I’ve met Kristopher Rufty at several horror cons and he’s a great guy as well as a prolific, horrific author. I pulled him out of his creative juggenaut for a few minutes to share some thoughts on his latest work and the writing process.
- Your new release from Samhain is The Lurking Season. When did you decide to write a sequel to The Lurkers?
I guess the idea was there even when I’d just finished writing The Lurkers. I was very happy and satisfied with how I left it. I pictured the ending like a movie, when the audience thinks somebody is about to get away, there’s happiness, smiles, and then BAM! It turns out they don’t make it and the credits roll. I giggled as I wrote that final page. But some readers didn’t like that, while others got it and were happy.
But that wasn’t what made me decide to write a sequel. Like I said earlier, I think I knew I’d be returning to Doverton sooner or later. A year ago, the story’s formula popped into my head as I was drifting off to sleep one night. I wanted to explore Doverton a bit more, get in touch with some of the locals. It’s a few years after the events of The Lurkers and nobody has forgotten what’s happened. The neighboring town lives in fear of suffering the same fate as those in Doverton. Just so much campfire story material I could play around with. I sat down the next morning and started on my notes, piecing together the idea and adding to it. When I finished my notes, I started on the novel right away.
I was a bit surprised how easily it was to go back to Haunchyville. Man, things had changed while I was away, but Doverton, and the little vicious minions hiding in the shadows seemed eager to have me back.
- You’ve written movie scripts and written novels. How is the approach to each one different?
I’m almost ashamed to admit this—but I haven’t written a script in two years. I’ve sat down and typed up a few treatments, but haven’t gotten to them yet. I hope to finally write them this year between novels.
I’m not sure if my approach is terribly different, if at all. I prepare the same way for scripts as I do novels, novellas, and short stories. I start with my notes. I sit down and either type my ideas or write them out longhand. It’s a way I can spend time alone with the idea, a conversation with myself without sounding psychotic (though I bet if somebody were to read my early notes, they’d argue that). I’ve prepared that way since I first started writing stories back when I was an eleven-year-old kid, pecking away at a typewriter that was big enough to live in. I also think I’ve carried a lot of my fiction traditions into the script procedure and vice versa. In fiction, I tend to use a lot of dialogue to carry the scenes forward, just as I would have to do in a script. But in scripts, I tend to be very descriptive with the action, hitting the points with a lot of details. Actors seem to love that aspect of it, but not every director likes how much emphasis I put on characterization in the script form.
- How old are your kids and how much do they know about the bizarre stuff Daddy writes?
Our son will be twelve soon, and our daughter is ten. We just found out (this weekend, actually) that we have a third child on the way. They know very little about what happens in my books. They ask a lot of questions, though, and I’ll tell them a little bit, usually editing out the juicy stuff. They know I’m censoring it, and pester me to tell them more, claiming they can handle it. Sometimes my kids play games, where they’re fighting monsters and have now added the Haunchies to their enemy list. It does tickle me to hear them fighting imaginary Haunchies in the backyard. Whenever we find the trash can has been knocked over and rummaged through, I like to tell them Haunchies are to blame. Or on certain spooky nights, we pretend Haunchies are outside scratching at the windows. It’s all fun and games, but I actually kind of dread the day they read one of my books. I hope whatever they decide to read is enjoyable to them.
But they’re my biggest supporters. They got me a gig at their school last year on career day. Days before I was to show up and teach kids about the difficult journey of a writer, I had to sit through a long phone call with the guidance counselor. He decided to look into what my kids’ daddy liked to write, then immediately called to give me a long list of dos and don’ts. I had to promise him I would not read from my books and that I would not pass them around so the kids could flip through the pages. I was limited to which covers I could show them. Of course, I hadn’t planned to do that anyway, but it was just one of those things he had to make sure I wouldn’t do.
I have a new book coming out this spring called Bigfoot Beach and that was an idea that emanated from a conversation I had with my kids. My kids have very big feet for their ages and my son was talking about how he was already outgrowing his new shoes. I joked that if somebody saw his footprints in the sand at the beach, he’d think there was a Sasquatch loose on the beach. My kids told me I should write a book about that. I laughed at first, but the idea exploded in my head. I tested out my notes process on them, speaking the ideas instead of writing them. They laughed and cheered me on. I decided I would write it and if nobody I liked it, I at least knew they would.
- For the aspiring writer reading this, tell me about your path to publication?
Wow, what a very long path that has been. It’s ongoing. Angel Board was my first published book. I worked on it for almost three years. With the help of Ronald Malfi, Jeff Strand, Edward Lee, Heather Graham, Kathleen Pickering, and a slew of other talented authors’ suggestions, I finally had something that I felt confident enough to submit. Malfi sent it over to Don D’Auria and suggested I send over a follow-up email, which I did. A month later, I got the letter that us writers have dreamed about all of our lives. This came after three years of rejection, false starts, and multiple occasions where I received a letter in the mail from a publisher in an envelope I’d filled out and stamped myself. Angel Board was the first novel I wrote, but I wrote three more after, submitted those as well and received the heartbreaking news months later. In the meantime, I just kept writing and writing.
