Interview: Kristopher Rufty on “Desolation”

Posted: February 11, 2016 in Interviews, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Today I am happy to have Kristopher Rufty on The Horror Bookshelf for an interview in support of his gut-wrenching novel Desolation (review), which is out now through Samhain Horror. Desolation is a truly visceral story that is full of darkness and heartbreak, but also forgiveness. What makes this story such a great horror read is that is entirely plausible. Rufty shows that ordinary people can snap under pressure and intense grief and that sometimes the aftermath is devastating. This novel had a huge emotional impact on me and although it is still early, I don’t see another book this year hitting me on such a personal level. Rufty puts his readers through an emotional wringer with Desolation, but it is one hell of a story and an essential addition to the bookshelf of any horror fan. During my interview with Kristopher, we talked about his writing process, his influences, the inspiration and history behind Desolation, and some of his upcoming work. A big thank you to Kristopher for stopping by to answer my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for having me on the tour!

Be sure to check out the giveaways at the end of this post! The first giveaway is for two audio books, Oak Hollow andPillowface. The other giveaway is for a signed print copy of The Lurking Season and two e-books, Vampire of Plainfieldand Bigfoot Beach!

krist

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how did you first get started in writing and what led you to pursue it professionally?

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate the invite. Hopefully I can answer these great questions without sounding like a fool!

So many things led me to writing. I think I have different answers each time because there were a lot of forces at work. But mostly, it was because my overactive imagination needed a release. I found horror movies at a very early age. My mother sat me down to watch TV while she worked on canning. She saw a gruff, New-Yorker in a superhero outfit and assumed I was about to be subjected to some wholesome, child-appropriate entertainment. What I got while she was distracted in the kitchen was a horror movie host and a double-feature of FRIDAY THE 13th and FRIDAY THE 13th part 2. I think part 2 actually came on later that night, because I have a memory of being at a friend’s house and telling him how excited I was to watch part 2 that night. I was five years old. Part 3 had its network television premier a week later. After watching that one, I was hooked on horror from then on.

I read a lot as kid, Judy Blume and other children’s books, mostly. When I was introduced to comic books, a new world of creativity opened up for me. I went crazy with comics, devouring them all. Then I began to read horror comics and nearly went into a mental relapse from the sensation overload.

My dad loved it that I was a reader, so he pretty much just let me read whatever I wanted. Being a horror movie fan, I knew who Stephen King was because of CUJO and MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE. But when I realized he was an author, I wanted to read him. I saw HELLRAISER when I was in the fourth grade. Same story with Barker—when I learned he wrote books, I wanted to read them. I saw the Corey Haim—starring WATCHERS. Saw ‘Based on the novel by Dean Koontz’ in the credits. Add Koontz to the list. Couldn’t read enough of those guys.

But a friend put Laymon’s THE CELLAR in my hand and my entire outlook and approach on writing changed.

From the time I was fourteen, I fantasized about being an author. I’d write stories and scripts on my old Brother typewriter and hold the pages up to the mirror to see what my words looked from another point of view. I know that sounds strange, but I loved doing that. I used to imagine them in print, on the cream-colored pages of a paperback. That was my goal, to be like Barker and King, writing books and making movies all at once.

What is a typical day of writing like for you? Do you have a set process or is it something that varies depending on the day?

Used to be a process. I was stubborn in my process. Being self-employed, I would usually get the kids up in the morning and ready for school. After I dropped them off, I’d come home, eat some breakfast, and sit down and write until lunchtime. Then it would be time to start work on my regular job.

Now we have a baby at home and that process no longer exists. I write whenever I can, which is okay because that’s how I used to do it before the last two years of being self-employed. My favorite time to write during this “whenever-I-can” schedule is early in the morning. I like being the first one awake, but that doesn’t always happen when I’m working third shift of the “whenever-I-can” schedule.

What was your inspiration for writing Desolation?

It came to me in a dream. Seriously. I dreamed scenes in vivid detail. In the dream, I was watching a movie and I saw the opening, the aftermath of the car accident. Then something scrambled and cut to a man invading a home, attacking a family. I woke up, confused and a little startled by the images I’d witnessed. I had to know what happened with the story. So I sat down to write it as my first novel, but I quickly became intimidated and decided to turn the story into an exploitation movie, in the vein of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. It floated around with producers for a few years before coming back home. Then I shelved it. But the idea remained and I began to come up with new takes on it. It made the story fresh to me again and I had to write it.

One of the things I loved about Desolation was that the two main characters are pretty complex. They each have faults and have done terrible things, but you can’t help but sympathize with each of them at different points of the story. Was it important to you to have readers connect with the Marlowes attacker even though he puts them through brutal situations?

Absolutely. That was crucial to me from the very beginning. When the story began to develop, I was looking at it solely from Dennis’s perspective. But as it went on, I began to understand Grant. I got to know him more and quickly realized that he’s not a bad guy at all. He just made a lot of bad choices that led him into a very dangerous situation. Not only that, he brought his family with him. That’s a huge fear of mine, failing my family, and Grant has done that. He’s in a different kind of desperation than Dennis, yet they are both connected in the middle, like a tug-of-war rope pulling back and forth.

