TIH 458: Ronald Kelly on Fear, Zebra Books, and Storytelling Lessons

TIH 458: Ronald Kelly on Fear, Zebra Books, and Storytelling Lessons

In this podcast Ronald Kelly talks about Fear, Zebra Books, storytelling lessons, and much more. 

About Ronald Kelly

Ronald Kelly is best known as a speculative fiction and “southern-fried” horror writer. His books include Fear, The Undertaker’s Moon, and Southern Fried and Horrified.

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Michael David Wilson 0:07

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is the legendary Ronald Kelly. He is the author of books such as fear, the Undertaker's moon, and most recently his autobiography and writing advice book seven fried and horrified. Now this is a two part conversation. As we've all heard these episodes, listen to them in any order. So by all means, listen to this one now. And then when you're done, go back just one episode to 457. Now in this episode, we talk about Ronald's seminal work fair. We talk about the rise and fall of zebra books. We get into some storytelling lessons Ronald has learned over the years. And a lot, lot more. Now if you liked the show. If you want to keep it alive, if you want to help me in my time a need because I am going through a lot of things right now. I'm having a very difficult time indeed. Then please do consider becoming a patron@patreon.com. Forward slash, This Is Horror. Thank you to our latest podcast patrons. Tom had and booked and seeing a pledge from booked got me pretty excited. So Rob Olsen and Olivia see you cooking up something new? Is Rob about to launch your Patreon with lit reactor. What's going on guys? Because that is very exciting. You are one of the best podcasts of all time, quite frankly. So summit happening, let us know. Well anyway, this was meant to be a little bit of a push for our Patreon starting gushy and overbooked podcast and getting nostalgic there. So before I get carried away, let's have a little bit of an adverb break.

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Michael David Wilson 4:19

Okay, well, here it is. It is Ronald KELLY On This Is Horror. We were speaking before about zebra books. And so I kind of want to talk about the rise and fall of zebra and not only your Zebra, but the horror market at that time, like the massive boom and then, you know, the collapse. So, I mean, could you give us a little bit of a history lesson on that?

Ronald Kelly 4:56

Well, you know, I started writing for zebra in my teens. 90 So I kind of came in on the tail end of the zebras, I kind of missed the skeleton covers by two years, you know, that was what I, when I found out that I was going to write for zebra went out to the local drugstore. And they looked at the zebra books and said, No Z, no skeleton. So that was one thing that was encouraging about it, but then I started writing for him. And it was, you know, it was an isolated process, I mean, you, you would write the novel, and you'd send in a detailed outline, and saber would accept it, or, you know, usually and, and then you write the book and submit it to your agent, and they, you know, get it to zebra, and then they put it in motion, and you just go back to writing a new book. And, and so it was, you know, you know, if it was wasn't like it was today, when you got social media, and you're interacting with a lot of people, it was more of a, you know, isolated process. And if you talk to fellow authors, or, or Raiders, it was, you know, on the phone or through snail mail, because, you know, basically didn't have the internet back then. And so, I was kind of kept in the dark that things were getting kind of you no AP with the horror genre, I thought everything was going fine. Maybe I saw some signs, and I just kind of ignored them, you know, and by the time that fear came around, so yeah, the what I wrote in 1990, I had two books. I had hindsight and pitfall came out in the same year. And then in 1991, I had two books come out zero books, and then it went to one book a year. And then by time fear came out in 1994. I skipped a year that kind of threw me off, because, you know, I'd been steadily you know, releasing a book every year, you know, or maybe two. And then in 1995 I didn't have any book come out. And that kind of concerned me, you know, and I didn't know, I wasn't privy to a lot of the information that the the agents and in some of the bigger writers had, you know, that maybe horror was in trouble. You know, and one of the reasons I think the implosion happened was that a lot of I mean, there was such a hunger for heart and does those early 1990s that the, the horror, mass market horror publishers were trying to feed the frenzy and, and they were hiring writers who really went up to you know, to write and really good horror, they there was a lot of bad horror published that, you know, wasn't you know, up to par and, and the raiders were buying these books and getting burnt and they they started, you know, not buying hard like they were the sales started falling off and, and a lot of the publishers were gravitating toward Collin, horror books, thrillers and suspense books, you know, you know, because horror kind of became a bad word, you know, and, and so the publishers are, they were starting to suffer sales were down on her novels and everything like that, and they started breaking ties with their authors and shutting down their horror lines. And I started seeing this and I thought, well, you know, Zapier is a pretty, you know, strong publisher, I don't think, you know, have anything to worry about. And, and I used to do signings at a used bookstore in Nashville and the lady that owned it, she would, you know, she would come up and say, Are you okay, is have you heard anything from your publisher? You know, I heard that so and so got got cut from their, their hard line and, and, you know, this publisher had stopped, you know, publishing it completely. I told her no, I'm okay. You know, wish I wasn't because

I sold, so blood can and it was gonna come out in 1996. And I had to other novels, I had written that I completed a two book deal. Zebra had hail haula and restless shadows. And then I was waiting for another multi book deal, and zebra wouldn't give me one, they were kind of give me the cold shoulder, you know, I was submitted outlines for books. And they said, Well, we that's not what we want at the time. And that wasn't, that wasn't like zabor, that was pretty much what you know, pitch to them, they, you know, wanting to publish, so I knew something was up. And then I was waiting for the multi book deal time. So we're getting kind of tight with money and all that. And in October of 1996, it was October 6, I remember, you know, very vividly, I got a call from my agent. And I thought, well, here we go, you know, another multi book deal. And he said, he said, I've got news, but it's not good news. And so he told me that seabird had shut down their horn line and, and I no longer be writing for zebra. And that was my job at the time. I mean, that was, that was my full time job, right, and mass market paperbacks. And it just hit me like a gut punch, you know, and it was my own, not a 911, you know, just lost my heart, a career and a matter of a phone call. And so, and it happened to a lot of people, you know, a lot of really good writers, you know, lost their careers during that time, some stuck it out and, and struggled and, and kept home when, you know, horror picked back up, you know, in the early 2000s. You know, and but, you know, like I said before, I I just, you know, I tried different genres couldn't get in. And so I got discouraged and just gave it up for 10 years.

