This interview originally appeared in the Flesh Welder chapbook
published by Croatoan in 2008.
"Not Just Whistling Dixie"
An Interview with Ronald Kelly by Mark Hickerson
Mark Hickerson & Ronald Kelly, 2008
Ronald Kelly is back, folks, and he's not just whistling
“Dixie.” No, in fact, he's bristling with new tales of
Southern terror. After more than 10 years of silence from this master
yarn-spinner, he's back and hungrier than ever with several new projects
in the wings. The first one is the chapbook you now hold in your hands,
the first official release from Croatoan Publishing, who has even more
frightening Kelly goodness coming soon. You don't dare miss any of `em,
as well as some other upcoming releases from other presses.
I first met Ronald Kelly in 1995, after a brief correspondence which
began when I wrote him a fan letter. We only lived about an hour's drive
apart at the time, so we figured that we and our wives should get
together. We did just that and thus began a strong and highly-valued
friendship that has endured all of these years. Now, Carletta and I have
a 10-year-old daughter, and Ron and Joyce have two daughters and a third
child on the way. These days, we don't get together nearly as much as we
once did, or as much as we'd like to, but our clans still remain close
and we constantly stay in touch.
I met Ron about the same time that the first leg of his literary career
came to a close. You may remember the dreadful Horror crash of the
mid-nineties. Ron was one of many casualties of this disaster. He even
had a couple of novels slated to be released by his publisher, Zebra
Books, a month or two after they decided to pull the plug on their
horror line. This was devastating to Ron and Joyce, as well as Carletta
and I, seeing as how Ron was dedicating one of those novels to us.
Seriously, I felt terrible for him, but I also sensed that the days were
numbered until he would arise from the ashes and soar back into the
Like most people, I love being proven right, and the proof is in. Ron's
name has been mentioned often on various message boards across the
internet. There was no shortage of horror fans who wondered what had
happened to this genuinely talented voice. These murmurs finally caught
the ears of some small press publishers, and now we all have much to
rejoice about. Ronald Kelly has, at long last, returned to the printed
Words fail me in expressing the pride and pleasure I felt when Ron
requested that I conduct this interview. He told me that he wanted to
pull out all of the stops, and really uncover the workings that make
Ronald Kelly tick. We hope that all of your questions will be answered
after you've read this.
Now, sit back, but don't get too comfortable, and enjoy.
MH: First of all, it's great to see you back behind the keyboard, Ron.
I, myself have been hoping for your return for a very long time, and I
know your many fans have as well.
RK: Thanks, Mark. It's great to be back... thanks to you and other fans
and friends who urged me to give this writing gig a second turn. So far,
it's really been an incredibly positive experience.
MH: Let's start from the beginning. Was your interest in the macabre
something that developed in your adult life, or did it stem from your
RK: You might say that I was born with it. My mother once told me that
she read a lot of horror comics during her pregnancy with me. My father
was overseas in the Army and she was renting a little house in the town
of Dickson, Tennessee. She discovered a whole stack of old EC horror
comics in the attic... you know, Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror,
Haunt of Fear. She read them ravenously during the entire nine months
she was expecting, so, unlike other babies, I reckon I developed under
the influence of rotting corpses and flesh-eating monsters, instead of
lullabies and nursery rhymes.
During my grade school years, I began to watch a lot of horror and
science fiction movies. After school, one of the local Nashville
stations had a program called The Big Show, which showed every old
Universal monster movie and scary B-movie ever filmed. Later on, when I
was eleven or twelve, another station began a Saturday night creature
feature hosted by a fella named Sir Cecil Creep, presenting more
fearsome fodder for my young imagination. And, of course, I loved
reading the horror comics... you know, House of Mystery, Swamp Thing,
and Werewolf By Night. And then there were the Warren magazines, titles
like Creepy, Eerie, and my favorite monster mag of all time, Famous
Monsters of Filmland, edited by Forrest J. Ackerman. I got the rare
privilege of meeting Mr. Ackerman at one of the World Horror
Conventions. It was one of the high-points of that weekend.
