Sunday, October 11, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Ronald Kelly


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Ronald.  Welcome to The Gal and thanks again for being part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.  It's a pleasure having you here today.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ronald Kelly:
I was born and bred in the great state of Tennessee and live in a backwoods hollow in the rural town of Brush Creek with my wife, three young'uns, a hyper Jack Russell terrier named Toby and a yellow tomcat named Mister Kit.  I write tales of Southern-fried horror that usually take place in my home state, as well as other states in the South.  I've had 12 novels and eight short story collections published since 1989, as well as numerous audio and e-books.  I am a curmudgeonly old man of 55 and am a Christian and a conservative, something that sometimes doesn't mix well with today's liberal-dominated horror genre.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Ronald Kelly:
1. I was once hit in the head with an axe.  2. I'm distantly kin to Marry Todd Lincoln (Abe's wife).  3. I once accidentally shot myself with a .44 revolver.  4. I was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992 (didn't win, dang it!).  5. I collect Pez dispensers (I have 455 of them).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Ronald Kelly:
Green Eggs and Ham.  I read it by myself when I was 4-years-old.  The first horror book I ever read was Bram Stoker's Dracula at the age of twelve.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Ronald Kelly:
I am rereading Robert McCammon's Boy's Life, which I believe is one of the best coming-of-age novels of all time.  After that, it'll be a toss-up between Jonathan Janz's The Nightmare Girl and Kristopher Rufty's The Vampire of Plainfield.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Ronald Kelly:
I started out wanting to be a comic book artist during my junior year in high school.  Then I started collaborating on comics with a fellow student, who happened to be Lowell Cunningham, who later created the Men in Black comic.  Before long, I was writing and drawing my own comics and, after I took a Creative Writing class during my senior year, I caught the writing bug.  That was 1977.  I've been writing ever since.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Ronald Kelly:
I prefer to write in a private study with oak furniture and ceiling-high bookshelves full of my favorite books...but you can't always have what you want.  My three kids have commandeered all the spare bedrooms, so I write at a desk in a corner of the living room.  It isn't half bad late at night, when everyone's asleep and there's no chaos to contend with.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Ronald Kelly:
I like to listen to music while I write...all kinds.  Everything from Metallica and Guns N' Roses, to bluegrass and classical, to Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Ronald Kelly:
Lately, it has been a long stretch of writer's block, which lasted about five and a half months.  But I've been back at it over the past week and I think I'm back in business again.  Another thing is sustaining an entire novel, which seemed much simpler when I was younger, but seems to be a chore now days.  I much rather write short stories, but then novels are what pay the electric bill.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Ronald Kelly:
Of course, from a Christian viewpoint, the Bible is my favorite book.  But as a writer, I reckon the book that has inspired me the most is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.  It has everything: social commentary, humor, suspense, and more than a few elements of horror.  I read it when I was 14-years-old and it literally changed my life.  
            The authors who have most influenced me are Ray BradburyEdgar Allan PoeStephen KingRichard Matheson, and Robert McCammon.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Ronald Kelly:
A plot and characters that make the reader forget that they're actually reading a book the further they get into it.  If you can pull the reader into your world and keep a fast and even pace, it's more like a life experience instead of reading a book.  And, if you are a horror author, if you can make the reader believe in the monster or the menace - make them feel as though it is actually constructed or living flesh and bone - then you've done your job well.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Ronald Kelly:
Many of my most beloved characters are based on true-life people that I've known and loved in the past.  Cindy Ann in my novel Hindsight was based on my mother at the age of eight-years-old, while Brian Reece in Undertaker's Moon was based on myself during my awkward teenage geek years.  If your characters are based on folks that you grew up with and that you loved and cared about, then that love and respect carries over during the course of the writing process.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Ronald Kelly:
I'd say Jeb Sweeny in Fear.  The character of Jeb was pretty much a mirror-image of how I was at the age of ten-years-old.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Ronald Kelly:
Yes, it's always great to have a nice cover that reflects the spirit of the story inside.  Back when I wrote for Zebra in the 90s, I had no say-so whatsoever with what was on the front cover of my books and, most of the time, the results were frustrating.  These days, I pretty much suggest what I want on the cover and the artist incorporates my suggestions into the artwork without compromising their own particular vision.  It's much more satisfying now than it was back then.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Ronald Kelly:
Mostly to simply be yourself as a writer, be influenced by the authors you enjoy and admire, but don't intimidate them; develop your own style and persona in the genre.  Also, be careful about trying to write over folks heads...simple is better than complicated prose and literary posturing.  You never had to read a sentence written by Ray Bradbury twice to understand what he was attempting to convey.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Ronald Kelly:
I'd say it was probably the rape and dismemberment scene in A Shiny Can of Whup-Ass in my post-apocalyptic horror collection, After the Burn.  It was difficult getting through it, mostly because it was the first time I'd actually let my guard down and allowed myself to write something that brutal and horrifying.  Even now, I find myself wondering 'Did I go a little too far?'

