TIH 523: Keith Rosson on Fever House, Writing Violence, and Writing Routine

TIH 523 Keith Rosson on Fever House, Writing Violence, and Writing Routine

In this podcast, Keith Rosson talks about Fever House, writing violence, his writing routine, and much more.

About Keith Rosson

Keith Rosson is the author of four novels and a story collection, the most recent being the literary horror/crime novel Fever House (Random House, 2023).

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

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 the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today we are chatting with Keith Rosson about his brand new novel fever house amongst many other topics. And in addition to fever house, Keef is the author of the novel Smoke city, road seven, and the mercy of the tide, as well as the Shirley Jackson award winning story collection, folk songs for trauma surgeons. Now, this is a second time we've spoken to Keith and if you want to listen to our first conversation for early life lessons and all that good stuff, dude, check out episodes 435 and 436. Now before we get into the conversation, it is time for a quick advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 2:39

Okay, with that said, here it is. It is Keith Rosson on This Is Horror. Keith, welcome back to This Is Horror. I'm so glad to be here. Thank you. So the last time we spoke to you, it was about 18 months ago. So you just got the Random House deal. So I'm wondering, what have been some of the biggest changes for you both personally and professionally since we last spoke?

Keith Rosson 3:14

I mean, I think one of the big ones is Yeah, fever house. My first Random House book came out two weeks ago. And I think the biggest thing for me was just recognizing and being profoundly grateful for how different just the frightening and beastly capabilities of big publishing is, you know, I did four books on Meerkat and three novels and a story collection. And the publisher Tricia reeks just is incredible, you know, and she just hustles or ass off so hard for her writers. And at the same time, just, we had reached kind of a spot with some of the books where they the capabilities just weren't the same, you know what I mean? Of like, getting a book out. And so now seeing like, fever house in all of these places across the country is just so insane and different, you know? And it's just, it's one of those weird, almost like luxuries is just the the terrifying distribution of Big Five, you know. So that's a big one, just the sheer numbers of of seeing the book everywhere, you know. And, I've had, I've made the leap from being a stay at home dad to being the breadwinner of the family, you know, and that was a massive and awesome shift. So now I get to sit on my ass almost all the time, you know, and just try to come up with these stories.

Michael David Wilson 5:00

Yeah, well, I mean, I know last time when you were talking about writing fever house you said you know as a stay at home dad, you were literally writing the book any time where your kids had downtime so be that school or napping or any pocket in the day. So I, I'm wondering, What does your writing routine look like now? And indeed, what does a typical working day look like for you now?

Keith Rosson 5:29

Oh, man, I am in the lap of luxury. Now I right next to the washer and dryer down in the basement. And there's the stairwell like right next to it. So it's just bom bom, bom, bom, bom bom whenever somebody comes down. But so yeah, it's essentially like I wrote a lot of fever house in my kid's bedroom while she was at school. And so now, I've kind of graduated down to my own little pocket in the basement of space. And it's really just like, summer has been a little bit more challenging, because things are just fluid and shit. But it's going to be like, take the kids to school, work, pick them up, work for a little bit longer. And then you know, 430 be done and spend time with them and stuff. So it's like a full time job now, you know? Yeah. And the goal is to do a book a year with Random House. So

Michael David Wilson 6:28

yeah. And what does I guess the division of writing versus writing adjacent tasks look like in your day? Because I know when we were speaking to Jack malema, Josh Malerman it no joke, man. Fucking crazy military proud. We were talking to Josh Malerman he posited this theory that, you know, a lot of working writers even if you're doing it full time, actually writing is about three to four hours, you said that's what he's kind of doing. If you look at Stephen King, on writing, it's pretty much the morning is writing and then after that, writing a JSON. So I'm wondering that what does that look like for you? Is it different? Are you about to shift all over my lemons theory? So

Keith Rosson 7:26

I think he's, I think that's a good number. I'm also like, you're also either writing or like revising, or editing, you know, and I find that my, my stomach for doing that sort of stuff. Is is much more it has a much longer tail, you know what I mean? I can do like, revising, you know, for six or seven hours, but when it comes to just if I'm generating something new then yeah, it's like your brain gets tired, you know? Yeah. And you start writing poor I start writing poorly. Much longer than that, you know. But yeah, when it comes to like editing or or doing you know, a line and attorney that stuff like I can go like that's that should is so fun. Like I love the minutia of that like, just getting things a little bit better and tweaking it just a little bit.

Michael David Wilson 8:18

Yeah, yeah, no, I totally agree with you that because I'm going through the final edits of Yeah, yeah. Friday 13th of October house of bad Yes. Yeah, I'm very excited about that. But right now I'm going through the final round of edits so for that, I can just do that for the whole day but if it was like you say if it was right in something completely new and fresh, particularly the first draft it's like I mean, you know that those times where I've attempted to write for the full day but it's just yeah, probably diminishing returns after there's three or four hours so it just Yeah, it feels more time effective rather than me to try and struggle to write for the second half be like okay you're done for the day there's there's gonna be a tomorrow if there's not a tomorrow you fucking dead anyway so

Keith Rosson 9:21

the profound amount of lag writing adjacent shit you know, like Yeah, emails contracts coming up with by lines for this or that, you know, like you're you're constantly having to do all these little addendums to things to and that just takes up a lot of time too. It's a fucking awesome problem to have but it takes a lot

Michael David Wilson 9:42

yeah, you know, yeah, now I'm pretty useless that email because you know, if I've got a choice between writing or emailing then yeah, like, most of the time when I'm emailing is when I want to watch pro wrestling because sometimes right I can I can justify what I'm seeing forever wrestling for hours, if I'm doing something else rounds the kind of the way I do it. But let's talk then, specifically about fever house. And as I said, our fair, I mean, this is one of the craziest books of the year. It is difficult to categorize. I mean, it's both crime and its horror, but in melding the two, it almost becomes neither and both so I don't even know where we begin, but I feel the most obvious point is the hand, the hand that sends people fucking crazy. So when did you come up with the idea, the hand,