MH: So where did it lead to from there? I've heard that you were a
pretty good artist back in high school. How did an interest in art
change into a passion for writing?
RK: Yes, I had aspirations of becoming a comic book artist when I was a
junior in high school. I collaborated with a guy named Lowell
Cunningham, who just happened to create Men in Black years later. Small
world, isn't it?
Anyway, I drew the comics and he wrote them. Then I started creating my
own superheroes and writing scripts of my own. I even submitted some
work to DC Comics when I was a senior and got some encouraging feedback.
Then I took a few Creative Writing classes and gradually gravitated
toward fiction alone. By graduation, I'd been bitten by the writing bug
and decided that was what I wanted to do for a living.
MH: Did it come easy to you?
RK: (Laughs) I had no earthly idea what I was getting myself into! Since
I didn't go to college, I worked in factories and welding shops, and
wrote in my spare time. I wrote in every genre imaginable—mystery,
suspense, and western mostly. I had a great interest in Civil War and
Old West history back then and very seriously wanted to be a western
writer in the vein of Louis La'mour or Zane Grey for two or three years.
I reckon it was good practice. It gave me the opportunity to hone my
writing skills and search for the genre that was right for me.
MH: And that turned out to be horror?
RK: Yeah, I guess I came full-circle and returned to what I loved when I
was a kid. I started reading a lot of horror fiction and buying some of
the small press magazines that were plentiful in those days. I began
writing and submitting short stories and it all just sort of clicked. At
the same time I wrote my first novel, The Tobacco Barn, and had a New
York agent sending it out to the mass market publishers. Apparently, he
started with the letter A and went through the entire alphabet, because
it ended up at Zebra Books, where it was picked up for publication and
released as Hindsight in 1990. By then I'd had several short stories
published in the small press.
MH: Who were some of the writers that inspired you during that time?
RK: Well, of course, Stephen King was probably my biggest influence. I
cut my teeth on novels like Salem's Lot, The Shining, and The Dead Zone.
I also read some of the older masters of horror like Poe, Bierce, and
Lovecraft. Richard Matheson was one of my favorites and remains to be a
major inspiration. I was also heavily into authors like Dean Koontz,
Peter Straub, and Joe R. Lansdale. One author that really did it for me,
though, is Robert McCammon. His down-home style and use of Southern
themes sort of mirrored the type of fiction that I hungered to write and
told me that “Yes, it's okay to write about the South and be proud
MH: I know you've told me many times that two of your major influences,
both in your writing and in your personal life, were your mother and
grandmother. Could you tell us why that is?
RK: Well, on a personal level, they were both excellent role models and,
together, helped raise me into the person that I am today. I carry a lot
of them around inside me and a day never passes that I don't apply
something from my upbringing to my life. As far as being an influence in
my interest in horror, both had a fascination and love for the strange
and the bizarre. My mother loved to read both gothic and horror,
although she only indulged in those genres toward the end of her life.
She once told me that she refrained from reading a lot of scary
literature in her younger years because, back then, paperback books were
considered “trashy,” which, of course, was a false
misconception. I remember that she took me to quite a few horror movies
when I was in my preteen years. Two that stood out were Let's Scare
Jessica to Death and House of Dark Shadows. I recall that during the
latter film, she tried to cover my eyes with her hand because she hadn't
realized how gory the movie actually was. Here someone was staking
Barnabas Collins in the heart and blood was gushing from his mouth and I
was like “Come on, Mama, I want to see it all. It's not gonna warp
my brain or anything.” (Laughs) But, who knows... maybe I was
wrong about that.
As far as my maternal grandmother is concerned, her love and proficiency
for the art of storytelling has greatly influenced me in my writing. She
could sit and tell story after story for hours on end and never repeat
herself. Most were about her childhood and her life as a young adult,
but the majority of her tales had bizarre and scary elements to them.
