Damien Malfi is the author of
the newly-released novel, The Fall of Never which is available from Amazon.com. Upcoming stories will be featured in Bare Bone #7 and Tempting Disaster. It's a little known fact that he appeared in the first issue of The Dream People.
is it that draws you to explorations of our dark side?
My writing is dark? Really? To me, that's just how the world
is, how the people function, how everything turns on its little
track. Everyone—writerly or otherwise—views the world
in their own way, tainted by past experiences, stories they've
heard, people they've known, events that take place all around
them every day. "Romantics" see the world in an optimistic
light where good always (or usually) prevails; religious zealots
belief everything has form and function as borne by their respective
beliefs; for some, like me, there is always a dark corner in the
room, a shadow that flits into nonexistence the second you turn
to look at it. For whatever reason, I see those things and am piqued
into the exploration of such. Also, my mom smoked while pregnant
with me. But it was the seventies, so we'll forgive her such
Every one of your stories centers around a believable, compelling
set of characters. How do you go about capturing these personalities
If the characters are believable and compelling, it is because I
allow them to be. I feel inclined to refuse any credit when discussing
the believability of my characters. They are their own people leading
their own lives and responsible for the trouble they get into as
well as the struggles they endure to escape it. I have very little
to do with this (and am grateful if they remember to call me on
my birthday or send a card at Christmas, really). As human beings,
we all know people, are familiar with many (some of us even have
this things called "friends," these social animals,
as odd as that may sound to some). So we know how people behave,
and we understand and accept the fact that they sometimes do stupid,
evil, ridiculous, self-centered, facetious things. But they also
do wonderful, brave, unselfish things as well, and we cannot forget
that. The trick is to create the cast of a person, stick them in
the world you have created around them, and watch them live their
own lives. You cannot manipulate them, cannot force an outcome or
reaction from them. Sure, you can influence their thinking and surely
influence their surroundings as a sort of vehicle (you are, after
all, God in that respect), but you cannot consider yourself honest
if you attempt to manipulate the characters' free will. Much
like real people, they should be allowed to live on their own. Your
job, as writer, is merely to document.
In your novel, The Fall of Never, we see very strong women
depicted in a refreshingly honest way. Do you often set out to create
strong characters of the opposite gender, or do you prefer to work
with males personalities—or is gender not even a consideration?
Yes – more often than not, I depict women as strong, determined,
and domineering in my fiction. I don't know why this is, really.
Typically my male characters suffer at the whim of their female
counterparts. While this is an exaggeration, it is also an
allusion to real life, where I feel women are simply smarter than
men, no way around it. For the most part, women don't
linger, don't weigh themselves down with the unimportant,
don't destroy their own minds. Men do this. I have never heard
a woman, for example, wallow in the personal grief to the point
of self degradation over, say, the number of sexual partners her
significant other has known. Yet men do this all the time. Men still
think about that job interview they blew ten years ago, that fight
they lost and damn it if they'd just thrown a left hook instead
of the goddamn jab, or that car accident that could have been avoided
last May if only they'd swerved right instead of left. However,
it is just this sort of subconscious self-loathing and internal
conflict that make male characters, at least to me, more appealing.
Women are too smart, they have too much figured out already! Throw
a bumbling guy into the mix, though, and we're on to something.
I hope that doesn't sound sexist, but it probably does...although,
ironically, my intention is just the opposite. Anyway, while I can
relate on a gender-level with male characters more so than female
(although prior girlfriends may beg to differ, ha ha), I happen
to feel this burden of internal conflict is the reason I find male
characters more intriguing, making them a more interesting driving
force in my fiction, and fiction overall. Strong women; foolish
men. And is that truly fiction?
Often in your work we see the military as a stage for getting at
the truths of humanity's existence. Does this have more to
do with the regimentation and bonding that are constants in the
military experience, or does the external conflict draw parallels
to one's internal conflicts?
Yes, on all fronts! The role of the military in much of my fiction
serves all those purposes. War is so easily a conduit for the alliteration
of the human condition! There is a sense of camaraderie there that
has always fascinated me, and this camaraderie usually prevails
while in the throes of some of man's most horrific atrocities.
I am intrigued by that juxtaposition alone. A platoon of soldiers
is a microcosm of our world, or at least our country, and I have
always been fascinated with the roles people are often forced to
accept in moments or crisis. Therefore, yes, I feel the truth of
humanity (and individual humanity, on a personal scale) is reflected
in the study of militia and the providence of war. What, other than
war, provides both the greatest truths and the ultimate lies under
the same guise? It's fascinating.