Keith Rosson 10:48

you know, I seriously. I, the way I write a book, and it's every single one of my books, I get like four or five, disparate things that I'm into, and then I just jam them all together, and then figure out how to smooth out the scenes of them plot wise. So there are like a couple things that I was just so enamored with. One of them was this leg breaker character name Hutch Holtz, who's this big, kind of hulking beast of a dude with a caved in forehead from fucked up and talk to the wrong guys. And so he was a character that kept coming up. And like all these crime novels I was trying to write. And I just cannot write straight, like straight genre stuff. I can't do like literary fiction, I can't do crime stuff. It's a lot of times, I can't even do straight horror stuff. Like it has to be this kind of merging of the, all these different things, you know. And so it was like him, it was this image of this character named Nick coffin, who's this wiry like 25 year old, running through the rain with just limb like he's very, like some kind of stick, figure limbed kid just running along. And the notion of this severed hand that just drives anyone mad that gets in its proximity for any amount of time. And so it's just those three kernels that I just kind of rift on, you know, and honestly, the first 50 pages of fever house where it's Hutch Holtz and his buddy, Tim. And they're going to do like collections for their boss, their debt collectors, you know, criminal debt collectors, that is all like from another crime novel that never took off the ground. And then when I put the hand in there, shit started connecting, you know, yeah, but I don't know where any of that comes from. It's just, I just pick like five or six things that I want to write about, and I think will be interesting. And if things go, Well, each chapter, kind of the next chapter reveals itself, you know, and when that stops happening, then I've lost the thread. And I got to backtrack and see where I'm wrong. But that should just comes organically. I just pick, you know, number of stations and government Black Ops and just, you just smoosh it all together.

Michael David Wilson 13:07

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, that hand instantly becomes iconic, it instantly becomes a talking point. And, yeah, there, there are some novels where, if you're describing it to a friend, or you're trying to like, get them to remember it, it's like, what where do you start, but if you're just letting along with the fact of hand that sends people mad, that that's it. And

Keith Rosson 13:36

that's, that's so cool. Because otherwise, this is such a pain, evil book to describe, because it's like 450 pages. There's like six main characters. There's all these like tangential asides with like, articles, and like government transcripts and stuff like that. So it's like, there's a lot going on in it, but you distill it down to the hand, and people are like, oh, yeah, that one, right. Totally.

Michael David Wilson 14:02

Yeah. Yeah, I'm very, because there are all these elements. This conversation we're having is going to go back and forth. It is not going to be linear. This so many aspects, but I mean, talking about government agencies. I mean, did you put a lot of research into that? And was it a little risky? Were you like googling or researching stuff and thinking enough? I can hear up doing this?

Keith Rosson 14:33

Yeah, no, I wasn't worried. I mean, I essentially the like, the majority, the biggest amount of research went into structuring how they structured transcripts. You know, it's like a very specific, like paragraph breaks and stuff like that, you know, and I just love minutia like that. Like if you put some of that in a book or a newspaper article or something in a book like I I just I love those little add ons, you know. But really, that's just again, you just kind of wing it. It's, there's this satire writer who's the Southern writer who's so funny. And his name is George Singleton. And he has this theory where it's like, you just learn enough shit to like, convince people and then let it float out of your head. You know what I mean? So that's really what I did is I just learned like enough to hopefully convince people. And I called it good, you know?

Michael David Wilson 15:32

Yeah, no, I think even if you learn so much more, I think when it comes to actually putting it into the book, you don't want to do an info dump. You don't want to over explain, you've got these little lines to share. Okay, I think this guy knows what he's talking about. But yeah, if you overindulge, then even is going to bore the reader. Or it might look like you're overcompensating, like, does he really know about this?

Keith Rosson 16:04

Which I definitely have a tendency to, like, I love all the minutia of that stuff. So I definitely have a tendency to overwrite. And then either I or my editors, you know, will be like, scaled back a little bit, buddy, you know?

Michael David Wilson 16:19

Yeah. Yeah. Related certainly didn't come across that you overwrite to a point where I'm like, I don't know if Keith now. So instead of getting about No, there was, there was never any doubt. So

Keith Rosson 16:31


Michael David Wilson 16:33

I mean, I know that you said before that for this novel, you actually added an extra 30,000 words. And I believe this was also at the point where you knew that there was going to be a sequel. So I want to know, I want to get kind of somebody's inside scoop. What have we had added that wasn't in the original version? And I suppose. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, let's go with that. This is

Keith Rosson 17:06

you got to put so many spoilers on this video. Okay. So yeah, a lot of it was, um, my editor wanted more of Samantha Wiles, his backstory. Because otherwise, she just felt like a unknown kind of bullet, you know what I mean, she just like, killed people that needed to be killed. And that was it. And there was no real history to her. So we got kind of her history, and how she feels about other characters in the book and her like twisted relationship with the head of this like Black Ops agency. And then my editor wanted more time in the fever house once shit really started going with the hand and the other remnants. She wanted more time spent in the madness, that was Portland, as things really started, started heating up. So those were the two big ones or a few other like, things here and there. Like, I think that Rolling Stone article with the band, the blank letters, that was a new edition and stuff like that. But um, those were the two big ones. And if you haven't read the book yet, those are both really cool parts.

Michael David Wilson 18:20

So yeah, yeah. I hope there will be people who haven't read the book. And so you know, we're doing this we're doing this dance where we want to get some of the meat in the inside scoop, but we also don't want to render this entire endeavor pointless. And it's like, a book so yeah, but I, I feel that like, you know, that there's so many themes and ingredients that even if we give a little bit away, like people are going to want to read it for the journey and think, Well, how on earth did you did you pull this off? And, and yeah, yeah, that's, that's reflective of all of your stories. Really. There's never one where it like simply toes the line with just this one storyline, or this one element, and I mean, you even if we think we're going to get like almost a straight kind of human horror story towards the end, or like, kind of 75% You'll throw this absolute curveball, and it's late surprise. Lee, including this sub genre, which, you know, I'm talking about, but I'm reluctant to, to name names.

