GUEST INTERVIEW: Jeff Parsons Interviews ME

It’s not often that I get sent a handful of questions, but each time, it is super exciting to take part. This year, along with an author interview and guest post (a true story), Jeff decided that he wanted to send over a set of questions for ME. And what a great set of questions it was. So, without further ado…

Jeff: What inspired you to create your blog?

Me: I wanted a place that was mine where I could talk books. At the beginning of The Gal in the Blue Mask, which was the blog before Meghan’s House of Books, Goodreads was a rather dramatic place to hang out. Authors and bloggers/reviewers were bickering and both sides were being rather unpleasant to the other, doing things I considered very wrong. I wanted a safe place, a happy place, where I made the rules and everyone was welcome.

In 2019, after a couple of years of just feeling lost when it came to blogging, I decided to rebrand myself as Meghan’s House of Books. It wasn’t that I didn’t love The Gal anymore – I do, and it still exists, for always – but I just felt like I had grown out of it. And so the front doors of “my house” were opened…

Jeff: How do you get your blog noticed? Marketing, blog-to-blog outreach, word of mouth?

Meghan: To be honest, it’s mostly word of mouth. I don’t really fit in with the other bloggers, or so it seems. I’ve tried to make friends with fellow book bloggers, even ones that like the same kinds of books I do, and I’ve done all the stuff they say to do – comment, like, follow – but I’ve never really clicked with most of them. Never really been given the chance. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

Jeff: What are some interesting things you’ve learned from talking with authors?

Meghan:

  • They’re all just normal people.
  • They don’t always know what they are doing.
  • The anxiety is real with them as well. (They don’t often see themselves as we do, and question whether they are any good at all.)

Jeff: How do you respond to people who say horror is for disturbed minds?

Meghan: I ask them if they’ve actually read a book in the genre and often suggest a few that they should read because, to me, horror is a way to handle the horrific of the world, a way for us to better understand the “disturbed minds” out there. Not all horror is gore for gore’s sake, which I know turns a lot of people off, or extreme. A lot of horror is psychological or things that can actually happen. Those things say with you long after you close the cover of the book or the credits finish rolling.

Jeff: Why do some people dislike Halloween? Are they afraid of something?

Meghan: There’s a reason that one of my questions in this year’s interview was why Halloween was their favorite (or second favorite) holiday. It’s one of my top two and I wanted to see if people felt the same way about it as I do. To me, Halloween is a lifestyle, and there are horror things up in my home office year round. I’m a spooky girl all year, until November 1st when I become all Christmas all day, and around January 10th I go right back to being a spooky girl. I think people dislike Halloween because they were brought up being told to not like it or that it is evil or they just don’t understand it. Halloween is a time when you get to be a little different, when you get to dress up and pretend you are not the same boring person you are every other day, when you get to enjoy being scared and the things that go bump in the night. “Are they afraid of something?” That’s a great question. Maybe they are afraid of the things that COULD be in the dark. Or maybe they’re just afraid of being judged for liking something that usually the “nerds” are the ones enjoying or because they think it’s kids’ stuff. Maybe they’re afraid to let go and enjoy themselves. And, as I said above, maybe they just don’t understand it.

Jeff: What if Halloween represented a dark side of life that we’ve repressed over the years? What do you think would be scary if we fell back into believing our older superstitions?

Meghan: I’ve never really found Halloween or superstitions scary. Old wives’ tales are often something that has worked over time and handed down through generations (i.e. chicken soup curing a cold). Some are based on religious beliefs (i.e. Friday the 13th and not walking under a ladder). Some were used to scare children into behaving themselves, and they had to have worked or they wouldn’t have stuck.

I grew up in a very religious household, and am still religious. Sometimes I think that we SHOULD fall back into believing our old superstitions. Let’s take Krampus for an example. Kids used to behave because they were truly afraid of being on that bad list. They believed (and maybe it was based on a true story at some point in time) that Santa would send Krampus to get them if they misbehaved. And there are lots of Christmas stories like that – Gryla, the mother of the Yule Lads, who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children; Pere Fouettard, who is St Nicholas’ servant, with the sole job of dispensing punishment to bad children on St Nicholas Day; Perchta, who rewards and punishes during the 12 days of Christmas, best known for ripping out the internal organs and replacing them with trash; and, of course, the Yule Cat, who can apparently smell laziness on a child, who are then sacrificed to him.

Jeff: What do you think Halloween will be like 100 years from now?