She told me strange stories of the peculiar country folk she grew up
with; how her childhood friend had fallen off a stone wall and into a
thicket of `devil's ear' cactus and how that little girl had died after
many days of suffering, when dozens of quills had slowly worked their
way into her internal organs. She told me of a simple-minded boy who had
been kept, naked and wild, in a cage by his parents for loss of anything
better to do with him, and how he later grew up to roam the country
roads carrying a pine casket across his back, always ready for his death
and burial. She told me of haunted houses she had lived in or near,
about a ghostly procession of Confederate calvary that passed regularly
on a rural road in a town where she once lived. And she told me of Green
Lee, a deranged handyman who terrorized the children of the farming camp
she grew up in. A crazy individual with a fleshless crippled hand and a
fetish for honed steel. It was that scary tale that lingered with me the
most and still does after all these years. In fact, it inspired one of
the creepiest stories I've ever written, “Midnight
Grinding.” So I reckon it isn't all that strange that being
exposed to such things at an early age would influence me to someday
pursue a career in horror literature.
MH: So, in the late eighties and early nineties, you finally saw
publication of your work. Out of curiosity, could you tell us about the
feeling you had when your first piece of fiction was published? How
about your first novel?
RK: Well, since I'd tried to break into publication for so many years,
to finally sell that first short story was incredibly surreal, but
satisfying. It was like “Wow, is this actually happening? Did this
editor send me an acceptance letter instead of a rejection slip by
mistake?” My first sell was a tale titled “Breakfast
Serial” to a small press magazine called Terror Time Again. I
think I got paid a whopping twenty buck for it. (Laughs) Anyway, I
remember it was a snowy afternoon in 1988 when I returned home from
work—after driving several hours from Nashville in what seemed to
be a blizzard—to find an envelope in my mailbox. It was my story
in print! All my disgust and exhaustion from sitting in snowbound
traffic that afternoon dissolved into elation. I'll never forget it.
I felt the same feeling when my first novel, Hindsight, was accepted for
publication. When my agent called me at work to tell me that Zebra
wanted to publish it, I thought someone was pulling a cruel prank. I
talked to the guy, then turned around and called back to New York to
confirm that it was actually for real. I must admit, when Hindsight was
finally released in early 1990, there was a bitter-sweet element to the
entire experience. The novel was loosely based on my mother's psychic
experiences as a child growing up during the Great Depression. Sadly,
she died after a courageous battle with cancer only a couple of months
before Hindsight hit the bookstores. I urged her to read it before her
death, but she was determined to read it as a published book. Her
condition worsened, however, and she passed away in November of 1989.
Hindsight came out in January of 1990 and I remember feeling a strange
mixture of euphoria and profound grief at the same time; I didn't know
whether to feel happy or sad. My first published novel had come out, but
the one I had written it for wasn't there to enjoy it with me.
MH: After the release of Hindsight, your career took a sudden upswing.
You were pretty active and well-respected in the horror community
between 1990 and 1996. Could you tell us what you had going on at that
RK: That was an exciting period for me. I'd worked hard at reaching a
stable point in my writing career and, for several years, everything
seemed to go well. Along with Hindsight, Zebra published seven other
novels: Pitfall, Something Out There, Moon of the Werewolf,
Father's Little Helper, The Possession, Fear, and Blood Kin. I had a lot of short
fiction appearing in the small press magazines and stories in major
anthologies like Shock Rock and Hot Blood. And Spine-Tingling Press put
out an audio collection of my short stories called Dark Dixie: Tales of
Southern Horror, which was included on the nomination ballot for the
1992 Grammy Awards. So, during that seven year period, the ball was
really rolling and I felt like I was accomplishing what I'd set out to
MH: Then, in 1996, the Horror market imploded, putting yourself and many
of your peers literally out of business...
RK: You've got that right.
MH: I know how difficult a time that was for you, Ron. Would you mind
sharing your feelings about those dark days?
RK: Well, I guess I was pretty na´ve back in those days, because I was
blindsided by the whole ordeal. Sure, there were rumors of mass market
writers being blatantly cut from their publishing houses; writers who
had been popular fixtures in the horror industry for years. There were
also many publishers who were down-sizing and cutting their horror lines
completely due to flagging sales and a downturn in consumer interest.