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Ronald Kelly:
I guess it's the sort of horror fiction I write.  My stories have a definite Southern flavor to them, since they're set in the American South, and especially Tennessee in general.  Not many horror writers specialize in Southern horror, but it's always seemed to separate my fiction from the other stories and books folks write.  It's something I embrace every time I sit down at the keyboard...the darkness and depravity of the South is excellent fodder for the story-mill.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Ronald Kelly:
A good title is always a big plus, both in setting the tone of the story that is to be presented and as a good hook in luring the reader into the arena.  Zebra used to change my titles all the time, without warning and without consulting me at all.  That's one reason I chose to publish the Zebra novels with their original titles, and it gave me great satisfaction to finally do so.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Ronald Kelly:
No contest... I've always preferred writing short fiction over novels.  The short story, in my opinion, can hold far more impact than a longer work.  Plus, a good short story has no definite ending...it pretty much leaves everything to the reader's imagination to decide what the outcome of the story and the fate of the characters were.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Ronald Kelly:
I reckon my target audience is anyone who might enjoy and appreciate my brand of Southern-fried horror.  And I don't seem to draw any particular type of reader... I've heard from everyone, from blue-collar workers to college professors.  What would I like readers to take away from my stories?  Hopefully they had a good time with what I had to offer and that it lingers with them for awhile.  And, of course, if they have nightmares from reading my stuff (and some have), then I know that I accomplished my job well.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Ronald Kelly:
Thunderstorm Books will be releasing a hardcover edition of my little Halloween collection, Mister Glow-Bones & Other Halloween Tales, later this month.  Also, Sinister Grin will be releasing three of my most popular novels - Undertaker's MoonFear, and Hell Hollow - in trade paperback editions next year.  Also, I will be finishing my "Secret Writing Project" and have it ready for publication in 2016.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Ronald Kelly:
You can check out my website, as well as my blog, Southern Fried & Horrified.  And, of course, my books, ebooks, and audio books are available through Crossroad Press, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by today, Ronald. :) 


About the author:
Ronald Kelly was born and raised in the hills and hollows of Middle Tennessee.  He became interested in horror as a child, watching the local "Creature Feature" on Saturday nights and "The Big Show" - a Nashville-based TV show that presented every old monster movie ever made - in the afternoons after school.  In high school, his interest turned to horror literature and he read such writers as Poe, Lovecraft, Matheson, and King.  He originally had dreams of becoming a comic book artist and created many of his own super heroes.  But during his junior year, the writing bug hit him and he focused his attention on penning short stories and full-length novels.  To date, he has had twelve novels and eight short fiction collections published.  In 1992, his audio-book, Dark Dixie, was included on the nominating ballot for a Grammy Award.
            He currently lives in Bush Creek, Tennessee, with his wife, Joyce, his two daughters, Reilly and Makenna, and his son, Ryan (Bubba).

About the books:

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Crossroads Press
Publication date: 1.16.2014
Pages: 393

A graveyard feast beneath the summer moon...