Meghan: Less fun? Everything is so politically charged these days, and people are so offended/triggered that the fun is being drained from things like Halloween. We’re told that we shouldn’t like things because of this or reason or this reason. Those of us who have heard this our whole lives are fighting back, but in 100 years, who will be around to defend the weird and wonderful that we love all year round?

Jeff: What can writers do to improve their stories?

Meghan: Since I am an editor, one with over 20 years experience that includes working for two of the big five, I’m going to say that the best way they can improve their stories is to hire a well-read editor and listen to what they have to say. Now I know there are some people that think they don’t need an editor, that say it is an expense they can ignore, especially if they are a self published author, but a good editor is really worth their weight in gold.

I’ve heard horror stories – trust me – which is why I say to talk to the person before you decide to hire them. Let them tell you what they can do for you, let them tell you about their education, their training, and what they have edited so far. (You can even ask to talk to one or two of the authors that they have worked with.) Get to know the person and decide if the two of you would make a good team or not – and I say team because that is basically what the two of you will be, especially if you are writing a trilogy or series, as you’ll want to have the same eyes looking at it each time to ensure consistency and continuity.

I will tell you that a good editor WILL discuss things with you, WILL explain why changes are necessary. YOU will learn from them and THEY will learn from you. It will be a true partnership, but the story will ALWAYS be yours. They will help to make your story better all while retaining your voice. They will never change things (other than misspellings and punctuation) without talking to you first. And they will be available to talk to you at least once during the project. You have to be able to trust them because, in essence, you are trusting them with your baby, so don’t ignore those little things that make you question.

If you simply cannot afford an editor, which is understandable, you should (at the very least) get a good BETA reader. (Note: Some editors do provide a BETA read for a cheaper price, where they will give you an honest opinion of the story in front of them and point out any major flaws with the story.) It doesn’t necessarily have to be an editor, but it should be a well-read person who you can trust to be completely honest with you and invested in your success. Honesty is the only way you are going to learn and your story is going to get better. (And I suggest that you sit down with their notes with an open mind because they really are just trying to help you.)

[Here’s my chance to plug me for a change: Any author that mentions this interview gets 20% off their first edit project with MeghanH Editing.]

Jeff: What are some of the best story hooks you’ve ever read?

Meghan: I am drawn to horror that is set during either Halloween or Christmas, and I absolutely love stories where the setting is a carnival/circus or something haunted (homes, asylums, hospitals). (There should be more carnival/circus horror, people!!) At the same time, I am often truly put off if there is a vampire, werewolf, or zombie involved, which saddens me, especially with vampires and werewolves, because those were the things I loved as a kid. They have just become so… boring… for me, but there are times I give those a try, hoping for something different, hoping for something to grab my attention and pull me in like they did when I was younger.

You’re looking for specifics here, though, so let me pull out a few that have stayed on my favorites list over time.

I love when a stranger comes back to get revenge years later, causing the main character to suffer in the same way that they once tormented the stranger. Even better if there’s been enough time between the two events for the main character to have forgotten or almost forgotten what had happened. A good example of this would be Desolation by Kristopher Rufty. Even better because his story is told from both sides.

I also love watching the main character slowly go insane. That’s a fear I think a lot of people have in life, that they will slowly lose their mind, and it’s interesting to see when done well – and it sicks with you. A good example of this is Six Dead Spots by Gregor Xane.

I know I said that I am bored with werewolves, but maybe it’s because I’m looking for something different. A few years ago I read one by Jonathan Janz (Wolf Land) where the victims became werewolves themselves.

I find stalker stories interesting. I read one not too long ago where a man puts a spell on the woman he loves, and after she loses her memory, pretends to be her lover. As the story goes on, she slowly starts finding out more and more about the man and what he would do to keep the woman of his dreams while she also starts… changing. I was hooked. (The book in question was Rose by Rami Ungar.)

I’ll tell you right now – if you put Krampus or any of his ilk in a story, you’ll have me from page one. I was just “surprised” by a short story in The Best of Indie Horror: Christmas Edition (published by KJK Publishing, edited by Kevin J Kennedy) – I can’t tell you which one because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but I would definitely suggest picking that anthology up (I’ll be reviewing it shortly).

Along the same path, and even though it’s not necessarily horror – well… maybe… possibly… – if you put any holiday character into a book and give them a backstory not expected (for example, the Claus series by Tony Bertauski), you’ll have a hard time not catching my attention.

I guess, you could say, that it’s the psychological horror that really gets me – the things that could actually happen to someone, taken to that next level, the things that stay with you long after you have finished reading the story, that are the hooks I like best.

Jeff: What’s more important to you – characters or plot?

