There hasn’t been a serial horror story in quite some time. Probably John Saul’s Blackstone Chronicles is the most recent. But there is a new kid on the block now, Rick Florino’s Dolor, and this ain’t your mama’s serial horror.
Set in the mysterious town of Dolor, the ten-part series will unfold slowly, introducing the reader to Dolor’s various denizens as well as the town itself. Because from the beginning, with “Lila”, the reader knows something has gone terribly wrong in Dolor; and as the ten diaries are read by an FBI agent investigating what happened in Dolor, the reader will also discover what happened and who (or what) might be responsible.
Dread Central recently had an opportunity to chat with the creator of Dolor: Lila (review here) and discovered that Rick Florino is something of an enfant terrible and an author people should take note of.
Elaine Lamkin: Rick, thank you for taking time to talk to Dread Central about yourself and your new 10-part horror series, Dolor. First, how about a bit of The Rick Florino Story? I read that you graduated from Boston University at the age of 19. What was your field of study? And has working in the entertainment business always been your goal? It seems your first love is music and the music industry.
Rick Florino: Thank you very much for taking the time to interview me! I love Dread Central and am a devoted reader…so here we go! “The Rick Florino Story” could require its own 10-part series [laughs], but I’ll keep it to a few sentences for our purposes. My dad took me to see Tango and Cash when I was five years old, and I instantly fell in love with movies at that moment. I remember listening to AC/DC’s Back in Black too during that Tango day. I knew, from then on, that I wanted to create my own stories for the rest of my life. However, I started writing ideas in various notebooks that I had when I was nine. My love for music and movies was truly born at the same time.
As for my field of study, I majored in Film Studies at Boston University’s School of Communications. I went to BU’s high school, BU Academy. It’s an incredible program that allows students to begin college during their junior year of high school. I’d started school early, so I was 15 when I entered Boston University officially. I majored in Film Studies and had a concentration in Philosophy—focused on Metaphysical Philosophy. After my four years were up, I wanted to get right to work. I never had any Van Wilder tendencies [laughs]. Working in the entertainment industry was always the by-product of wanting to be an artist for me. My writing comes first—always. I’ve been blessed to be able to write for a living as editor for ARTISTdirect.com and a freelance writer for Shockhound.com, Shallow Graves Magazine, LAX Magazine, Inked and many record labels, PR firms and management companies that have hired me to write bios and/or press releases for their bands. My real entry into “the biz” came with Ruin Magazine though. I founded Ruin when I was 21 years old, and it was a full-color glossy heavy metal magazine that was available exclusively in Hot Topic stores across the US. I wrote most of the articles, took a lot of the pictures, edited everything, and sold the ads. I got to meet and interview all of my idols, and it was an extraordinary two years for me, but ultimately I feel like it was just a steppingstone toward becoming a fiction writer.
EL: How did the Dolor series come into being? There is a history of serial novels going back to Dickens but not so many in the horror genre: The Green Mile by Stephen King, The Blackwater Saga by Michael McDowell, and John Saul’s Blackstone Chronicles spring to mind immediately. Ten novellas is quite an undertaking.
RF: I’ve had a vision for the world of Dolor for almost five years, but it was a dream that forced the series into fruition. In August, 2008, I kept dreaming about this teddy bear. The bear would sit outside of a little girl’s door when she was scared, and something was definitely wrong in the dream, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I wanted to write a story about what was wrong—why that little girl was putting the bear outside of her door for her dad to check on her. I started to also think about the image of a teddy bear, and how it connotes childhood and innocence. I thought about that and wondered how it could become inverted—how it could be changed into something strange, satanic, and untrustworthy. I’d never seen a possessed teddy bear, and that’s how “Lila”, the first book of Dolor, began. I always knew for Dolor that I wanted to write each story in the first person from a different narrator’s perspective. I thought it would be really unique to have a horror saga that intertwined ten first-person diaries. I had all ten diaries loosely outlined before I began writing “Lila”, and I wanted “Lila”‘s narrator Caleb to be a strong, VERY likable character at the end of his rope. I wrote that book in two days during September, 2008, and I emailed it to a few friends. I had written the story for myself, and I was really nervous about the reactions, but they absolutely loved it. So I shared it with a few other friends, and they were really intrigued. The unanimous response was, “I want to know what happens next.” So I wrote “Chrissy” in the beginning of October, 2008, and shared it with the same people. Then I was on a roll and kept writing. I finished seven of the novels between September, 2008, and now. I have three left to write, but I know where it all goes—you’re going to have nightmares because of it. I promise that.