Michael David Wilson 12:13

Yeah. Yeah. And of course, you spoke before about being encouraged to pick it back up from the likes of Brian Keene and James Newman, and Brian Smith. But I know something that we haven't touched on that you've mentioned before, is during that period, there was a reluctance, whatever, to go back to horror fiction because of your religious convictions. And being a Christian. So I mean, can we talk a little about that? Yeah, you know, what,

Ronald Kelly 12:51

uh, when you're a Christian, you believe that God has his hand and all things. And when I lost my heart, right career, I thought that maybe that was, you know, divine intervention. You know, that maybe I shouldn't be writing, or, you know, like, that's why I lost it. So I got heavily back in into my, you know, faith and, and just, you know, that's one reason I just turned my back on horror. I didn't, I didn't write horror. I didn't read any horror for 10 years. And, but, you know, it wasn't satisfying. It didn't, it didn't make me happy. Because, you know, I'm, I'm a horror writer, and, and I love to read hard. And, and so, you know, the whole time, the whole decade that I didn't write or read horror, I mean, it was still in the back of my mind, you know, it, it was, it was a difficult time, you know, and like I say it, I would write little ideas on slips of paper. And, and so I was still, I mean, the ideas were still coming in everything, but I was trying to deny that, you know, that desire to write to myself, because I basically talked myself into thinking that God didn't want me to write this stuff anymore. You know, I've, you know, in a way, I've always had, you know, a kind of a, I wouldn't say it's guilt about writing horror is it's like this hesitation, you know, because, you know, you know, people faith, really, you know, they, it's pretty much thought that, you know, you shouldn't be writing this stuff, you know, but, you know, I always look at it like, you know, you know, my favorite horror novels and stories is, you know, the, the battle between good and evil. So, I don't think that my inspiration for right Horror has anything to do with the devil or evil or anything like that. I think I've been blessed with, you know, the talent to, to storytel. You know, and Right. Right. And storyteller, like my grandmother did. And I don't think it's come from, you know, anything bad. So yeah, you know, that was one thing that made me hesitant about coming back was, you know, I got heavily into church again and everything and, but but, you know, what I realized that wasn't happy not writing in, I found out that people were asking about me and he wanted me to come back, you know, that was the catalyst. You know that to make me think that, you know, maybe I've been mistaken. You know, what I talked myself into that maybe, you know, I would be happier and more fulfilled if I came back and wrote and I was right.

Michael David Wilson 16:05

Yeah. And we've there's, I mean, dilemmas and that initial hesitation, do you have any hard lines in terms of things that you will not write about? Or is any topic, a potential topic to mine for a story, but it just depends on, you know, the way in which it is done?

Ronald Kelly 16:32

Well, I don't like to really write anything that's religiously blasphemous. I don't use the F word. That's just something that's my personal choice. You know, I don't condemn anybody who uses, you know, that sort of language or anything, but it's just a personal choice. And, you know, I don't use the F word. And as far as, I mean, I do write extreme horror, splatter punk stuff. I mean, I do cross some lines sometimes that that may be, you know, I kind of sort of have to disconnect myself from, you know, I wouldn't say this, myself from my faith. But from that mindset, you know, when I write like, extreme horror, like, the stories that were in the central six stuff, and after the burn, has some really brutal stuff in it. And so, yeah, I mean, there's not a whole lot that I'm gonna draw a line out, but there's a few things that I just kind of, told myself, you know, I would never do, I'm not saying, never, you know, do it, because, you know, I've got along, I think I've got a ways to go before I stop writing, you know, permanently, but yeah, I mean, for the most part, you know, if you, if you read the essential six stuff, you said, you can say that I don't pull my punches very, very much in that book. So you know, that's, you know, there's, that's, that's about all there is, you know, what I draw a line with

Michael David Wilson 18:26

Yeah, and if people want to compare the two different aesthetics or modes, in terms of your short stories, then two pieces to look at are of course, a sent your suit stuff, as you mentioned, and then kind of compare that with the Halloween store. I mean, actually, both of them in terms of the titles, they are as advertised, you know exactly what you're going to get, you know, just from that time, or like, I mean, with the Halloween store, I feel like okay, I'm gonna settle down by the fire and I'm going to hear like a good old horror yawn in the best kind of way in a very nostalgic way there's gonna be monsters there's gonna be creepy stuff there's going to be literal lessons and it it does almost reading that one in particular really transport me back to to childhood in a time of innocence. And when there was just infinite possibilities in terms of monsters and ghosts, it's, you know, very exciting kind of gives me a warm feeling.

Ronald Kelly 19:38

Oh, good, you know, that's what I want. I want to put together these little collections like Mr. Glow bones and the Halloween store and seasons. Cravens, it's, it's, you know, that's what I've been cheating for. I'm shaving for yo you know, the fun we had as children and the nostalgic feel and stuff like that. And now there's, you know, their stories in some of these, like, pretty little lanterns in the Halloween store, it is pretty brutal and bloody. But you know, for the most part, they're, you know, they're fun stories and kind of give you a nostalgic feel that, you know, from, you know, things you've experienced before yourself.

Michael David Wilson 20:28

Yeah. And of course, I mean, the essential, the essential safe staff is available now from crossroad press. So, I mean, I guess there was a small period of time where it was out of print after the collapse of silver Shamrock. But thankfully, it was picked up again very quickly.

