Good day, friends.
It is my immense pleasure to host this wonderful piece from author Ronald Malfi. As my presence here is just getting in the way of the magic, allow me to usher you to reason you are here. Mr. Malfi, the floor is yours.
“PITTER-PATTER AT 33,000 FEET
by Ronald Malfi
Every time I set foot on an airplane, I’m certain I’m going to die. Sure, you can explain the science behind the thing, show me diagrams about how jet engines work, animated blue and red arrows illustrating airflow, but let’s be honest—all I’m seeing is a massive metal cylinder that’s going to ferry me through the atmosphere 33,000 feet above the ground. Until it crashes.
I look around, weighing the probable sins of my fellow passengers merely by the way they dress, the conversations they’ve kept while sitting at the gate, whether they’re young or old. I pray that my plane is filled with nothing but nuns and babies, because surely no God would deem it appropriate to hurl that contingent into a mountain. But of course, it seems like I’m always boarding an airplane with convicts being transferred from one prison to another, a parade of Nazi war criminals, a deplorable assemblage of the morally bankrupt.
As I buckle myself into my seat (squeezed between a guy wholooks disconcertingly like the reincarnation of Joseph Goebbels and a large man in a Hawaiian shirt who, based on the profusion of sweat glistening across his brow, presumably maintains the same theory regarding aerodynamics that I do), I take mental inventory of all the things I will leave behind for my wife and kids. Does my wife know all the bank account numbers? Will the bills be paid? I never upped that life insurance policy, did I? Damn it. And I’ve got two young daughters; if this plane goes down, they’ll grow up without a father, become strippers, smoke cigarettes, and give my wife a heart attack at an early age. All my fault. Well, all the airplane’s fault, the pilot, whatever.
But then I start thinking about all the darker things—the nasty DVD that’s probably still wedged between a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark and season two of The Muppet Show, for example. Did I clear the internet history on the laptop? Shit, did I leave my email up and accessible to my wife, who might come across a string of emails where I’m bitching about her to my brother-in-law? I’m fairly certain there’s even an old issue of Penthouse…well, somewhere in the house.
All I can picture is my family members trucking out wheelbarrows of my dark secrets across the cemetery lawn, tipping each wheelbarrow filled with dark, incriminating secrets into my open grave, burying my coffin beneath a mound of embarrassment, of all the stupid, shameful, surreptitious things I’d carelessly left behind. That’s my legacy right there—piles of dirty clothes I left in the trunk of my car, or a busted piece of something that I told my dad I’d fixed months ago but here it is, dumped in my grave-hole, still busted, and what a sneaky liar that Malfi guy was, R.I.P. Shit, I picture the priest holding up a copy of Satan’s Schoolgirls before the mourners and suggesting, “What kind of man hides such a film among his daughters’ Barney DVDs?”
But, see, I’m a writer, so it’s not sufficient that I just worry about this stuff. It kicks off something in my brain, and after a while, I start to rationalize—at first, just to placate myself—that my dark secrets aren’t really that dark, and that everyone’s got a handful of embarrassing tokens in their background. But what about those people who are really, truly disturbed? What about the true monsters of this world—the murderers, the pedophiles, the serial rapists? The skeletons hanging in their closets make mine look like macrame.
This is how the seed for the novel Little Girls was planted. I saw a man who had a very dark past, who now, in his old age, is suffering from dementia. In his moments of clarity, which are becoming less and less frequent, he is desperate to cleanse his home—and his life—of all the evidence of his past before he dies. The only problem is that the dementia messes with his head, and he’s not sure where he’s kept all his secrets, and inevitably, some of them will be left behind after he dies. And maybe it’s his dementia that makes him think he was a bad guy. Man, that opened up some possibilities! A novel was born.
From there, the story grew roots, as the good ones often do, and sprouted various branches which introduced me to the subplots of the novel—the troubled relationship this man had with his daughter, Laurie, who became the novel’s protagonist; the appearance of a peculiar and possibly supernatural little girl who lives in the house next door; the echoing theme of dark secrets being hidden from family members; and ultimately, the fears and tribulations and—let’s face it—joys of raising little girls. I already had one daughter when I began writing this book, and have two daughters now. As one of the characters in the novel states at one point, little girls are like clay waiting to be molded. And as a father, that is my responsibility. So I try not to fuck it up too badly.
Inevitably, some of those parental insecurities made it into the book,and gave the story a well-rounded, dramatic, domestic feel—something I’m very proud of, and something you don’t see often in horror fiction anymore. When I finished with the book, I sighed with relief, closed down the laptop, and probably watched a movie or something, knowing my job was done. As far as parenting goes, you don’t get to close the laptop and sigh with relief. You start wondering, Am I doing the right thing? Will my kid grow up to be one of those adults who have all those dark secrets hidden all over the place? Will one wrong move on my part as a parent facilitate the creation of a human monster somewhere down the road?
When you’re a father, you don’t get to close the laptop. Your job as Creator never truly ends, and you don’t get to type THE END across your kid’s forehead after a three-month writing marathon. As a parent, you’re constantly editing, tweaking, plugging in commas and deleting clunky metaphors. So now that I’ve dumped out all my dark secrets in this article, I’ll leave you with a positive one, a secret that I’ve come to understand and to keep reminding myself:
Parents are never done editing.
Thanks for listening. The plane’s in the air now and the stewardess is making her way down the aisle, making sure all the seat belts are buckled and taking drink orders. She pauses beside my row, smiling prettily—her name tag says NADIA—but then her eyes flash toward the window. Something dark overtakes her features. The sweaty bastard in the Hawaiian shirt beside me notices, too. We both look out the window, and at the twist of black smoke corkscrewing from the plane’s engine. In the seat on the other side of me, his mouth full of salted peanuts and his eyes like hard little jewels, Joseph Goebbels laughs.
Wow, that vignette presents a hell of an image, and a nice bit of insight towards an author’s outlook, frame of mind, and creative process. It’s a complex miracle how pieces fall together sometimes. If this doesn’t whet your whistle for Mr. Malfi’s newest nightmare “Little Girls” then let me add that it is really good! A perfect “late night in the dark” read. I’ll have my review up shortly. Thank you, reader, for taking the time, thank you Kensington Books for the chance to read “Little Girls” early, and thank you Mr. Malfi for the opportunity to share this piece. “Little Girls” drops June 30th from Kensington Books, here are all of the important details and “Little Girls” giveaway at the bottom, good luck.
Little Girls, Information and Synopsis
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?
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
“It’s really good”—Z-Dubbz (The Mouths of Madness Podcastshow) 😉
Links to Pre-Order or Purchase
Barnes and Noble:
Or pick up or ask to order at your local independent bookstore or anywhere e-formats are sold!
Ronald Malfi, Biography
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 www.ronmalfi.com.
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.
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*And an extra special thanks to Erin @ Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for thinking of me and keeping me in the fold.
Enjoy, and thank you, readers, for taking the time.
-Zakk (Z-Dubbz), The Mouths of Madness Podcastshow