EL: Dolor: Lila, the first book in the series, is already available. Where can readers get ahold of a copy? And will the series run on a roughly monthly basis? I know the second installment, “Chrissy”, should be ready in February (and is much creepier than the heart-wrenching “Lila”).
RF: Dolor: Lila is available online via bookofdolor.com. You can download it for free—that’s right, free! You can also buy a limited edition signed and numbered hard copy from bookofdolor.com as well. The second installment, “Chrissy”, will be available on February 11, 2009, also via bookofdolor.com. A download will be $5, and signed hard copies will be $15. “Arielle”, Book III, is going to be out next summer, so the series won’t run on a monthly basis—perhaps every 4-6 months.
EL: How would you summarize the Dolor series to the uninformed or uninitiated?
RF: Honestly, Dolor is about how terrifying losing control is. The series begins with a lone FBI agent, Agent Jeffries, investigating the town. It’s been burned to the ground for the most part. There’s one house in the center of the city that’s charred on the outside but perfect on the inside. Jeffries goes in and finds ten diaries. Each is the diary of one of the town’s denizens experiencing some sort of horrific tragedy during his or her last days. The diaries all connect, and “Lila” is the first with “Chrissy” following. The stories are all extremely different though because they’re told from different perspectives. “Chrissy”‘s narrator Rob is a bit younger than “Lila”‘s narrator Caleb. Caleb’s got a daughter and a wife, and Rob’s single. Caleb’s a cop, and Rob’s an EMT. All of those details lead to creating a different voice. However, both of them lose control of their respective destinies and have to go through some sort of hell. As the series progresses, the stories tend to get darker. “Lila” is very heart-wrenching and emotional, while “Chrissy” goes right for the jugular in terms of the “horror.” However, I needed to draw people in slowly with “Lila” before I could slit their throats with “Chrissy”. “Arielle” is something else though [laughs].
EL: What sort of reception have you already received for Dolor: Lila? Have any of your rock music friends read it yet, and what was their reaction?
RF: The reception for “Lila” has been overwhelmingly positive. Honestly, I can’t believe it. It’s a very, very personal story for me. It’s short, it’s quirky, it’s raw and rough around the edges, but people love it. Just the fact that I am doing this interview today means the world to me. The response from sites such as Dread Central and other horror outlets is beyond gratifying. You are what keeps this genre alive, and to have any modicum of interest about my art often leaves me speechless. It’s been incredible to receive emails from people I don’t know that have become fans of the series though. I’m very blessed that everyone that has read “Lila” wants to read “Chrissy”. After “Chrissy”, though, they’re going to REALLY want “Arielle”.
As for my rock music friends, they have been BEYOND supportive. Slipknot are one of the biggest and most important influences on my art. I think that Corey Taylor is one of the most incredibly talented, charismatic, and poetic frontmen to ever sing on a stage or on tape. Corey dug “Lila” and even gave me a quote about it for our “Chrissy” trailer. He’s also in our “Lila” documentary.
I’ve been listening to Slipknot religiously since I got their debut album at 14, so to have Corey compliment me on my work brings a massive smile to my face. It’s funny too, because I’ve always compared Dolor: Lila to a band’s first record. To me, it’s like the first Slipknot or Korn records. It’s raw, dark, and very real. Plus, you don’t forget it. I also made Dolor gift bags with copies of “Lila” for the Slipknot-headlined Fangoria Trinity of Terrors. Hollywood Undead have been extremely supportive as well. They are one of the most important new bands on the scene! J-Dog has twittered about “Lila” encouraging fans to download it, and he also gave me a quote for the “Chrissy” trailer. Hollywood Undead also distributed the book at their merch booth on their last US tour. My very close friends in Devildriver also have done a lot for Dolor. They’re big fans of the series and have blogged and Twittered about it, also distributing it on the road as well. They rule! Jeff Kendrick, Devildriver guitarist, even had his mom, Kathy, edit the text for me. She’s officially my editor now, and she is another amazing person! Other friends have also become fans. Shavo Odadjian from System of a Down and Achozen came to our release party to show support. RZA from Wu-Tang Clan and Achozen also came out. Plus, I’ve given the book to members of Mastodon, Alice in Chains, Velvet Revolver, and many, many more. Also, Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block has twittered about it, and he talks about it in our documentary after the first blood reading. Joey is a great dude as well!