Finally, I returned to Angel Board after a great weekend in New Orleans at Heather Graham’s writing conference. Keeping all the aforementioned authors’ suggestions in mind, I rewrote the book from scratch. When that letter came from Don, I bawled. My son was with me when I read the letter and he thought something bad had happened. I told him the good news and he was the first person to congratulate me.
It has been a wild four years since that letter. Four years! There was a time when I thought this would never happen, and here I’ve been blessed to do it for four years and I have contracts to carry me through 2017. I can’t believe it. Sure, not everybody loves my books, but I have fun writing them, and I thank God every day that I get to do it.
- I’m jealous that you have over a dozen works up on Amazon and around the world. What’s your process for being so prolific?
I try to write something every day. But I understand life gets busy at times and I’ve found myself going two or three days without writing anything at all. I hate it. Plus, the writing neglect makes me very cranky. My wife can usually tell if I’ve had the chance to write and she’s good about making it so I do. Sometimes making sure I stick to that plan, I find myself working late at night after everyone’s gone to bed.
But my process is to write every day. Even if I don’t get to work on the current project, I make sure I at least write something. Whether it’s a random exchange of dialogue or a paragraph of something unknown, I write. Doing story notes is a good way to make sure I write every day.
When my health went south in 2013, I still had two books with deadlines drawing near. So my wife helped me set up in our bed, with a makeshift table made from a pillow, a cooling pad, and books on my lap and the notebook computer on top. I wrote most of Proud Parents and The Skin Show in bed with an illness. I was finally moving around more as I reached the final pages of The Skin Show and got to finish I at my desk. I think working on the books helped a lot with my recovery and if my wife wouldn’t have been so adamant about me reaching those goals, I might not have ever finished those books. Even now, those two books are two of my favorites.
- Time and money are no object. Where would you take your dream vacation?
So many places. My wife and I would love to go on a tour of the New England states. Stay in one for two weeks, then move on to the next. I hope to visit New Zealand before my time’s up on this planet. Another place is the Hemingway house, take the tour and see his writing desk. Maybe carve my name in it. Just kidding! But I would love to see the place he wrote so many classics from. Just being close to it would be an honor to me.
- Calories and cost are no object. Favorite food?
Anything from the carnival or fair. The Ruftys love a good carnival. When we go, we make sure we ride all the rides first, then spend the remaining time of our visit gorging ourselves on hot dogs, corn dogs, funnel cakes, deep-fried anything, caramel apples, cotton candy, and hoagies. By the time we’re finished, our sated bellies are gurgling and about ready to burst.
- Authors are way more critical than the average reader. There were sections in The Lurking Season where I paused, backed up, a re-read a paragraph because there was such a sharp description, or an exceptional action sequence. What have you read recently that made you stop and say “Damn, that’s good.”
Wow, Russell, thank you so much. That means a lot to me, especially from somebody who can write like you can. I remember having admiring thoughts when I read your book, Sacrifice. Seriously, that was a wonderful book.
Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of those moments here lately. Jonathan Janz’s Exorcist Road had me saying that with nearly every page. David Bernstein’s Apartment 7C was also filled with writing that inspired me.
I read a lot of old horror paperbacks, pulp crime novels, westerns and I’ve began to delve into old sci-fi and action books. Gil Brewer was a pulp crime fiction writer and the books of his I’ve read have had that effect on me.
I also just finished reading Bryan Smith’s forthcoming Slowly We Rot. And wow…that is an amazing book. That’s a horror novel that will stand the test of time, like King’s The Shining or The Stand.
- The Lurking Season has some evil Haunchies, vicious little fictional creatures. But the town’s top cop is terrifying, and he could be straight out of real life. Which type of villain do you think is more frightening?
The human villain is much more frightening. There is a certain safety with monsters that makes it fun being scared, but with a human monster, that makes the book or movie a different experience entirely. It becomes less safe, makes you look at strangers around you and wonder if they might be as sadistic as a character you read about.
- What’s coming down the Kristopher Rufty pipeline?
The Lurking Season was just released from Samhain Publishing. Jagger will be out in March from Sinister Grin Press. Bigfoot Beach will be out in April from Thunderstorm Books. The Vampire of Plainfield comes out this summer from Thunderstorm Books, and Desolation releases from Samhain in September.
I worked really hard through 2014 to make up for all that I missed from my illness in 2013. This year, I’m going to try to work just as hard to make sure 2016 is just as full. With a new baby on the way, I need to write and write and write while I can.
- Any upcoming cons or signings fans can meet you at?
I’ll be doing a lot more book signings. Ronald Malfi and I are doing a couple books tours together this summer, which I’m excited about. We’re going to hit multiple places and I plan to do a few around North Carolina as well to promote my new releases.
Hopefully I’ll you all very soon!
Thanks a lot, Russell, for interviewing me for your blog. It was an honor to be here. And I look forward to hanging out again sometime down the road and chatting about writing stories.
Here’s my website: Last Krist on the Left. Anybody is more than welcome to contact me through my blog. My email is on there.
Amazon page: Amazon.com: Kristopher Rufty: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle