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Interview With Jack Ketchum
An interview with Bram Stoker winner Jack Ketchum, author of Off Season and The Girl Next Door.
[1,341 words]
Iron Dave
[September 2010]
[email protected]
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Interview With Jack Ketchum
Iron Dave

Jack Ketchum is the pseudonym for a former actor, singer, teacher, literary agent, lumber salesman, and soda jerk -- a former flower child and baby boomer who figures that in 1956 Elvis, dinosaurs and horror probably saved his life. His first novel, Off Season, prompted the Village Voice to publicly scold its publisher in print for publishing violent pornography. He personally disagrees but is perfectly happy to let you decide for yourself. His short story The Box won a 1994 Bram Stoker Award from the HWA, his story Gone won again in 2000 -- and in 2003 he won Stokers for both best collection for Peaceable Kingdom and best long fiction for Closing Time. He has written eleven novels, arguably twelve, four of which have been filmed -- The Lost, the Girl Next Door, Red and Offspring. His stories are collected in The Exit At Toledo Blade Boulevard, Broken on the Wheel of Sex, Peaceable Kingdom, Sleep Disorder (with Edward Lee), and Closing Time and Other Stories. His novella The Crossings was cited by Stephen King in his speech at the 2003 National Book Awards.


                                                      NVF Magazine Interview
                                                              Jack Ketchum

Greetings and salutations, Jack. You don�t mind if I call you by your first name, do you? I normally tend to conduct my interviews in a friendly, jocular fashion.
You can call me anything you want, so long as it isn�t �dude.�

Fair enough! I�ve heard you have been referred to as �� the scariest guy in the country.�� Who was it that bestowed that particular honor upon you?
That would be Stephen King, in Entertainment Weekly a couple of years back. I told him thank you but that I thought he was wrong, that the scariest guy in America lived across the Potomac River.

I tend to agree. Now, not to be nosy, but, is it true you were once an actor, singer, lumber salesman, and flower child before you became a writer? Sort of a jack-of-all-trades and master of all?
Well, I wasn�t a master lumber salesman but I was energetic. I was probably a master Flower Child because it took no energy at all.

How many rejection slips did you get before you sold your first story? After just a quick glancing over your book, Off Season, it�s hard to imagine your having received any at all.
I started writing prose and poetry as a teenager, so I got pretty damn used to rejection slips. Luckily stamps were cheap in those days. But then, by the time I was thirty and quit my job as a literary agent I knew quite a lot of editors personally and what their magazines were looking for, so there were a whole lot fewer. You�re right about my first novel, OFF SEASON, though. Judy-Lyn del Rey at Ballantine snapped it right up, first submission.

I can see why. What first got you interested in writing horror fiction? Or do you actually refer to your work as ��horror��? There are so many subgenres these days�
Movies. All the great old Universal Dracula, Frankenstien, Wolfman pictures. The Giant Bug movies -- I hid under the seat during a scene in TARANTULA. The Hammer films. Then books -- DRACULA, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, and the great thirty-five cent paperback collections from Ace and the like, which featured stories by Bloch, Bradbury, Leiber, Lovecraft, Sturgeon. I don�t mind being called a horror writer. Just don�t call me �dude.� Pretty much all my stuff has some horror elements, even the comedies, but I�m really all over the place. OFF SEASON�s certainly a horror novel in that its prime purpose is to scare the shit out of you. And SHE WAKES is a traditional horror novel -- the only one of mine with a supernatural underpinning. But I don�t think you can call RED or COVER horror novels, though there are horrific scenes in each. My novella CLOSING TIME won a Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association and it�s not really horror at all, while PEACEABLE KINGDOM, which won the same year for best collection and in which the novella appears, is overall. Go figure. Douglas E. Winter�s comment that horror is an emotion, not a genre, has become a kind of mantra to all of us who hoe these rows by now. And rightly so.

Stephen King once stated that ��We create our OWN horrors in order to deal with the REAL ones.�� Do you find that to be true? Ever incorporate any of your childhood fears or traumas into your writing?
Sure it�s true, and Steve should know. And sure I have -- but fewer childhood fears and traumas than adult ones, I think. One of my readers told me once that the common thread in my stuff seemed to be a sense of loss. It hadn�t really occurred to me before but on reflection, seems to me it�s largely true. And unless you�ve lost a parent, close friend, pet or sibling at a very early age, most of us learn the full weight of loss in our later years. It accrues over time, from maybe the loss of a first love in our teens or twenties to the loss of mom or dad as an adult. And then, if you look at my subject matter, it generally starts with the violence adults perpetrate in the world. To essay that with any assurance you have to be one.

What�s on the horizon for Jack right now?
Leisure are doing a mass-market edition of COVER this summer, its first since Warner�s dumped it on the market in a teeny little edition back in 1988. So it will be good to see that out there again. Right now I�m contracted for an original, scary screenplay which I expect to finish this summer. I�m finding that movie people are as secretive as George W. Bush�s administration so more than that I cannot say.

Any last words of wisdom before you leave us?
�If you can still see how you could once have loved a person, you are still in love; an extinct love is always wholly incredible.�
    -- Michael Chabon
And this one for the writers among you.
��Take your time,� he would say to himself, �if the cat�s in a hurry she has peculiar kittens.��
    -- Louis de Bernieres
Thanks for being here, Jack, and take care.

Off Season
1. Off Season (1980)
2. Offspring (1991)
Off Season: The Unexpurgated Edition (1999)
Hide and Seek (1984)
Cover (1987)
She Wakes (1989)
The Girl Next Door (1989)
Joyride (1994)
     aka Road Kill
Stranglehold (1995)
     aka Only Child
Red (1995)
Ladies� Night (1997)
The Lost (2001)
The Crossings (2004)
Old Flames (2008)
The Exit at Toledo Blade Boulevard (1998)
Right to Life: And 2 New Stories (1999)
Peaceable Kingdom (2002)Winner best collection
Sleep Disorder (2003) (with Edward Lee)
Broken on the Wheel of Sex (2006)
Father and Son and Forever: Dark Voices 3 (2006)
Closing Time and Other Stories (2007)
Triage (2008) (with Richard Laymon and Edward Lee)
Book of Souls (2008)
Father and Son (1999)
Station Two (2001)
Weed Species (2006)
 Anthologies containing stories by Jack Ketchum
Bizarre Sex and Other Crimes of Passion (1994)
Deadly After Dark (1994)
Fear Itself (1994)
Night Screams (1995)
Vampire Detectives (1995)
The Year�s Best Fantasy and Horror Eighth Annual Collection (1995)
Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium (1996)
Fear the Fever (1996)
The UFO Files (1997)
Graven Images (2000)
Short stories
 To Suit the Crime (1992)
 The Box (1994) Bram Stoker
 I�d Give Anything for You (1994) (with Edward Lee)
 The Rose (1994)
 Redemption (1995)
 Snakes (1995)
 The Turning (1995)
 If Memory Serves (1996)
 Love Letters from the Rain Forest (1996) (with Edward Lee)
 Amid the Walking Wounded (1998)
 Masks (1999) (with Edward Lee)
 Right to Life (1999) Bram Stoker (nominee)
 Gone (2000) Bram Stoker winner best short story
 Bram Stoker Best Short story winner (1995) : The Box
 Bram Stoker Best Novellette nominee (2000) : Right to Life
 Bram Stoker Best Short story winner (2001) : Gone
 Bram Stoker Best Novel nominee (2002) : The Lost
Bram Stoker winner best long fiction{2002} Closing Time
Bram Stoker winner best collection {2002}Peaceable Kingdom


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November 2009

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