Hey, friends. I apologize for the blog silence lately, but I’ve got a special treat for you this weekend. My good friend and fellow writer Kristopher Rufty agreed to answer a few of my questions, and even if my questions were inane, his answers weren’t. He’s an awesome guy and a fantastic writer, so without further preamble, check out what he has to say…
Some readers have compared your stuff to the stories of Richard Laymon. How do you feel about that comparison, and is there a specific Laymon story you enjoy the most?
I’m honored whenever somebody compares my writing to his. One person actually apologized when they told me PILLOWFACE reminded them of a Laymon book. I asked why they apologized. Their answer was because his stuff is so outrageous. Smiling, I told them that’s one of many reasons that I like writing. You can be outrageous and there’s no limit to what you can do.
The comparisons are rewarding, but at the same time, I don’t want anyone to think they’re deliberate. I love Laymon’s work the most, but I never wanted to copy him. I like how he’s able to tell so much by writing very little and that’s what I try to do with each story of mine. Because I was worried about the Laymon, Lee, and Ketchum comparisons, I wrote OAK HOLLOW in a completely different voice than my usual. I tried to write in an almost Joe Hill and Bentley Little sort of style. And Don D’Auria sent it back to me. He said it was a great book, but I needed to write it again in my real voice. He told me not to let the comparisons hold me back. I explained how I worried that people thought I was trying to copy those guys, and he said he used to edit them all and he’d be the first to accuse me if he thought it was true. Then he told me I reminded him of Ray Garton, so I figured I was in good hands. J
There are so many Laymon stories that I love. Even the not so popular ones. DARKNESS, TELL US is a lot of fun. I’ve read it multiple times. I also like DARK MOUNTAIN, a lot. Again, not one of his popular stories but, to me, the writing is flawless. QUAKE is as close to perfect as you can get for a truly horrifying story that makes you sweat with tension. That one wound me up so much one night that I never went to sleep. It’s very intense, steals your breath.
I love the Beast House books. THE CELLAR was my first Laymon story and I was hooked from there, but my favorite of the three (four counting FRIDAY NIGHT IN BEAST HOUSE) is probably THE MIDNIGHT TOUR.
IN THE DARK might be a close second choice for my favorite.
Hmmm…if I have to pick one, I choose THE STAKE. Great concept that’s done in such a unique way. It has everything he’s known for on its pages and is written in perfect, punchy prose. Plus, it takes its time building up to the wild climax. Larry Dunbar might also be my favorite Laymon character. For writers like us, Jonathan, this book is required reading. We get to see the life of a successful midlist writer caught in a situation that he would’ve written about in one of his own books. Could you imagine what would happen if you found yourself stuck in something you could have written? Wow!
THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW and ENDLESS NIGHT might tie for my third favorite. Aargh! So many to choose from. I love them all the best!
I’ve read a good deal of your stuff and loved it all. I haven’t read Proud Parents yet, but its cover is one of the coolest covers I’ve seen in years. How did that cover come about?
Wow, thank you, man. I’m very happy you like the cover. I believe I had the idea for the cover before the book was even finished. There’s a scene in the book where a character is flipping through Gabe’s drawings and finds many grotesque childhood memories captured in crayon. The cover is one of them and there was another one created for the back cover that features Greg (the Dad) burying a body, but it’s hidden underneath the cover copy. If you look very closely, you can somewhat see part of it.
I love the old garish paperback covers from the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s. Since PROUD PARENTS is also a tribute to those books, I wanted the cover to reflect that. The artist nailed it. It’s probably my favorite, next to A DARK AUTUMN.
One thing that makes your work so engaging is your characterization. Can you pick one or two of your characters that you like most of all? And why did you choose these characters?
Thank you, again. To know that you enjoy the characters is very relieving. Favorites? That’s tough. Believe it or not, I really like Wendy from THE LURKERS. People hate her, but, to me, she’s just misunderstood and very bad at expressing herself through outlets that aren’t anger. SPOILER ALERT: I received emails from readers outraged that Wendy survived in THE LURKERS and so many of the nice characters were killed. I was happy that she made it. It really showed that her love and devotion to Gary could keep her motivated during such a nightmarish ordeal. She wasn’t unscathed by any means and on the last page we know her story isn’t over. I was happy to revisit her in THE LURKING SEASON. Hopefully she will be forgiven for some of her actions in the first book when she comes back in the second one.
Joel from PILLOWFACE is another favorite. A twelve-year-old horror fan living in a world of fantasy that shields him from the horrors of the real world around him. Myself at that age. But I’d like to think that if I befriended a maniac straight from the horror movies that I adore, I wouldn’t be so quick to follow the same path as Joel. Maybe it’s his lack of guidance, but the boy makes a lot of terrible decisions and too many innocent people pay the price.
But my favorite of them all has to be Detective John Stiltson. He’s been with me since I was fourteen years old, pecking away on a typewriter in my bedroom. He’s popped up in so many stories I’ve written throughout the years that I feel like I know him best out of anybody I’ve written about. He’s in ANGEL BOARD as a main character and OAK HOLLOW in a small role. I hope to spend more time with him in the future. He was almost in THE SKIN SHOW, but I quickly decided not to have him come in and take over the book. It was about Andy Raab and if Stiltson showed up, heads would roll.
But he’ll be back soon. I want to do a book that focuses on Stiltson and his trusty partner, Giles. Kind of a crime novel, but with horror elements sprinkled throughout. I have the title and the premise in mind, but haven’t sat down to work on my notes for it.
What is your favorite part about being a writer? Is there a least favorite part?
Great question. Nobody’s asked me what I like least about being a writer. Maybe I should start there. Honestly, what I like the least is not getting to write more than I already do. I had a huge health scare last year that I’m still trying to recover from. It was one of those close-the-door moments at the doctor’s office when he explained my options. I thank God that it didn’t turn out as badly as the doctor prepared me for. But the future was unknown and I didn’t get to write too much for a long time afterward. My wife helped me set up in the bedroom and I wrote the majority of PROUD PARENTS and all of THE SKIN SHOW in bed. But those weeks where writing was scarce, I felt like an addict in need of a fix. I couldn’t sleep. I was moody and irritable, not a pleasant person to be around. But when I was able to get back to work on PROUD PARENTS, I noticed a quick improvement in how I felt. My attitude changed. I felt better, excited, and eager. Hungry. By the time work began on THE SKIN SHOW, I couldn’t be stopped.
So what I like least about writing are the days I don’t get to do it at all.
And what my favorite part is everything about the process. I love those moments when I can sit back and let the story flow from my brain through my fingers, the days my hands struggle to keep up with the flow. I call it a creative dump from my brain, like it’s been holding it in during a long drive and finally found the rest stop toilet. The story just plops out. Haha. Gross, I know.
I love watching the characters grow. Wendy from THE LURKERS is the perfect example of this. So is Sheriff Ben Holly from PRANK NIGHT. Greg and Sheila from PROUD PARENTS. Miles from THE SKIN SHOW. These characters start off as one type of person, then they quickly adapt into something stronger. But there’s also a flipside to that. There’re those characters that start off strong but quickly decay into something you’re not expecting. I’ve been surprised more than once when somebody I think will live to the end are quickly dispatched in a rather gruesome way.
And I love hearing from my readers and getting to meet them. Last March in Horrorhound a reader came to the table with a stack of my stuff for me to sign. Another person came with a framed DVD sleeve of Psycho Holocaust for me to sign. That was a humbling experience. I felt like, maybe for the first time, that I was finally there, you know. It still makes me feel tingly whenever somebody pops up and tells me they enjoyed one of my books. I know I can’t win them all, and I don’t, but when I do I’m very grateful.
What’s on the horizon for Kristopher Rufty? Can you talk about the projects you’re working on and what else you have planned?
I love talking about what’s coming next. Sinister Grin Press picked up my novel JAGGER and will be releasing it in December. They’re planning a huge promotion to coincide with the release. I think they’ve already booked podcasts, interviews, and have a lot more plans for it. It’ll be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book. I’m really excited about this book. It’s my killer dog story, but told in a way that I think has never been done. I put characters from my independent movie, Rags, in the book and had so much fun with them.
Somewhere around that time I’ll put out the e-book and possibly the paperback of BIGFOOT BEACH. The hardcover will come next year sometime with some other surprises inside. This book was a blast to write. The idea started two years ago when I went to eat lunch with my kids at school and somehow we got on the subject about how we all have big feet. I made a comment that if somebody saw our footprints in the sand at the beach they’d think a Bigfoot was running loose. It was one of those moments where the idea exploded in my head and I couldn’t talk for a few moments as the story just assembled itself right there. My kids have been excited to see this one come out, so I can’t wait for people to read it.
Thunderstorm Books wants to put out one more new one from me before the end of the year also, but I don’t know if it’ll make it. This one might be the first of 2015, but if I can get the rewrites done in time, it just might print before Christmas. Either way, it’s going to be a beautiful book. This one is my vampire tale, set in the 50’s in a small farming town in Wisconsin. That’s about all I’m going to say for now.
I have two titles coming from Samhain in 2015. The first will be THE LURKING SEASON, a sequel to THE LURKERS, and the other I won’t name just yet. I turned it in last week, so I can talk more about it soon.
Also, Audio Realms will release the audiobooks for PILLOWFACE and OAK HOLLOW before the end of the year, plus some more next year. I’ve heard samples of these books and I’m very happy with how they turned out.
I also have to have a book turned in to DarkFuse by May. It’s my first of three for them. It’ll come out the year after, with the other two following each year after. So I’ll be busy for a while and I couldn’t be happier.
Thanks for having me on your blog, buddy. It’s always fun. Can’t wait to hang out again and talk about writing and old horror paperbacks. Congratulations on EXORCIST ROAD, such a powerfully horrifying story that I still think about. It’s one of those that’ll stay with me forever.
And that’s a wrap. See what I mean about Kristopher? Not only does he write outstanding, edge-of-your-seat books, he has impeccable taste in other writers.
So check him out now. I promise you’ll have a great time!