Very often you seem to allow the reader's mind to fill in
the blanks when it comes to violence, going against the current
"extreme" trend in dark fiction. Yet in your novella
"The Stranger"—which is, at its core, a profound
study of a romance in trouble—we experience some of the most
visceral, gut-wrenching passages of mutilation around. How does
one decide when and where to include such details, or is it all
up to the needs of the individual story?
For the most part, I subscribe to Hemingway's iceberg theory
of fiction: show only a hint of your conflict, while the bulk of
it hides beneath the surface of the water. A "less is more"
sort of thing, really. No writer, no matter how great, can functionally
compete with the human mind, so why bother? Establish atmosphere,
draw the outline, and cast a shadow of the thing you are trying
to describe, but never show it in full daylight. Like horror
movie monsters: once the stage lights come up, you can see all the
wires and zippers and strings. Keep the lights dim, where things
look real. As for my short story, "The Stranger," however,
the blatant, visual gore at the end of the story was necessary in
physically illustrating the emotional crucifixion felt by David,
the main character, in his relationship with Rhoda, the young, beautiful
woman he is with. The story itself is not so much about a romance
in trouble than it is about a man in trouble, which tends to be
the essence behind much of my fiction. In a sense, it is David's
internal weaknesses that slowly eat away at him, causing the slow
degeneration of his soul, and the recent situation he is in with
Rhoda, this seemingly carefree young spirit, only adds to that burden
and self-doubt. He is, truthfully, his own worst enemy. The
conclusion of that story, with all its gore and elements of horror,
is merely an allusion to the inner workings of David's mind,
and the destruction caused by his own personal weaknesses.
Many authors of dark fiction relate anecdotes about unusual childhood
habits or experiences. Can you recall any such happenings?
Unusual? I used to line up action figures at the foot of our apartment's
front door before going to bed when I was just a toddler, so we'd
be alerted if anyone broke in during the night, stepping on the
figures. But unusual? No. Unusual? I used to be afraid of
clowns, Muppets (only when projected way too big on a movie theater
screen), the Planters Peanut Man, and pretty much anything else.
But Unusual? I used to be certain the Weed Monster (an extraterrestrial
being comprised solely of veins of ivy and browned grass clippings)
lived behind our garage. But unusual? No. Nothing unusual here.
How did you become involved with the creative lifestyle? Why writing?
I suppose I've always been involved in the "creative
lifestyle" in some form or another. I was (and attempt to
remain) an avid musician, a painter/artist, a filmmaker, a documentarian
of the human condition. Out of everything I'd ever been involved
in, though, writing just happened to be the one that stuck. Out
of all art forms, I feel writing has the potential to be the most
personal, the most honest, the most true to itself and its creator,
as well as the most brutal. That is just what works for me, and
what has given me the most personal satisfaction. I can literally
say the most.
What direction do you see your creative efforts taking? Where do
you hope to be five years from now?
Whether unconsciously or not, I have slowly felt myself segue from
supernatural horror fiction into straight literary fiction. Why
did this happen? Good question. While I may not fully understand
the collective synapse-firings that have switched my creative train
from Track A to Track B, I can say, however, that I personally feel
like I could say what it is I want to say honestly and without hindrance
in literary fiction without being bogged down by the formulaic beats
of genre fiction. Man, war, disease, mothers locking their children
in storage sheds—these things are the true horrors in this
world. As for myself, I do not feel I am a horror writer; rather,
I feel I am a writer. Simple as that.
What projects do you have in the works? Where can readers find your
work online/in stores?
My latest completed manuscript, just sent to my publisher, concerns
a wounded American soldier having just returned from Iraq, now on
his honeymoon on Hilton Head Island. The man character finds himself
slowly sinking in the personal turmoil of what he'd witnessed
and participated in while overseas in Iraq while, at the same time,
dealing with the repercussions of such conscious personal betrayal
and the affect it is having on his new bride and their fresh marriage.
It is about internal conflict and the crosses we all carry. As for
previous work, my latest novel, The Fall of Never, was
just published through Raw Dog Screaming Press, and can be purchased
at pretty much any major bookstore or online distributor, such as
amazon.com. I'm extremely proud of this novel, and from
feedback I've heard thus far, it is being well-received. Which
means my royalty statements should continue to perpetuate my consumption
Read Malfi's story: Discussions Concerning the Ingestion of Living Insects