Still, I just plugged along, thinking that I was okay, that it wouldn't
happen to me.
Then I got the call from my agent. It was October 8, 1996... funny, how
I remember that date. Anyway, I had a couple of new novels scheduled for
release and was awaiting news on a new three-book deal, when I was
informed that Zebra had cut their horror line without prior warning. Not
only was I suddenly out in the cold, so to speak, but they wouldn't be
publishing the two novels I'd already finished. He also gave me a piece
of advice that I reckon I took way too much to heart. “From now
on, write anything but Horror.” And, for a while, I tried that.
But, hey, I was a horror writer. That was what I was good at and where
my heart and soul was firmly entrenched. Oh, I tried my hand at other
genres... children's books and even romance novels... Heaven forbid! But
nothing worked for me the way horror did and I simply couldn't get
published. And none of the mass market publishers were even considering
taking on new authors at that point, particularly anyone with ties to
horror. It was like I'd been black-listed or something.
I remember when it happened, Mark, you said that it felt, even to you,
like there had been a death in the family. That's exactly how it felt to
me. My horror career had been a great love of mine and suddenly it was
dead and buried. I grieved over that loss for a very long time and
generated a genuine bitterness toward the publishing industry at that
time. The way I'd been treated, I felt like I couldn't trust anyone in
the business during that period.
MH: So, at that point in time, you decided to put an end to it. You
decided to stop writing completely?
RK: Given my circumstances, I didn't really see any other alternative.
Here I had made writing a profession for nearly eight years and,
suddenly, my full-time job was gone. I had no choice but to go back to
work in the factories... the sort of work that I'd aspired to leave
behind forever. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with that
sort of work, not by a long shot. Hard and honest work of any kind is
honorable work, be it digging ditches or cleaning toilets. I reckon I'm
just like anyone else... you simply aspire to do better in life, for
yourself and for the sake of your family.
Anyway, I returned to the ol' nine-to-five and put that lost career
behind me. Joyce and I had been married for five or six years by then
and we decided to raise a family. First we had our daughter, Reilly,
then, in 2004, Makenna, who we affectionately call
“Chigger.” Now we have another on the way, although we don't
yet know what gender it is. I'm hoping for a boy this time around, but
if it's a third girl, I'll be just as happy. In that respect, I'd never
trade that ten year period for anything in the world. The responsibility
of being a father has proven to be one of the biggest blessings of my
During that time, however, my passion for writing dwindled down to
nothing. For the most part, I thought any chance of making a comeback
were non-existent. Sure, I considered it from time to time, but figured
the effort of having to go back and start all over again simply wasn't
practical, especially as busy as I was working and raising a family. As
you know, Mark, I pretty much distanced myself completely from anything
related to horror at that time. I reckon it was kind of painful to deal
with, seeing the genre move onward without me in the picture.
MH: Then came the summer of 2006. What happened that made you decide to
RK: You know, I can't really say for sure. It all happened so suddenly
and fell into place so perfectly, that I'm still a bit bumfuzzled by
what took place. Personally, I believe the good Lord had a hand in it.
It was like He said “Okay, I took it away for a while, so you
could raise a family and get some things straight, and now I'm giving it
back to you, with My blessings.”
At least, in my mind, that's how it felt.
