For some time, I have been considering posting regular author interviews here on ye old blog, and I finally decided to jump in and just do it. To kick things off, the very sporting Ronald Kelly has agreed to play guinea pig. I published several of Ron’s stories in Deathrealm back in the day, starting with his wonderful “The Web of La Sanguinaire” in Deathrealm #6 (1988), which I loved at the time and still do. Since those long ago days, he has gone from establishing himself in the field of dark lit to taking a decade-long hiatus to returning and retooling himself and his work. He has cultivated and retained a receptive audience with an impressive body of work spanning several decades now.
GC: During the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, your short fiction was a mainstay in just about every publication in the dark lit field. By way of Zebra, you also published a fair number of horror novels. Do you have a preference for the short form over the long form — or vice-versa — from the perspective of both reader and writer? You do both quite adeptly. Do you find the disciplines for writing short fiction significantly different from writing novels?
RK: By nature, I’ve always been a short story writer. The compact form seems to suit my storytelling style extremely well. There’s not a lot of fluff and filler involved; a scaled down plot, flesh and blood characters that are real, but not with every mole, freckle, and scar described, and preferably a twist end, sometimes ambiguously so. When I grew up as a child, and well into early adulthood, I would listen to my Grandmama Spicer spin tales of family history, Civil War lore, and horrifying stories of local ghosts and cryptids. They were always very short and compact, but told in a way that conveyed an encompassing sense of place and time. Maybe subconsciously, I’ve emulated that in my prose. I do enjoy doing novel length fiction, and the disciplines are very different. Writing a novel is like taking a two week road trip from the east coast to the west. A short story is more like a fast and fun day trip. Personally, I find a short story much more pleasurable and rewarding.
GC: After Zebra crashed and burned in the mid-1990s, you retired from writing, or at least publishing, for several years. During that period, did you produce any fiction? Or did life carry you in a wholly different direction? I know many — including me — were happy to see you blaze back into action a few years ago. After the hiatus, did the writing/publishing world seem a much different animal to you?
GC: Your influences have ranged from the classic horror and science fiction movies that so many of our (increasingly ancient) generation grew up with to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, and many others (not that I’m saying you’re old or anything — no, no, not at all!). Your recent collection, The Haunt of Southern-Fried Fear, carries a strong EC Comics vibe (and to me, especially with the art you’ve provided for the book, something of a Hugh B. Cave/Lee Brown Coye feel, such as with Murgunstrumm & Others). So, it seems you still have an affinity for the “old” treasures. Once you returned to the writing fold, so to speak, did you find yourself moved by any new and different dark influences? Do you have any recent favorite books and movies?
GC: I purchased The Haunt of Southern-Fried Fear literally a day or two before Silver Shamrock blew up. After your experience with Zebra, did you by chance get a nasty sense of of deja-vu? (I expect I would have.) Am I right in thinking you’ve come to an arrangement with Crossroad Press (with whom I’ve had consistently excellent experiences) for your work that would have otherwise come out via Silver Shamrock? Anything you can tell us about your upcoming stories and books?
In the next Graveside Chat, look for celebrated author Jeffrey Thomas to offer his unique insights into thrills, chills, and mind-numbing terror!