Hey there! It’s time for another giveaway. There was such a good response to the last contest in which a $5 Amazon gift card was the prize, I’ve decided to do one better. Literally ONE better. (One dollar, that is.) 🙂 Yes, up for grabs this time is a SIX dollar Amazon gift card! (6!) This is free money to spend on whatever you desire at Amazon.com. (Might I suggest a book?) And it’s super easy to enter: Just leave a comment on this interview. Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered in the random drawing.
As for the winner: There can be only one!
How long have you been writing?
I started writing stories when I was eleven. And, since I was a horror fan at a very early age, even those early attempts were horror. The first few I wrote were shameful rip-offs of stories from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I remember that book, and the two that followed, vividly. They actually scared me as a kid. It was probably those creepy illustrations that are still creepy to me, even today.
My mom would take my stories to work with her and read them on her lunch break. I remember an exchange she told me about that happened with a coworker of hers. I think it went something like this:
Sue entered the break room to find Krist’s mom already there, sitting at a table. Her lunch lay untouched in front of her. Frowning, her brow was creased as she struggled to read the stack of papers in her hand.
“What’s that you’re reading?” asked Sue, stopping at the coffee pot.
Krist’s mom looked up. “Huh?”
“Those papers there, what are they?”
“Oh, it’s a story my son wrote.”
“Well isn’t that just the cutest thing I’ve ever heard! What’s the story called?”
Sue eagerly awaited the answer, mouth frozen in a beaming smile.
Krist’s mom sighed. “Brutal Thoughts…it’s about a killer who hears voices in his head.” Lowering her head, she looked mortified with shame.
Sue’s smile faltered, the corners of her mouth drooping slightly. “Oh…well…I’m sure it’s good.”
But, a lot of what I wrote when I was a teenager were short horror screenplays, basically short stories and short novels written in screenplay format. Even now when I write a script, it still reads like a book in present tense with the characters’ names centered in the page.
I wrote a werewolf western script for a director and when I turned it in, the length terrified him. After he read it, he calmed down, saying: “If we edit out all of Krist’s descriptions, it will probably translate to a standard-sized script.”
What motivates you to write?
Sometimes it’s hard, but I always write something every day. Certain days I’ll go wild and write a couple thousand words, others I barely get two hundred. But, I always make sure I write something. I’ve been doing that since I was eleven, writing almost every day. If a day does go by without me writing, I get very cranky and feel like the day ended unfulfilled. When I was crunching on a deadline for Oak Hollow, I came down with a bad case of pneumonia. Instead of taking days off from writing, my wife brought the laptop into the bedroom, and I wrote in bed. I was so close to the deadline that I had to do it. I don’t know if it was the high fever, but what I wrote during that stretch was some of the best fiction I’ve ever produced. I hope the whole book comes off that way and not just the sections I wrote with a 104 degree temperature.
The hardest part for me was actually sitting down and sticking with it when I decided that I wanted to give a try to writing books. I’d been writing screenplays for years for myself or others, but other than short stories, I’d never written anything like that.
After I read Off Season by Jack Ketchum, I was surprised by how gory and vicious the book was. Just like the movies I enjoyed: full of splatter, and imaginatively intense. I thought this was the kind of book I wanted to write. Yes, I love Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but Jack Ketchum had nailed it, in my opinion. Later I was introduced to Richard Laymon, and everything changed. The first of his I read was The Cellar. And, it’s one of those books that people either love or hate. Yes, it’s cruel and disturbing, but it’s also chock-full of suspense and characters that I wanted to see pull through so badly, there were times where I yelled at the book. My wife can attest to this. The Cellar, to me, was a well-written, fast-paced horror tale. I wanted more Laymon, needed more Laymon. So, when I had finished The Cellar, I got in my car, drove to the bookstore and purchased Blood Games and The Traveling Vampire Show. I was a couple chapters into Vampire Show when I found the subscription card for the Leisure Book Club. I saw that they offered their books at discounted prices to the members. Naturally, I joined right away. I remember the first books I received as a member were Ray Garton’s Nightlife and Bryan Smith’s The Freakshow. I absorbed these books, fell in love, and begged for more. Brian Keene’s Ghoul came the next month, and that was it. I knew I wanted to write books. But, the lack of motivation to try it—or the fear most likely—kept me from doing so. When Laymon’s Dark Mountain arrived, I gobbled it up in two days. The day it came in the mail, I tore open the box, saw it was a Laymon title I hadn’t read, and jumped right in with the package opened on my lap and the other book club title sitting inside.
One thing I would suggest—and this is just me throwing things out there—for anyone juggling the idea of wanting to be a writer, but the fear of starting keeps you from doing so, is to read some Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum books. They will motivate you in ways you can’t imagine.
I recently finished your novel Pillowface, and I have to admit, it went beyond my expectations. I figured it would be an entertaining “hack and slash” book, but I wasn’t expecting to connect with the characters on an emotional level. Pillowface has an engaging plot and a backstory that brings the whole thing to life. What inspired this novel? How did you think up the characters?