I reckon it started in July of last year. Of course, Mark, for years
you'd been suggesting I make a comeback, although I pretty much said
“No, that'll never happen.” For your loyalty and tenacity in
that respect, man, I'll always be grateful. Anyway, you told me that a
whole lot of folks had been discussing my novels on the internet message
boards and wondering whatever happened to me. I remember feeling a
glimmer of hope, that perhaps maybe there was a chance that no one had
totally forgotten me or my work. Then things started moving at a
mind-boggling pace. I showed interest in returning and things got
stirred up on the McCammon board. Shoot-fire, I was totally out of the
picture cyber-wise; I didn't even own a computer at that time and was
unaware of the impact the internet had. My good friend, Shannon Riley,
way back from my small press days, contacted some of the leading small
press publishers and they seemed very receptive toward the possibility
of publishing my work again. I went out and bought a computer and, by
the end of July, I was back behind the keyboard again. Before the next
month had passed, I'd made a deal with Cemetery Dance for the
publication of Hell Hollow and my first short story collection, Midnight
Grinding & Other Twilight Terrors. Since that point, everything has been
moving steadily forward. It's just so weird how it all came about... not
that I'm complaining, though. (Laughs)
MH: Did you have any concerns upon returning? After being away from the
industry and the writing game for so long?
RK: Truthfully, Mark, it scared the living crap out of me! Here I'd
decided to come back and committed myself to take up writing again, and
I wasn't even sure I could still do it or not. After all, I hadn't
actually written anything in ten years! I had some very strong doubts
about whether I could write as clearly and effectively as I once did.
MH: So, how has the writing been going so far?
RK: Surprisingly, it's been going wonderfully. I reckon it's like riding
a bicycle... you never forget. Actually, I believe I'm writing better
than I did before, but I reckon I'll let my fans be the judge of that.
MH: Have you found any disadvantages to making a sudden comeback?
RK: Well, the biggest disadvantage when I first decided to come back was
my total lack of new material. Oh, I had a few trunk stories, but very
few that I wanted dust off and put into circulation. But once I got back
into the groove of writing, the ideas started coming, another thing I
was initially worried about. Lately, they've been coming so fast, that I
have to write them down to keep from forgetting them. I look forward to
the day that I can devote myself to my writing full-time again, so I can
complete all the projects that I have on the drawing board right now.
As far as advantages are concerned, I did come back with a previous body
of work which was pretty extensive. The majority of folks who are
reading horror today have never read any of my novels or short fiction,
which makes it entirely fresh and new to them. That's one reason my
reprint projects with Croatoan have got me so excited. With great
artwork and excellent design and production, my former work is being
presented in a way that I only dreamed of when it was first published.
MH: I know that during your absence from the literary scene, you devoted
your life to Christ. What effect does religion have on your writing now?
Does it render some subjects taboo for you?
RK: During my childhood, I grew up in the church. My parents took me
every time the doors were open, but I never actually made that
soul-saving commitment to God. I returned to my religious roots around
the time that my career went in the dumper and became a Christian. I
believe my faith played a big part in erasing the bitterness I felt and
helping me accept how things were progressing in my life at that time.
As for what effect religion has on my writing, I've always implemented a
strong moral conscious in my fiction, particularly in my novels. After
all, horror is the ultimate battle between good and evil, in my opinion.
As far as taboo subjects, I honestly came back to writing believing that
I would write differently because of my faith. I thought “Well,
I'm going to clean up my act and not do this and not do that.” But
when I actually started to write again, I found that altering my work in
such a way would only do an injustice to my fans and to myself as well.
To create effective horror fiction, you must be realistic and brutally
honest. To sanitize it is to bleed away its energy and impact.
I do exercise restraint in some aspects. I don't use excessively vulgar
language and refrain from using the Lord's name in vain. I don't feel
that's necessary to convey the emotions and dialogue that I use in my
fiction. I do include mild sexual content sometimes, but nothing overly
MH: Personally, I feel more and more jaded as a reader when it comes to
being genuinely frightened by horror fiction these days. I've heard from
several others who have the same views. Is this true for you as well?
How do you deal with that intangible when it comes to writing for an
RK: Currently, I don't feel that way when I read horror, mainly because
I've had such a long vacation from the stuff that most of it seems fresh
and effective to me. I did feel that way back in the mid-nineties, when
the market had become so saturated that it seemed like most writers were
just rehashing the same subjects and thrill points. I think that's why
horror has such a cruddy reputation sometimes. It is a genre that has to
constantly deliver without letting up... and that's difficult to do on a
As for how I manage to write effectively, I try to approach every
project more as a reader than a writer. I ask myself “What would I
enjoy reading? What would scare me or make me uneasy? What sort of
characters, locations, or situations would press my `fright buttons'?“
That's where I tend to play the role of
“storyteller,” rather than horror author. If you can spin a
yarn effective enough to keep your readers enthralled, with characters
they truly care for and creepy elements that they are normally
unaccustomed to, then you have a better chance of providing them with a
memorable novel or short story.
