Interview: Ronald Malfi

Posted: July 12, 2015 in Interviews, Uncategorized
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Today I am happy to have Ronald Malfi on The Horror Bookshelf for an interview in support of his new genre-bending novel Little Girls (review), which is out now through Kensington. We talk about his writing process, the inspiration behind Little Girls, his upcoming work and other cool stuff!

Be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway following the interview for a chance to win one of two paperback copies of Little Girls. A big thank you to Ronald Malfi for stopping by to answer my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for inviting me to participate on this blog tour!

Malfi headshot

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how did you first get started in writing and what led you to pursue it professionally?

Since I was a young kid, I was always fascinated with stories. I loved movies and books, and even before I could read, I would relish every chance to go to the library, usually with my grandmother, to pick out books for her to read to me. When I learned to read and write, I began scribbling my own short stories, often accompanied by pictures that I drew, and that passion just never left me. By the time I was in middle school, I had gotten myself an old manual typewriter, and would write a few pages every day. I wrote with such fervor back then, pumping out several short stories a week. They were awful, of course, but I just recently went through some of them and was pleasantly surprised at the passion in them, despite how crudely written they were. When I got older, I pursued publication, and submitted a hefty share of short stories to various magazines. I did this all throughout high school with nothing to show for it except rejection slips, though I never grew discouraged; I knew the rejections were just part of the process, and anyway I seemed to sense that I was still maturing as a writer, so those rejections didn’t get me down. I had also started writing novel-length manuscripts, and by the time I was in college, I had accumulated maybe a dozen novels. It was during my college years I wound up getting published in a variety of university magazines and won second prize (I think) in an international writing competition—for poetry, no less. Since high school, I knew I wanted to write professionally, so I had always been working toward that goal. After college graduation, I selected what I thought was my best manuscript and proceeded to submit it to various publishers, mostly small presses. It was eventually sold to a shoddy little outfit but managed to earn me some street cred and a small following.

I read in one interview that when you were in high school you would share your stories and manuscripts with your friends. How did that help shape your writing?

In high school, I would share my writing with anyone interested in reading it. But few people in high school were interested in reading, my friends included. But my close friends were cool about it, and often I would go over to their houses and use their word processors or computers (I didn’t have a computer back then) and spend all afternoon writing at their houses. Their feedback was genuine—they told me what they liked and they told me what they didn’t. In a way, it made me conscious that I was writing for an audience, and to listen to that audience, while also remaining true to the stories I wanted to tell.

What is a typical day of writing like for you? Do you have a set process or is it something that varies depending on the day?

I used to write about 15 pages a day. I’ve got two young children now, so that’s slowed down a bit, but the hallmark of the process is still the same—namely, sit down and do it and usually lose myself in the story for a few hours. I don’t outline or take notes, so I’m not only the writer but also the first reader, so I travel through the story as I create it, seeing what works and what doesn’t. For daytime writing, I’ll plow through a whole pot of coffee. Nighttime writing usually involves a glass of whiskey and some jazz playing low in the background.

You have mentioned in the past that your writing process is fairly organic and doesn’t involve a lot of notes or outlines. While I was reading “Little Girls”, I was impressed with the different plot threads and how they all fit together perfectly. Is it hard to keep the story you are working on organized using this approach while you’re writing?

Because I don’t outline or really know exactly where a story is going as I’m writing it, I’ll spin-off a lot of what I like to call “lifelines,” or these random events that may or may not turn into twists or subplots during a later iteration of the novel. I leave myself room to tie those loose threads together, in other words. I generally edit as I go, and as I get to around the three-quarters point in the story, I usually have a pretty good idea how to tie things up. That’s when I start tightening those loose threads, going back and tweaking them so they fit better with what I want to happen. Many of the unused lifelines get scrapped—I just delete them. On occasion, I’ll leave one of these lifelines dangling just because I like the nuance it adds or something about it just speaks to the story as a whole.

You have written a variety of novels with different publishers and “Little Girls” is your first novel with Kensington. How did you end up working with them?

I’d had a few conversations with folks at Kensington back when I was still with Dorchester—all those editors swim in the same pool—and always had my sights on them. After I’d written Little Girls, I saw it as a perfect novel for Kensington. They’ve got pretty strong horror and thriller lines, and I always saw my work balancing between both genres. I spoke to my agent about approaching Kensington and that’s exactly what we did. The rest, as they say, is history.

What was your inspiration for writing “Little Girls”?

The idea for the story came to me in two parts—the story of a man suffering from dementia who had a dark past he was slowly forgetting, and the daughter who would come in after the man’s death to dig up the pieces of his past that he’d left behind. I also wanted to approach this “ghost story” in a different way than the traditional specters or apparitions floating about, so to speak. In this book, the “ghost” is an actual person—a person who may not be the person everyone thinks she is. I’m very happy with what I think is an original take on the traditional ghost story.

“Little Girls” is a ghost story, but it seems the book is really driven by drama surrounding the Genarro family and the secrets buried in their past. What appeals to you about a more subdued approach in horror?

Oh, I think it’s much more believable and easily digestible when horror is grounded in real life. It provides an anchor, something we can all understand and relate to, which makes the horror elements, even when they’re subtle, all the more terrifying.

