Doug Murano is a horror fiction writer out of Rapid City, South Dakota, and he is so earnest in his work. The way he respects his passion- nearly surrendering to its constant knock on his door- is wonderful. “Find something you love to do,” he says. “Learn how to do it well. Learn how others do it. Then, do that thing until it becomes second nature. Repeat. Repeat Repeat. Simple as that.”
South Dakota will always be capital-h home. That said, we’ve moved around so much (mostly in the state) over the past 10 years that we’ve learned home is wherever we’re together as a family.
Give us a behind the scenes look at your average day.
Most days, I’ll get up before everyone else and work out and, if there’s time, I’ll get through some emailing or reading on editing projects. Then, it’s off to the day job (I work as a writer in corporate communications). When I get home, I’ll spend some time with my wife and our three kiddos. Once the kiddos are in bed—and often before that, though I’m trying to get better about not obsessing over my work—I’ll work on editing projects or tap away at my own writing.
What projects are you currently working on, both in your career as well as hobbies or passions?
Right now, I’m co-editing two horror anthologies (short story collections).
One is volume 2 in our Shadows Over Main Street series, which explores what happens when ancient Lovecraftian horrors from the vast and uncaring cosmos descend upon sleepy rural towns. We brought together an outstanding table of contents for volume 1, including a number of Bram Stoker Award winners, and volume 2 is shaping up to be another incredibly powerful book. I can’t say much yet, but if you’re into horror fiction, you can bet some of your favorite authors will be in the anthology.
The other anthology is called Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, which I’d describe as a book full of emotionally devastating dark fiction. The intersection of awe and ache has always fascinated me, and so it feels natural to spend some time exploring it. We’re thrilled with how that one is coming together. We’re still working on developing our table of contents, but so far, it’ll feature work from Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, John F.D. Taff, Brian Kirk, Amanda Gowin and Richard Thomas. We’ll add more names to the list as we finalize stories, contracts, etc.
Both books will publish in 2016.
Over the past few years, I’ve also been heavily involved as a volunteer with the Horror Writers Association, the leading professional organization for authors and editors of horror fiction. I recently ended a year-and-a-half run as their lead communications officer, but I still have my fingers in a few HWA initiatives.
What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?
I’d like to find a better way to make time for everything. Most days, I feel like I’m failing at something because there’s just not enough hours in the day to do it all the proper justice.
If you could do any job, what would you do, and why?
I’m pretty lucky in that I’m living out my dreams right now. Working with a number of the best horror and dark fantasy writers in the world to bring new books into existence is an honor and a privilege. I’ve always wanted to join the eternal conversation when it comes to horror literature, and through these anthologies and (to a lesser extent) my own writing, I get to do that.
What’s your desert island album/book/movie?
Album: Siamese Dream
Since you live in one of the OTA states:
- Why do you choose to live here? My wife and I were born and raised here, so it feels like home. In the past (almost) two years, we’ve come to love Rapid City and all the surrounding area has to offer. It’s a great place to raise our family.
- What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the region when it comes to your career? I get to lead a pretty laid-back and comfortable life here in South Dakota. I don’t have a two-hour commute to work. Cost of living is pretty reasonable. I can easily get out into nature to recharge. That adds up to a situation where I can apply the energy necessary to succeed at what I’m trying to achieve, with very few compromises.
- What’s one thing you would change about the OTA region? I wish our state and local leaders spent more time making sure our schools are adequately funded. There’s so much opportunity here, and so many talented young people in the region, but we need to make sure we’re producing thoughtful, educated people who can recognize and seize those opportunities.
- What’s one thing that most people don’t know about the OTA region? We have a pretty active group of horror authors and editors in the region. Adrian Ludens and C.W. LaSart, who are both South Dakota residents, have made some waves in the genre within the past few years.
Where do think good ideas come from?
Hard work. Relentless hard work.
What’s one current trend you think will change the world?