MH: What other genres do you enjoy reading? And are there other genres
that you would like to try your hand at professionally?
RK: As I mentioned before, I'm a great fan of westerns. In fact, my
first western novel, Timber Gray, will be released by Croatoan in the
next year or so. Also I enjoy suspense and mystery. I've already got an
unpublished mystery novel on my shelf that I'm considering submitting,
but I'll have to do a bit of research on potential publishers first.
MH: Upon returning to the horror fiction scene, what was your impression
of its present state? Was it better or worse than when you left it? And
are there any new writers that you enjoy reading?
RK: The first impression I got of the genre when I came back was just
how healthy it seemed to be. Back in the mid-nineties, the horror genre
had an IV in one arm and one foot in the grave, or so it seemed. It was
one sick puppy.
But, now, it appears to have survived and thrived. Also, back then,
horror fiction seemed to be gravitating toward suspense-oriented
stories, but now a renewed interest in the supernatural seems to have
emerged, which is encouraging.
I admit when I decided to return, it sort of felt like I'd awakened from
a coma. (Laughs) I mean, I hardly knew who anyone was in the industry.
Some of my old pals were still around, but the majority of those working
in horror today are new folks. I was extremely pleased to find some new
talents that have really rocked the ol' haunted house on its foundation.
Brian Keene has made a huge splash and revived the zombie genre. And I
was surprised to find great writers like James Newman, Jason Brannon,
Scott Nicholson, and Deborah LeBlanc on the scene... all Southerners.
Now ain't that encouraging to an ol' Dixiefied writer like myself?
Also, I was glad to find some really first-rate horror artists working
on the scene, like Alex McVey and Zach McCain. It's even more of a blast
having them do work for my upcoming publications, both with Croatoan and
Cemetery Dance. Alex's work, in particular, seems to meld incredibly
well with my prose. Like James Newman told me recently, our stuff goes
together like “gravy and biscuits.”.. which is a Southern
thing, if ya'll don't get it.
MH: If you could take only 10 novels with you to a desert island from
which you could never leave, what would they be?
RK: Hmmm... good question. Let's see, it'd probably be in this order:
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Stand by Stephen King, Boy's
Life by Robert R. McCammon, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Animosity
by James Newman, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, The Magic Wagon by Joe
R. Lansdale, Deliverance by James Dickey, Lonesome Dove by Larry
McMurtry, The Dead Zone by Stephen King, and The Memory Tree by John R.
Little. Yeah, I reckon that would do me just fine.
MH: Let's talk about your past novels. Which one is your favorite of the
bunch? How about your least favorite?
RK: My favorite, hands down, is Fear. That novel was a truly
great experience for me. I mean, it was so fun to write and it flowed so
effortlessly, which is rare during the course of such a lengthy novel. The
characters seemed to write themselves, as far as motivation and dialogue is
concerned, and it was incredibly satisfying as a horror writer to be able to
inject as many nightmares into one book as I could muster. Also, I enjoyed
setting the story in the post-World War II era, which was a departure for me.
Just a very pleasant writing experience all around.
As for my least favorite, that would definitely be Father's Little
Helper. I started that novel out intending it to be one thing and it
mutated into something else entirely. I didn't intend for it to turn out
to be as dark and violent as it did, but sometimes a piece of fiction
does that during the course of its construction; it takes on a life of
its own and oversteps the boundaries of your intended outline. That's
what FLH did. It kind of snickered at me and said “No, hoss, let's
do it my way. Let's get a little nasty with this one.”
And that's just the way it turned out. Oh, it's a fine book, I reckon.