Ronald Kelly 20:54

Yeah, that was that was kind of a, you know, I've, I've been to seven seven shutdown publisher shutdowns before so that yeah, that was a that was a tough thing to get through, because I had three major books was silver Shamrock. And, but, you know, the heart community was at a point there where, you know, you know, there was a lot of horror publishers that, you know, really opened their arms and invited the silver shamrock authors to, you know, saying, you know, you know, let me say your stuff, you know, we'd love to have you in. So it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Because, you know, the community right now is so welcoming and inclusive, that, you know, what, it wasn't the major disaster that it could have been?

Michael David Wilson 21:50

Yeah. And, I mean, unfortunately, these shutdowns do seem to be part of the business. So I mean, people listening, if they're in this for the long term, then there's a reasonable possibility that it is something that at some point in their career, they will experience. So I mean, given that you've been through seven of these, what are the kinds of things that people can practically do when this happens? I mean, both from a career perspective, but also in terms of taking care of themselves mentally, because I mean, it must be a traumatic and an unpleasant experience.

Ronald Kelly 22:38

It is, I mean, it is, I mean, over. Over time, if you experience it enough, you you learn to adapt to that happening pretty quickly. But my advice would be to, you know, don't put all your eggs in one basket, don't, you know, specifically, submit your work to one publisher, you know, and right now I'm working with several programming work, I'm working with thunderstorm and crossroads. And they have sated and Stygian sky, and d and t. So I've got several publishers that publish different books, man, and, and that kind of gives you you know, if if one publisher goes down, then you're not, you know, you're not hurting so bad. So, you know, if you're a prolific writer, and you're putting out, you know, books, a lot of books and everything, yeah, you know, find different publishers, and that, that will present your work well, and everything and, and that way, you know, if one shuts them, then, you know, you've got several others that you can turn to usually.

Michael David Wilson 23:57

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, given that you're working with a number of different publishers, and given all your experience in the industry, there must be things that you are, and on looking for when you're looking for a new publisher. So, I mean, what are some of those things? What are some of the red flags? And what are some of the deal breakers for you?

Ronald Kelly 24:25

Well, just, I mean, it's always you know, if you're, if you're submitting to a new publisher, you know, indie publisher. I usually wait and see what their track record is with books if they put out too many, or they announce too many writers at one time, that's almost a red flag because I was really easy for a publisher to get really enthusiastic and and just bite off more than they can chew, you know. So You might watch that. Of course, I work with publishers that I mean, they're putting out a lot of good quality books. So that doesn't always apply. But no doubt, if you're going to write, you know, make sure you get a good percentage of royalties. Crossroads, I've worked with crossroads for, like 12 years, and they have one of the best royalty cuts that I know of and, and pay monthly. So I mean, that's a, that's a good I always look at Crossroads is a good example for indie publishers. So but yeah, yeah, just, you know, be aware of what they have to offer. And, and how they present, you know, their, their books and, and, you know, kind of, you know, check them out on social media, see how they, they conductor, their sales on social media, because that can be a big, a big turning point, you know, we've seen, we're, we're publishers have always been as discreet as they could be, you know, social media, and now, you know, everybody has a, has a right to voice, their opinion and everything. But, you know, if you're, if you're got a publishing house, and you've got dozens of riders, you know, depending on, you know, to put out their books and stuff like that, you need to be really careful about, you know, raising the ire of, you know, the horror community and all that, you know, we've seen, so happened several times. So, yeah, I mean, that's a few things you might look for when you were looking for a indie publisher. And same thing goes for, you know, some of the the big pub, New York publishers TV, it's, it's, it's hard to say, you know, because a lot of the New York publishers it's it's all, you know, staff driven and decision somebody, board room and stuff like that. So it's hard, it's hard to see the back the back information with with a big name publisher, like the, but if you're going to concentrate on the love the indie presses, you know, there's things you can look for.

Michael David Wilson 27:49

Yeah. Yeah. And I guess it's good to have a benchmark as it were, like, crossroad, and, I mean, am I right in thinking that? I mean, you said that you've been with them for 12 years, but your friendship with David Nile Wilson that would precede that relationship? Am I right there?

Ronald Kelly 28:12

Yeah. I knew David a little bit before we, you know, I mean, he wrote in the small press magazines. Back when I did yeah, we kind of lost touch after a while, but he contacted me when I came back and and he really helped me get started, you know, get my my work back out there for people to read. And especially when the ebooks became so popular.

Michael David Wilson 28:40

Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, you know, have having someone who's who not only you've known for so long, but yeah, has always been there in the trenches with you might be quite reassuring to.

Ronald Kelly 28:57

It is yeah,

Michael David Wilson 28:58

yeah. Yeah. Well, we've got a few questions on Patreon. And I know that this has been touched on a little bit but let's go for this one from Tracy Kenworth. I wondered coming from a Southern Fried background. What kind of legends or horror stories did you hear about growing up? And how did they influence your writing?

Ronald Kelly 29:30

Well, I gotta say my grandmother told me a love stories and yeah, I've always grown up with like the bill which because Adams tendency is just, you know, not very far from where I live and everything and that's the bill which was always something that from the time I was a child, you know, and I think I touched in southern fried and horrified that my my father would tell me stories of bloody bones. And, and that would be the bill which and almost imagine that they were living in the basement or a house in Nashville. Platon to pull me down into the basement. We were dying. So yeah, I grew up with some old ghost stories and, you know, legends like that, you know, here in Tennessee and and you know I've always loved to read mainly white Wellman and his several John stories. And Ambrose Bierce read a lot of rural kind of civil war stories I've always loved to read him in horse what I, you know, started writing the 90s Joe Lansdale has always loved Joe's work. So, yeah, you know, always the South has, you know, there's always been a story telling ghost story, three, two, you know, upbringing in the south. So, you know, I had that upbringing, you know, where, you know, I heard those stories just about all my life. So yeah, that's, that's when you're in the south, you you grow up here and you know, stuff like that, and, and not necessarily believe in it. But, you know, it's always fun to hear those ghost stories.

