Ronald Malfi Releases Coming-Of-Age Thriller “December Park”
Author Inspired By Childhood Growing Up In Severna Park
Haunted houses, alien species, tormented humans and creatures reminiscent of vampires – name a paranormal entity or psychologically-disturbed incarnation, and chances are Ronald Malfi has used it to terrorize characters and readers alike in one of his 12 books and six novellas. For his latest work, “December Park,” scheduled for release on May 13, the Arnold author conceived a premise using an unusual source - his upbringing in Severna Park.
“There is an acknowledgement in the book that says every author worth their salt has one good story in them about their childhood,” Malfi expressed. “This is mine.”
The story follows five teenage boys who band together to solve the identity of the Piper, an abductor responsible for kidnapping several children. Malfi devised the concept during his sophomore year at Severna Park High School, but shelved the idea because he wanted to adapt the storyline and change the antagonist from a monster to something more realistic. Years after composing an initial draft, the author decided how he wanted to alter the plot. The end result is a thriller based on his personal experiences, his adolescent friendships and local landmarks, with all of the names changed to suit the book’s unique universe.
“‘December Park’ started off as a nod to my friends that were reading my fiction in high school, and I included them as characters in a horror novel where we grow up in this area,” Malfi indicated. “Everything that we did, I included in this book. I originally added this monster or some supernatural entity that we have to fight at the end, but it’s killing kids in the area, so it is sort of a coming-of-age, a death-of-innocence and youth story that I wrote years ago.”
Even though Malfi’s work is often categorized as horror, most of his writing does not employ gore, but is dark fiction that evokes a sense of claustrophobia, fear, trepidation and anxiety, created by Malfi’s prose and the uncomfortable situations in which he places characters. Following this trend, “December Park” is a tale of camaraderie and growing up, but with an ominous twist. Malfi’s novel also induces nostalgia for the ‘90s.
“These kids take it upon themselves to figure out who the Piper person is and in the process of doing that, they reflect on what lessons they learned and what friendship means,” he said. “What does it mean to arrive at that age where, as a boy, you and your dad don’t get along to a point where you start to see where he is coming from and you understand why he is how he is? All of that stuff was important to me in telling that. It’s half a fictionalized memoir with a serial killer subplot.”
Readers will detect the maturation theme and will notice that several of the locations in the fictional town of Harting Farms (there is an Arnold community called Harting Farm) are modeled after places in Severna Park. “Ritchie Highway is a prominent area in the book,” Malfi noted. “I call it Governor Highway and December Park is a recreational area that sits on the other side of the highway, so I took my own liberties with the town, but instead of the Giant Supermarket, it’s the Generous Superstore. Instead of McDonald’s, it’s the Quick Man, where people get their burgers, so all of that stuff still exists. I just changed the names to create my own town.”
For Malfi, “December Park” carries some sentimental value because it is loosely based on his youth. He started writing around age 10 after he bought his first typewriter at a garage sale. When he reached high school, he started sending manuscripts to his friends. “It felt like I was assigning them homework, but they wound up liking them,” Malfi joked.
Those friends’ initials are included in the acknowledgements section of the book. Malfi considers “December Park” one of his best novels, along with 2011’s “Floating Staircase” and 2008’s “Passenger.” He hopes Severna Park residents will relate to many aspects of the story, which is a fictional representation of what he called a unique childhood.
“My friends and I were very fortunate to come and go as we wanted, we rode our bikes all over the place and I had a lot of fun growing up in Severna Park,” Malfi recalled. “I try to illustrate that in the book, and it was a long time coming, so being able to have it finally published and mail it out to my friends who I grew up with … some of the chapters were straight out of the manuscript I wrote on my old typewriter. That is kind of cool.”
For more information about the Arnold writer, visit www.ronmalfi.com. His next book, “Little Girls,” is his first release with Kensington Publishing, and will be released in September 2015. “‘Little Girls’ continues the tradition of the stuff I write, which are these kind of quiet, subtle, creeping, dark stories about characters and relationships,” Malfi revealed.