INTERVIEW: Jack Ketchum

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FROM DUSK TILL CON contributor, STEPHANIE HENSLEY, sits down with with author JACK KETCHUM for an interview with one of the greatest minds in modern horror literature.
 

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Interview by: Stephanie Hensley

 

 

There are authors who create unforgettable characters and worlds. There are authors who use words to impact you and leave you thinking about their tales for days. Then there is Dallas Mayr aka Jack Ketchum. Ketchum’s words etched themselves into your essensance like the rising tide bashing against the sands. His tales never leave you. They live in the darkest corners of your mind.

 

Ketchum doesn’t focus on make believe to frighten you. He is an author who knows that the scariest thing in this world can very well be the neighbor, the punk kid, the town lawyer, maybe even you. Very few authors are brave enough to show us how inhuman humans can be.

 

He designs webs of hatred, despair, and violence with his words. As a reader you become tangled in those webs. Ketchum is a man who delivers our darkest fears onto pages and doesn’t back down. Ketchum’s works prove that there are in fact monsters among us. Beast wearing mansuits pretending to be just like you and me.

Ketchum agreed to answer a few questions for FDTC. So with this amazing opportunity we asked the fans, what do you want to know about the scariest man in America?Here is what the fans wanted to know…

 

 

FDTC: We read that as a child you had interest in comics…. What comic book was your favorite and why?

JK: I was a book-nerd early on. My favorite comics were Classics Illustrated. I'd have the book on one hand and the comic version in the other. Then there was Plastic Man (who probably should have been called Rubber Man.) He had complete control of his body, could reach around anything,turn into any shape he wanted.

FDTC: Who is you favorite author?

JK: Far too many fine writers to pick just one. But Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard and Philip Roth spring easily to mind.

FDTC: Do you have a favorite quote?

JK: They change frequently. Right now I'm real fond of this one. “Every two or three years I knock off for a while. That way I’m constantly the new girl in the whorehouse.”
-- Robert Mitchum

FDTC: What is your favorite book?

JK: Same problem as with a favorite author, only more so. I do have a soft spot in my heart for Henry Miller's books. Miller was an appreciator, and wrote about his favorite books and artists constantly. So that reading Henry -- and Henry's suggestions -- was a wonderful education in art and literature. Hats off to him.

FDTC: What is your favorite horror movie? Why?

JK: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I saw this at agrindhouse on 42nd Street in New York, without a clue as to what I was letting myself in for. Packed house by word-or-mouth only. Scared the shit out of us.

FDTC: Where is your favorite place to eat?

​JK: In my kitchen, tasting what I'm cooking that night.

​FDTC: What is your favorite adaption from book to film of your own work?

​JK: I will not choose one child over another. Nope. I like them all,because they've all paid attention to the subject matter. Some more successfully than others, of course. THE WOMAN was a wonderful experience for me, in that I was inside the movie from start to finish. If we got anything wrong in that movie, or anything right, credit or blame lies squarely on Lucky and me. That kind of control is delightful.

​FDTC: Your writing is very intense and shows a darker side of humanity (or lack thereof) how do you respond to viewers/readers responses if they find it offensive?

​JK: Basically, I don't. Most readers aren't offended by my work, so for my money, they win! To engage people who don't respect what you do is to give them more power and importance in your life than they deserve.

​FDTC: Do you have any habits/ rituals while writing? (i.e. I let a cigarette burn in the ashtray while writing)

​JK: Oh, you've seen that cigarette, have you? Yes, there's that. There's also a cup of coffee and a half-hour to an hour reading time in the morning before I begin.

FDTC: How much research did you do before you wrote Girl Next Door and what inspired you to tackle that story?

​JK: I'd read about the Sylvia Likens case in Jay Robert Nash's BLOODLETTERS AND BADMEN and there was a photo of Gertrude along with the article which haunted me for years. What a frightening face! I briefly considered writing a true-crime book about her. Then my mother died and I spent many weekends back in my boyhood home taking care of her affairs, giving away items to friends and family and disposing of the house. At some point I said to myself, hell, I can set the story here, back when I was a kid and Royal Avenue was a dead-end street and everybody was all scared of nuclear war. There were a lot of secrets on that street, a lot that went unspoken. And because I was in that house, remembering what it was like to grow up there was easy. The book practically wrote itself.

​FDTC: What has been your weirdest experience with a fan?

​JK: One guy brought a chainsaw to a convention for me to sign. Another guy brought a shotgun. A real one. These were the days pre-9/11. Today? Instant arrest, probably. And then there was the woman who wanted my signature on her shoulder so that she could get it tattooed there. Don't know if she actually did.

​FDTC: Since Stephen King calls you the scariest man in America…. What scares you?

​JK: Alzheimer's. Been saying that for years and I finally got around to writing a story about it, OLDIES, just out in Jamais Vu #2. After that, snakes. See my yarn SNAKES in PEACEABLE KINGDOM.

FDTC: Who is you celebrity crush? (don’t hold back everyone has one)

​JK: Charlize Theron, hands down.

​FDTC: What is next for you… new projects and such…

​JK: I'm working on a new project, novel and movie, with Lucky McKee. Crossroads Press are publishing an audio book with me reading THE BOX and another of me reading I'M NOT SAM. Later on in the year they'll do WHAT THEY WROTE, a collection of essays on other people's work, in e-book and trade paper. And Borderlands Press are doing THE LITTLE EMERALD BOOK OF EPHEMERA,which is...well, ephemera...

​FDTC: Why do you write under Jack Ketchum instead of Dallas?

JK: As a former literary agent, when I wrote OFF SEASON I pretended to be this guy Ketchum, whose novel I just loved. Got me off the Ballantine shit-to-read-pile. Then the thing sold so well I figured, well, nobody's going to be looking for a Dallas Mayr novel, they'll be looking for a new Ketchum novel. So I just kept it. We've become very good friends, he and I.

 

 

If you have not yet experienced a Ketchum book or movie, it cannot be recommended enough. He will introduce you to the evil that lives in all of us, that some just cannot control.

 

 

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