Michael David Wilson 31:28

And in terms of your personal experience, have you had something that you would describe as either seeing a ghost or having what might be a supernatural experience or something disquieting? I

Ronald Kelly 31:44

did have one. When I was a younger man, guess I was in my 20s. I love to go to the Civil War battlefields and I went stones river battlefield and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and I was walking down a trail by myself, I'd go by myself, you know. And I walked down this lonesome trail in the backwoods and got this eerie feeling that wasn't alone. It was like, it was strange to describe, but it was like, I felt like there was a massive presence around me almost like, hundreds of men on the side of me going on this trail, like, almost like, you know, troops, you know, walking through the woods, you know, and it got very, you know, very strong, very ominous, you know, when it started frightening me because, you know, I got this feeling, it was almost like this feeling of overcoming your fear, like anticipation, like, I want to almost like me and going into battle and, and I reached this sharp turn in the trail, and I stopped, and I thought, if I go around that being, I'm going to say something that I didn't want to see, you know, and and at that moment, that film just dissipated, it just went away. So you know, that that's the only time I've ever had a an experience where I felt like, maybe there was an otherworldly presence. Maybe, sometimes I believe that what people interpret as ghosts are, like, lingering emotional energy, you know, a certain place, you know, like, certain houses give off this an aura of of a tragedy or a happening that that happened in the past. And you might interpret that as being haunted, but it is, it may merely be some some emotional energy leftover from a certain incident or something like that.

Michael David Wilson 34:06

Yeah, yeah. Good job. You didn't go round that bend.

Ronald Kelly 34:15

will tell him what I'm saying. Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 34:16

yeah. Well, Patrick McDonough would like to know, what is the topic or two that you wish more interviewers asked you about?

Ronald Kelly 34:31

You know, I don't know. A lot of the interviewers want to know more about the right and price process, then, you know, how I got to the end result, you know, I like to talk about, you know, we're, you know, if you read the book, you'll see that I, you know, I like to talk about my upbringing and how I, you know, in, evolved into the past I have a person who writes horror and all that. So that's, that's one thing. And a lot of people don't ask me about my faith and how it affects my heart. Right. And, and so that's, that's something else. So yeah, there's a few things that people don't touch on, you know, very often, normally don't talk about my family, you know, my present family life, but you know, you know, like I said, I'm retiring in November. So I'm looking forward to, to just kind of taking it easy. And, you know, I've got all this stuff in my head that I want to write in the coming years. So that's, that's a good thing.

Michael David Wilson 35:47

Yeah, do you think when you retire, you kind of lay your day out, so that you, like, doing a lot more writing in a kind of structured manner? I mean, what what do you think? What does a typical day look like for you now? And what do you envisage it might look like, once you're retired,

Ronald Kelly 36:09

well, I don't get much writing done. Work, I get up at 330 in the morning, go to work, get off at 130 in the afternoon, which that's a good thing. Sometimes I get a little right and done, you know, when after work, and, but I mostly write on the weekends, you know, I stay up to, you know, two or three o'clock in the morning, right? And, but it's, it's difficult when you know, when you want to, you know, write, you're really fired up about a certain story or a novel or something, you're right, and you have very limited time to do it. And I know, we all go through that, you know, especially everybody who, who works for living and everything, you know, taking care of your family and all that. But, yeah, you know, when I retire, I'm going to try to, you know, structure it, you know, like I did pretty much like I did when I wrote for zebra, you know, get up and have breakfast, and then sit and write for a certain amount. And, you know, I'll probably allocate time to, you know, for social media, and, and, and they will, you know, a lot of people buy books from me directly. So, you know, I spend some time signing books, and shipping them and what about when somebody buys a book directly from me, I always draw on the title page. Do like a detailed illustration, you know, that's kind of sudden become a trademark with? And, yeah, it's kind of difficult when you go to conventions, because, you know, because of time restraints, you know, but I always, you know, everybody seems to be appreciative of the effort, I put into illustrate, you know, putting a hand drawn illustration on the title page, whenever you buy buys a book for me. That's, that's another thing that takes up a lot of my time is the book selling and stuff like that. Yeah. And I'll be able to, you know, you know, I've mostly concentrated on short story writing everything, for the past few years. And this whole, this will give me an opportunity to get into some fully novels again.

Michael David Wilson 38:35

Yeah, yeah. And I'm sure people hearing that if they buy directly from you, they will get, you know, some art a little drawing. So that begs the question, Where do people go to get these books directly from you,

Ronald Kelly 38:54

usually, they just, you can contact me through messenger or, or through Twitter, or Instagram, that's usually where he is now, but I am, I am going to in November, after I retire, I am going to put together an online store so so it makes it a little easier for everybody to order from me and I'll kind of miss the the one on one, one on one contact I have with people because, you know, usually when they contact me, we'll get into a conversation or something about stuff and, you know, but you know, if you know, anybody wants to contact me, you know, through messenger or Twitter or Instagram, you know, shoot me a private message, and I'll be glad to fix you up with some southern fried horror.

Michael David Wilson 39:49

Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, of course, we've been speaking about Southern Fried horror, and this is a term that you've coined So it might be a little bit late in the conversation to ask this but what is Southern Fried hora? What? How do you define that? You know what separates southern Hora from Southern Fried hora.