You have written books in a variety of genres besides horror, is there any type of genre you haven’t explored yet that you are interested in pursuing?

I feel I’ve explored all the genres I’ve really had an interest in, with varying success, but even all of those tales had some dark elements to them. I always seem to come back to that. I don’t worry too much about genre when I’m writing, and I suspect I’ll continue to work that way. It’s less about wanting to write in different genres than it is about what type of story I want to tell.

What drew you into the world of horror and what is your favorite thing about the genre?

I’ve always loved the genre, even when I was a kid and was terrified of pretty much everything. Had you known me as a small child, you would have thought horror would be the last genre I’d be interested in, but I think that maybe that fear fostered my interest and curiosity in it. My favorite thing about the genre is probably the camaraderie of the authors and, to an even greater degree, the loyalty of the fans. Attending conventions and book signings is always a treat, given how wonderful everyone is.

What horror novel had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers that you recently started reading?

Well, the book that made me decide to try writing my own stories when I was younger was Stephen King’s Eyes of the Dragon, a decidedly un-horror novel. Much of King’s oeuvre influenced me throughout my adolescence. From there, I fell in love with the works of Peter Straub and Ernest Hemingway—an unlikely duo, I suppose—and both of those authors showed me just how far you could get away with something in fiction. Lately, some authors I’ve enjoyed are David Mitchell, Andrew Pyper, Stephen Dobyns, and Benjamin Percy’s novel The Wilding was a treat.

If you could choose any writer to collaborate or talk about writing with, who would you choose and why?

Probably Kristopher Rufty. I love the guy, we’re good friends, and we’ve already talked about working on something together. He’s got a very visceral style, something that I thought would compliment my moody, introverted prose. It would be great fun to do something totally off-the-wall together.

Horror writers are generally big fans of the genre as well. What sort of horror novel have you always wanted to see that has not really been explored?

I always love when I happen upon a genre novel that bends the genre rules, breaks the conventions, and becomes its own animal. Many casual readers of the genre think if you write horror, you write like Stephen King, about monsters and vampires and the like. For me, horror has a broad and luxurious definition, and I am in awe of those rare authors who are able to explore those depths valiantly and with a unique voice. For me, I don’t need monsters populating the books I enjoy—heck, I don’t even need anything supernatural in it to call it horror. Suck me in with a unique tale that’s not afraid to be its own thing.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I’ve recently turned in my next novel to my editor at Kensington, called The Night Parade, about a father and daughter on the run from the government while a disease ravages the population. It’s an end-of-the-world novel, something I never really thought I’d write, but it’s a very intimate story about a father and his daughter.

Little Girls tour logo

About Little Girls


From Bram Stoker Award nominee Ronald Malfi comes a brilliantly chilling novel of childhood revisited, memories resurrected, and fears reborn…

When Laurie was a little girl, she was forbidden to enter the room at the top of the stairs. It was one of many rules imposed by her cold, distant father. Now, in a final act of desperation, her father has exorcised his demons. But when Laurie returns to claim the estate with her husband and ten-year-old daughter, it’s as if the past refuses to die. She feels it lurking in the broken moldings, sees it staring from an empty picture frame, and hears it laughing in the moldy greenhouse deep in the woods…

At first, Laurie thinks she’s imagining things. But when she meets her daughter’s new playmate, Abigail, she can’t help but notice her uncanny resemblance to another little girl who used to live next door. Who died next door. With each passing day, Laurie’s uneasiness grows stronger, her thoughts more disturbing. Like her father, is she slowly losing her mind? Or is something truly unspeakable happening to those sweet little girls?

Purchase Little Girls: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite local bookstore

Praise for Ronald Malfi and his novels

“One cannot help but think of writers like Peter Straub and Stephen King.”

Malfi is a skillful storyteller.”—New York Journal of Books

“A complex and chilling tale….terrifying.”—Robert McCammon

Malfi’s lyrical prose creates an atmosphere of eerie claustrophobia…haunting.”—Publishers Weekly

“A thrilling, edge-of-your-seat ride that should not be missed.”—Suspense Magazine

About Ronald Malfi

Ronald Malfi is an award-winning author of many novels and novellas in the horror, mystery, and thriller categories from various publishers, including Little Girls, this summer’s 2015 release from Kensington.

In 2009, his crime drama, Shamrock Alley, won a Silver IPPY Award. In 2011, his ghost story/mystery novel, Floating Staircase, was a finalist for the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award for best novel, a Gold IPPY Award for best horror novel, and the Vincent Preis International Horror Award. His novel Cradle Lake garnered him the Benjamin Franklin Independent Book Award (silver) in 2014. December Park, his epic childhood story, won the Beverly Hills International Book Award for suspense in 2015.

Most recognized for his haunting, literary style and memorable characters, Malfi’s dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres. 

He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1977, and eventually relocated to the Chesapeake Bay area, where he currently resides with his wife and two children.

Visit with Ronald Malfi on Facebook, Twitter (@RonaldMalfi), or at


Sign up to win one of two paperback copies of Little Girls by Ronald Malfi by clicking the link to the Rafflecopter link below. Be sure to follow the specifics you can do each day to gain more entries.


  1. Jason Parent says:

    Excellent interview!

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