Keith Rosson 19:48

I mean, you can other other interviews have absolutely named it so yeah, it's it's okay if you want to and don't want to but yeah, I think that that's like going back to I want to be a literary author so bad and I love the like, focus on characterization, and sentence structure and language itself that comes with a lot of literary fiction. But I grew up on like, Stephen King and punk rock, and you know, all that shit. And so I just have this, like, I'm incapable of not putting, like, a ghost, or a giant worm or some shit into my stuff, you know, like, I just can't do it. So you just you, you lead them this way. And then at the end, you veer if you're right.

Michael David Wilson 20:35

Yeah, well, I'm going to defer to Bob on this one. Do you think? How far should we go in terms of spoilers and what people have come in because I'm pretty averse to soilless.

Bob Pastorella 20:48

In I mean, it's, it's, I've actually explained it the book to people to you know, try to get them interested in it, and have given away you know, something, just a peek. And I'm, like, na in this, this is kind of a spoiler, but it's not really going to spoil anything. It's just going to pique your interest. And I said, you know, so, but a lot of people have stopped me at you know, and then they found a severed hand. And I've had several people when I was at, when I was at killer con, I was explained to book. And so severed hand. I said, so you know, it kind of gave, you know, the backstory. And as soon as I said severed hand, they're like, stop right there. I'm buying this book. I'm like, Oh, just you'd like to separate books, you know, I'm already getting an idea where this is going, and I'm interested in reading it. So, but there's, to me, there's so many different levels, like what Michael was saying. It's like, there's, it's like, There's levels here. And it's like, every time you turn the page is because of that characterization. And the way the pacing goes, and and you take time, and you slow down and get into you know, like each character is kind of little backstory there. And you you make it have an emotional impact. That it's like, Damn, man, it's like I can take I'm taking lessons from this. Yeah, I appreciate

Keith Rosson 22:13

it. But also still, hopefully reading like, something fast paced. You know what I mean? Oh, my God. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 22:20

Yeah, that's I'm saying, it's even when it even when it comes down. It's like, it's still ramps up. It's like, oh, wow, we're learning more about this character. And it's like, you know, to me, it's like, when you have that emotional investment, it makes you want to read it more, you know, but yeah, I mean, you know, I think that if you want to, you know, Michael, if you want to go down that avenue a little bit, then I wouldn't, I think that you probably be able to peek. You would pique interest rather than defuse it. So it's strictly up to you, man, you brought it up throwing it back to your beautiful.

Keith Rosson 22:57

No pressure, no pressure.

Michael David Wilson 23:00

We might jump into that momentarily, but because you mentioned pacing, I mean, I think he even though it is a meaty book, and there's so much in it. A lot of these chapters are very succinct and short. And so I think that kind of lends itself to a naturally fast pace anyway. And even the longer captors, just the way that they're structured, and the writing style it, it does seem like, you know, a quick book in the best possible way.

Keith Rosson 23:34

Yeah, and that was I really, like, I don't know how much of that was intentional, like, I just had this idea of just like, go, go, go, go, go, you know, just keeping it like pacing, like a thriller, is what I was aiming for, you know, where there's just continually another surprise, every, you know, a couple pages, like some new thing develops, you know. And, you know, again, spoiler, but like, the entire book takes place over maybe, like 30 hours or so, you know what I mean? Like, it's not like a big, expansive stretch of time. But there's just enough characters, you know, that you're able to like kind of bounce back and forth to see how they're working with and against each other in that small crystallize and you know, period of time.

Michael David Wilson 24:28

Yeah. It's fun. Yeah. Yeah. And I know that this was originally part of a two book deal. But when we spoke to you last year, the other book was not a sequel. In fact, it was a 1970s vampire story set in Vietnam. So what's happening? Are we still seeing that book has it now turned into a three book deal, I guess? Yeah, like they added, I'm not sure how it works. Did they then say here's an agenda? I'm surprised that book?

Keith Rosson 25:07

No, they actually, when I talked with my editor Caitlin McKenna at Random House, she actually was like, the first thing she said was, I don't have calls with authors like this unless I'm willing to make a deal. So I want to I want to buy this book, which is just like a fucking amazing thing to hear, you know, I mean, after like, really hard at this for so long. And then she said, What do you want to do? Because she made it clear, like she wanted a sequel, but she was like, What do you want to do? Do you think you can do that? Are you interested in doing doing that? And honestly, I was just like, you know, I'm, this is now a career. Yeah. Like, I have a career as a writer. And I'm like, if you I will fucking write that. Of course, I'll write a sequel. If you want a sequel. I'll do it. You know what I mean. And so I think the plan is right now. And nothing is written in stone like, but I have to finish the sequel first. And once that is approved, which should hopefully be in September, then we broker another two book deal, and one of those will be the vampire book. And then I don't know what the I have ideas for the second one of the second book deal, you know, but I don't want to I'm not ready to talk about it yet. Yeah. So I got the next two books planned out after the fever. How SQL?

Michael David Wilson 26:32

Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, you never know. She might read the 1970s vampire one and be like, we're going for a sequel on this.

Keith Rosson 26:41

Yeah, she's reddish. They want to they want to publish it. Yeah, that's that. So. But it's not

Michael David Wilson 26:47

the sequel first. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's a great start. And I imagine that she had to have read it because Yeah. Last time we spoke, you were something like 60,000 words deep into it. So

Keith Rosson 27:02

yeah. Yep. Yeah. So the SQL. Like I said, I've been working on it, since last August. And then also with those 30,000 words of revision of fever house in between. Yeah. So I've been working on SQL. And during this last run through, and we're looking at a release date of next summer, and it's called the devil by name. And it takes place five years after the end of fever house. Oh.