Just not at the top of my list, that's all. Also, I wasn't all that
thrilled with the title change Zebra gave it. It was originally called
Twelve Gauge. Father's Little Helper sounds like a children's book,
rather than a horror-suspense novel.
MH: I've noticed that not only do you like to set your stories in
various Southern settings (mountains, small towns, swamps, etc.), but
also in other eras in time. Do you do much research when you write in a
timeframe other than present day?
RK: Strangely enough, no, I don't. It's always come naturally to me and
I can't really say why. I guess it goes back to all those stories that
my grandmother and mother told me as a child. They talked about the
times they grew up in with such detail and passion that it made me feel
like I had actually lived in those times myself. I reckon I've carried
that sense of alternate time around inside me to a point where I can
write about other eras pretty accurately. It's uncanny sometimes.
Of course, I used to be quite a scholar of Civil War and Old West
history and that's helped me tremendously when setting my tales in those
eras. And, if I do need to do some research, I still have a lot of
reference works to refer to.
MH: Who are some of your favorite characters that you've created?
RK: I'd say two of my favorite protagonists are Jeb Sweeny from Fear and
Cindy Ann Biggs from Hindsight. Both are kids and I believe horror is
most effective when experienced through the eyes of a child. Also, there
is a lot of myself, personally, in Jeb... a lot of the way I thought and
acted when I was growing up. And there is a lot of my late mother in the
character of Cindy Ann. Also, both Fear and Hindsight can be considered
“coming-of-age” stories, which I love to write.
Other characters that I have a soft spot for are Bowie Kane from Pitfall
and Boyd Andrews from Blood Kin. Both were men who fought the odds; men
who had to rise above adversity and injustice to get the job done and
fight the monster. And, in the end, they accomplished that.
One of my favorite protagonists was the Dark'Un in Something Out There,
which was actually a monster itself. The bad guy in that story was man
himself and his willingness to destroy the environment for his own
MH: How about favorite villains?
RK: As far as memorable antagonists, I'd say characters like Bully
Hanson from Hindsight, Crom McManus in Undertaker's Moon, and Grandpappy
Craven in Blood Kin. If I can jump the gun a bit, I'd include Doctor
Augustus Leech from my upcoming novel, Hell Hollow, since he is pretty
much an earthly incarnation of the Devil himself.
As far as non-human villains go, I'd add the Tasmanian devils from
Pitfall and the snake-dog critter from Fear to the list.
MH: Have you ever had a hard time writing a death scene for any of your
RK: There have been several times when killing off a character was hard
to do, mainly because I was emotionally attached to them,.. if that
doesn't sound too weird. After all, they are your creations and, in a
literary sense, you are their parent.
Three stand out more than others. One was Johnny Biggs in Hindsight.
Johnny's murder, along with his two pals, was based on a true
triple-murder that took place on my mother's side of the family back in
the 1930's, so it actually had basis in fact. A couple of others were
Tammy Craven and Caleb Vanleer in Blood Kin, two main characters who
didn't survive the wrath of Grandpappy Craven.
One character that was particularly difficult to do away with was Roscoe
Ledbetter in Fear, who was lynched by satanic klansmen. I reckon it was
the manner in which he was murdered that bothered me the most, although it was
necessary for the sake of the plot. Sometimes you have to sacrifice valuable
characters to send a storyline in the direction you want it to go. To refrain
from doing so can upset the applecart, so to speak, and totally alter the
outcome of the story that you have in mind.
MH: I know that you've written a sequel to your debut novel, Hindsight.
Do you think there is any chance that we'll see it published soon?
RK: I certainly hope so. I've currently got the sequel, Restless
Shadows, circulating among the small press publishers. So far it's been
a hard row to hoe trying to get someone interested in the project.
That's probably because I'm insistent that both Hindsight and Restless
Shadows be released together, either as two separate books or one volume
containing both the original novel and its sequel. I know that's a tall
order to ask of any publisher, but it just seems like the right thing to
do. A lot of new readers have never read Hindsight and, since it's no
longer in print, it just seems logical to re-release it along with the
sequel, which takes place seventy years after the first story.
