Ronald Kelly’s unique brand of Southern-fried horror include such novels as The Dark’Un, Undertaker’s Moon, Fear, and Hell Hollow, as well short story collections like Cumberland Furnace, Midnight Grinding, The Sick Stuff, and After the Burn. He lives in a backwoods hollow in Brush Creek, Tennessee with his wife and three young’uns.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
I’ve always had a love of horror and the macabre. It began with watching all those great Universal monster movies when I was a kid, then graduated to horror comics and the horror classics (Frankenstein, Dracula, Lovecraft, the stories of Poe, etc.) when I was a teenager. I guess it was when I discovered Stephen King’s work that I realized that it was possible to write horror fiction for plain ol’ folks and actually get published. It took about twelve years of trying, but I finally made it with my first short story sale in 1986 and the publication of my first novel, Hindsight, in 1990.
I reckon that would be Fear. It is a coming-of-age tale about a nine-year-old boy’s journey into a totally evil county, in an attempt to find a way to stop a rampaging snake-critter that is abducting and feeding off the town’s missing children. I set in the post-war 1940s and packed about every nightmarish character and situation I could conjure into its 400+ pages. Undertaker’s Moon (Irish werewolves in a rural Tennessee town) would probably be my second most popular. And the short story collection fans seem to enjoy the most is my post-apocalyptic horror collection, After the Burn.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a Signature Series book for Cemetery Dance and then I’ll start preparing Restless Shadows, the sequel to Hindsight, for publication by Thunderstorm Books. After that I’ll get back to work on A Dark & Bloody Ground for CD… after I pry the unfinished manuscript out of limbo from a crashed hard drive.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
I cut my literary teeth on Stephen King and Richard Matheson, so I still hold both of them in extremely high regards. I just finished King’s 11/22/63 and enjoyed it tremendously. As for newer horror authors, I love to read Brian Keene, John R. Little, Brian Smith, Jesus Gonzalez, Kealan Patrick Burke, and James Newman, to name a few.
Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?
Actually, I enjoy reading and writing both. It seems like the majority of today’s horror authors are taking the blood-and-guts route, while alot of the quieter psychological terror reminiscent of Charles Grant’s work has sort of taken a back seat. My next two volumes of the Essential Ronald Kelly Collection from Thunderstorm are two separate sides of the horror coin. The Dark’Un is partly gore-fest horror and partly rural fantasy. Hindsight, on the other hand, is a psychological thriller set during the Great Depression of the mid-1930s, involving a child with psychic powers and a horrific triple murder in an abandoned tobacco barn. So, you see, I dabble in both blood and shadow.
I reckon folks read my brand of Southern-fried horror fiction because they want to explore something a little different from the normal horror fare that’s out there. I write what I know about – what I grew up with all my life – and I believe it shows in my stories and novels. Plus, I don’t always take myself or my writing all that seriously and it shows in my dark sense of humor. I always loved Joe Lansdale’s work because you could tell, without a doubt, that he was writing from experience. That’s what I strive for in my own fiction.
Recommend a book.
Well, actually, I’d like to recommend two. The first is Steven Shrewsbury’s Hell Billy, just released by Bad Moon Books. It’s a twisted tale of terror that takes place in the years following the American Civil War, which has always been a great interest of mine. The second is Animosity by James Newman. I had the pleasure of reading it before it was published by Necessary Evil Press. If you want to know what a horror writer’s worse nightmare would be, just read this book! It’s ruthless! I’ve been a major fan of Newman since reading Midnight Rain around the time I returned to the horror genre after a ten year hiatus. Frankly, it excited me enough to make me desire to see my own work in print again, so if anyone’s to blame for my second career as a horror author, I’d say ol’ James had a good part in it.
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