at that moment, the juniors would line the center aisle for us. We did exactly that, but it turned out far differently than I had anticipated. The faculty, apparently instructed to do *anything* they could to stop it, bodily pulled some of the juniors back to their seats. Well, they tried, anyway. Fights broke out between the juniors and the faculty members. The parents got involved. Fists were thrown, and so were chairs. My dad bopped the science teacher over the head with his cane. It was chaos, and I had the best seat in the house. It was, quite simply, a riot. It was at that moment that I knew I would someday write a book about my two years at Rio Lindo. I even came up with the title then, DISMISSED FROM THE FRONT AND CENTER, which was how our vice principal dismissed everyone from religious services. I needed some distance from it, though — I had to get over my bitterness toward the church. I didn’t want there to be any bitterness or anger in the book, I wanted it to be a comedy. 24 years have passed, and I’m ready to write the book now. In fact, it’s over half-finished.

Without giving away too much, what kind of ghost or spirit haunts a shopping mall?
I’ll tell you this much: The haunted mall is built on the very spot where a lunatic asylum burned down a hundred years earlier, killing over a thousand people.

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