On December 17th of this glorious year, my good friend, Pete Molnar, released his second book, Rhapsody in Red. It’s a two novella collection that is sure to keep you up at night. Having read some of Pete’s work, I’m really excited to get my hands on a copy.
Here’s the thing about Pete: he is a true lover of horror and one hell of a nice guy. I got to meet him a couple of years ago at Scares That Care and the time I spent with him and his wife was one of the highlights of the event. I couldn’t think of a better person to support than Pete.
Shortly after the release of Rhapsody in Red, Pete and I had a chat through PM’s on social media. The following is our conversation, in it’s entirety.
A.J.: So, Pete, talk to me about your new book, Rhapsody in Red.
PETE: Well, it started out with just one novella I had been working on about a second Civil War sparked by a pair of Undead Confederate vampires. Then I started a second novella and it just so happened to center around the same vampire theme, only it came from a very different place.
I’m always listening to the news and following stories and the subject of gun rights and the school shooting epidemic just wouldn’t leave me be. Just as the first novella was sparked by the ongoing tragedy of systemic racism, the second was sparked by another social crisis. My mind married both issues to a sanguinarian plot line and the result is Rhapsody in Red.
I’m deeply concerned with societal ills and this is how I process them, so as not to wallow in hopelessness when it comes to some sort of divine reckoning or soothing of the masses. Basically, I worry about the world just as much as I dread what’s underneath the bed, so to speak.
A.J.: I’m curious, what role do the vampires play in these societal ills?
PETE: They take advantage of our weaknesses as human beings as well as manipulate our vices and tragic flaws.
A.J.: That makes sense.
You state something intriguing in your first response: Basically, I worry about the world just as much as I dread what’s underneath the bed, so to speak.
With this in mind, could the world itself be considered the boogeyman or the monster beneath the bed or in the closet?
PETE: Absolutely. I liken that to the main theme of one of my favorite books, Lord of the Flies. The boys on the island think the island is evil and there is a monster stalking them. In reality, they fail to realize the monster is within each and every one of them. That hits me hard.
A.J.: In Lord of the Flies, Piggy’s death is what I feel is a turning point for the story. Though Roger was responsible for his death, the events leading up to that point all build up to the moment where Piggy dies. In this way, the evil is kind of a creeping up type of thing. Do the events of the two stories in Rhapsody in Red have that same build up where the reader possibly starts dreading turning the next page?
PETE: I think so. Each chapter of each novella is like another couple of steps in the downward spiral.
A.J.: Do the two novellas go together or are they standalone stories?
PETE: They are conjoined by the presence of The Familiar, an ageless vampire who has taken the form of The Tumor Deer. It watches and waits, sort of like a god.
A.J.: Nice. Do you feel like you are tackling subject matters that others might shy away from?
PETE: I used to write straight horror when I started out, but I started to realize that I had other things to say that were pressing to me. I realized I was kind of walling myself into a very specific far too stringent genre of writing, and I decided if I was going to keep writing horror then I wanted to do more with it than I was before. And I had to start grounding it in the real things and people that have always scared the sh*t out of me. I mean, sorry, but Cthulhu doesn’t quicken my pulse in the slightest. But a student walking the hallways with an AR-15, picking off anyone that moves, well, that’s something I could find outside my classroom one day.
And that’s horror.
A.J.: That is, indeed, horror—a real horror.
When writing the two stories for Rhapsody in Red, did you find yourself rooting for any characters in particular or did you know where the stories were going and knew the fates of the characters already?
PETE: I always know the ending, but the journey towards that end is almost always a surprise in how it plays out. And the heroines in both novellas have been living their lives under perpetually black clouds of bad luck and hardship. To watch them both grapple with evil and rise above their own difficult circumstances made me feel really good and it kept me writing because I wanted to get them to the finish line!
A.J.: Did those characters surprise you in how they overcame their circumstances?
PETE: Yes, and they made me very proud of them.
A.J.: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Rhapsody in Red?
PETE: I think we covered everything.
If you’re looking for your horror grounded in both myth and reality, then Pete is your guy. If you’re looking to support a small press author who won’t disappoint you, again, Pete is your guy. If you’re looking to support someone I support, for the third time, Pete is your guy. I love this guy like a brother, and y’all know me, y’all know I’m all about quality work and good people. Give my buddy a try. You can do so on his website where he has several stories posted to whet your appetite, and by purchasing his books, Broken Birds and Rhapsody in Red.
Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.