An award-winning writer and poet, Keith Deininger is the author of the novella Fevered Hills and the novel The New Flesh. He grew up in the American Southwest and currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife and their three dogs.
He reads a lot, loves horror that is literary and thought-provoking, cooks, gardens, and enjoys camping and beer. He is cynical and a skeptic
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Yeah, alright. I’m Keith Deininger and I was born in Tennessee, grew up in Colorado, and now live in the state of New Mexico. I hold a degree in English Literature, with a focus on the American Romantics. I work for the University of New Mexico Bookstore. I’ve had a lot of random jobs, from tech support to selling vacuums door to door, as I partied my way through seven years in and out of college.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Actually, I prefer Dark Fantasy. “Horror” is an emotion, “Weird Fiction” refers to all that Cthuhlu bullshit, and “Dark Fiction” is unspecific. Horrific fiction is about writing the fantastic into reality. How’s that sound? ;)
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Oh, man. So many! I’m a huge fan of Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell (met him a couple of weeks ago--very approachable, talks a lot). Peter Straub is amazing. Cormac McCarthy. J.G. Ballard. Stephen King, the early years. John Fowles. Thomas Pynchon. Shirley Jackson. Ray Bradbury, the master (shook his hand once when I was in high school). And now I’ve begun reading a lot of indie authors, looking for the stand-outs, but I’ll have to get back with you on that front. Just to name a few.
What are you reading now?
Well, at the moment, I’m reading Robert Dunbar’s “Willy,” Philip K. Dick’s “Ubik,” and rereading King’s “The Tommyknockers.” I also just finished rereading “The Great Gatsby.”
Which book do you wish you had written?
“American Psycho.” It’s brilliant and disgusting, and controversial, which I love. “House of Leaves” is another one—a literary and increasingly terrifying obsession. Or maybe “The Talisman,” by King and Straub, which is one of my all-time favorites.
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
I would love to use Barker’s Lament Configuration and the Cenobites. Oh, the wicked fun I could have!
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Currently, I have a full-time and often demanding job (which sucks, because all I really want to do is write all day), so I write in the mornings and during my lunch breaks and sometimes a little in the evenings. Like a lot of writers, I enjoy my caffeine, and sometimes I have a few beers. Sometimes, all I can manage is to rock in place, staring at the screen. Other times, the words burst out and you can see me in the corner grinning, with my fingers blurring over my laptop.
I’m a slow writer. I’m not one of those who write the first draft as fast as he/she can and then goes back for total re-writes and edits. I carefully construct my paragraphs as I go. I have to be slow to achieve the subtleties I’m attempting. Then I go through re-writes and edits like everybody else. It’s a gruelling process.
Writing, for me, is like a drug addiction I have to maintain, that if I skip too many days without doing I begin jonesing, becoming grumpy and unhappy.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Whatever I’m working on at that moment. Right now, what I’m most excited about is a rather dark and ambitious novel currently titled “The Hunger Beneath.” You see, while I’m working on something, while I’m writing it, I think it’s pure genius; I always think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Later, after I’ve finished the initial draft, I start to have my doubts. And by the time I’ve gone through edits and revisions and am thinking of sending it to a publisher, I’m thinking it’s probably crap and am eager to get on to the next project because I know I can do better. We’ll see. Give me a couple of years to get some more novels out and I’ll let you know which one of those I’m most proud of.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
That fancy language doesn’t mean shit. In college, I took a few creative writing classes and I often wrote passages that I was extremely proud of, but was always receiving critiques from my professors’ regarding my lack of story arcs and relatable characters. So, naturally, I switched my focus to poetry and luxuriated in language and description for a while. Eventually, of course, I had to learn how to tell a real story and have since strived to create sympathetic characters. I’m still learning.
What do you like to do to relax?
I like to prepare nice meals for myself and my wife and then eat them. Sometimes I drink more than I should. I watch a lot of horror movies and they’re almost always terrible, but I enjoy angrily ranting about this fact afterwards.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
“The New Flesh,” my first full-length novel was released last month. It’s about Jake, a shy fourth-grader who has this strange fascination with fire. While his divorced parents are preoccupied with their own demons, he’s collecting lights and books of matches he finds on his walks to and from school. When he was little, he started a fire and almost burned his school down so now he’s scared of doing it again, but when he sees someone’s discarded lighter on the street, he can’t leave it there. He has to collect it. He’s preparing for something. He’s preparing to meet the mysterious creature he calls the Melting Man—hairless and pale, with flesh that droops and morphs—who visits him in his dreams. “Come with me, Jake,” the Melting Man says. “Come and see.” And as his dreams become more and more vivid, drawing toward an inevitable confrontation, Jake is forced to discover the mystery surrounding his dreams and visions, which he somehow knows have something to do with the movie his father wrote: The New Flesh.
Currently, I’ve nearly completed my novel “Out of the Jar,” about twelve-year-old Kayla who goes to live with her uncle in Los Alamos, New Mexico after her parents are killed. Once there, she meets Garty, the college drop-out to whom she may be related who has also come to live that summer with their uncle. But something’s not right. There are strange hieroglyphics in the woods surrounding the house, and fences that seem to be in place to keep something out…or to keep them in. Something festers at the side of the house and sometimes there is distant music drifting on the night breeze. Before long, Kayla and Garty are drawn into their uncle Xander’s obsession with the “new science,” and taught that things are never what they appear to be, that their lives now belong to him, and there may be no escape.
I’m also working on “The Hunger Beneath,” about a mysterious man who moves into the town of Mesa Rapids and throws lavish parties for its citizens that begin to spiral out of control, that are somehow related to the strange and disturbing happenings taking place all over town.
"A dark and sinister debut. Deininger's first novel will have you reading straight through the night." —Ronald Malfi, author of Floating Staircase and Snow
When Jake, a shy fourth grader, starts a fire in the woods behind his school that gets away from him, he's punished and forgiven. But his life is never the same. Three years after the incident, the dreams begin. Dreams of flames and a strange creature Jake calls The Melting Man. Waiting and watching with an insidious grin, it lures him deeper and deeper into his darkest fears, and closer to an otherworld of fire and torment. And then, Jake begins to see The Melting Man wherever he goes.
Come with me, Jake…Come and see…
As his dreams bleed into waking life, Jake realizes he's being dragged toward a very real apocalypse, and that The Melting Man's powers are growing stronger. Asleep, awake, or trapped between the two, Jake must fight to understand not only who and what The Melting Man is and what the dreams mean, but how this creature and Jake's mysterious family legacy ties into a disturbing, violent and enigmatic film associated with his father, a failed screenwriter.
But there may be no way to stop what has already begun…because this is a new nightmare…a new terror…a new Flesh…
THE NEW FLESH, the debut novel of horror, madness and suspense from Keith Deininger.