An Interview with Dave Ritzlin, DMR Books

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Back in August, DMR Books released two short-story collections titled Swords of Steel, featuring stories written by metal musicians. Recently, I had the chance to briefly chat with Dave Ritzlin from the publishing company.

First off, just to make sure, can you tell us who you are / what you do, and what DMR Books has been up to until now?

I’m D.M. Ritzlin, and I started DMR Books to publish Swords of Steel. It’s an anthology series of fantasy and horror stories written by heavy metal musicians. Two volumes have been released so far, with a third coming in 2017. I’ve also put out two issues of a fanzine called Scrolls of Legendry. The focus is on reviews of classic and not-so-classic fantasy/science fiction/horror books, mainly ones published in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Each issue also has a short story.

Recently DMR Books published two collections of short stories written by metal musicians, known as the “Swords of Steel”, which is how you were first brought to my attention. It’s not something you come across everyday – where did the idea to do this from? How did these come together? I know Byron Roberts of Balsagoth has been meaning to move in to literature, so to speak, but what about the rest of the authors? Was it easy picking who to work with?

The idea for Swords of Steel came to me while listening to the Manowar song “Dark Avenger.” I thought the lyrics would make a great sword-and-sorcery story, much like those in the “Swords Against Darkness” anthologies from the ‘70s. It made me wonder if Joey DeMaio had ever written such a story, or if any other metal musicians had. Then I remembered Byron from Bal-Sagoth had said that he’d written plenty of stories, but they’d never been published. I figured someone should publish them, so why not me? I contacted him and E.C. Hellwell (who’d written stories that Manilla Road had based some of their songs on) and they were both enthusiastic about the idea. From there I got in touch with other musicians who were fans of the sword-and-sorcery genre. A few of them, like Howie Bentley (Cauldron Born, Briton Rites) and Jeff Black (Gatekeeper), were already trying their hands at writing fiction before I talked to them, so it was perfect timing. I think I picked all the right people the first time around, as it’s been a little bit more difficult to find new writers for the subsequent volumes. But Volume III will have at least one new author, Mike Browning from Nocturnus.

How was it working with metal musicians? Anything out of the ordinary at all?

No, nobody’s made any weird demands or sent me messages in character or anything like that. It’s been hard to get some of them to meet the deadlines, but that’s to be expected. They like to keep revising the stories until they’re perfect. I’ll get a “final draft” followed by a “final final draft” and then a “final final final draft.” The only strange thing is communicating with E.C. Hellwell. He’s never owned a computer, so we have to go through Mark Shelton as an intermediary. It hasn’t been problematic, though.

Heavy metal and high fantasy often overlap in lyrical themes, worlds, and art. Do you find listening or reading one helps inspire the other?

I’m not a musician and not much of a writer, so I can’t say. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence there’s such a connection between the two.

Who was your favorite writer to work with?

Possibly Howie Bentley. He’s very dedicated to the concept of Swords of Steel and takes his writing very seriously. In fact, he’s giving up music for the time being and focusing strictly on writing fiction. But all the writers of Swords of Steel have been a pleasure to work with. I’d be glad to work with all of them again in the future.

What is your favorite Manowar album?

Kings of Metal! It’s got everything from fast songs to inspirational anthems. I don’t think Pleasure Slave is quite as cool as I did when I was 15, but other than that, it’s perfect. The Triumph of Steel deserves an honorable mention, as that’s the first traditional heavy metal album I ever heard. It blew my mind that a band would write a 30 minute song.

Deserted island book and album question

I’d have to go with Helloween’s Walls of Jericho. I never get tired of it. (Alternate: North From Here by Sentenced) For the book, I’d pick a collection of short stories by my favorite author, Clark Ashton Smith. Either City of the Singing Flame or The Last Incantation from Timescape Books.

Are you planning to continue this? Do you want to get involved in different writing styles beside Fantasy? (You know, like BRomance)

There’s definitely going to be a third Swords of Steel. After that, we’ll see what happens. I’d like to stick to fantasy for the mostpart. That’s what I’d intended with Swords of Steel, but some of the authors, like Mike Scalzi (Slough Feg) and Scott Waldrop (Twisted Tower Dire), submitted horror stories. The second volume was about half fantasy/half horror. Fantasy should make up the bulk of the third one. I’ve thought about possibly doing a full horror anthology, but that’s just an idea right now. But don’t expect any vampire love stories from DMR Books. I’d sooner publish a metal/fashion/gossip rag.

What’s nerdier: Dungeons & Dragons or Fantasy Football?

Fantasy football seems utterly strange to me. You’d think jocks would know better! They ought to stuff themselves in their own lockers.

If you had to choose one story to represent your series/idea which one and why?
“Vengeance of the Insane God” from the first volume. It’s by Jason Tarpey, vocalist of Eternal Champion. In this tale, Raenon, a barbarian from Aelbrond, is pitted against The Starless Night, a cult that worships and breeds with demons. It’s along the lines of stories by Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, and many reviewers have picked it as one of their favorites in the book.


Thanks Dave for taking time to be here! Go like DMR Books on Facebook to keep up with the news.