Meghan: Both? You sort of need both to make a gripping story, but I guess if I HAVE to chose one or the other, I’ll say that characters are the most important. Without characters, the plot won’t matter at all. And if the characters we are supposed to love are dreadful, then we really won’t care what happens to them, no matter how good the plot is.

Jeff: What got you interested in horror?

Meghan: My father. He was always reading or watching something interesting. Usually something I wasn’t supposed to be reading or watching. He told me one time that horror was a good scary because I can be scared but not hurt by the things that happen in books and movies.

My first “horror” movie was Jaws. I’ve told this story a billion times, but what’s one more time? We were at my mom and dad’s best friend’s house. The husband and the oldest son (who I had a crush on at a very young age) were watching the movie, and though my mother told me that I would probably not like it, I decided to watch it with them anyway. I honestly can’t tell you much about the movie, nothing beyond the shark and how scared I was, and I have never attempted the movie again. It didn’t help that the same oldest son told me that the light in the deep end of the pool was Jaw’s eyeball. Seriously. His EYEBALL. It took me a good year before I would set foot inot that pool again. One day, there was some work being done on the pool and my dad pointed at the hole and said, “See? It can’t be Jaw’s eyeball. There’s no body.” Now, up until that point, and quite a few more points over the years, I thought my dad was the smartest man on the planet. At that moment, though, I seriously questioned how smart he was. It could still be Jaw’s eyeball without his body there. And sometimes, in the dark, out of the corner of my eye, I swear I see that big eyeball winking at me…

Jeff: What stories can be written in horror that can’t be expressed in other genres?

Meghan: That’s a very good question. I honestly believe that only horror can really go into the depth of someone’s soul, only horror can really explore our true fears. Horror is that one step further, that one step that other genres are afraid to take, with characters that are not afraid to take themselves to that next level, that aren’t afraid to let themselves be depraved or evil, and on the other side, aren’t afraid to feel that depravity and that evil to cone out fine, but often changed, on the other side. I think that all stories in other genres have the potential of being horror, but only horror allows that exploration, only horror creates the opportunity feel that fear (in safety), and really, it’s only horror that gets away with all of the above because it is expected and accepted.

If you think about it, a good romance can lead to a horrific murder spree if we find out that the beautiful woman he fell in love with doesn’t even know he exists. A good science fiction can become horrific if, rather than the people on the spaceship becoming friends with the new alien life they have just encountered, they choose to repeat atrocities from the past and wipe those beings and their planet from space. The cozy mystery can lead to a horrific story if the witty chef who solves crimes in her spare time ends up being the murderer and takes her killing fetish to the extreme, all while setting innocent people up for the murders that she is committing. A fantasy needs to just up it’s Brothers Grimm-anti to cross the line into horror.

Jeff: The lines between horror and other genres often become blurred. What do you think real horror is?

Meghan: This is the one question that I truly struggled to answer, but knowing how annoyed I get when someone doesn’t answer all of the questions in an interview I worked hard to put together, there was no way I was going to do that to you.

Horror is very hard to define because of those blurred lines and each person you ask is going to have a different answer as horror means something different to each individual. Why? Because we all fear different things.

I personally think real horror challenges our belief of what is good and what is evil. Therefore, I think the horror genre is the epitome of that uncertainty. And many of its themes are things that are considered socially unacceptable. As I’ve said elsewhere in this interview, horror gives us a chance to figure things out, to analyze, to really look in-depth at the things that scare us and see it in a different light, to see the wizard behind the curtain.

Jeff: Considering the awful truth of what can happen in this world, how far do you think a horror writer can go to describe the truth before it’s considered unacceptable?

Meghan: I think that as long as it is in some way believable, that if some part of it *could* happen, there will always be someone (or a group of someones) who will accept it no matter how far the author takes it. I think there should be horror that fits in with the horrors of the world because those stories will help us to better understand it. Authors just need to keep in mind that not everyone sees the same horror in things, not everyone has the same story. Current things, full of all kinds of emotion, where the true facts are not always known, are harder for people to stomach than, say, something that happened in the past. Your “horror” may not be my “horror.” We saw that when we look back at WWII. People who went through the events, who were in countries where the events took place, understood the atrocities on a completely different level than those who did not. The war itself was hard on everyone, and a lot of people lost their lives, but it wasn’t until after the war ended – years after the war ended – that the true evil and depravity was shown to life. It wasn’t something that you saw on the news, it wasn’t something that was happening to your neighbor or your family (at least for a lot of people), and even when it was, people did know know what was *really* happening at the other end of a train. People were conditioned to believe that what they were doing was right, and some truly believed that one people were lower than another. Some people did things because they had no choice, or they had to make the decision to do what they had in order to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Other people believe it could not have possibly happened because how could we do something like that to our fellow man?

