Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Kristopher Rufty

Meghan: Hey, Krist!! Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. It’s fantastic to have you back on the Halloween Extravaganza. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Kristopher Rufty: Took an extended break for a while to be a dad to my three children. We’ve had a difficult two years but are finally getting through it. Back to writing, putting a new life together, and rebuilding. It’s been a long, trying journey to get to this point, but we’re finally here.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Kristopher Rufty: A simple guy, really. I mostly spend all my time with my children—taking them to school, appointments, and events. Making sure supper is cooked. I also play music, watch a lot of movies when I can (which doesn’t happen often), and sleep.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Kristopher Rufty: It depends on what else they enjoy to read or watch. When Angel Board was released, nearly all my relatives bought a copy. Even my grandmother was eager to get one. But then they all read it, and suddenly they weren’t so excited about my stories. I’m not sure what they were expecting, but they all had different opinions on the adult situations and the overall subject matter. After that, I hoped they would just stay away from my books, and all of them have.

But some of my closest friends are my biggest supporters. My friend, Katie, calls herself my Annie Wilkes, and tries her best to keep me motivated and inspired so the books keep coming. She’s been working really hard the last couple years with encouraging me, and it’s finally paid off. I’m writing a lot more than I have been, and it’s great.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Kristopher Rufty: The only curse that I can really think of is the curse of a deadline, yet, at the same time, it’s also a blessing because it keeps me focused. I could never think of anything bad about writing because it’s a wonderful gift to have. When it’s not fun, then I know the story is all wrong and it either needs to be approached from a different angle or abandoned entirely. Writing is magic, and I’m thankful to be able to do it.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Kristopher Rufty: A lot, actually. It’s sprinkled throughout most of my stories. The town Brickston from many of my books is actually the town I grew up in, but I changed the name. The library in Anathema and Angel Board is the local library my daughter and I visit all the time. The dirt road Joel Olsen lives on in Pillowface is the road I grew up on, just with my grandfather’s house replacing my parents’ house. The way certain character’s talk and the way they act comes from my watching people for so long and interacting with them. I used to work in retail, and I used to manage a video store, so I’ve met tons of people. Sometimes they wind up in books, or at least incredibly sensationalized versions of themselves.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Kristopher Rufty: Before starting work on The Vampire of Plainfield, I spent a lot of time researching Ed Gein. I already owned several books on him, but I wanted to see more. I scoured through online databases for any info and photos I could find. I searched how someone could escape from being locked in a trunk. I looked up news stories on necrophiliacs for a story idea I have. I wouldn’t be surprised if the FBI showed up some day to question me about my internet history. I’ve looked up all kinds, but nothing seems really weird to me, though. So maybe that’s the problem?

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Kristopher Rufty: The middle. When I have trouble with a book, it’s always in the later section of the middle right before the ending is set into motion. I don’t know why this is. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it hits hard. I’ll go back and read over everything I’ve written to that point, making minor alterations along the way. Sometimes, I scrap the whole first chunk of the book and start fresh. More times than not, it’ll click when I’m not expecting it and I’ll find myself going back to my old draft and picking right up where I left off, omitting the new version, and soaring through to the end. I doubt myself too much at times, and it takes doing something as drastic as rewriting a whole book before I realize I was in the right place all along.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Kristopher Rufty: A little of all the above. My main routine before beginning a new book is sitting down with a blank page, either on my laptop or a legal pad, and I start writing about the ideas I have. I sort of have a conversation with myself about the book. I’ll get a basic premise and an idea for a few characters and then I jump right in. I’ll get past those parts and go back to my blank pages and talk out the rest. Other times, I just go right into it with a beginning and nothing beyond that.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Kristopher Rufty: I just follow along. I’ve learned it’s easier that way than fighting what they naturally want to do. I used to disagree and move on with my own intentions and every time the book suffered for it, or could never be completed. Now, I save time by not fighting it and going with what they present to me and letting the story guide itself. It’s a lovely process and still amazes me to this day that it happens all on its own if I allow it to.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Kristopher Rufty: I don’t really think there’s any real way to motivate myself. I either want to or don’t want to and, thankfully, I always want to. I don’t write like I used to, but I still write every free moment I have. I make sure there is some gap of time set aside to write. I can’t go without doing it, so I must ensure myself there is always that window I can escape through, even if for just a little while.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Kristopher Rufty: Big time. I read as much as possible. I used to read multiple books at once, but I’ve cut back on that and read one or two at a time now. I love stories. I always need to have one nearby.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Kristopher Rufty: Horror, naturally. 😊 I love crime fiction and westerns as well. This past year, I’ve started reading YA books from the 80’s and 90’s by Stine, Pike, and the slew of others. Some of them are actually pretty dark, and I’m surprised by the amount of violence some of them have. They’re just so much and have great covers that remind me of being in middle school and finding these books in the library.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Kristopher Rufty: I love it. I can’t really talk about it too much just yet, but I will be able to share more of how I feel about it soon. It’s only a matter of time, it looks like. Sure, anything could happen to where I can’t elaborate, but for now, it looks quite possible. But to give a response that isn’t so vague: I am in love with the idea! I hope that movies are made based on my books frequently. I have no problem with other people taking the books and adapting them into something else. It’s all a collaboration at that point, and it excites me to see these stories brought to life through someone else’s interpretation.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Kristopher Rufty: Many times. Sometimes readers enjoy a surprise like that, other times they hate it. I just go in the direction the story takes me. If that character is supposed to be let go, the story will let me know. I hate it when any of my characters meet their end, but it’s out of my hands. I think it’s harder to accept when it’s a character I’ve been with for so long, only to turn to the page and find out they’re no longer there on the pages that follow. The story moves on without them, whether I want it to or not.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Kristopher Rufty: It depends. If they’re a bastard, then yes, I enjoy it. 😊 I don’t like it when characters I love suffer anything, but again, if the story calls for it, I have to go along with it. Desolation was filled with characters suffering and it was agonizing to write their pain. Yet, I couldn’t stop writing it. I had to know what was going to happen and the desire to reach to the end kept me going. I never want to write a book like that, again. It was brutal to go through, but when I was finished, I was very happy with what I had accomplished. But I’m just fine with never returning to that type of story at all. Soon as I had finished, I needed to write something a bit more fun. Bigfoot Beach was what I came up with, and it was so far away from the kind of story Desolation was that it was refreshing and such a good time to write about Bigfoot smashing people’s heads.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Kristopher Rufty: That’s a tough one. Herschell from Seven Buried Hill was pretty bizarre. The idea for him came from a photograph I saw on display at my local library of an artificial arm from the late 1800’s. It was a monstrous contraption that looked as if it had been built from steal. I asked one of the librarians about it and she told me that amputees would have those ungodly things attached to them. I had no idea how anyone could stand up with such a device on their body, let alone use it. On my way home, the idea for a horror-western hit and I began writing it that night. Herschell lost most of his body due to leprosy, so he’s part man, part steal, and has been turned into an unstoppable killing machine.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Kristopher Rufty: I’ve been fortunate throughout the years to receive a lot of great feedback from authors I’ve admired for so long. I have even been able to collaborate with some as well. Before I was published, I received a lot of great advice from Ronald Malfi, Jeff Strand, Brian Keene, and Edward Lee, plus a whole list of others. I consider all of them now to be great friends.