Michael David Wilson 27:40

And, I mean, so it's an interesting process, because you started, and indeed, you completed like, original drafts when there was no idea that there will be a sequel but then you will revising and redrafting, knowing that there absolutely was a C chord. So I'm wondering, yeah, how that impacted the process while like, yeah, what advantages and limitations that might have been

Keith Rosson 28:11

like this, I intended fever house to be a standalone book, like there is a somewhat ambiguous ending, or a cliffhanger, I guess you could say that makes it like, hopefully, it's interesting for people to read the sequel to see what happened. But I originally intended that just to be the ending of the book. And like, I think like, people like Paul Tremblay, who was so annoyingly irritatingly good at that ambiguity, where you're like, what happened? You know? I feel okay with those kinds of endings. And I enjoy those kinds of endings, you know, but again, this was this book is written as like, Okay, you want a second book, I am thrilled to do it. And ending it. Ending fever house in a very specific world building or world destroying kind of way that I did, presents a lot of challenges for a sequel, I kind of painted myself into a corner is how I felt initially trying to come up with ideas. You know, it's very hard to there's just a lot of really strict parameters set up in this world by the end of the book, you know, that I have to kind of use as plot devices and maneuver around and all that stuff. And it was an awesome challenge. And I love this book, but it's definitely one of the harder books that I've ever written.

Michael David Wilson 29:39

Yeah, yeah. Would you say that the sequel changes genre, or at least Keynes's kynges sub genre?

Keith Rosson 29:49

Yeah. I mean, there's still there's still definite horror elements. There's still a lot of Gore in it. There's still a lot of crime elements to it. but it's also like I can I'm, I'm so trepidatious about, I want to tell you guys all about it. I just don't know if like, yeah, we'll talk after the show. Right. But like, and then it's there's also like post apocalyptic elements to it. Because again, though the world is not looking in great shape at the end of fever house, you know, so.

Michael David Wilson 30:25

Yeah, yeah. And talking about the goal. I mean, you write graphic violence, so well, and again, so succinctly. So. I mean, I'm wondering, what do you see as kind of the do's and don'ts of writing violence? Well,

Keith Rosson 30:46

yeah, I don't know. I have a that's a great question. That's a really good question. Um, I like the back kind of like brutal, pneumatic, quick aspect of violence, and the way that it's just like, a lot of times, like, there and done, you know, I have personal parameters. As far as like, who would be the subject of violence, having done to them and stuff like that, like, I have personal choices. But yeah, I really, I just think that like, this is definitely the most the most glorious and violent book that I've ever written, you know. And it was so much fun. Like, I love writing, like leg breakers. I could write about dudes taking hammers to dudes, like all day, it's just so fun, you know. But I think that yeah, just kind of that idea of getting in and out with it, you know what I mean? And then letting people kind of experience the aftermath of it. But, yeah, again, so much of the stuff like that's a really good question. And I feel I admire instructors who can write who can teach about writing for like, an entire semester. Because I feel like after doing this shit for so long, I, it is all it's become so internal, and so like, innate and just kind of like guttural and I'm just like, I understand it in a way that I can't talk about it very well. So I figure I'm good for like a writing workshop for like, I got, like, two hours. And this is definable shit that I know will work, you know. And so much of this stuff is just kind of like internalized and you just know if it's working. And you know, if it's not, you know,

Michael David Wilson 32:44

yeah, yeah. And I mean, what kind of things do you do to ensure that your craft is improving, gonna kind of, I guess, like yearly or whatever basis because I mean, we speak to right and sometimes and like Stephen Graham Jones being one of them about almost like training and keeping in writerly shape not getting complacent.

Keith Rosson 33:09

Yeah, that guy though, I mean, that guy is kind of in a league of his own, you know what I mean? Just as far as, like, quality and like output, like his output is, is unstoppable. Like, it's, it's incredible. Um, I just think personally, I still love this so much. Like, when I have free time. This is my favorite thing when I want to do you know, and it's, it's a joy, and it's a treat, and I feel so fortunate to be able to do it. So like, just like reading shit that I want to read. And then just writing you know, and I think that go through I go through peaks and valleys of like, things feel repetitive, but I think naturally, you just get like better just through doing it, you know? Yeah. Yeah, it's and again, it just comes in eight, because it's so fun to do.

Michael David Wilson 34:01

Yeah. Yeah.

Keith Rosson 34:05

I hope that answers your question.

Michael David Wilson 34:06

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, you you're absolutely have I was, I was given a little pause to let Bob jump in. Because I like this. This is one of Bob's favorite books of the year. And he he has been, he has been yelling about it in various episodes. So I want to mention it to a guest apropos of nothing right away for you. Yeah, I know that at the time we have. Awesome. Yeah, is a little bit limited. So I want to make sure that Bob is getting into his questions and comments.

Keith Rosson 34:47

I really appreciate it.

Bob Pastorella 34:49

The the thing I mean, it seems like you've taken on a lot of your fiction or you write crime, like really well. And I think that when you talk about the vibe Balance and things like that. There's, you know, you use that word dymanic. And I love that because things happen quick. And it's like, the reason why I like writing about criminals myself, is because there's an element of unpredictability, they're not going to go into a situation the same way that I would that me personally would, if I encountered something supernatural, like I'm going to work, then I'm going to freak the fuck out, and probably try to film it, and possibly get hurt along the way. Mainly because I wouldn't be able to drive my car properly, I pray but like, What the hell is that, you know, where it's a criminal would would go about it a different way. And especially when they discovered that they can't kill something with a gun. That's gonna like, you know, okay, I have seriously stepped into some shit that I don't know anything about. And I love that aspect of it. And you cover that so well. And especially with with these guys, because they get themselves into a situation that they in unfortunately, they just can't get their selves out of. And yeah, it's like, did you know anybody like this in your past? Where you aren't? Is this just like springing up from years of watching? Really crazy movies.