Jeff: What do you think most future horror stories will evolve into? More towards “I’m all alone” or a cosmic-level dread?

Meghan: We’ve found out, most of us, during this global pandemic, that being “all alone” is actually quite nice and easily sustainable. We’ve found out, most of us, that we don’t need other people physically in our lives, and with the options to have things, including groceries and food, delivered to your home, there’s a good few of us that would love living like that the rest of our lives, only having to venture out if we need to. We all have friends that live all over the world, friends we can talk to every day, friends we can see every day. Hell, we’ve even had holidays across the world while sitting in each other’s living rooms. Being “all alone” just isn’t scary anymore.

I think the “new scary” is definitely cosmic horror. Now we’re venturing into things that before we THOUGHT could NEVER happen. (But then we also thought that a global pandemic could never happen. Also: locusts in Africa, devastating fires in both Australia and California, murder hornets, ebola. So maybe a giant octopus creature *could* come from the ocean depths. I mean, it *could*… right?) Cosmic horror makes readers uncomfortable (in a good way), plunges common fears and anxieties into the minds o readers, and focuses on the mysterious and the unfathomable, rather than violence and bloodshed. It makes us realize that, in the great scheme of things, we’re really not very important after all. Maybe that’s the scariest thing of all.


Boo-graphy:
In addition to his two short story books, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, Jeff Parsons is published in The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018, SNM Horror Magazine, and Bonded by Blood IV/ V.

The Captivating Flames of Madness
This book’s title comes from the reality that – like a moth to the flame – we’re all just one event, mishap, or decision away from things that could change our lives forever.

What would you do if fate led you astray into a grim world where you encountered vengeful ghosts, homicidal maniacs, ancient gods, apocalyptic nightmares, dark magic, deadly space aliens, and more?

If you dare, why not find out?

Read for yourself the twenty-two gloriously provocative tales that dwell within this book – but be warned, some of my dear readers have experienced lasting nightmares…

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kristopher Rufty

Meghan: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kristopher: I’m in love with all of it. Have been since I was a kid. Now, I get to enjoy it with my own children, which makes the holiday even more fun. We’ll bake Halloween cookies, using spooky cookie cutters and carve jack-o-lanterns and all. It’s always a fun time in the Rufty house.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kristopher: All of it. It’s hard for me to narrow it down. I do like a good Halloween party, though.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Kristopher: I guess because Halloween sparks that childlike fun and excitement in me. Usually, every day is a form of spooky season for me, but during the Halloween season, it’s all over the place, everywhere I look. Just makes my heart pump as it did all those years ago.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Kristopher: Not too much of anything anymore. As a kid, I was superstitious about everything because my mother sometimes leaned that way herself. It’s just something I don’t put too much faith into anymore—superstition. I feel like if the day is going to be bad, it’s just going to be bad.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Kristopher: Jason Voorhees. I love all the iconic and not-so iconic slashers. Jason is my favorite, though.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Kristopher: I don’t know how many fascinate me over the other. My daughter reads and watches a bunch of true crime, so she tells me a lot about it. I’m curious about Jack the Ripper, of course. And the Black Dahlia, how her case exposed a side of Hollywood that nobody really knew about at the time.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Kristopher: I’m really not sure. There’s a few that are kind of terrifying. One that probably gets to me a bit, because I see it out here where I live, is the legend about the headlights. I’ve passed many cars with no headlights on. Not once have I felt obligated to flash them with my lights out of fear of being chased down and killed.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Kristopher: Ed Gein. Though he wasn’t technically a serial killer. I guess what sparked my interest in him was the fact so many of my favorite stories were based on his crimes. My own imagination began to run wild with Gein ideas and that was how The Vampire of Plainfield was born. To me, he seemed to be a very lonely, bored man who became consumed by his sick fantasies.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie?

Kristopher: I was five and watched Friday the 13th on a summer Saturday while my mom was busy canning. I loved it. Friday the 13th part 2 aired that night and the following weekend, Friday the 13th part 3 was shown. It was all over for me after that. I was hooked on horror. Luckily, I had parents that were very vocal about explaining how its make-believe and the people in the movies were just pretending. I started drawing pictures of what I saw in the movies, using crayons and construction paper. My mom would hang them on the fridge. From then on, I spent a lot of time trying to turn my friends into horror fans. Most of the time, I succeeded.