The rural town of Old Hickory, Tennessee was a quiet, picturesque community ... until the O'Sheas came to town.
            Becoming the new proprietors of the town's only funeral parlor, with the help of their charming patriarch, Square McManus, the Irish family was wholeheartedly accepted by the local townsfolk.  Then things began to happen.  Strange things ... horrible, unspeakable things ... in the dead of the night.
            The sighting of wolfish beasts congregating around an open grave in the town cemetery.  Frightening changes in several of Old Hickory's less desirable residents.  And the brutal murder and devourment of a varsity football player in the wooded wilderness outside of town.  Soon, what was once concealed in shadow and secrecy was now starkly revealed, in all its ravenous fury, by the silvery light of the full moon.
            All the residents of Old Hickory, as well as the local police, began to fall victim to an unknown evil.  Four individuals - the town nerd, a high school jock, a widowed gunsmith, and a mysterious transient from a distant shore - find themselves facing what could possibly be a hellish lycanthrope from ancient Ireland ... the legendary Arget Bethir ... the Silver Beast.

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Publication date: 10.3.2014
Pages: 93

Halloween is more than a holiday; more than a fun time of candy and costumes for the young.  It is inoculated into our very being at an early age and there it remains.  As we grow old, it grows dormant...but it is still there.  For the lucky ones, such as us, it emerges every year, like a reanimated corpse digging its way out of graveyard earth to shamble across our souls.  And we rejoice... oh, if we are the fortunate ones, we must certainly rejoice.
            So turn these pages and celebrate our heritage.  Blow the dust off the rubber mask in the attic and hang the glow-in-the-dark skeleton upon the door.  Light the hollowed head of the butchered pumpkin and string the faux cobweb from every corner and eave.
            It's Halloween once again.  Shed your adult skin with serpentine glee and walk the blustery, October streets of long years past.  And, most of all, watch out for misplaced steps in the darkness and the things that lurk, unseen, in the shadows in-between.
            Stories included in this collection: Mister Glow-Bones, The Outhouse, Billy's Mask, Pins & Needles, Black Harvest, Pelingrad's Pit, Mister Mack & the Monster Mobile, The Halloween Train, The Candy in the Ditch Gang, Halloweens: Past & Present, Monsters in a Box.

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Publication date: 8.31.2015
Pages: 370

As a young girl, Laura Locke ignored the warnings of local superstition and played among the burnt-out ruins of Magnolia; a Tennessee plantation that had been forcibly occupied by the Union Army and then laid to waste during the bloody Battle of Franklin in 1864.  She had always thought the ghost stories and tall tales to be untrue... until the night when she witnessed it for herself.  High among the blackened columns of the old mansion, upon a balcony with no floor, stood the forlorn specter of Jessica Heller.  Rather than fright or horror, Laura had felt empathy for the lost soul, along with a strange kinship.  She told herself, then and there, hat she would someday own the old house and discover the truth concerning the violent scourge of Magnolia and what had truly become of its lonesome mistress, who had mysteriously vanished without a trace.
            Years later, as a bestselling author of steamy romance novels, Laura's dream of owning the deserted plantation became a reality.  After much construction and remodeling, the old mansion was every bit as majestic as it had been during the prosperous years of the Old South before the devastation of the Civil War.  She thought life for her and her husband, Rick, would be peaceful and idyllic.  But then strange and disturbing occurrences began to take place.  A weeping woman in the garden.  A haggard man digging feverishly by the light of a coal oil lantern.  The horrifying show of a man hanging from the limb of an ancient oak tree.  And, worst of all, a malevolent and destructive poltergeist that seemed particularly resentful of her husband's presence.
            When a world-renowned ghost hunter, a man in search of his ancestral heritage, and two local historians arrive at Magnolia, Laura hopes that the terror that stalks Magnolia will finally be put to rest.  Instead, things begin to spiral out of control, leading toward a violent and bloody confrontation that somehow mirrors the deadly events that took place there over a century before.

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