Keith Rosson 36:30

You know, the thing that like, when it comes to like video games and movies and all that stuff, like crime films, or action movies, or whatever I love, I always love like the first half of it. You know what I mean? Because that's when it's like, one guy, he's got a pistol, you know, she's got a knife. She's trying to get out of this place. Right? And it's just it's very, like boots on the ground. And, and simple. And then by the end of it, there's like, monsters and tentacles and people flying through buildings and massive explosions. And it's just too grandiose. You know what I mean? I like that, like that, that small stakes kind of stuff, you know. And so like these two, these two guys, they're rolling up on this guy, Wesley who owes a debt to their boss, and I think he owes like, maybe $12,000, maybe six, I can't remember which 12. But it's like, a sizable amount of money. You know what I mean? But it's not like a bag full of diamonds, or the key to the bank or whatever, you know what I mean? And so it's like that level of like, keeping it linear and simple. And, like, just clean like, that is what is so fun to me, you know. So like, I mean, I knew my childhood was pretty gnarly, but not this gnarly. You know what I mean? Like, a lot of times, it's like, like the government agency stuff. You just get to, like, wing it and have fun with it. You know. And I think a lot of it comes from understanding. I don't want to say poverty, but just like, like, I know what it's like to be poor. And criminals at their core. Don't want to be poor and are afraid of all of that shit that comes along with it. You know what I mean? They're just willing to do more things to escape it. And you and I are Yeah, they're more make you Yeah, are making not awesome choices. These guys just make, you know, some not awesome choices doing all this shit. And it's like in the book where they're like, they're amazed sometimes at who they get sent to, like roll for their money. It's not like big scary bad guys. It's just people stuck between one behind one too many bad moves, you know? So at its core, I think so much of crime is related to like, to capitalism and to poverty, you know? Yeah. It was a very long winded way of saying that, but

Bob Pastorella 39:11

yeah, well, yeah. But it's, you know, unfortunately, I have known people like that. Yeah. And if you if you look at their, their actual lives, and try to write about some boring shit, because they're basically lazy. You know, they don't act until the half to every every hardcore criminal that I've ever known in my entire life is either in prison or on parole or dead. And there was they did this one thing that everyone talks about, and the rest of their life is spent, you know, painting houses, you know, because they can't do anything else, you know, because nobody's gonna hire him except for that one guy who probably went to the pen himself, you know?

Keith Rosson 39:56

I mean, I think painting houses is and that's a noble endeavor. I mean, But yeah, just like I think that a lot of like, a lot of our a lot of crime stuff, it just comes down to like limited options. You know what I mean? Yeah. And a lot of those options are like, you know, things that that can be out of your control. You know, in Hutch and Tim's case, there, they are kind of going like hutches found it's pretty easy to scare people with his size. And he has a certain willingness to inflict pain on people. And he's just kind of geeked out like comfortable enough life doing that, you know. So until he fucks up and you know, goes to the wrong house and finds a hand and a wonderbread. Bag.

Michael David Wilson 40:47

Yeah. And I mean, what you're saying here, and I think we touched on it, the last time we spoke is how, you know, the vast majority of us were just one bad decision away from completely transforming our lives. Like that is just reality. And I think, yeah, that is one of the aspects don't make a lot of your fiction, so kind of relatable, and might be weird to hear, like, you know, the supernatural ciphered hands. It's relatable, but I think you know, what I mean, in terms of like, the characters and the life choices, and the decisions that they all make.

Keith Rosson 41:30

Yeah, I mean, there's like, one of my short stories that's in folk songs, is called their souls climb in the room, and it's about a guy with a meth conviction, I would, who did some time for like, possession and intent to deal or whatever. And the only place you can get hired at is the slaughterhouse, you know, where he kills, you know, whatever, like 1000 Pigs a day or whatever, like eight hour shifts at the slaughtering hogs. And like that shit is gnarly. Yeah, you know, and I would be desperate for a change. Having to do that, you know, eight hours a day. What in your eyes and shit? Like, yeah, I would be trying to come up with something else to do. Yeah. So I got a lot of like, I personally have like, it's fun to write. Criminals. It's also fun to like, inject, not inject, but invest some humanity in Yeah, you know what I mean? Because a lot of times, they are not great dudes. But that's the challenge. You know, what I mean? Is making them human? Yeah, that's the challenges.

Michael David Wilson 42:47

Yeah. And I don't think anyone is born and they decide, okay, I want to be a criminal. This is the life that I want to lead, you know, they're a product of, of circumstances. And so, yeah, I mean, if, if you don't inject some level of humanity, then you kind of just writing archetypes, and that's gonna be boring.

Keith Rosson 43:15

And it's just like, you know, the evil, the evil bad guy, and I don't know, man, I, you know, I, I'm writing a character in this sequel that is not of that world. He's the kind of the bad guy of the book. And he's not of that world. He's a much higher echelon kind of guy. And so that was a big challenge for me to kind of write that, like, upper tier criminal, you know. And I feel like I got him right. But um, I don't know yet. You know what I mean, we'll find out when people read the book, but it was definitely a challenge. Like I like I like challenging myself like that with like, how we're gonna keep this grimy, but in a different way, you know? Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 44:02

Yeah. And talking about finding out when people read the book. I mean, obviously, you know, you said before that fever house is so much more widely available than any book that you've put out before. So I mean, with the wider availability comes a much bigger audience, and with a bigger audience comes more reviews. And obviously, it's going to be divisive and polarizing. So I mean, I'm wondering, what is your position at the moment in terms of like, reading these reviews and, like, do you do things to kind of, I guess, in a way protect your sanity and mental health from like, any kind of negativity?

Keith Rosson 44:52

Yeah. Yeah, I you know, I've read like, I totally read Goodreads reviews up until the book came out, you know. And now I'm just like, I'm just like checking and seeing that the numbers are rising on bands, but like, I can't read that shit. Like, it's like, it's so out of my control. And like, you know, I got some, some press that, like, I felt a little misrepresented in and stuff, you know, as far as quotes go and stuff. And it just it reminds me like, you know, we there's always some, like new publishing, uproar or drama. And I just, it reminds me of like, Don't reviews are not for the writer and just shut the fuck up and like, net you never respond to a review if you feel misrepresented, you know? And yeah, that whole, like, it's not for you, you know. And so I've just been like, people have been doing their thing, and I'm working on the next book, and I'm so happy that it's out there and profoundly lucky, you know? Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 46:08

So Yeah. And you're absolutely right, that there is always Yeah, pretty much every week, definitely. Every month, there is an uproar. There is a writer responding to a review in less than, which is just like,