Wow, thank you very much! I really appreciate that. I’m glad Pillowface is such a well-loved character. He receives more love than any other character I’ve written about so far. He’s a favorite of mine as well.
The idea started one day when I thought back to me being a kid. I would imagine what would have happened if Jason Voorhees wandered into my parent’s backyard. Even today, I can still vividly see the image I saw as a kid: I was mowing the field behind our house, and I pictured Jason staggering out from the trees, hunched over, a hand caressing his stomach as blood streamed through the cracks between his fingers. I grew up in the sticks on a dirt road, so our house was surrounded by trees—total isolation and all I really had was my imagination to keep busy most of the time. And, I always had fun.
So, I took that setting and altered it a bit for Joel’s house in the book. The trail to the public pool that the kids walk on in the book before chaos ensues was based off an actual path that I used to hike with my friends to a public swimming pool. It was a long walk, but we enjoyed it. Some of our conversations were nearly word for word as to what the kids talk about in the book, as to which horror icon would win in a fight, or the nudie movies we stayed up and watched on Friday After Dark.
I lost my dad a couple years ago, so when I wrote about Joel’s confusion over death and how much he missed his dad, it was really how I felt at the time, and honestly, how I still do.
The trio of madmen: Buddy, Carp, and Pillowface, are characters that have been with me for a long time. Buddy is honestly an exaggerated version of my brother-in-law. He served in the army and was injured in Afghanistan. When he came home, I just kept wondering to myself what would happen if he just…snapped. I was writing a script at the time about a movie director trying to make a comeback and a movie he’d made was Killbillies. There was a character in it named Carp. Another character from that script was Pillowface—an actor who’d become hideously scarred during plastic surgery. He developed into Pillowface.
So, I took Buddy, Carp, and Pillowface, put them together in a unit of their own and came up with Psycho Holocaust. I added the military backstory to them after reading an article about a group of American soldiers that went crazy in Iraq. It all became an exploitation movie I wrote and directed, produced by Chuck Renaud, and released in 2011 called Psycho Holocaust. It stars Trent Haaga, a writer in his own right, as Buddy. Trent has written the movies Deadgirl, Cheap Thrills, and Syfy’s Heebie Jeebies. Actually, Trent was the person who introduced me to Richard Laymon’s and Edward Lee’s books. He recommended that I read The Cellar, and thanks to him doing that, I’m here writing books today. So, if there is anyone to blame for it…maybe it’s Trent?
How many novels have you written?
Four have been published, plus two novellas, but I’ve written more than that. Some of them are in early draft form and have been patiently waiting for me to return to them, while others are with the editors waiting to be released. Over the next year, more will be coming out, and I’m going to finish up what I’ve neglected. Nearly all my deadlines for the next year and a half have been met, so that’s freeing me up to give the attention to the stories that really need it.
I loved your novella A Dark Autumn because it is such an original idea. Yet, there is so much adult content, I have to ask: Have you received any negative feedback from A Dark Autumn? If so, how did you handle it?
There has been some, yes. I had prepared myself for negative criticism and flack, so much so, that when it didn’t come, I was a little shocked. What surprised me the most was the support it received from female readers. Some even emailed me and told me how sexy it was. I don’t think I agree with it being sexy at all. It’s a morbid tale that, even as I was writing it, I wondered why I was writing it. The support A Dark Autumn has received has been great, but of course, no one likes everything, and I’ve noticed people can be a lot more vocal about something they don’t like than something they do. Someone called A Dark Autumn vile trash and awful, but others have called it wonderful and well-written. Negative criticism can be tough with anything, and it stings. What I’ve worked really hard on is building up immunity to those things. Now, I rarely read a review of anything I’ve written. But, I’ll be honest; when A Dark Autumn was released I read many of its reviews because I was very curious to see the kind of reactions it was garnering. Overall, the responses were very good ones, so I’m happy people are being swept up in it. I believe David Bernstein (author of Amongst the Dead) said it pissed him off, but in a good way. I think it was the ending that got him the most, and he’s not the only one.
Now…if we could just make a movie based on the novella…
Do you write short stories?
I love writing short stories. Last One Alive was released back in April and because it was a novella, I included two short stories to ‘fatten it up’. My favorite in that small collection is Gearhart’s Wife. Not really a horror story, but I definitely had a great time writing it. I wish I would write more short stories, but I haven’t gotten to.
F. Paul Wilson said there are short stories and vignettes, and for years he was writing vignettes. I believe that was my problem until very recently. I tried to keep them fast-paced with a twist ending. They became more like scenes grabbed from a longer story than a story on their own, and that made them complicated to write. Now I embrace the challenge of pulling together a complete story in a small amount of words, and it’s fun trying new things in them. I see why Stephen King’s short stories have such a wide range. They can make for a great lab to experiment in.
I’ve got a few more short stories just lying around, and I have no idea what to do with them. Maybe once I get a few more written, I’ll see if someone’s interested in doing a collection. One of them is probably the most disturbing thing I’ve ever written, and I haven’t even passed it along to my proofreader out of fear of her reaction to it.