The worst? Probably from some of those same people. When something doesn’t work, or I did something wrong, a good friend and writer will point it out. It was hard (and still is) to hear at times how badly I’d messed up in a story, but later it became feedback I still live by. It’s helped me to be able to construct a coherent story that, for the most part, people like to read. So, in my experiences, some of the worst feedback was actually the best I could have received.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Kristopher Rufty: I am grateful for each one. I still remember the first time a reader reached out to me. Still remember who it was, too. That fan later went on to be an editor on two of my books for Sinister Grin Press. He told me he would always cherish how responsive I was and how kind I was to him. I treat my readers like human beings because that’s what they are. I value all of them and, whenever I can, give them free stuff. I was at a convention a couple years ago and tried to give away so much stuff to my fans that one of them finally stopped me and reminded me they were there to buy things, too. I can’t thank them enough for supporting me and even if they didn’t like something of mine, they don’t turn away. They’re loyal to me and I will always be loyal to them.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Kristopher Rufty: I don’t know if I could steal any character from somebody else and do it any kind of justice. But I would probably have to pick Jason Voorhees. I grew up as a fan of the Friday the 13th series and used to daydream about making my own entry in the series. That was where the idea for Pillowface came from. I was a kid, mowing the field behind our house and fantasized about Jason staggering out of the woods, wounded from a battle. I helped him get healthy again and we became good buddies. Even as an adult, the dream of working on one has never left me. Maybe some day it’ll happen.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Kristopher Rufty: That’s a good question. Though I feel Richard Laymon wrapped them up nicely, I might would like to take a shot at doing a Beast House book. Probably have it take place in present day, many years after the events of The Midnight Tour. The Beast House has been shut down for years, but somebody has recently purchased it and decides to reopen it. So much could happen in the meantime with new characters and maybe even some of the older characters could return as well.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Kristopher Rufty: Wrath James White was always the answer I used to give whenever someone asked me this. And I’ve been blessed enough to get to do that with Master of Pain. Talk about a dream come true. I became a fan of Wrath’s work back in 2009. If you would have told me that one day I’d get to write a book with him, I would have said you were crazy. I’ve been collaborating with another writer on a book for a little over a year. It keeps getting put on hold because we have to work on other things, but we keep coming back to it. I’m almost finished with my turn, then I’ll send it back to him. I want to say who it is, but I know it’s too soon to announce it yet. Hopefully in the next couple months we can talk more about it.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Kristopher Rufty: I have a book coming out through Thunderstorm Books that I finished earlier in the year. They’re launching a new line of books and I believe this one will be the first. Soon as they make the announcement, I can talk more about it. I can say that it’s a book I’ve been asked about many, many times. Hopefully it’s everything my readers wanted, and even more! I also finished a draft of a book called Three Men and a Body. It’s a dark crime story with horror mixed in. Probably one of my darker books, though I didn’t start off writing it that way. I have also completed a draft of a book called Lipstick Wings and have begun to assemble stories for another collection that I hope will release early next year.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Kristopher Rufty: I’m still on Facebook and Twitter, though not nearly as much as I used to be. Next year will see the launch of a new website, a newsletter, and hopefully a lot of news to talk about. I’m slowly getting back to things and I hope to continue building back to full steam before too long.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

Kristopher Rufty: I’m back to work! I’ll see you all soon!

Kristopher Rufty is the writer and director of the movies Psycho Holocaust, Alice in Deathland, Cutting Room!, and Wicked Wood, and also the author of Angel Board, PillowFace, and The Lurkers.

He used to host Diabolical Radio, an internet radio show devoted to horror fiction and film for five years and developed quite an archive list and following.

He is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of two insane children that he loves dearly, and together they reside in North Carolina with their 120 pound dog, Thor, and a horde of cats. He is currently working on his next novel, script, or movie.