Keith Rosson 46:25

yeah, and then there's all this backlash, and it's just like, it's so it's almost exclusively a dude, you know, and it's just like, man, come on, like, yeah, you just you and you know, I've been in bands before, where it's just like you sent you just send your stuff out. And it's not yours anymore. You know what I mean? Like you put it out there for consumption? You can't get wounded about how it's received. Yeah. Like, it's not yours, you know? Yeah. So, yeah, yeah, that's my, that's my take is just kind of like, I occasionally will like grumble to my wife or send a text to my agent or something, you know, and whine about it for a second. And then I'm back to the next thing. Yeah. I mean,

Michael David Wilson 47:13

that's it. It's like, have a function. Yes. So that you can, if you need to moan to someone you're venting do isn't your entire social media audience and thus the well? Yeah. Like,

Keith Rosson 47:30

you know, it's like that shit last and like, it just seems like so. aggrieved, you know. So yeah, that's, that's just my take. I have been, I've definitely been stepping back from reading reviews, but also, you know, I want to be able to push the book and stuff. So I'm still like, navigating social media stuff and all that. Just trying to steer clear of reviews, unless I'm tagged. And then I you know, profusely thank whoever it was. So, and I haven't gotten any of that, like, getting tagged in a shitty review. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 48:04

If you did, what, what do you think you would do? I was thinking about this the other day, and probably I mean, it would obviously depend just how negative is but I, I might, maybe this is me being British, like, you know, thank them for that time reading it. And now we're sorry, it didn't work for you. And at the end of it,

Keith Rosson 48:27

yeah. Right. Yeah. I don't know. I mean, I think a lot of it is like circumstantial. I can, I could totally just being like, again, sending it to my agent and just being like, and this is what people shouldn't do. Yeah. So yeah.

Michael David Wilson 48:44

Yeah, I mean, that that that is an important you know, thing to remember with all social media is like, just because someone tags you that doesn't mean that you have to reply. Yeah. And after reply to any unsolicited tag, you didn't ask for it. So sometimes, we can just keep quiet.

Keith Rosson 49:10

There's just I just have this notion of like, I don't know, like, in spite of the like, absolute chaos on my childhood, I was raised to be very polite, you know what I mean? And, and then growing up in like, hyper political punk era of like, hardcore. That was like, super, super political, right? Nine times out of 10, man, just shut the fuck up. You know what I mean? Like, you don't have to respond to every single thing. You know? Like, that's, that's my Yeah. That's my take is just just keep it to yourself. Yeah. And, yeah, that's my overarching social media strategy is to just mostly right yeah, I

Michael David Wilson 49:55

don't think it's a bad strategy by any means. And, yeah, yeah. And I mean, last time we spoke, you said that, you know, getting this Random House deal, it had meant that, you know, you've got life changing money there. And so I'm wondering what some of the changes post this deal have been. I mean, probably the big one, as you said, is moving to being a full time writer being the breadwinner?

Keith Rosson 50:27

Yeah, you know, my, my wife was working in a sales job that she doesn't moved. And she was able to quit that, and has been able to focus on her art, and spend more time with the kids and all that. And that's been amazing. And like we were talking about before the show, like our car, essentially, the engine exploded when we're on the highway. And that, we're able to just pay for that, to get that fixed, you know, what I mean? And just things like that with the family where it's like, I again, I grew up, where, like, just counting out change for a bag of potatoes as a kid, you know, like, as a young adult, like, all that shit, and just like, have spent so long that living like that, you know what I mean? And so it's it's a weird spot to be in where it's like that. Panic doesn't subside entirely. You know what I mean? Even when you're like, a little bit more financially comfortable, and I'm almost, you know, I'm 47, like, 50 is not far off. And I'm just now being like, oh, I can breathe a little bit. And if something happens to my kids, or my wife or me, like we are in a really good position right now to, to, you know, be okay. And that is such a to feel that sense of like safety and push that kind of Panic Away. Writing about severed hands, like, holy shit, what a treat. You know what I mean? Yeah. Like, that's so cool. Yeah. That's such such a gift, you know? And it's just comes from, like, so much of it. I feel like it's just good fucking luck. You know what I mean? And I like I wrote my fifth book. I just stuck with it. And I don't know what the future holds, like, Random House might be like, yeah, see you later, buddy. But I don't think they will. You know what I mean? So I just I feel like I'm just profoundly lucky to be in the spa.

Michael David Wilson 52:32

Yeah. Are they? It's amazing. You know, how much hard work can up and cancers of luck? I mean, I, I say that often. I mean, yeah, there is luck. But the more we kind of work at it, the more we can can multiply our chances of landing the lucky break. It doesn't mean that we will, but if we worked less, so we probably won't. Kind of thing.

Keith Rosson 52:59

Yeah. And again, this is like my fifth book, you know, and I have written like, all told, like, including things that just never went anywhere like, yeah, 1010 books. And it's just, I just feel lucky in the sense that, like, I'm able to do this thing that I love so much, and it's still fun. Even this sequel, that at times has just been like, oh, it's still fun. You know, my worst day writing is still friggin fun. Yeah. So,

Michael David Wilson 53:31

yeah. And I mean, talking about, like, trying to multiply the canvases of SAS, how has the promotion and the tour gone for this book? How has it differed for other books?

Keith Rosson 53:49

You know, I was really surprised because I had all these notions about they were going to send me on a big tour, you know, and all this because I was, you know, with Random House and all this and they were like, Oh, we we don't really do a lot of that anymore. Because they found that I guess financial returns for flying somebody somewhere and putting them up. And then if you get 50 people in the room, and 25 of them buy a book, you know, and that's a good reading is 50 people that are reading it doesn't work out financially you know, and they're like we could use that money on Amazon ads and good reads ads and you know, sending shout out to influencers and all that. So I was surprised um, and but also they like marketing wise like they have that's the other thing is you have a group of people who that's their job is to get your book out there, you know, compared to Meerkat where it's like Trisha and I worked our butts off together. You know what I mean? And we were able to get people get the book in people's hands, but we Also, both had other jobs to do, you know, her publishing me writing, you know, where it's like these people, that's what they do, you know? So that was way different. And yeah, but I am going to be doing like they're sending me out to New York in October for Comic Con, and I'm doing a q&a with Richard Price who blurb the book and then I'm going to be doing a reading in a little New York town north of the city called Tarrytown, which is like walking distance from Sleepy Hollow. So that's gonna be really fun. So, but yeah, that's, that's pretty much it is like Comic Con, and then did a Portland and Seattle. And, you know, if I chose to book something myself, they would like help me out with getting books there and promotion and all that stuff. But it's yeah, it's a different world than than what I was expecting for sure.