Ronald Kelly 40:18

It's actually my webmaster when I put together my website. When I came back. Hunter goalie, he, he runs Robert McCammon website, he put one together for me. And he came when he showed me the first page of when it said slowed and ride herd, you know, he coined that phrase. And I said, that sounds good to me, you know. And so, we went with that. That's what I've been calling it from then on. I think Southern Fried horror is, is sort of like, you know, when you think of Southern Fried, you think of comfort food, like, yeah, your gravy and biscuits, and bacon and stuff, like, you know, those southern standard, you know, that mama used to make you and all that. And so, you know, the way I write it's, you know, it's laid back. It's a well, you know, unless you get into the, to extreme stuff, but usually my stuff is, you know, laid back was Daljit. New has a little fun little humor to it. And so I guess that's that's how you would do. The turbine is Southern Southern Fried.

Michael David Wilson 41:37

Yeah, yeah. I certainly, you know, sounds delicious. It's stuff like that.

Bob Pastorella 41:47

Oh, yeah. And so it's all the food that makes you become a diabetic. I'm in the south, and I'm a diabetic. And I do love my Southern Fried chicken fried steak. Oh, yeah.

Michael David Wilson 42:01

Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, one book that, I guess was pivotal in terms of your career, and a book that you've said, was one of the easiest to write in that it just really came out of you with fear. So I mean, today it is that still the easiest story that you've written?

Ronald Kelly 42:26

It? Yeah, it really was. Because I can't tell you where fear came from. I woke up one morning, and it was in my head. And I was thinking, Oh, I was writing for zebra, I actually wanted to do a ghost story. And I was like, a couple of chapters into it. And then I woke up one morning with the story for fear in my head. And so I just sat down and wrote it. And it just it flowed naturally. You know, and I think a lot of it came from my childhood, you know, like, Yeah, whenever anybody asked me, Is there a character that, you know, is the most likely I think Jim Sweeney and fear was how I was as a child, I wasn't necessarily a farm boy. But, you know, I did live in a small rural town and, and we would go out in the woods, you know, and tramped through the woods all day and, and ride our bikes, you know, across county and back, you know, and that's, that's the way things were back then, you know, kids had seemed to have more freedom back then. So I got this idea to write this book set in the 1940s. And, and I just, I can't tell you where it came from. But it turned out to be my most popular novel and, and probably the most profitable one. Saber because me even after the zebra lions shut down. A few years later, they, they reprinted the fair 100. The pinnacle labels. So various figures had several different incarnations. And it's just, if it's the book that everybody gravitates to, you know, whenever anybody asks, you know, which book should I read first always, you know, refer that book to him, because I think that kind of sums up my style of writing and kind of my personality as far as being a Southern writer is.

Michael David Wilson 44:50

Here, we spoke about food and there is literally one passage where you list off Thank you. Bye should be like half a page or something gets like you are not messing about you are really going for it.

Ronald Kelly 45:07

If you've ever been to a southern picnic, church, church dinners, um, you know, I wasn't too far away from the truth. Because I have a, you can sample you know, dozens upon dozens of dishes in some southern opinion, you know some that just that was fun. That was a fun little passage to write because I was thinking of everything I'd ever ate at a church picnic or something.

Bob Pastorella 45:37

You Yeah, it reminds me of the rice festival where they cook every type of Cajun food that you can think of that has rice, which is pretty much all of them. You know, and you pay like, you know, basically five $10 to get in. And you just go around and you eat. And it's just in usually samples, that's all you need to do is and you hit like five or six places you actually eat, I'm done. I need a nap. That kind of, I don't know, it's just southern food. I mean, if you're not, if you're not familiar with it, it's I love getting people from out of town to try, you know, Southern food and the look on their faces when they see that it's just, it's so good. Or like they don't even look good. And it tastes like it's amazing.

Ronald Kelly 46:30

You know, a lot of it has to do with grease and stuff.

Bob Pastorella 46:33

Yeah. Like it's made just just eat it.

Ronald Kelly 46:39

A lot of bacon grease has gone into southern dishes.

Bob Pastorella 46:45

I think the thing that makes fear, like, you know, because a lot of people kind of compare it to, you know, boys life, things like dance dance on its own. There's a lot of heart. In that book. There's a lot of you get us to where we actually give a damn about these characters. And we feel them. And it's characterization on a level. When going back and read it compared to stuff today. It seems like that you had you had a very leisurely time to do that. And you kept an interesting the whole way. So there's nothing that that makes it ever, you know, go into it like, oh, well, I really would hope he would hurry up and get over with this and get back to the story. That is the story. That's the, to me reading that stuff. It's just, it's not the story because the writing so clean and crisp. Just really, really excellent writing there.

Ronald Kelly 47:44

Thank you appreciate that. It's just it was a rare occurrence where a book almost wrote itself. You know, you know, I don't know how much credit I can take for it because it just came naturally. And you know, I love those characters. I am going to write a sequel to Pharaoh. Wow. Oh, that's my, that's my big project when after I retire, I'm gonna sit down and write the sequel. I actually have the last chapter written the last chapters in stone. It's gonna make you cry. Oh, shit,

Bob Pastorella 48:20

I'm getting my credit card out now. Here we go.

Ronald Kelly 48:24

Yeah, you know, I had debated whether I was going to write a sequel to fear and but I came up with a good idea. And I think I think everybody's gonna gonna like it. So yeah, that's gonna happen, for sure.

Michael David Wilson 48:43

Have you spoken about the sequel to fear anywhere else?