I read on your guest post on Hunter Shea’s blog that Desolation has been around for 10 years and started as a novel and then as a script idea. What made Desolation such a challenging project for you?

Well, at first, I think I was just scared of my ability, or the lack of ability, to write it. I was still attempting to complete a full-length novel when the idea first came to me. I’d written many short stories, short novels, and a lot of screenplays. I decided to turn it into a script and try to get it made into a movie. I was overwhelmed by how many people came on board. Actors and actresses and producers from all over. People I’d grown up watching in movies were calling me at home to talk about it. But the financing never came through. It was shopped around and around, but the money just wasn’t there. It was a bad time for indie filmmaking then. But I’m grateful it never happened. I wouldn’t have been able to write the book.

You include letters throughout Desolation that help bring readers inside the mind of the man who attacks the Marlowe family. I loved these and thought they really captured the raw emotions that drive the course of the novel. What was your inspiration for these and what made you decide to take this approach?

Thank you for your kind words. That aspect of the novel came from personal experience. I lost my father in a motorcycle accident back in 2010 because of a person driving when they shouldn’t have been. It was hard for all of us, and I was struggling to accept he was gone. A friend suggested I write him letters, just tell him about my day, as if I were speaking directly to him. This friend thought that, with time, I would eventually no longer need to write the letters. I have to say the letters made everything worse. I quickly stopped writing them because doing so made the pain even stronger.

I’m not really sure when I decided to incorporate that into DESOLATION. But I thought it would be the right place to witness Dennis succumbing to his hate, reading it in his writings as Sonia, the woman who cares for him, reads them.

You have written works that contain supernatural elements and horror that includes real people and could actually happen in real life. What is it about each one that appeals to you and do you have a preference?

I just seem to go there naturally. They both appeal to me for the same reason, they need to be written. These ideas swirl around my head like the flakes of a snow globe. And I enjoy writing them, even if I try to hold back, or to keep it simple. My imagination doesn’t allow me to play it safe. I write without a safety net, whether it’s about tiny creatures or a man obsessed with revenge.

But after writing something like DESOLATION, I think I might prefer to write about monsters for a little while again. I’m not so sure it’s because something like DESOLATION could actually happen. I think it’s the shape the story left me in afterward. I was devastated emotionally and creatively. The bleak tone of the novel left me in a mess afterward. And writing about monsters, the supernatural kind, is a lot of fun. Writing BIGFOOT BEACH after DESOLATION brought me back, but there are wounds that are still there from DESOLATION.

You are also an experienced director and write movie scripts. Does your experience in film influence your writing or do you try to keep the two separate?

I do try to keep them separate. I haven’t made a movie in a few years, but even back then I didn’t try to blur them together. I used to forget that while writing stories, I didn’t have to adhere to a budget plan. I could write anything. Blow up anything. There was no special effect that couldn’t be afforded. Writing stories lifted a restriction that movies couldn’t. I could do anything I wanted to do. There was no reason not to.

What drew you into the world of horror and what is your favorite thing about the genre?

Again, it was watching Friday the 13th when I was five years old. But what made me want to stay in horror was the fun. I got into horror during a great time period, the 80s heyday of splatter and cheese. I absorbed it all, read it all, and couldn’t get enough of it. Even now, I still prefer those movies I grew up on, and books like those that were released during the Zebra/Tor/Leisure days. There was never a short supply of horror. It was everywhere—bookstores, video stores, movie theaters, grocery stores, gas station magazine and bookracks. Everywhere. Seemed that when I was a kid, every place I went to had a horror section.

What horror novel had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers that you recently started reading?

If I had to pick just one, I’d have to narrow it down to two first. Jack Ketchum’s OFF SEASON and Richard Laymon’s THE CELLAR. Then to look at those two books, side by side, I’ll have to pick THE CELLAR. That book floored me. I couldn’t believe the stuff I read in it. Same for Ketchum. These were like the movies I’d grown up on, and here I had been writing stories and growing depressed because I didn’t think anybody would want to read stuff like this. Then I was pointed toward guys like Laymon and Ketchum, which led me to Lee, White, and the Splatterpunk genre. There were these types of books combining my favorite things from my childhood—monsters, demons, creatures, blood, gore, and…freedom. The freedom to write whatever I wanted. But these authors didn’t write to make it campy, or solely for shock factor. Their books were addictively intriguing and they helped me grow comfortable in the stories I was writing. After reading as much as I could by these guys and many others, I dropped the shackles that had been holding me back and decided to write as Joe R. Lansdale has said before, but much more bluntly: Write as if those who love you will never read it.

Current writers I really enjoy reading are my co-authors on JACKPOT. Shane McKenzie, David Bernstein, and Adam Cesare. I also love Alan Spencer’s stuff. He’s like me and writes with a childlike obsession for horror. Ronald Malfi is an amazing writer. He’s got a serious talent for combining quiet horror with a bit of splatter tossed in. Hunter Shea and Jonathan Janz haven’t put out a bad book, either. They write so well that while you’re reading it, you think it must be easy to write that well. When you sit down to try, you learn that those two have a special gift and they know how to use it.

Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, Bentley Little, Ray Garton, and Joe R. Lansdale are writers I make sure to read everything they put out. As well as Wrath James White, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and so many more. I could keep naming more and more and more and…. more. And those are just SOME of the horror writers I like to read.

If you could choose any writer to collaborate or talk about writing with, who would you choose and why?

I know I can’t, but it would have been an amazing experience to write with Laymon. The things I could learn working on a single page with such an impeccable writer as he was would stay with me for a lifetime.

I’ve been blessed to collaborate with a few authors and I’ve loved it. It’d be a blessing to work with Wrath James White. I think we could create something that would make some heads spin.

And of course, I’d love to finally work with Ronald Malfi. We’ve talked about it quite a few times, but it hasn’t happened yet. I have a feeling that it will at some point in the future, though.

Horror writers are generally big fans of the genre as well. What sort of horror novel have you always wanted to see that has not really been explored?

One of the many great things about horror is there is so many layers to it. Take a subject like werewolves and give it to a roomful of writers. You won’t get the same story back. It will be completely different, told from different perspectives and styles. There may be similarities in tone or even theme, but the voice telling these stories will be fresh each time and the formula they use to tell it will be unique and their own. I think there are still many layers to horror that haven’t even been tapped into yet. I can’t say if there is anything that I want to read that hasn’t been written because there is so much out there I haven’t read. But there are things I haven’t explored yet, in my own writing. There are heights I’ve yet to climb and I’m excited and a little anxious to give them a try. They’re calling out to me late at night, in a nebulous voice like a siren seductively beckoning toward the rocks.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a couple different things, finishing some stuff up and starting on something new. Now that we have a baby, and I write on that ‘whenever-I-can’ schedule, I’m trying to get caught back up. I just sent JACKPOT 2 over to a co-writer. I’m thrilled to see where this story goes in the sequel. My horror-western is almost ready to send out to my pre-readers. I have a new book I’m working on for DarkFuse, and another book to finish that needs to be turned into Sinister Grin Press this summer. I’ve been approached by a few publishers to contribute to anthologies later in the year as well. I have a lot to write and I’m excited to see where these stories take me.

Thank you so much for having me on. I enjoyed my time here and hope to do it again sometime in the future.

LINKS

Kristopher Rufty Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Website

Purchase Desolation: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or from your favorite bookstore!

Desolation tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Desolation! – #Desolation #RuftyRevenge #winterreads #HookofaBook

Desolation Synopsis

There’s no escaping your past. Especially when it wants revenge.

Grant Marlowe hoped taking his family to their mountain cabin for Christmas would reunite them after his alcoholic past had torn them apart, but it only puts them into a life and death struggle.

On Christmas Eve, a stranger from Grant’s past invades the vacation home and takes his wife and children hostage. His agenda is simple—make Grant suffer the same torment that Grant’s drunken antics have caused him.

Now Grant must confront his demons head on and fight for his family’s lives. Because this man has nothing left to lose. The only thing keeping him alive is misery—Grant’s misery.

Praise for Kristopher Rufty

“Kristopher Rufty is the demented reincarnation of Richard Laymon!” – Jeff Strand

A Dark Autumn is a wild gender role reversal of ‘I Spit On Your Grave,’ with gonzo nods to Norman Bates and ‘Friday The 13th’ thrown in for good measure. Kristopher Rufty delivers the goods yet again.” –Bryan Smith, author of Kayla Undead and The Late Night Horror Show

“A creepy, gripping tale of horror. And it’s got one of the best death scenes I’ve read in a long time!” – Jeff Strand, author of Pressure and Dweller

“A powerhouse debut novel. Rufty’s prose will suck you in and hold you prisoner!” – Ronald Malfi, author of Floating Staircase and Snow

“An occult thriller with a new twist. Rufty juggles captivating characters, breakneck suspense, and insidious horror in a macabre story that will leave you feeling possessed by the end of it. Next time you think about taking that old Ouija board out…forget it!” – Edward Lee, author of Lucifer’s Lottery and City Infernal

About Kristopher Rufty

krist

Kristopher Rufty lives in North Carolina with his wife, three children, and the zoo they call their pets. He’s written various books, including The Vampire of Plainfield, Jagger, The Lurkers, the Lurking Season, The Skin Show, Pillowface, Proud Parents and many more, plus a slew of horror screenplays. He is the writer and director of the movies Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood. If he goes more than two days without writing, he becomes very irritable and hard to be around, which is why he’s sent to his desk without supper often.

Find Krist online at his blog or on Facebook and Twitter.

Giveaway

We have a lot of books to giveaway from Krist! We have two audio books, Oak Hollow and Pillowface in one link. In the second link we have a signed print copy of The Lurking Season and two e-books, Vampire of Plainfield and Bigfoot Beach. Winners are chosen random via rafflecopter and are given choice of prize of order pulled. Any questions on raffle, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com

Link for audio book giveaway:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI5/?

Link for print/e-book giveaway:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjMw/?

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