Michael David Wilson 56:00

Yeah. And it does seem to be I mean, a real shift to online promotions are actually doing things like this podcast is more the norm. And yeah, absolutely. You go on a podcast, and you're going to have depending on the size of each podcast, hundreds or 1000s of people listening, or as you said, you know, 50 people in the room? That's, that's a good audience right there. So yeah, totally. Yeah.

Keith Rosson 56:32

Yeah, the landscape has just changed. And you know, there was definitely zoom. Like, during COVID, we did a lot of zoom readings. And then when, with the return of people doing in person events, like zoom stuff doesn't seem to have like, gain traction. Post, like, post COVID I say, with air quotes, you know what I mean? Like, people just don't do that. But in person events haven't picked up the slack. So it's, it really is I think, things like podcasts that are kind of like filling in that gap. Yeah. So appreciate it. You're doing?

Michael David Wilson 57:12

Yeah, I hope so. And I mean, when we were talking with Jason Parkin, formerly known as David Wong, so John dies at the end, I mean, he said that he just doesn't do in person events anymore. Because the numbers, they don't add up doing it online, it's just so much more kind of cost effective in terms of that return on investment. So it sounds like the way you're doing it is a good strategy, whereas predominantly online, but then getting to some of these conventions, because then you're going to have, you know, a decent number of people, you're going to have that reader interaction. I mean, it's Yeah, and

Keith Rosson 58:00

you know, we did a cool thing to where, instead of just doing like my in person events, I did Sadie Hartman, who, where she was also pushing her book 101 horror books to read before you're murdered. So we were able to kind of piggyback on each other's folks and we had a lot of cross pollination and people but also we each brought separate people to the readings, you know, and so that was just another really cool way of doing it. And that was Sadie's Fantastic idea of just doing some events together you know well in

Michael David Wilson 58:35

including fever house it became 102 books to read before you my Dad

Bob Pastorella 58:45

Yeah, I bet you probably kind of freaked out when you got that blurb from Richard price you know, meaning is probably one of the premier preeminent crime fiction literary writers out there. Yeah, I'm gonna ask him now. Right Is that the same day?

Keith Rosson 59:08

Yeah, he was. The thing that is that he is just alone in is this like level of like, hyper realism in his stuff, where it's just like so. granular, you know, like every scene is so granular, but still reads so fast. And he just has a language and like mannerism, and all that coupled with velocity like nobody else comes close to that kind of stuff. You know, like he's in a league of his own, you know, and then for him to like, Adana, the blurb with like, Keith Rosson is a master. I was just like, yeah, yeah, it was amazing. Wow. Yeah, he's an unreal. Unreal, dude. I'm excited. In a medium, so yeah, good. In New York, when we do the thing, hopefully we'll be able to go out to go out for drinks afterwards, I'm just going to plan with drinks and talk, you know what I mean?

Michael David Wilson 1:00:14

So, we're coming up to the time that we have to give her so we are gonna jump in to somewhat of a spoiler that we we hinted that in the first act of the podcast if you want to look at it in that way. So now, now, we've shown the gun we have to fire it. So you decided to fro very late into the game, a zombie angle? When did you know that was going to factor into fever house?

Keith Rosson 1:00:47

I think the right with the hand, I knew that somehow that would it would instigate this kind of eventual zombie. Over like zombies over running the city or whatever. Um, I knew it. I didn't know what I didn't know the parameters of it. I didn't know how any of it would work. I didn't know why. I just knew again, it was like I wanted another thing in there. Zombies. Let's do zombies. You know, I've written a ghost book. I've written a Monster Book. Now it's a zombie book. So yeah, so much of it is just like flying by the seat of my pants. And like thinking like, Oh, that'd be cool. And then throwing that in there and then making stitching it together with the rest of the book, you know. But once I actually thought of the term, fever house, like six locks opened up for the book, and it made so much more sense that this kind of encapsulated area of you know, a city or geographically known as a fever house that was filled with these things. It gelled the whole book, it like solidified it.

Michael David Wilson 1:02:08

So what kind of

Keith Rosson 1:02:11

I knew about early on? It was just a question like, every friggin book, how do I

Michael David Wilson 1:02:18

Yeah. How did your agent and editor respond to this? Oh, they,

Keith Rosson 1:02:24

I mean, I can't remember if I told you this story, but like, my a, my editor, and I spent like maybe a month working on it, revising the book and everything. And then he sent it out, he had a list of like, 35 editors that he was going to send it to. And he's like, on Thursday, he's, he's like, I'm gonna send it to eight, these eight that I think would be excited about it. And then on Monday, I'll send the rest to the rest. And on Friday, we got an email from my editor being like, is there a sequel, and then she had her team rated over the weekend. And on Monday, she emailed my agent and said, I want to set up a call with this guy. And then Tuesday's when she and I had that talk, and then Wednesday, we had an offer on the table. So it was like six days, you know, we had we had the deal in six days. So he was clearly very stoked on it. Yeah. I mean,

Michael David Wilson 1:03:22

yeah, just for him. But you're saying now is a very fast turnaround time. Indeed. And, yeah, I mean, she must have literally because of the time that she read it in she she must have not slept much that way. I mean, yeah.