Ronald Kelly 48:47

I've kind of mentioned that, you know, vaguely, time or two? Lightly, you know, the closer I get to actually writing it, I kind of open up about it a little bit more. So yeah, I think everybody knows now knows that I'm going to tackle it when I when I have more time, I want to have plenty of time to just you know, and I think it's gonna be a big book I can't see writing a sequel to fear and it not being almost equal to inlaid to the original fear. The original fear when they get over into fear County, it's like, almost like little short stories. It's like each chapter is a different adventure, you know? And so I'm gonna, that's gonna be kind of a challenge to like, you know, when they go back into fear county is going to be and it's gonna there's actually got to be some cosmic horror injected into this storyline because I had I've been writing to The Saga of data that I have my Western horror series and more and more, you know, like cosmic car and other dimensions and stuff are kind of creeping into the storylines. And I can see that happen with, with, with the sequel to fear where it kind of gives you an idea why the county so evil because you know, things, the monsters and the evil people might be coming from a different source and, you know, the sources that we know, here on Earth, so I'm kind of excited to write it, because, you know, there's a lot of possibilities that I can open up, you know, and, and make it to make it its own story, not just, you know, a rehash of fear.

Michael David Wilson 50:49

Yeah, yeah. I mean, is there anything you can tell us about your that the time period that the sequel will be set in or

Ronald Kelly 50:59

it'll, it'll be set in today's time period, I'm not gonna go into it's gonna be a strange book, because it may have the same some of the same characters that was in the other book, which was set in the 40s. But I just won't go into it any further. Because I want everybody to see how I pull that off. I didn't know how I was going to pull it off until you know, just recently, just the past six months, came to me, and I thought, you know, if this had come to me, 10 years earlier, I'd probably written it then. But I get Yeah, all stories, and all books have their their time, you know, I think sometimes you get a germ of an idea for a story or a book, and it doesn't come about for, for years and years. The data, my Western heart series, I had that idea when I was in junior high and, and pitched it several times to to publishers, you know, between then and now. And finally, I kind of mentioned that to Paul go blush, and he wanted to do, you know, they like a limited series, like a five books. So we decided to do that. So say, you can have you can have story ideas for years and years. And but you know, I think it just has to come at the right time.

Michael David Wilson 52:42

Yeah. Yeah. You have any sense as to when we might get to read the sequel to fear? I mean, obviously, everyone's now like trust in their credit cards that the computer in the book will just manifest in front of them. But I'm not sure that that's how it works.

Ronald Kelly 53:05

Well, your Crossroads will be putting it out. And probably thunderstorm be doing the limited. So if I start writing out in November, and I get it done, maybe March, I'd say we'll have it next summer, next summer, summer 2023. So probably not in time for Arthur Kahn. But who knows. I mean, you know, I work with Crossroads press. They're very fast. I mean, usually when I want to put out a little collection or something we can have it out in two months after I put it together. And so I would say you know, if I get it done early, there's a very real possibility that might happen to Arthur Kahn, but I'm not gonna promise that stone. So I guess we'll have to wait and see. It depends on the middle of the book. I've got the first part of the book kind of laid out. Solid, but it's it's when they get into fear County and they encountered the different horrors and everything that's that's when I'm gonna have to really brainstorm and I'm hoping that comes as easily as the first book.

Michael David Wilson 54:25

Yeah, yeah. And there's something special about it coming out on almost society, if anniversary. To

Ronald Kelly 54:36

right, that would be nice.

Michael David Wilson 54:38

Yeah, yeah. But I mean, as you said, Fear just kind of came to you then. I mean, I would assume there was little in the way of planning you know, it was what use some people term more as pantsing

Ronald Kelly 54:56

view. It was because I never Uh, you know, zebra did require you to do a outline, to submit an outline, you know, and I just kind of shift gears, you know, they they were expecting that ghost story and I've kind of shifted gears so I had to take up muster the book. And and really, when I got to the end the fear wasn't a whole lot. The way it was the the outline that I submitted to my agent to zebra, but, but they were very pleased with it in. And so I was I but yeah, it's funny because there's I've written some books where you start out thanking the the books gotta go a certain way and it takes a sharp turn. Yeah, the site. That's why it was was 12 gauge. It started out as you know, like a serial killer dark crime book, and it just got really brutal and bloody. Yeah. It took it took a complete left turn. And but I mean, it's, yeah, a lot of people love, you know, playoff games. And so, yeah, you can always say, a books, you know, sit in stone when you when you first come up with it, because it, you know, circumstances, you know, sometimes your characters, you, you'll start writing a character, and then your character will evolve during the writing process. And, and it will shift the whole the whole plot of the story or the dynamic of it. And, and, and that's, that's just a weird thing that happens sometimes. Sometimes, you have a minor character, and they may end up becoming a major character. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 56:55

Yeah. Yeah, there's so many times where I've heard about authors who were required to send an outline to the publisher. And so of course, they did, because they're obligated to, but then the actual book that they submit, there's very little, if any resemblance to the outline, it's like, Well, you got an outline, you also got a book. And they're not really the same thing here. Right.

Ronald Kelly 57:26

The way you know, a lot of the mass markets publishing, when I started out was almost the books were formula. They was written by a formula, you know, it's the way the Hallmark movies are now we're, you know, the, the person, you know, gets fired from their job, they go to a small town, they they meet a new love, and then their boyfriend or girlfriend come, you know, shows up in the middle of the movie. And yeah, you know, my wife doesn't like me to talk about she thinks I'm taking making fun of her movies, when when I point out that the formula that they use, and you're fine, but that's, that's, that's why Zapier kind of wanted, they wanted, you know, the books laid out a certain way. And I mean, it's not like it is today, we're, you know, like, a lot of the books like, like, Paul Trembley is new when the pallbearers club, the way it's laid out. You know, it's, it's, it's incredible. And, you know, like House of Leaves, you know, House of Leaves. I mean, I think, you know, writers have have more freedom nowadays to, to, you know, do, you know, take chances in this stuff like that, where you didn't, you know, years and years ago. So, yeah, I know, Eric LaRocco, you know, but he wrote that wonderful novella, he wrote, I mean, there was a lot of, you know, like, emails and stuff, the way it was written and everything. And that's just, you know, it's just a different way of telling the story, you know, I mean, it's not, I don't think it's gimmicky or anything like that. It's just, it's a unique way to convey a story where, you know, it really keeps the, the readers interested in, you know, like the