EL: How in-depth will you go into the town and the history of Dolor itself? Are you creating you own Castle Rock or Yoknapatawpha County (William Faulkner)? After reading an advance of “Chrissy”, I noticed that characters from “Lila” make their appearance in the second novella, which leads me to hope that Dolor will become a fully fleshed-out town. Fair inference?
RF: It’s more than a fair inference; you’re dead on! As the series progresses, more and more becomes revealed about Dolor itself. This is a place where anything is possible and evil has no boundaries at all. It’s also a place that’s basically amoral, and you can’t ever feel safe. I don’t want the reader to ever feel safe or like he or she is sure of what’s happening—because, believe me, you have no idea what’s coming next. This is definitely similar to Castle Rock or Yoknapatawpha County in some ways; however, it’s also very different in others. There’s more of an ethereal quality to it. There’s a haze over everything. Things do become fully fleshed-out though, and at the end of Book 10 it’ll make sense…I hope [Laughs].
EL: What can readers expect in future tales from Dolor, IF you can give anything away without spoilers?
RF: Readers can expect to face some real darkness, but they’ll also get to laugh a bit too. Caleb is in every story. Rob, “Chrissy”‘s narrator, comes back, and by Book IV, “Decker”, the relationships between the narrators begin to become more important. I feel like “Chrissy” is a great indication of what can happen in this town. I feel like “Arielle” could be its own genre. There’s a horror story in there, but there’s also a bit of an adventure. Then there’s some comedy and social observations, but there’s also a domestic drama that’s just as gut-wrenching as some of the gory moments.
EL: Is there significance to the characters’ names: Lila, Chrissy, Arielle, Orestes, etc. Or will everything become clear at the end of the series?
RF: The characters’ names are significant—more to me personally than anything. I wanted a name for Lila that suggested fragility, almost like a flower. So I was thinking of flowers and the word “Lilac”. Lila was the closest moniker, and it just fit the character. “Chrissy” is a strange name for a strange woman in the series. I always thought “Arielle” was a great stripper name [laughs]. In the story Arielle’s a stripper, go figure…I’d met some girl dressed like Ariel from The Little Mermaid two Halloweens ago, and I just thought the name would be perfect because I’d started writing Book III a few days before. “Orestes” is my favorite song by A Perfect Circle, and it’s a name that instantly leads to all kinds of classical inferences, which will become important later. “Decker” was a homeless guy I met one day on Hollywood Blvd. “Cassie” is short for “Cassandra”, which also possesses important classical connotations. “Olivia” is a classy name, but there’s a darkness to it. I’m Italian so someone had to have an Italian-sounding name, hence “Lucia” [laughs]. “Sage” is wise…and “Helen”, well, we all know who Helen was in Greek myth…and that’s all ten…
EL: What inspirations have you drawn upon in creating Dolor and its inhabitants? Are you a horror fiction reader?
RF: I’m an avid horror fiction reader. However, my biggest influences were musical. I listened to “The Big Empty” by Stone Temple Pilots approximately 100 times while writing “Lila”, and they are one of my most important inspirations. The artists and works of art that really inspired this work were Stone Temple Pilots, Team Sleep, Korn, Queens of the Stone Age, Deftones, Tool, Pantera, Metallica, Alice in Chains, Devildriver, Marilyn Manson, White Zombie, Slipknot, Hollywood Undead, Nine Inch Nails, Acid Bath, Mastodon, Slayer, Eminem, Down, Guns ‘N Roses, Pearl Jam, Stone Sour, Cannibal Corpse, Wu-Tang Clan, and Jim Jones. Then movies, I watch a ton of movies—Casino, The Crow, The Shining, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas were all on repeat in the middle of the night while I was writing. So in essence Dolor is an amalgam of everything that I am extremely passionate about—rock n’ roll, hip hop, movies, and books. Also, Don Rickles is a HUGE inspiration. I watch “Mr. Warmth” often while writing, and I love other comedians like Denis Leary, Mike Epps, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, and Bernie Mac.