But I'm bound and determined to stick with my guns until I find someone
who's willing to take a chance on the project. I've got more patience
now than I did ten years ago and I'm sure it'll be well worth the wait,
especially for my fans.
MH: Are there any of your other novels which you've considered writing
RK: Yes, I've got ideas for sequels for Pitfall and Something Out There.
I reckon some folks might wonder why I would want to continue storylines
that I've already explored, but it has to do a lot with the characters.
If you develop characters that you really care about, you want their
lives and adventures to continue. I'd really like to write a solid
sequel to Blood Kin. I have a feeling there are still some nasty
bloodsuckers hiding out, somewhere up there in the Smoky Mountains.
MH: Ron, you've had numerous short stories and novels published, but
Flesh Welder is your first chapbook, isn't it?
RK: You're right, Mark. This is my first chapbook. I never had the
opportunity to put one out during my first career, but then they seem to
be more popular now than they were back then. And what a humdinger of a
chapbook it's turned out to be! I couldn't be more pleased with the
production and design, and the audio recording by Wayne June... well, I
didn't expect such an appealing package for my first publication since
coming back. “Flesh Welder” is a story from years back, first published in
Noctulpa: Journal of Horror in the early nineties, but the magazine had
a very limited circulation and I wanted folks to have another chance to
read it. It's a tale of post-apocalyptic horror; a subject that is
rarely explored these days.
Incidentally, re-releasing FW has primed my imagination and I've come up
with a couple of post-nuclear novellas and three or four short stories
which I may turn into a small collection sometime in the future. If it
comes to pass, Zach McCain has agreed to do the cover artwork and
interior illustrations, which would be terrific, since he did such a
wonderful job with the Flesh Welder cover.
MH: I've known Steven Lloyd for awhile and I've always found him to be a
solid, dependable guy with tons of enthusiasm for writing and publishing
fiction. How have your experiences of working with him and Croatoan
Publishing been so far?
RK: Lordy Mercy... it's been first-rate from the beginning! I couldn't
be happier with my association with Steven and his new publishing
venture. When I returned to writing, I genuinely hoped to find a
publisher that was receptive to my work and the passion I have for
telling my tales of Southern horror. I've found that respect and
enthusiasm with Croatoan. Steven knows the business thoroughly enough to
know his strengths and limitations, as well as what the reading public
hungers for. I couldn't be more pleased being connected with such a
promising publishing house at this point in my career.
MH: As we wrap this up, Ron, could you tell us what we can expect from
you in 2008? From what I understand, you have quite a few things lined
up for your fans.
RK: Oh, I've been pretty danged busy during the past year, that's to be
I've got several projects coming from Croatoan Publishing... the Flesh
Welder chapbook/audiodisc that you hold in your hands, as well as the
limited edition of Undertaker's Moon, my novel of Irish werewolves in a
small Tennessee town, which was formerly released under the title Moon
of the Werewolf. It's shaping up to be quite a volume, containing the
original novel, a “behind the scenes” article on how I came
up with the idea for the story, and an unpublished prequel novella
titled The Spawn of Arget Bethir (The Silver Beast), as well as some
other special features. The cover and interior illustrations will be
provided by Alex McVey, which will undoubtedly make this one of the most
unique werewolf editions ever published. I'm so stoked about this... and
for good reason!
Also, I have several releases coming from Cemetery Dance Publications,
namely my first unpublished novel in ten years, Hell Hollow, as well as
my first full-fledged short story collection, Midnight Grinding & Other
Twilight Terrors. I also have various short fiction and another chapbook
or two coming out from other small press publishers.
MH: Then it looks like fans of Southern horror—and simply horror
in general—have a lot to look forward to. Thank for taking time to
do this, bro. It's been a blast.
RK: It's been my pleasure, Mark. Thanks for picking my brains... just
give `em back when you're finished with `em, okay?