Keith Rosson 1:03:43

Yeah. It's amazing, dude. It's like, and again, like, this is my second agent. And my first agent. I, you know, like, I just haven't, I think I queried, like 90 Some agents before I landed my first agent, you know, for my novel, Smoke city. And so it's really just a question of, like, you know, again, luck plays part of it. But you're right, where perseverance and just not like, giving up is a large part,

Michael David Wilson 1:04:16

too. Yeah. I mean, it the query engaged and seek can be as you know, you've pointed out a rough game. And I think sometimes when we write in these genres that are almost difficult to classify, you can think, well, who's even gonna pick it up? But then I mean, we are seeing an increase in, you know, books that I think 10 years ago, would have only been in like, indie books and now coming to the mainstream are coming to places like random house, so you know,

Keith Rosson 1:04:54

yeah. And a lot of indie books are selling Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 1:04:59

yeah. I think it's such a wild environment. So I mean, anyone who's like, they think like, Oh, I'm not sure whether I should query this agent or this publisher. It's like, Look, if you even had the thought that maybe you should just just do it, because so so what's the worst that can happen? They say no. And now you're back in the same position that you're already in. Like, it's not like they say no, and then send a memo and then write a tweet. And you're barred from publishing again. All that happens. Yeah. Yeah.

Keith Rosson 1:05:40

It's like if I, if I was as fearless and other avenues in my life as I am in, like submitting and querying and stuff, because I just like, I love the whole process. And I'm just, like, tireless with it. If I did that, and other avenues on my life, like I would be unstop, right? You know what I mean? But it's just mostly in publishing where I'm like, one rejection, I'll send two out, you know what I mean? Yeah. Yeah. But I just, I love all of it. I love the crafting the letter, keeping little spreadsheets, looking stuff up. You know, I love all of it.

Bob Pastorella 1:06:17

I'm gonna hire you. Because you're desperate shit. I was like, Yeah, I've learned for years, how to show how to show my work and show me and show the story. And now you want me to tell it to you in a page. Okay, not to have to reverse engineer how to do this, and backtrack and go, Okay, I'm going to tell you the story. And then you try to go back to writing like, what you're writing your fiction and everything. And then you're like, you know?

Keith Rosson 1:06:46

Yeah. It's like trying. They're like, what's your what's your pitch for fever house? I'm like, Dude, it's 450 pages. There's six main characters. There is no pitch for it. You know what I mean? There's no like one sentence that's gonna hook you, you know. So? Yeah,

Michael David Wilson 1:07:03

I don't know. I mean, yeah. The pitch is severed hand. That's the pitch to.

Keith Rosson 1:07:12

Yeah, I mean, we go.

Bob Pastorella 1:07:14

Totally. No, no, no. It's the crime severed hammock cult. Zombie Apocalypse book that you didn't think you need to read that you need to fucking read right now. But that's what it is. It's it's Waylon Jennings. It's wheeling journeys on eight track, damn it, do it now. Get it?

Keith Rosson 1:07:34

There you go, see, I need to hire you will trade I will trade

Bob Pastorella 1:07:39

for that. And it's like you bring all this stuff together. But there's something I wanted to bring up is that I think the key behind this book is the fact that you keep it personal. Everything is at a personal level, you know, that there's this stuff that's affecting an entire city, probably spreading beyond that now. But you keep it grounded and personal. And that's, that's the power of the book.

Keith Rosson 1:08:03

And you know, I don't know if I could write otherwise, I think that like, it's like someone brought up like, are you ever gonna write just a single POV novel? And I'm like, I don't know if I could, honestly, that just might be like, that's one of my challenges. A bucket list. You know, I'm, like, incapable of not like bouncing around between characters. So.

Michael David Wilson 1:08:29

Yeah, I mean, you got to do what works for you. And what holds your interests? Yeah, totally.

Keith Rosson 1:08:34

I think. It's also like, yeah, holding your own interest. And like, just trusting the process, you know? Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:08:41

Well, thank you so much for spending some time with us. This has been a blast. This has been great. Yeah. In a review.

Keith Rosson 1:08:51

Oh, man, Michael, I so appreciate it. Thank you really appreciate it. It's always you guys are so fun to talk to. I really,

Michael David Wilson 1:08:59

thank you so much. And I mean, for our listeners, where can they connect with you?

Keith Rosson 1:09:08

You know, I just got a blue sky account. I finally went ahead and did it. For now we can do Twitter. I have a website, Keith rosson.com. Yeah, that's got a way to email me if you want to email me anything. I'd say one of those would be great. And the book is just available everywhere, you know, so.

Michael David Wilson 1:09:33

All right. I better find you on blue sky. Glad to join. You go.

Keith Rosson 1:09:39

Just did it today. Yeah. today. Yeah.

Michael David Wilson 1:09:43

I do you have any final thoughts for our listeners?

Keith Rosson 1:09:49

No, I guess beyond like, thank you so much for listening to this and or reading the book. Um, Book Two comes out next summer. It's called the devil by name, picks up where favorite house left off and I'm just so stoked I get to do this.

Michael David Wilson 1:10:09

Thank you so much for listening to the conversation with Keith Rosson. Join us again next time when we will be counting with Josh Malerman for an incredibly special conversation. And this is like no other. This Is Horror episode that you will have heard. I slight know of a so called interview of Josh Malerman Eva. It marks a break from our use your episode structure, but I really think you're going to love it. So don't miss it. And of course, if you want to listen early, if you want to listen to all episodes early, then become our patreon patreon.com. Forward slash This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can submit questions to the interviewee. And coming up we have conversations with the likes of Richard chizmar, Chuck Wendig and clay McLeod Chapman, amongst many others. And we also have our special story on boxed podcast, exclusive to Patreon in which we analyze films and stories. So head over to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Look at what we offer. And if it looks like a good fit for you, I would love for you to join us I would love to see you there. Okay, before I wrap up, it is time for a quick advert break.

Bob Pastorella 1:11:44

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Michael David Wilson 1:12:38

As always, I would like to end with a quote. And this is from Ray Bradbury. we theorize about what goes on in the brain, but it is mostly Undiscovered Country. A writers of work is to coax the stuff out and see how it plays. Surprise, as I have often said, is everything. I'll see you in the next episode with Josh Malerman. 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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