EL: If you are a horror fiction fan, who and/or what are some of your favorite authors and/or books?
RF: I love Edgar Allan Poe. He’s one of my earliest influences, and Ligeia still creeps me out to this day. I’m a big fan of HP Lovecraft too. I also really dig Clive Barker and Dean Koontz’s stuff too. Recently, I dug The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro. He’s just a true visionary. Then there is Stephen King. He’s the master of horror fiction as far as I’m concerned. Night Shift and Everything’s Eventual are two of my favorite books ever and a big influence on my work. I loved Gerald’s Game too. My buddy just suggested Desperation so I’m going to read that next. I read a lot of R.L. Stine as a kid too, and I always felt like in some strange way that helped me along this path.
EL: Will you continue to write in the horror genre, or is Dolor it? What will be next for Rick Florino?
RF: I will always, I repeat ALWAYS, write in the horror genre. I don’t write traditional horror, though, so it’s cool because the genre is so boundless that I can always fit my work into it. I’m working on a novel called Eyes Lie. I have a comedy/coming-of-age book finished called Ruined and a horror novel/poetry anthology entitled Lullabies for the Insane & Crooked Fairy Tales for the Depraved. I plan on releasing all of them. My first book is also available everywhere too—Do the Devil’s Work for Him: How to Make it in the Music Industry (and stay in it). I wrote it with a very close friend, Amy Sciarretto, and it is THE best and most honest how-to-make-it-in-the-biz guide out there.
EL: What are some of your favorite horror movies?
RF: I love the classics—The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Suspiria, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Evil Dead, and Nightmare on Elm Street. I also always loved Scorsese’s Cape Fear. For me, I think Vertigo is the scariest movie ever made. The way that Hitchcock explores obsession is both jarring and painful. Jimmy Stewart and Hitchcock’s masterpiece for sure! I love Bernard Hermann’s score as well. For more modern films, I loved The Orphanage, Let the Right One In, and the original Saw. Plus, Se7en is a classic for psychological horror. Those are all big influences. Also, it’s funny I still go back to Fallen with Denzel Washington. I love that flick and feel like it’s been seriously overlooked. It’s a clever horror movie. I dug Orphan, The Haunting In Connecticut, and Paranormal Activity this year. I can’t wait to see Shutter Island too!
EL: What scares Rick Florino?
RF: God, I hate snakes! I had the worst nightmare about my second grade teacher and principal unleashing a cobra on me when I was seven, and I can’t even be in the same room as a snake! I find the loss of control most terrifying though—that feeling that you can’t fix the situation you’re in or fight what you’re up against scares me more than anything. I think it’s probably the same for most people. Isn’t that why we’re so scared of The Exorcist? There’s that pervasive feeling that something effervescent and amorphous will paralyze us and we can’t do anything about it. Also, it’s scary to think that people can do and the things they do. That’s where Dolor lives—that space between how heinous people can really act and how scary the unknown is. It’s all in the book…
EL: Would you like to add anything that I haven’t asked you?
RF: I wrote this series because I had to. I didn’t have a choice, and I would truly die for it. I’m happier than I’ve ever been because of that. I pursued a dream relentlessly and I released this independently because I didn’t want anyone to change one word of it. Having people actually care has been the greatest feeling in the world. I hope everyone can experience that. Follow your dreams and NEVER, never give up no matter what. Be willing to do anything for your art—bleed for it die it. I would. I have a bloody, torn up, stitched and satanic teddy bear tied to my bag that my friend Nicole and I made in order to get people to ask me about Dolor, that bear goes everywhere with me. I cover myself in blood and read Lila live around LA for people. I’d do anything to get people into this.
EL: What is one thing about Rick Florino that nobody knows but you think they should?
RF: I wanted to be an astronaut as a little kid, and I’m still just trying to get to outer space [laughs]. Maybe the next series…
Big thanks to Rick for taking the time to hang with us for a bit and to Corey Soria for the photos!
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