Bob Pastorella 59:33

oh, I mean, Dracula was basically letters and newspaper clippings, you know, anytime people suck about, you know, anything that's out of the ordinary, it's like, oh, I don't want to read that. It's a bunch of emails. I'm like, do you like Dracula? I think it's very much like, written today. It'd be a bunch of emails. Where but yeah,

Ronald Kelly 59:57

or Twitter, a bunch of Twitter posts. posters of Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 1:00:01

You know, and and that's in public domain if someone rewrote Dracula and did it as Twitter post? Yeah, that it was public. Oh, that'd be fucking wild. It would be insane.

Michael David Wilson 1:00:15

You know, and it's probably someone listening to this. I'm gonna do it. Why not?

Bob Pastorella 1:00:22

Why not? Yeah, that would be cool. I'd probably read it.

Michael David Wilson 1:00:29

As long as that person who's gonna do it isn't me, because there is part of me that's like, could be done. It's like, No, you got enough bloody projects on the go at the moment. Don't don't write, rewriting

Bob Pastorella 1:00:44

Canada's tweet. I think two out of the three of us in this conversation, at least three of us thinking this could actually work.

Ronald Kelly 1:00:52

Yeah, yeah. crossbelt. Man, we missed

Michael David Wilson 1:00:55

it. We're all going to die immediately. We've all got different skins like competing. Oh, my goodness. Well, before you go, tell us a little bit about the cellar door on Elkins Avenue.

Ronald Kelly 1:01:17

Oh, yeah. Well, my, it was a little house, old house and my bedroom was right next to a black door. And that was like, almost like, the gate to hell. When I was a little boy, because you know, as far as I know, my father never went down into the cellar. And whenever he did, I mean, he was just like a black tunnel going down. I mean, there was one light bulb and maybe a 40 watt light bulb. And so I mean, I think I think there was like a boiler or furnace or something down there. But, you know, when my parents will tell me, you know, the, the stories of The Man with the Golden arm and the bail witch and bloody bones and, and I go to sleep at night, and that here's maybe a mouse or something scratching on the, in the wall or something like that, I think. Here comes the bell witch and bloody bones in the garden. He lost his golden arm that is coming up the stairs to drag me down in there. Yeah. So, you know, that was that was my imagination, you know, going full force, you know, five or six years olds. And I think I, you know, in the book, I kind of, you know, when we moved from the city, and we moved out in the country, I always wondered, you know, were they still down in the basement, you know, you know, kind of wondered where I was and, and maybe they was down there playing cards? Loud, so because I didn't have money to kidnap and drag them to the basement.

Michael David Wilson 1:03:12

Yeah, yeah. I mean it for yours. Like every kind of aspect of your childhood and of course, even in the womb, and the environment. It's just yeah, you write in horror was an inevitability. It wasn't even a decision. Like everything aligned.

Ronald Kelly 1:03:34

Yeah, when I started writing horror, I'm sure mind a whole lot of childhood fears and experiences like that. Because it just even now when I'm writing these little short stories for these little collections, it's like, you know, I think back to my childhood and, you know, figures and in being scared of certain things and everything, come back to me. So, yeah, I'd say I draw from that. Well, quite a quite a bit.

Michael David Wilson 1:04:06

Yeah. Yeah. And, of course, at the beginning, at a conversation, we spoke quite a lot about grandmama Spicer and her storytelling, and you know, how that really ignited the imagination. But what I wondered is when you became a teenager, and you then had aspirations to become a writer, how did the way that you received her storytelling, change and what things do you think listening to her stories taught you about telling stories for yourself?

Ronald Kelly 1:04:47

Well, it's just you know, most writers when they they start writing, they want to be very eloquent and, and use a lot of big words. I never did that. I I always want to write, like, I'm writing for the common man, you know, the sub that the farmer, the blue collar worker, the, the mechanic down at the garage to sit down, enjoy and not have to worry about getting Webster's Dictionary out and trying to figure out what, you know, it's like, you know, when I was a teenager, I'd read Love craft and poem and it was hard to digest. Very, you know, the, some of the a lot of the language was hard to digest. And, you know, I loved reading it, but it was, it wasn't easy going a lot of times. And so I told myself when I was started writing that, you know, I want to write a certain way where, you know, anybody could enjoy it, you know, not not have to be a college English professor to get what I'm trying to convey.

Michael David Wilson 1:06:04

Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And well, I think you're, you're right, English, clear proof. That has been a key if then if I think about, you know, kind of straight shooting yawns from seven Hora Ryan, as I mean, you and Joe R. Lansdale, are the two that immediately come to mind.

Ronald Kelly 1:06:28

Was this good company to be in?

Michael David Wilson 1:06:32

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, what advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

Ronald Kelly 1:06:42

Not be impatient. Be ready to, you know, stick in there for the long haul. Don't think you're gonna get rich. Yeah, I remember I would, I would sit in class and draw diagrams of the mansion that having a two or three years, you know, and you know, that that never came to pass. But it maybe never will. But, you know, you know, if you're, if you're going to be a writer, you've been there, you know, so many movies and TV shows make writers out to be, you know, well, you're, you're not truly a writer, unless you're wildly successful. And you're rich. And if, like I said, you know, mentioned the Hallmark movies. Well, that's, that's a big, common theme among them. Every writer I've ever seen on one of those movies, you know, had bestsellers and, and stuff like that. And it's just, you know, that's not the way writing is, you know, you've got to you got to try to have patience, you got to have a thick skin. Don't Don't beat yourself up when, when you get a rejection. I mean, everybody gets rejections. I, I got, you know, I submitted to the horror show, David Silver's horror show back in the late 80s. You know, just love just love that magazine wanted to get into it submitted 75 or 80 stories never did get one accepted. So, but I didn't I didn't stop you know, I just kept going, kept going. And and that's what you have to do. You just got to dig in. And if you want it bad enough, you can get it if you if you stick it out. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:08:38

Yeah, I think that's a fantastic lesson for anyone and anything, you know, just that perseverance and sticking it out. What should you be kinder to yourself about?