Meghan: How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Kristopher: I read a lot of children’s horror books like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, books like that. I read my first adult novel around the time I was twelve. It was King’s Gerald’s Game. From there, I read Night Shift. Then my father introduced me to John Saul. I read Nathaniel and Sleep Walk. Then my dad led me to Graham Masterton. I loved them all.

Years later, a friend introduced me to authors Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, and Edward Lee. I read Off Season and it changed my life. I’m serious when I say that. That book completely changed everything on how I viewed my own writing, and it let me know it was okay to have a good bit of gore and sex stuff in the story.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kristopher: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. It’s truly terrifying because of how real it is. It’s based on a true story that Ketchum took liberties with. Yet, he somehow manages to capture all the intensity and brutality while writing it in such a way you can’t stop reading it no matter how awful it makes you feel doing so. He was truly a master.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Kristopher: The Changeling with George C. Scott. That movie is just constant grim darkness for its entirety. Some of those scenes have stayed with me through the years. I’ve only watched it twice in all my life.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Kristopher: In the third grade, I dressed up as Jason Voorhees. My uncle had a shirt that looked a lot like Jason’s shirt. I had a bald cap and a hockey mask. This was when you could still wear masks at school for Halloween. I showed up with fake blood splattered on my clothes, carrying a plastic sword that was supposed to be my machete, dressed in total Voorhees Cosplay. I was very popular that day.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Kristopher: Monster Mash! I love it!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Kristopher: I know this candy isn’t the best candy in the world, but to me it’s not Halloween without Smarties. As a kid, I also enjoyed getting little paper treat bags filled with different goodies. Whenever somebody opened the door and held a large bowl with these small paper bags adorned with ghosts and witches, I knew I was in for something special. Sometimes there would be Halloween erasers or little plastic spider rings, fake eyeballs. All kinds of good stuff.

The most disappointing treat is that honey candy. I can’t remember what’s it called, but it’s basically like a small ruler made of sticky, honey-flavored puddy. Yuck.


Boo-graphy:
Kristopher Rufty is the writer and director of the movies Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood, and also the author of Angel Board, PillowFace, and The Lurkers. He has a new book, The Devoured & the Dead, coming soon from Death’s Head Press, part of their Splatter Western line.

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.

Angel Board
Not all angels are sane.

Someone saved David Barker’s life, but he doesn’t know who—or what—she is. Now he’s haunted by the image of that beautiful, nebulous vision with the features of a woman and determined to find out why she appeared when he almost died. David uses an angel board in hopes of contacting her, and unfortunately for him, he succeeds. This angel has loved him all his life, guarded him and protected him. And she’ll hurt anyone who interferes with that love. David’s guardian angel is obsessive, possessive…and homicidal. Her unyielding love for him will leave a trail of grisly “accidents” and murders as she eliminates all those who want to hurt David. Or love him.

Pillowface
Twelve year old Joel Olsen loves all things devoted to horror.

Movies, comics, books, and of course his true passion, special effects. Being raised by his older sister Haley after the sudden death of their parents Joel is in a world truly of his own. But at the launch of summer vacation Joel finds lying bloodied and near death in his backyard, a masked man that is the epitome of what he adores. A flesh and blood slasher maniac! When he invites the masked man into his home to recover from his wounds an unexpected friendship is born, but Joel quickly realizes he’s actually become involved in a true to life horror tale that he’ll be lucky to survive. This maniac known as Pillowface is not only an uncontrollable killing machine, but he also has others searching for him, and they will go to great and bloody lengths to find him.

The Lurkers
They’re waiting for you in the woods.

They’ve lived in the woods and cornfields for as long as anyone can remember. Small, humanoid creatures with sharp teeth and grasping hands. The people in what’s left of the nearby town live in fear. They’ve learned that if they let the creatures take what they want, they won’t be attacked. An uneasy peace has reigned. But no more. The leader of the creatures has decided his kind will be dormant no longer. To survive, they must kill. They will satisfy their unholy hunger with their favorite prey—humans. But some humans—females—will be kept alive in captivity…to breed.

The Vampire of Plainfield
Plainfield, Wisconsin. 1954.

Robbing graves to appease his malevolent desires, Ed Gein inadvertently sets loose an ancient vampire on the unsuspecting town of Plainfield. As the number of missing persons rises, Ed realizes the vampire’s ultimate plan has been put into motion, and to prevent his dastardly practices from being exposed, he decides to slay the vampire himself. But he soon understands that he’s all the hope Plainfield has. As the few people closest to Ed are sucked into the vampire’s realm, he’ll be forced to reach deep inside himself to bring the incredible nightmare to an end.

On this night, the Ghoul of Plainfield must battle the Vampire of Plainfield…to the death!

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.