In addition to writing, you are involved in film making. What does it feel like to see your ideas on a movie screen?
It’s great, truly great. It’s been over three years since I’ve done any movie work, other than writing some scripts. I miss it, a lot. When I’m on the set, caught up in the chaos of making low budget movies, I’m hating it, hating the stress, and the arguing that sometimes comes when you’re running out of time to do a certain shot that you need, or tempers are flaring because you’re working long days around short stints of sleep. But, I want to do it again. Other film-makers say you have to be crazy to make movies, and I guess they might be right, but it’s a welcomed kind of crazy. Once the movie is completed, edited together and mixed, it reminds you how much the chaos was worth it.
Rags, the last movie we made is about to be available for everyone to see through Synapse Films. I’m excited to have it out there. Out of the movies I’ve done, Rags is my favorite. It started as an idea for a novella, but when I was telling a film-making friend of mine about it, he said we should make it as a movie, together. I agreed. So, I stopped working on the novella and started working on the script. I wrote it in two nights. Later versions of the script never strayed far from that original draft. I teamed up with Psycho Holocaust alumni, Billy Garberina, and we produced the movie together. He’s made movies on his own such as Necroville, I heart U, and Rotgut.
Less than a week before we were set to roll cameras, my father was killed in a motorcycle accident. Everything spiraled out of control for those couple of days following, but we forged onward with the movie and filmed it. Dad was buried on a Tuesday and the following Friday we were filming. I had to keep going with the movie, had to, and not because anyone was making me do it, either. Everyone told me we should postpone filming so I could mourn the loss, but I was too scared that I would never stop mourning. Plus, I knew Dad would want me to complete something I’d started, no matter what. So, I made the decision that we move on. And, honestly, during those days we were on set, I never wanted that on-set chaos to end, because that meant when it did, I would have to go back to the world where my dad wasn’t alive. On set, he was, and we all wanted to make something that we knew he’d be proud of. I think we did. I got my sense of humor from him, and I think he’d have a good time with Rags.
Are there any authors who have influenced your work?
There are so many I can’t even count them all. A few of my favorites are: Richard Laymon, Dean Koontz, Bentley Little, Jack Ketchum, Bryan Smith, Gary Brandner, Stephen King, Jeff Strand, Ronald Malfi, Edward Lee, John Russo, and sooooo many more. I also enjoy reading westerns and really enjoy Johnny D. Boggs’s books. And, I really love comic books. Thanks to Bryan Smith, I’m getting into crime fiction as well. I’m sure my favorite crime fiction authors’ list will start growing over the next year.
Newer authors I really like are Shane McKenzie, David Bernstein, Alan Spencer, Brian Moreland, Jonathan Janz, and most of the Samhain team. There are a lot of great authors, way better than me, and I’m happy to be considered part of the family.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Joyland by Stephen King and had a great time with it. Before that, I read Hellstorm by Gary Brandner. I haven’t read a Brandner book that I didn’t like, and I’ve read nearly all of them. Darkest Lullaby by Jonathan Janz was great, and so was Washing Machine Holocaust by Alan Spencer. I also really, really enjoyed Bigfoot Crank Stomp by Erik Williams.
I decided back in the spring to revisit the Laymon library. I’ve already re-read The Cellar and Dark Mountain, and I’m nearing the end of Laymon’s In the Dark for the second time. When I’m finished reading this one, I’m not sure what I’ll start reading afterward, probably 68 Kill by Bryan Smith.
What writing projects are you working on at the moment?
Oak Hollow comes out in August through Samhain Publishing, and I’m about to finish up The Skin Show. It’ll be released in the fall through Thunderstorm Books in a limited edition hardcover. The eBook and paperback will come out early next year. I’m still looking for a home for that. Samhain Publishing is releasing Proud Parents next year, and Thunderstorm Books will be putting a few more limited editions of my books. Prank Night will probably come out close to Halloween as well, possibly under a different title, but we shall see.
Once I finish The Skin Show, I’m going to finally get working on The Lurkers II, and hopefully finishing up a fun book idea I’ve been working on for a while now. I was also asked to be part of collaboration with three other authors, and I’m super-excited about it.
Where can we find you on the web?
Facebook is the best place, but I also have a Twitter account that I don’t use nearly as much as I probably should. I don’t have the traditional website—not yet—but I try to update my blog site somewhat regularly: www.lastkristontheleft.blogspot.com If anyone wants to send me an email, I’d be happy to have it.
Thank you, Kristopher, for a wonderful interview. And now… how can this little ol’ interviewer resist the urge to post a pic taken at Horrorhound Weekend with the man himself, Kristopher Rufty? That’s right, I’m such a fan of Samhain Horror books that I printed out a custom poster and stalked the authors all the way to Cincinnati. It was a good thing I had something for them to sign, as it turns out that my tongue gets twisted up in person. 🙂
From left to right: Kristopher Rufty, Lindsey Beth Goddard (me), Brian Moreland, and David Searls
Last but not least… DON’T FORGET TO LEAVE A COMMENT AND ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A SIX DOLLAR AMAZON GIFT CARD!!!