Amazon has made the self-publishing revolution possible…that’s old news. But while it’s not exactly a trend, I don’t think we even remotely understand the consequences of the shift, or the way Amazon’s business model has changed the way we find and consume literature. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few decades.
Related to that, I find it fascinating that several recent studies have shown younger readers are flocking back to physical books, and I’m eager to see if that trend continues. I love e-books (most of my sales have come in that format), but I prefer holding a book in my hands to reading it on Kindle. I don’t think either form is going away.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Try harder, and stop thinking you can do it alone. Networking is vital to success in any field.
Who is the most creative person in your life, and why?
In terms of being prolific, it’s got to be Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box. He has written more than twenty novels (though only one has been published as of this writing), has another gig as the leader of a rock band (The High Strung), and every time we catch up about what he’s doing he’s rattling off these huge daily word counts and plans for what he’s going to write. The man knows what it means to commit to the creative process and he’s executing on a high level. His work ethic puts me to shame, and I’m excited to see what he does next.
Who is the most connected person in your life, and what personal characteristics make him or her so well-connected?
Lisa Morton, president of the Horror Writers Association, holds that spot. She’s been working in the genre for decades now, and is connected to so many people in film, literature and art that it makes my head spin. She’s steadfast, hardworking and is incredibly generous with her time. She’s always willing to reach out to new faces. Plus, she’s a dynamite writer in her own right.
At what intersection do you live your life?
Art and Ambition.
What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?
This might sound strange, but I’m a little wary of that word: Inspiration. I think it’s a rather unproductive word, and can be a crutch for folks who like the idea of doing something creative more than they like thinking about the work it takes to be successful. You can’t wait around for inspiration. You have to be willing to hustle. That’s when interesting things start to happen, and you can begin to connect the dots toward your goals. In my experience, action often comes before inspiration.
But, to answer the question more directly: Find something you love to do. Learn how to do it well. Learn how others do it. Then, do that thing until it becomes second nature. Repeat. Repeat Repeat. Simple as that. If it’s not a compulsion (I’ve told my wife on many occasions that I don’t think I could stop writing and editing even if I wanted to), you might want to consider a more fulfilling way to spend your time.
Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?
I want to create a body of work for readers to enjoy—as long as the books are out there, part of me lives on. I like that notion.
But more importantly, no matter how my career plays out, I want to set an example for my kids. In the end, it’s only partially about the end product. I want to show my kids what it looks like to chase your wildest dreams with arms and eyes wide open. I want them to know what it looks like to put it all out there.
Who’s one regional writer/artist/leader/entrepreneur we should pay attention to?
Adrian Ludens, a Rapid City horror author, is placing a lot of short stories in some prestigious markets lately. He’s a guy who deserves to be read. I liked his stuff so much, I recruited him for the first anthology I co-edited, Shadows Over Main Street.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?
Love is always the biggest risk. I took a chance, and it has paid off in ways I can’t begin to describe. Without my wife, Jess, by my side, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.
What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
Before I committed to writing, oh…about 10 years ago, I tried to convince myself it wasn’t a viable profession and I had to choose a career that some might consider to be more conventionally successful. So, I enrolled in law school. Looking back, it went against every instinct I had—nothing against the USD School of Law, but it just wasn’t for me. I failed myself by trying to cram my future into an idea of what I should be. I failed myself by not listening to the voice inside that told me to pursue horror, to pursue writing.
It could have been a real disaster.
Luckily, shortly before classes started, I had a bit of a wakeup call, and realized I’d only be happy and fulfilled if I went after what I really wanted: to be a writer and work with other writers. I dropped out of law school and enrolled in USD’s creative writing graduate program within the next few days. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
That failure, and subsequent wakeup call, taught me that it’s OK to make a run at your aspirations—and it also gave me an education about the mental and spiritual costs of trying to stifle them. It taught me a lot about what it means to commit to something deeply personal over the long term. Most importantly, though, that failure taught me that if you want to find a way forward, you will.