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PSYCHO: An Interview with Robert Bloch

Randall D. Larson

One of my favorite writers has always been Robert Bloch, famous for PSYCHO and other "psychological thrillers." When I decided to put out a fanzine, he was the first I sent an interview to. In writing the questions, it came to my attention that most of his other interviews (BLACK ORACLE, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, etc.) dealt mainly with his pictures and his books rather than himself. So I decided in this interview to question Mr. Bloch about himself and his style. So here you have it -- ROBERT BLOCH, THE MAN.

RL: When, and where, were you born?
RB: April 5, 1917 in Chicago, IL.
RL: Have you always been interested in writing science fiction?
RB: My first interest was in writing fantasy. Of course, I regard science fiction as a branch of fantasy -- a classification which tends to infuriate the writers of "hardcore" sf.
RL: When did you first become interested in writing?
RB: I first became interested when I was about fifteen -- at the time I started corresponding with H.P. Lovecraft, who suggested I try a few stories of my own. However, I'd written a few things earlier than that, with no idea of publication: I recall doing a little essay on the civilization of the future when I was eleven or twelve, as a surprise birthday gift for my mother -- as I remember, I illustrated it and bound it together as a small pamphlet.
RL: When did you decide to become a writer for a living?
RB: When I graduated from high school. I was then seventeen years and two months old. When I was seventeen years and three months old, I sold my first story. Been at it ever since.
RL: What did you do to earn a living before you went into writing.
RB: Went to high school.
RL: At what age did you really discover your talent for writing?
RB: I discovered whatever talent I have for writing when -- as I mentioned -- I started to do a few stories with the encouragement of H.P. Lovecraft. But I never felt any particular confidence in my work until about 1937 or so, when I was twenty.
RL: Did you ever attend any formal writing school, or did you learn by studying the techniques of other writers?
RB: I never got beyond high school adn have never attended a writing school or class except as a speaker.
RL: What do you think influenced your writing style?
RB: My writing style was influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. Other influences, to varying degrees, have been Poe, Machen, Dunsany, James Joyce, Raymond Chandler, John Doe Passos, Ben Hecht.
RL: Could you give you a brief bibliography of your work?
RB: Sorry, but there's no way of giving a "brief bibilography" of my work. Om 1964, a kind and generous British fan, Graham D. Hall, decided to put out a bibiliographical listing. The story titles alone, single-spaced, ran for eleven pages. As of today, that length would be at least doubled, due to reprints and additional work -- and that wouldn't include anything that I'd done for radio, television, or motion pictures. Let's just say that in thirty six years a professional writer turns out a lot of material.
RL: Do you have any favorite fan artists and writers? Pro artists and writers?
RB: Again, I've far too many favorite fan writers and fan artists to make a short list. The same holds true for the pros. Over such a long span of time I've had the pleasure of reaing so much that pleased me; there are literally scores of writers and artists who have impressed me.
RL: How do you go about selling [a] story to a book company?
RB: My sales are made through an agent. He submits the book manuscript to a publisher. Only once have I admitted an outline -- usually I write the book first.
RL: Could you explain a little about the technique you use in your writing?
RB: I don't really know what is meant by "technique." I get an idea -- usually for the ending of a story -- and then make a few notes or a short outline to guide me into a more complicated plot. Then I sit down and go to work. Most of my writing is first draft; I do my revising as I go along. And I always start from page one and work forward without skipping around. If this is "technique," then you know as much about mine now as I do.
RL: Do you collect anything?
RB: I 've always been a collector -- of books, magazines, recordings, art objects, stamps. My taste in books and magazines is fairly catholic (with a smaill "c" please) but in addition to fiction and non fiction, sf and fantasy. I've a special interest in material on motion pictures. In recordings I prefer the romantic composers, and Prokokieff and Richard Strauss are typical choices. I'm fond of oriental art -- figurines, statuettes in bronze, ivory, brass or teak and rosewood. My interest in philately dates back forty-odd years.
RL: How about hobbies?
RB: My hobbies center around the collections I just told you about. I'm interested in old movies, particularly those of the silent era, and see as many as possible.
RL: What do you think of fandom as a whole?
RB: One of the most interesting phenomena in the world -- and quite unlike any other type of fandom.
RL: What are some of your plans for the future?
RB: My only long-range plans for the future, in these uncertain times, is respiratorial. In other words, I just intend to keep breathing.
RL: Could you give any aspiring writers any pointers about writing?
RB: I believe that there are two things vitally necessary to a writer's development -- constant writing and constant reading. The habit [of] writing something everyday is invaluable; so [is] the habit of daily reading for stimulation and information. I do not believe that writers are "born," they are developed, through hard and constant effort and application.
RL: Please comment on the work you did for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND.
RB: Virtually everything that appeared in FAMOUS MONSTERS, aside from letters, was reprinted from articles I'd done earlier for other magazines. Since FAMOUS MONSTERS is directed at a younger reading audience, I've not tried to write anything especially for it; psychopathology wouldn't be appropriate.
RL: How did you get the idea for PSYCHO?
RB: There was a murder case in a small Wisconsin town near the one where I lived -- I had no details concerning it at the time, but I knew that it involved a middle-aged man who murdered several women. Realizing how much gossip there is in a small town and how neighbors tend to pry into every else's affairs, I wondered just what kind of man, and what circumstances, might be involved in such a crime without anyone suspecting, working from these questions, I came up with the plot of PSYCHO. Years later I learned that I'd come pretty close to the actual situation, as brought out after investigations were completed -- except that the actual murderer was also a cannibal, and even more disturbed than my imaginary character. He did dress like a woman -- but instead of merely putting on clothing, he wore actual breasts and skin from his victims!
RL: What idea were you trying to get across in PSYCHO?
RB: The idea in PSYCHO, and in many of my so-called "psychological thrillers" is a simple and obvious one: Don't take candy from strangers.

This interview first appeared in Randall Larson's self-published fanzine Fandom Unlimited Vol 1., No. 1 (1971), is 1971 by Randall D. Larson, and appears here with permission of Randall D. Larson. All rights reserved.

The former editor/publisher of CinemaScore, CineFan, and Threshold of Fantasy magazines, Randall D. Larson has written 8 books and more than 200 articles for fantasy, fire service, public safety, cinema, and motion picture music periodicals, books, CD booklets, and Web sites. Larson is currently the editor of 9-1-1 Magazine (public safety communications and response), and a senior editor for Soundtrack magazine. Avoiding spare time at all costs, Mr. Larson is also a writer for while maintaining a full-time career in the field of emergency services communications.

Mr. Larson is also the author of three of the major reference books on Robert Bloch and his writings -- a book of collected interviews, a readers' guide, and a detailed bibliography, all as discussed on the FAQ page. These books may be ordered from Mr. Larson directly.

Mr. Larson can be contacted at