Ronald Kelly 1:08:53

Not be so critical. I'm more critical my artwork, when I do our work, I'm more critical of that than I am with my writing right now. I've gotten to the point my writing where I'm very comfortable with it and you know, I'm not, you know, agonizing over stuff like I used to, I'd say, Maybe I need to just kind of relax and not not agonize so much about, you know, what I'm going to if, if what I write next is going to be popular or anything like that, you know, all writers want that, you know, if you have a good selling book, and you want the next one to do just as well, well, you can always have I can always have a fear, you know, it's that comes very, you know, very rarely, so I'm not right now I'm not worried about you know, So as Joe Lansdale says, You're the first reader if you know, don't worry about you know what everybody else wants you to write you write it and if you enjoy it and you know others will probably enjoy it to you.

Michael David Wilson 1:10:13

Yeah. Yeah, that's slack. oh, where can our listeners connect with you?

Ronald Kelly 1:10:23

You can find me my website, Ronald kelly.com. You can get on there and on Facebook is Ronald Kelly. I'm on Twitter is wrong Kelly for I don't know why I'm number four. But that's what they gave me but, and I'm on Instagram is Dixie darken. And you can go you can subscribe to my substack newsletter I just put out fear county Chronicle and then get all the news of you know, books this works in progress and books that's going to be released in in sometimes I put in your classic story or a news story and and I did a photo spread and a story on the scares that cares that I just went to so. So go, you know, subscribe to my newsletter, you can always go on Facebook or Twitter and find you know, where I have a sudden where you can subscribe, right? Subscribe. So yeah, there's several places to search me out. And when I get the downline bookstore, you know, you can get on there and order some books or you can you know, just get in touch with me privately, and and they'll be glad to get some books to you. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:11:56

All right. Well, thank you for being so generous with your time this evening and Canton with us.

Ronald Kelly 1:12:03

I appreciate it. appreciate y'all having me on there. Because, like I said, I've been listening to y'all for a long time. And it was just a real honor to come on here and talk to you.

Michael David Wilson 1:12:15

Well, the pleasure is last. And listeners must go and pick up a copy of southern fried and horrified you're gonna get loads more stories like this conversation in terms of Ronald's life, and you're gonna get a load of writing advice as well. Things on editing things on suspension of disbelief, dialogue, rejection, character description that a hell of a lot of good stuff in there. So I do implore people to pick it up. And as we said before, I mean, also that cover, I mean, goddamn, if you're gonna have you might as well have that. I mean, just, you know, if you if you're listening and you haven't seen it, then then just Google it. Have a look at that cover. Obviously, if you're driving, wait until you do Google it at some point. Yeah, phenomenal.

Ronald Kelly 1:13:22

I think that covers gonna be on my phone till they shoveled dirt over my face.

Michael David Wilson 1:13:26

Yeah, yeah. Anything

Ronald Kelly 1:13:30

other than, you know, having that this wallpaper? wallpaper on my phone?

Michael David Wilson 1:13:35

Yeah, yeah. Amazing. Well, do you have any final thoughts to leave our listeners with

Ronald Kelly 1:13:47

just pre shared, but everybody check it out my work and support me all these years. Recently, a lot of people who read me back in the 80s and 90s have gotten in touch with me and that's been that's meant a lot to me and new fans. I mean, just in the last year may have met so many new people over social media and conventions. And I'm just very grateful Grateful and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to write in this genre and you know, continue to write you know you know, I'm getting old and new years but I'm my you know, my imagination still going full force and, and I've got many more books to offer. So, thanks to everybody for you know, for their support and love in my books.

Michael David Wilson 1:15:00

Thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror with Ronald Kelley. Join us again next time for the first part of the conversation with Gemma are more celebrating the release of her new book full immersion. Now if you want to get that ahead of the crowd if you want every episode ahead of the crowd, if you want to support me, because I am going through a hell of a time right now. Wish I could get into it but I can't then become a patron on patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. You get early bird access to each and every episode. You get to submit questions to each and every guest. You get to patrons, their new q&a sessions. You get story on box the horror podcast on the craft of writing the video cast on camera off record and you can become a member of the writers forum on Discord. Lots of great reasons to become a patreon. Check it out patreon.com forward slash This is hora. Okay before I wrap up a little bit of an advert break.

RJ Bayley 1:16:18

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Bob Pastorella 1:16:26

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Michael David Wilson 1:17:36

At about does it for another episode of This Is Horror. But after our conversation with Jason Parchin, which you'll hear shortly, particularly if you're a patron on patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Join us today we have decided to join Tik Tok I don't really know what I'm doing over there yet but I've taken the opportunity to share some pretty cool sound bites some clips from the podcast so if you'd like a little bit of goodness a little bit of an audio treat for your ear for a 60 seconds or so. Then follow us on tick tock can't believe I'm saying that but this is what's happening in 2022 We are simply This Is Horror Podcast on Tik Tok. Of course you can also follow us on Twitter and on Instagram so whatever your social media poison and it can be poison is a force for good or a force for bad then this is alright is there and without said I will see you in the next episode with camera more. But until then, take care yourselves. Be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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